Maud Edith Eleanor Watson

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Maud Edith Eleanor Watson

Birthdate: (81)
Birthplace: Harrow, England
Death: June 5, 1946 (81)
Charmouth, Dorset, England
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Henry William Watson and Emily Frances Watson
Sister of Lilian Mary Watson and Erskine Gerald Watson

Managed by: Private User
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About Maud Edith Eleanor Watson

Maud Edith Eleanor Watson (9 October 1864 – 5 June 1946 in Charmouth, Dorset) was an English tennis player and the first female Wimbledon champion.

She was born in Harrow, London, the daughter of a local vicar and renowned mathematician Henry William Watson and his wife Emily Frances Rowe. She began playing competitive tennis in 1881, which was when ladies’ open events were introduced in England.

Her brother Erskine was a Cambridge tennis half-blue who brought many of his college chums home to test the prowess of Maud and her sister Lilian on the court against male opposition.

Her first public appearance was at the Edgbaston Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club tournament aged 16 years. It was a successful debut - she won the singles competition by defeating her sister Lilian in the final and winning the doubles competition together with her.

In 1884 Maud participated in the Irish Ladies' Championship and defeated the reigning Irish champion Miss May Langrishe 6–3, 6–2, 6–2. She also won the mixed doubles tournament title with multiple Wimbledon champion William Renshaw.

From Maud Watson, by Alan Little which is a comprehensive account of her career and life

"Maud learnt the game at home. She had ample opportunity to practise with the opposite sex for the Reverend used to take in and coach young Cambridge undergraduates studying mathematics. Whenever there was no one to play with she would sharpen her strokes by hitting the ball against the wall in the rectory garden.

Maud developed an all-round game which had no apparent weaknesses. She had an ideal temperament and her cool, quiet concentration often upset her more excitable opponents. Her over-arm service gave her an edge over most opponents, who were wary of her volleying and driving ability. Her judgment was excellent for she was able to discover her opponent’s weak points very early and take advantage of these to the utmost, while her behaviour on court was an example to all".

"A feature of Maud’s play was that she never failed on any occasion to return her opponent’s service".

In 1884 aged 19 she won the first ever Ladies’ Singles title at Wimbledon. Playing in white corsets and petticoats, and a straw hat, in a field of thirteen competitors she defeated her sister Lillian Watson 6–8, 6–3, 6–3 in the final to claim the title and a silver flower basket valued at 20 Guineas. Lilian won a silver-backed hairbrush valued at 10 guineas.

The champion's battered, wood tennis racquet and the long, snow- white, cotton broderie anglaise dresses worn by the sisters on the big day, are lovingly preserved in Berkswell's tiny museum.

In 1885 she remained unbeaten in singles and lost only one set. She repeated her success at the 1885 Wimbledon championships. There were only 10 entries and she won the quarter- and semi-finals easily defeating Blanche Bingley 6–1, 7–5. in the final. She successfully defended her title at the 1885 Irish Championships against Miss Louise Martin. For two sets there was little to choose between them but in the decider Maud outstayed her opponent to win 6–2, 4–6, 6–3.

In her final match at Wimbledon in 1886, which was the year the Challenge Round was introduced for women, Blanche Bingley defeated Watson 6–3, 6–3 in the finals to take the title.

In 1887 and 1888 she could not match her earlier level of success and was considerably handicapped by a sprained wrist which worsened with time. Her final competition came at the Edgebaston tournament in June 1889 where she entered three events (doubles, mixed doubles and handicap singles) and won them all. While on holiday in Jersey she went swimming off the coast and nearly drowned. She was rescued with difficulty and suffered an illness afterwards which took a number of years to completely recover.

Maud’s home nursing training led her to become Commandant of the Berkswell Auxiliary Hospital during the First World War, and for her services she was awarded the M.B.E.

See Image at Women, War & Society 1914-1918

In 1926, at the Jubilee Championships at Wimbledon, surviving past champions were presented with commemorative medals on the Centre Court by King George V and Queen Mary. Maud was the first recipient. She retained an interest in lawn tennis and was regularly seen at Wimbledon and other tournaments. She was very fond of animals, especially horses.

Maud continued to live at Berkswell until 1932, when she went to Hammonds Mead, Charmouth, Dorset, as companion to Miss Gertrude Evans, a life-long friend and tennis enthusiast from Kenilworth. Maud often met and reminisced with May Langrishe, her opponent of fifty years earlier, who lived in the small village of Morecamblake. Later Miss Langrishe fell ill and moved to Hammonds Mead, where she died in January 1939.

Maud never married.She died at Hammonds Mead on 5 June 1946, at the age of 81. A few days later she was laid to rest with her sister in the churchyard at Berkswell.


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Maud Edith Eleanor Watson's Timeline

October 9, 1864
June 5, 1946
Age 81
Dorset, England