Reverend J. Thorneycroft Hartley

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John Thorneycroft Hartley

Birthdate: (86)
Birthplace: Tong, Shropshire, England
Death: August 21, 1935 (86)
Knaresborough, Yorkshire, England
Immediate Family:

Son of John Hartley and Emma Jane Hartley
Husband of Alice Margaret Hartley
Brother of Rose Mary Hartley; George Thompson Hartley; Alice Hartley; Reverend John Thorneycroft Hartley and Emma Constance Hartley

Managed by: Private User
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About Reverend J. Thorneycroft Hartley

John Thorneycroft Hartley (9 January 1849 – 21 August 1935) was an English tennis player - the only clergyman to win Wimbledon.

Born in Tong, Shropshire Winner of the All Comer's Final - 1879 Gentlemans Singles title by default, after the 1878 Champion, Frank Hadow failed to defend his title.

Hartley retained his title the following year by defeating Herbert Lawford, 6–3, 6–2, 2–6, 6–3.

Hartley lost in thirty seven minutes in the 1881 Gentleman's Singles final, to William Renshaw, 0–6, 1–6, 1–6.

Hartley married Alice Margaret Lascelles, a granddaughter of Henry Lascelles, 3rd Earl of Harewood, in 1875. They had no children.

In 1926, at the Golden Jubilee championships, Hartley was presented with a Silver medal by Queen Mary, as one of thirty four surviving champions.

Hartley died at the age of 86 in Knaresborough, Yorkshire.

He held the office of Hon. Canon of Ripon.

From "Wimbledon - 101 Reasons to Love the Greatest Tournament in Tennis" - David Green

"The Reverend John Hartley, vicar of Burneston, in North Yorkshire, entered the third men's lawn tennis championship in 1879 apparently not expecting to advance to the latter stages of the competition. He had neglected to schedule a replacement for regular Sunday services at Burneston, and when he emerged victorious in his quarterfinal match on Saturday, he took the train home, performed Sunday services, and returned on Monday to participate in the semifinals. Victorious there, hartley then won the All-comers final against Vere Thomas St. Leger Goold, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, and was subsequently crowned champion by default when defending champion Frank Hadow did not defend his title in the Challenge nRound. Hartley successfully retained his title in 1880 with a four-set win over Herbert Lawford. Hartley was then dispatched in record fashion by William Renshaw in 1881. The final lasted only 37 minutes, the shortest men's final in Wimbledon history.

John Thorneycroft Hartley's grandfather was George Benjamin Thorneycroft (who was born in 1791 and died in1851). He had started work as an artisan but worked his way up to become manager of, and partner in, the Shrubbery Ironworks in Horseley Fields. He became very rich indeed. In 1848 he became the first Mayor of Wolverhampton. He married Eleanor Page, who had been born about 1795. They had several children of whom the second daughter was Emma Thorneycroft, who was born about 1821 in Willenhall.

Emma Thorneycroft married a John Hartley. He had been born on the 26th January 1813 in Dumbarton. He established glass works in Dumbarton but soon afterwards moved to the Midlands and became a partner in Chance & Sons. He married Emma in 1839. Later he became a partner with his brother-in-law, Colonel Thorneycroft, in Thorneycroft’s ironworks and collieries. He also became very rich indeed. He became Mayor of Wolverhampton in 1858. He leased Tong Castle from Lord Bradford in 1855 and he and his wife lived there until their deaths, his in 1884, hers in 1909.

John and Emma Hartley had five children. Their second child was John Thorneycroft Hartley who was born about 1849, whilst they were still living in Wolverhampton. He became a vicar of the Church of England and subsequently a canon. He was appointed to the living of Burneston in North Yorkshire, where he seems to have spent the rest of his working life. He was clearly an energetic man. An old parishioner in Burneston is recorded as telling the story that when he was courting his future wife, Alice Lascelles, he would take a short cut to her family home by riding to the river and then swimming across it, where she would meet him in a carriage and take him home. He duly married Alice Margaret Lascelles (born London, 23 April 1855). This marriage was probably as close as the Thorneycrofts and Hartleys got to royalty. Alice was the daughter – one of 11 children – of Edwin Lascelles, a barrister, who was the third son – of 13 children – of the 3rd Earl of Harwood.

John Hartley's chief claim to fame is that in 1879 and 1880 he won the third and fourth All England Lawn Tennis Championships and in 1881 he was the runner up.

His first win was made in somewhat remarkable circumstances. The quarter-finals were held on a Saturday, with the semi-finals to be played on Monday and the final on Tuesday. On Saturday evening, having won his quarter final, the Reverend Hartley took the train back to Yorkshire and took services and preached a sermon as usual on Sunday. He was then told that one of his parishioners was ill and likely to die. Hartley went to see him and spent the whole night there until the man died in the early hours of the morning. Hartley then went back to the vicarage, collected some sandwiches, rode his horse to Thirsk station and got the train to London. From King’s Cross he got a horse drawn cab to Wimbledon and changed into his tennis clothes whilst on the journey. Hartley was probably helped by his semi-final against C. F. Parr being interrupted by rain, which gave him a chance of a breather. On Tuesday he had to play the final against an Irishman, Vere St Leger Gould, who had had the advantage of having had a rest day on the Monday. Gould was a very energetic player and was one of the earliest to be noted for coming off the base line. Hartley was a baseline player and is described as playing "steadily". Despite the disadvantage which his exertions must have created, Hartley won 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 and thus became the person from Wolverhampton to win Wimbledon.

It is quite likely that Gould had over exerted himself in ways different from Hartley. Wimbledon had already become part of the London season - and this chance to meet his upper class relatives and friends probably made Hartley feel it was worth travelling all the way down to London for a game of tennis. Whilst Hartley was travelling and playing tennis, Good was probably over-indulging in the social life. For it turned out that the players in this final were an unlikely pair. On the one side was the country vicar with good connections. On the other side was a man whose chief occupation was gambling.

Gould and his wife Violet travelled round the world playing the tables and finally settled in Monte Carlo itself. They befriended a wealthy Danish widow who lent them money – which they promptly lost on the gaming tables. But eventually, in 1907, she asked for her money back and Gould, unable or unwilling to pay, killed her. He put her body in a trunk, took it to Marseilles railway station and arranged for it to be sent to him in London. Before it could be sent a porter noticed a strange smell coming from it. The trunk was opened and the body found. Gould was arrested, pleaded guilty at his trial and was sent to Devil’s Island, where he died two years later. He thus became the first Wimbledon finalist to be convicted of murder.

After his 1879 victory Hartley returned to the fray in 1880, when he again won, beating H. F. Lawford, 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. In 1881 he again reached the final but this time he lost 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. The winner was W. C. Renshaw, who then went on to become the winner of the most Wimbledon men's singles titles, totalling 7 - a feat only equalled by Pete Sampras.

After that John Thorneycroft Hartley disappears from the tennis record books. But he continued to be the vicar of Burneston until 1919. It is likely that he retired from active ministry at that time. He died in 1935, aged 86.


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Reverend J. Thorneycroft Hartley's Timeline

January 9, 1849
Shropshire, England
August 21, 1935
Age 86
Yorkshire, England