Report by Hugo Johnsen, Chairman.
Along with other chairmen and members of the T&RA, I recently visited Grays of Cambridge where all the Real Tennis and Racquets racquets are made in the UK. Situated up a cul-de-sac in Coton, just outside Cambridge , the factory is a delightful low-key place where skilled artisanship and pride in perfection are still to the fore.
The first thing that greets the visitor as they park on the grass, is sight of the drying shed; a corrugated iron convex roof covers planks of fresh ash, where the wind blows freely through and the sun dries the wood to a skeletal white. The ‘factory’ is delightfully old fashioned with the smell of wood, glue and paint all pervasive. The 5th Generation Gray, Richard, who is not yet grey, showed us round and explained the process and intricacy of how to make a Real Tennis Racquet – layers of wood and plenty of patience, glue and heat, overlayed with a love and pride.
Grays have been making racquets for many sports since 1855, first real tennis and racquets but then expanding into cricket, squash, hockey and rugby (they bought ‘Gilbert’ manufacturers of rugby balls, in 2002).
Currently there is an experiment going on in USA, to make Real Tennis racquets out of graphite. If this was brought in to our sport, it would have as big a change as the day steel racquets were brought into Lawn Tennis. Watch this space….and for the moment, if you get the chance, go and experience the delights of craftmanship in Cambridge.