The First All-England Badminton Championships – Four Ladies from Devonshire

Written by Geoff Hinder

            The First All-England Badminton Championships – Four Ladies from Devonshire.

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Badminton being played outside Fonthill House, Sheldon, Teignmouth, Devon. Circa 1900

As part of the ongoing research into the history of the All England Badminton Championships, the National Badminton Museum were interested in finding more information on the four finalists in the first All England Women’s Doubles Final played in 1899.
Muriel Lucas and Miss Graeme played at the Teignmouth Badminton Club. The Museum made contact with the Teignmouth and Shaldon Museum, who in turn made contact with the players’ families.
Mr. Anthony Graeme confirmed his aunt Mary Violet Graeme played badminton at the All England Championships and supplied the NBM with a photograph of four ladies playing badminton at the family home, Fonthill House, Shaldon, circa 1900 – we are not sure if the four ladies in the photograph are the All England players.

Badminton being played outside Dunmore House, Sheldon, Teignmouth, the family home of Muriel Lucas (far left) Circa 1900.

Muriel Lucas

Muriel Lucas’s family advised the NBM that Muriel had written a badminton article in a book called The Sports of the World which was published in 1903. The book had all the usual sports like cricket and football and some unusual sports like kangaroo hunting and shooting a rogue elephant in India. We believe that the badminton article is one of the earliest written about badminton. Muriel was given six pages on badminton whereas most other sports only had two pages. In the article Muriel tells us that her father General Sir Alfred Lucas KCB introduced badminton to Devonshire also she reports on the early days of the All-England. There is also advice on badminton equipment and badminton coaching.

Muriel Lucas playing mixed doubles at the South Parade Pier, Southsea.

The family advised us that Muriel’s niece Auriol Earle who lives in Guildford was in possession of Muriel’s photo album. The album contains some fantastic action photographs of badminton players in the early 1900s and the Museum was allowed to copy all the photographs. Muriel Lucas was one of the most dominant female players in the early 1900’s with a record total of 17 All-England titles. This record of 17 titles still stands today jointly with Judy Hashman. Muriel with her brother Guy played in the first-ever international badminton match against Ireland in 1903.

Auriol Earle with husband Eric looking at a display at the National Badminton Museum at Milton Keynes.

Auriol Earle, husband Eric and son Rod visited the National Badminton Museum at Milton Keynes. We explained to them that the mannequins in the museums display case are affectionately called Muriel and Sir George after Muriel Lucas and Sir George Thomas. We were also able to provide them with all the other information that the Museum holds on Muriel Lucas.

Ethel Thomson

The runners up in the 1899 All-England final Ethel Warneford Thomson and Miss I. Theobald played at the Budleigh Salterton Badminton Club, Devon, so contact was made with the Budleigh Salterton Museum. They held some information on Ethel Warneford Thomson as she was a Wimbledon tennis champion, but we still need Miss I. Theobald’s first name for our records.

The National Badminton Museum has given all the information they hold on these four players to the local Museums so they can update their records.

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