The Norwood Society

Dora Boothby

The weather in the spring and early summer of 1909 was awful in truly Biblical proportions. Local people corresponded with newspapers and talked of seeing nothing like it since ’88. There were damp foggy mornings, interspersed with gale force winds, hail, sleet and snow that settled. Despite this the Wimbledon tennis tournament was completed, and successfully so for the South Norwood community as it learned from twelve lines half way down a column in an inner page in Norwood News. The winner of the ladies’ singles was Dora Boothby of South Norwood.

Lawn Tennis Championship
Won By A Norwood Lady.

After a very close struggle on Friday of
last week, the ladies’ championship of
England, which Mrs. Sterry relinquished
after winning it last year for the fifth time,
was captured by Miss Boothby. Her
opponent was Miss Morton, runner up in
1908 to Mrs Sterry, who had beaten Miss
Boothby in the previous round.
The championship carries with it
several valuable gifts. Miss D. Boothby
resides at ‘Holmwood,’ 260, South
Norwood Hill.

Norwood News Saturday 10th July 1909.

Penelope Dora Harvey Boothby was born in Finchley, Middlesex on 2nd August 1881. She and her older sister Gertrude, lived with their step-parents Harry and Gertrude Penn at 40 Harold Road. It was very likely that while here Dora learned tennis at what she referred to as the ‘dear old Harold Road Club.’

By 1901 Harry’s success as a civil engineer brought about a move upwards to 260, South Norwood Hill and from here Dora often practised at Beulah Hill Club. Her tennis flourished and she made her first appearance at Beckenham in 1900 winning the Handicap Singles, having another success in the Mixed. Her outstanding talent won cups at Surbiton, Redhill, Chichester, Folkestone and Teignmouth. At Lowestoft the cup became hers because she won it three times in a row. She also held the coveted Queen’s Club Covered Court Championship.

When asked about her fitness regime, Dora Boothby denied dieting or any kind of special training, claiming that ‘life wouldn’t be worth living under such conditions.’ She just used a ‘little common sense about what to avoid and when to avoid it.’ Furthermore, she didn’t train during the winter months. She said that when the season was finished she exchanged her tennis racquet for a badminton one, a sport which she played through the winter. Dora did admit to initially suffering centre-courtitis, but said that ‘everyone who played did at first when the eyes of a great crowd where upon them’. Invited to comment about the 1909 tournament she said, ‘Norwood was quite to the front at Wimbledon this year. Mr Ritchie who lived close by Grange Hill won the singles in the All Comer’s Competition, but lost to Mr Gore in the Challenge Round.’

It was further reported in Norwood News a week later that ‘Lady sportswomen are evidently as good comrades and friends as are those of the sterner sex. Miss Boothby’s enthusiastic delight in her game was sufficient, without her emphatic words, to show that the players have a good time and meet on the most friendly terms, while the Lady Champion was surprised at the great amount of interest taken in the game by the general public, and deeply touched by the shoal of congratulatory letters and telegrams that had reached her’.

The final score of her 1909 winning match against Agnes Morton was 6-4, 4-6, 8-6. She was again to make it through to the finals for the following two years. Unfortunately she lost on both occasions to Dorothea Douglas Lambert Chambers, a formidably powerful and well-trained opponent.

Dora Boothby married Arthur C. Green in the early summer of 1914 at St Georges, Hanover Square. She died on 22nd February 1970 at Hampstead.

The Norwood Review Edition #187.