Honour for North East Wimbledon champion

A WIMBLEDON winner from the North East is at last being publicly honoured, more than a century after her achievements.

Nancy Robb with the trophy her relative Muriel Robb won for tennis in 1901
Nancy Robb with the trophy her relative Muriel Robb won for tennis in 1901

A WIMBLEDON winner from the North East is at last being publicly honoured, more than a century after her achievements.

On Tuesday, Newcastle Lord Mayor Geoff O’Brien will unveil a city council commemorative plaque to Muriel Robb, which will be sited on the Osborne Road gates of Jesmond Tennis Club where she was a member.

As a backdrop to the ceremony, club members will play in period dress from the start of the last century, when Muriel won her titles.

The Journal reported earlier this year how Muriel’s exploits had been largely forgotten, and calls were made for a plaque to rectify the situation.

Muriel, from the Robb family of Hexham who owned the town’s store of the same name for many years, played in the Wimbledon singles event four times and was never less than a quarter finalist.

In 1902 she won the women’s singles championship, and she also took the Irish, Welsh and Scottish national singles titles. No man or woman had achieved this feat before her and none have done so since.

She also triumphed in the mixed doubles and three times in the women’s doubles.

But she died from cancer at her home in Osborne Road in Jesmond at the age of 28 in 1907 and is buried in Jesmond Cemetery.

At Tuesday’s event will be Anne Induni, formerly Robb, who now lives in Bournemouth and has researched the family history.

And it has also emerged that a silver rose bowl, presented to Muriel for her Irish win, is still in Hexham.

It is in the care of Nancy Robb, whose late husband Derek was managing director of the Hexham store.

Mrs Robb said: “There can’t have been many like Muriel. What she achieved was amazing and it is wonderful that she is being recognised.”

Peter Ratcliffe, chairman of Jesmond Lawn Tennis Club, said: “The plaque is brilliant and will be a lovely conclusion to the story. It is a sad story as Muriel died just 10 doors down from the tennis club. But what she achieved was fantastic and I don’t know of any other Northern club which boasts a Wimbledon champion.”

Mrs Induni was sent a copy of the original article in The Journal. Her research has shown how Muriel’s father, William David Robb, set up in business as a merchant in Newcastle and sent his daughter to Cheltenham Ladies College.

Mrs Induni’s father, who was born in Hexham, went on to become Sir James Robb, RAF Air Chief Marshall and head of the Western Union Defence Force, the predecessor of NATO.

She said: “I remember my father taking me as a girl to the Wimbledon Club House and showing me Muriel’s name on the champions’ list.”

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