Plaque will commemorate achievements of Muriel Robb

THE memory of a Tyneside Wimbledon tennis champion who died tragically young is to be revived.

Peter Ratcliffe with a old portrait of Miss Muriel Evelyn Robb
Peter Ratcliffe with a old portrait of Miss Muriel Evelyn Robb

THE memory of a Tyneside Wimbledon tennis champion who died tragically young is to be revived.

Muriel Robb, who was a member of Jesmond Lawn Tennis Club in Newcastle, 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.

In the days before tie breaks, her singles win was the longest women’s final in history in terms of the number of games.

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

But Muriel died at her home in Osborne Road in Jesmond at the age of 28.

Now Newcastle City Council is to put up a commemorative plaque to Muriel either on her birthday of May 13 or to coincide with this year’s Wimbledon.

The site for the plaque would be either the gates of the Jesmond tennis club in Osborne Road or Muriel’s birthplace at Haldane Terrace in Jesmond, which still stands.

Peter Ratcliffe, chairman of Jesmond Lawn Tennis Club, said: “She was a playing member of the club and is our most illustrious member.

“She was a remarkable sportsperson and was quite a lady.”

An unusual feature of Muriel’s game is that she served overhead at a time when most women served underhand, and moved around the court much more extensively than what was then the norm.

“She could hit a forehand harder than most men and she broke the mould when she won Wimbledon,” said Mr Ratcliffe.

“It was a total tragedy when she was the youngest Wimbledon champion to die.”

Mr Ratcliffe said that the club had attempted to find out what happened to Muriel, but without success.

Muriel is buried in Jesmond Old Cemetery and it is reported that at her funeral the wreaths were so numerous that two lorries were needed to transport them.

Mr Ratcliffe said that the club, which was founded in 1883, would welcome a plaque on its gates.

Who else will be remembered?

PLAQUES will also be erected this year to two other leading Newcastle figures.

Charles Merz, whose family home was in Benwell, lived in later life on Gosforth’s High Street. He attended Armstrong College in the city and set up his consulting electrical engineering firm in 1899.

This became Merz and McLellan in 1902 and pioneered the use of high voltage power distribution in the UK through its Neptune Bank power station in Wallsend.

Neptune Bank became the model for the country’s National Grid after the passing of the Electricity Supply Bill in 1919.

Merz was also consultant on the pioneering electrification of Tyneside’s local railway lines in 1904.

George Murray was born in Newcastle in 1865 and is credited with the first successful hormonal replacement therapy. This involved injecting a patient with an extract of sheep thyroid and he patented the process in 1891. His creation is reputed to be the oldest drug still in use.

He was a professor of comparative pathology at Durham University and a physician at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and lived in Saville Place in Newcastle.

Also in line for future plaques are:

Harriet Martineau, writer of more than 50 books and claimed to be the first woman sociologist.

Physician John Snow, who served his apprenticeship in Newcastle under surgeon William Hardcastle, physician to George Stephenson and family.

William Boutland Wilkinson, born at St Peter’s in Newcastle in 1819, who first patented reinforced concrete as a building material.

Rev William Turner. He played a crucial role in setting up many of Newcastle societies.

Mary Astell, writer born in Newcastle in 1666 and regarded as the first English feminist.

Graham Laidler, born in Osborne Avenue in Jesmond in 1908 who became Punch’s inspirational cartoonist.


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