Table tennis is a comparatively new sport. The first record of table tennis anywhere in the world was in the 1880s when the game was known as 'ping pong'.
It was not until after the First World War that table tennis became popular as a sport. In 1926, the International Table Tennis Association was formed and standard rules adopted worldwide. The English Table Tennis Association (ETTA) was formed a year later in 1927. In 2014, the ETTA became Table Tennis England..
THE BEGINNINGS IN CLACTON
The Clacton and District Table Tennis League was formed in 1938 with one Division. It ran for just two seasons, when the Second World War caused the League to suspend its operations.
The League resumed in 1947. In the next year (1948) a Second Division was added. Two years later (1950) a Third Division and a Ladies Division were added. However, the Ladies Division proved a short-lived experiment that lasted for only two seasons. Since 1952, the League has operated on a 'mixed' basis.
With the popularity of table tennis growing, a Fourth Division was added in 1967, a Fifth Division in 1968 and, in 1969 (for one season only), a Sixth Division. Since then, the League has had either three, four or five Divisions.
THE LEAGUE’S OLDEST CLUBS
Brotherhood was one of the League’s original Clubs and is the only one to have existed during the whole of the League’s history. Their home venue is the Brotherhood Hall in Clacton’s St Osyth Road.
Brotherhood were the champions in the League’s first two seasons and have won the Division One title a record 22 times (including an unprecedented 13 consecutive seasons between 1998/99 and 2010/11).
YOUTH CLUBS AND SCHOOLS
In the early years, teams from youth associations and youth clubs were one of the main sources of League teams.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Clacton Youth Centre (CYC) Club, based at the old St Osyth Road School, Clacton, was the League’s most successful Club. Teams from CYC won the Division One title on 11 occasions. The Club, which later moved to Green Lodge, Old Road, Clacton (and re-named Green Lodge) ceased to exist in 1994.
Over the years, League teams have also included Walton YM, Frinton CYC, Brightlingsea YMCA, as well as schools and colleges - St Osyth College, CCHS, Colbayns, Chafford and Priory Meadow
WORK-PLACE TABLE TENNIS
An even more important source of League table tennis players has been the work-place.
The history of the League has seen numerous teams based on the work-place, such as GPO, Electric, Gas, Barclays Bank, Taxes, NFA (DSS), Eastern National, Police, NHS, NALGO, Halifax, and Telecoms. Most of the teams actually played at their work-place.
As a result, League table tennis has been played in several unusual places – including the banking hall of Barclays Bank and the cells of the old Clacton police station!
The League’s most successful work-place Club was Nico, based in Oxford Road, Clacton. Their 'A' side won the Division One title 5 times in a row in the mid-1970s. During that period, they twice won the Knock-Out Cup.
With the gradual pressure on businesses for space, work-place table tennis venues have been squeezed out. Sadly, the League now has no work-based table tennis clubs.
CHURCHES AND CHURCH HALLS
Many table tennis Clubs have used church halls as their playing venues. For example, over the years the Jaywick Club has made use of several of the church halls in the Jaywick area - the Methodist Church, St Christopher's and the Roman Catholic Church.
Of the five clubs currently in the League, three play in church halls in Clacton - Brotherhood (Brotherhood Hall, St Osyth Road), Windsor (St James Church Hall, Tower Road) and Nomads (Christ Church URC Church Hall, Carnarvon Road).
The League has also had several Clubs which not only played in church halls but which were 'church-based'. These included St Paul's (who played in the old church hall in Clacton High Street), the Salvation Army and Frinton Catholic Church.
THE ESSEX OPEN TABLE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS (BUTLINS : 1960)
On 10th and 11th September 1960, the Essex County Table Tennis Association held its Open Table Tennis Tournament at the Embassy Hall in Clacton’s Butlin’s Holiday Camp.
Among the competitors were Johnny Leach, the World Mens Singles champion in 1949 and 1951, and Diane Rowe, one of the famous Rowe twins who took the World Ladies Doubles title in 1954. Diane, in her own right, was four times English National Ladies Singles champion. Also among the entrants was a young Chester Barnes, later to win the National Singles title five times.
NATIONAL TOP 12 TABLE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS : 1988/89 & 1989/90
The 1988/89 Stiga National Top 12 Table Tennis Championships - one of the most prestigious national tournaments organised by the English Table Tennis Association - were held in Clacton. It was the first major national sporting tournament to take place at the newly-opened Clacton Leisure Centre. The date was 2nd January 1989.
This proved so successful that the 1989/90 Tournament was also held at Clacton. Alan Cooke again took the title, this time beating the legendary Desmond Douglas, whilst Andrea Holt took the Ladies Title.
Umpires for the Tournament included local officials Brian Rowlen and Graham Parkes, both qualified International Umpires.