top of page

Bunny Austin

So, Who Was Bunny Austin?

Henry Wilfred "Bunny" Austin (26 August 1906 – 26 August 2000) was an English tennis player. For 74 years he was the last Briton to reach the final - 1938 - of the men's singles at Wimbledon, until Andy Murray did so in 2012. He was also a finalist at the 1937 French Championships. Along with Fred Perry, he was a vital part of the British team that won the Davis Cup in three consecutive years (1933–35). He was also the first British tennis player to wear shorts!


Bunny married actress Phyllis Konstam in 1931, after meeting her in 1929 on a transatlantic liner while travelling for the US Open, and together they were one of the celebrity couples of the age. Austin played tennis with Charlie Chaplin, was a friend of Daphne du Maurier, Ronald Colman, and Harold Lloyd, and met both Queen Mary and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1933, concerned by increasing threats of a renewal of European, and indeed wider, war, Austin became involved in the Oxford Group, later Moral Re-Armament, speaking on public platforms and writing press articles. He and Fred Perry were the only players to raise their voice, in a letter to The Times, against the Nazi ban on Jews joining the German team for the Davis Cup. According to Austin's friend Peter Ustinov, Austin was "disgracefully ostracised by the All-England Club because he was a conscientious objector".


Bunny and Phyllis had friends in the village & often spent time visiting. Phyllis was very fond of the area and made it known that she would like to be buried in Stoke churchyard. Naturally, Bunny then wished to be buried with her. A couple of months before his death, Austin had joined other past Wimbledon champions and finalists on Wimbledon's Centre Court for a pre-millennium parade of champions.

Stoke's Tennis Legacy

The first record we have of a tennis club in Stoke is from a newspaper report in 1895 (two years before the clock was placed on the church tower): "STOKE ST. GREGORY. Tennis Match.—The return match between the Stoke Tennis Club and Swell was played on the Stoke ground on Tuesday. A highly interesting and very evenly contested game was the result. First round—Miss Pullen and Mr. Squire beat Miss A. Hallett and Mr. Wilcox (4—1, 4—2); Miss Loveridge and Mr. Lockyer beat Miss Uttermere and Mr. Gange(4 —1, 4—3); Miss Lockyer and Mr. Pullen lost to Miss A. Hallett and Mr. Wilcox (4—2, 0—4, 0 —4, I—4). Second round —Miss Pullen and Mr. Squire beat Miss. R Hallett and Mr. Gange (4—l, 4—1); Miss Lockyer and Mr. Pullen lost to Miss Uttermere and Mr. Gange (0—4, 4—3, 1—4); Miss Loveridge and Mr. Lockyer won against Miss A. Hallett and Mr. Wilcox (4 —1, I—4, 4—2). Third round —Miss Pullen and Mr. Squire lost to Miss Uttermere and Mr. Gange (1 —4,4 —1, 2—4); Miss Loveridge and Mr. Lockyer lost to Miss R. Hallet and Mr. Gange (0 —4, 0—4); Miss Lockyer and Mr. Pullen lost to Miss R. Hallett and Mr. Gange (0 —4, I—4). Totals—Stoke, 11 sets or 4 matches; Swell, 11 sets or 5 matches."

       In the 1920s Stoke Tennis Courts (so more than one even then) was at Sturts Farm. In July 1922 the Taunton Courier reported: "LAWN TENNIS. STOKE ST. GREGORY v. NORTH CURRY. A match was played on the Stoke St. Gregory Tennis Court on Tuesday evening against North Curry. Four mixed couples had been chosen represent each club, and as it was late when a start was made it was decided that each couple should play one set with each opposing couple. The only matches that the present Stoke Club had previously figured in were two against Curry Mallet last season, in each of which they were rather badly beaten, but hopes were entertained of an improvement being effected. It was a most agreeable surprise to taste the sweet success of victory. Of 16 sets played, 10 were won Stoke St. Gregory and six by North Curry."

Here are the results:


The reports keep coming over the next few years, and in 1927 the Courier reports on an event that looks similar to the modern annual Bunny Austin Tournament: "STOKE ST. GREGORY. TENNIS TOURNAMENT.—A successful tournament between members of the tennis club was held on the courts at Sturts Farm on Wednesday afternoon. An open-air tea was much enjoyed. On Tuesday next Stoke St. Gregory play their first match of the season, when the ladies' team visits Ashill."

bottom of page