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Frank L. Riseley (1877-1959) and a remarkable tennis-playing family

22-02-2012 16:45:05
By Mark Ryan.

Francis Lorymer “Frank” Riseley was born on 6 July 1877 in Westbury-on-Trym, in the northern part of the city of Bristol, England. His parents were Henry Lorymer Riseley and Phoebe Riseley (née Greenway). Henry Lorymer Riseley, an insurance agent by profession, was a native of Clifton in Bristol, having been christened there on 14 April 1843. Phoebe Riseley was Welsh by birth, her native town being Pontypool in the county of Monmouthshire in south Wales. She was christened in Pontypool on 11 June 1844. Henry Riseley married Phoebe Greenway on 19 April 1865.

Frank Riseley was the sixth and last of Henry and Phoebe Riseley’s children. The first of these six children, a boy named Thomas Greenway Riseley, was born in 1866 and christened in August of that year, but does not appear to have survived childhood. The other four Riseley children were Stanley (b. 1868 in Clifton); Phoebe Beatrice (b. 11 November 1870 in Westbury-on-Trym); Edith Mary (b. 1872 in Westbury-on-Trym); and Arthur Henry (b. 7 July 1874 in Clifton).

According to the 1891 Census of England and Wales, taken on 5 April, the Riseley family, minus the eldest child, Stanley, was living at 12 Cotham Park in Bristol. The four other children, including 13-year-old Frank, were listed as “scholars”.

There is little doubt that by the time of the 1891 census Stanley Riseley had moved to Edinburgh, where he became a student of medicine at Edinburgh University. After completing his studies in the Scottish capital he eventually settled in the industrial city of Sheffield, in northern England. He was appointed the first ophthalmic surgeon to the Sheffield Royal Hospital, where he was for many years also secretary of the staff and a member of the board of management.

Stanley Riseley also had a thriving private medical practice, often dealing with cases resulting from eye injuries caused to the city of Sheffield’s industrial workers. In later years he was appointed medical referee for ophthalmic cases in the Sheffield and neighbouring districts. In 1912, he held the presidency of the Sheffield Medico-Chirurgical Society.

Stanley Riseley played some competitive lawn tennis in his younger days, but did not persist with the sport in later life, at least not at tournament level. He married Gladys Muriel Cleaver on 4 July 1901 in Saint John’s Church, Sheffield. She was a native of that city; her father was a doctor. Stanley and Gladys Riseley had five children.
In 1913, Stanley Riseley, in the prime of his life, became seriously ill, possibly with an incurable form of cancer. After a long illness he died in Sheffield on 5 February 1915 at the age of 47.

By the time of the 1901 Census of England and Wales, Frank Riseley was staying as a guest at 118 Road in Walton-on-Thames, near Epsom in Surrey. This address was the home of his eldest sister, Phoebe, and her husband Leslie. The latter’s full name was Leslie Leopold Rudolph Hausburg; he was a descendant of Swedish and German immigrants. He and Phoebe Riseley had married on 17 April 1895 in Saint Paul’s Church in Clifton.

It is probable that Phoebe Riseley and Leslie Hausburg first met each other at a lawn tennis tournament or a related event because both of them played the sport competitively, although when exactly they took it up is not clear. They might well first have met each other at one of the nascent lawn tennis tournaments held on the French Riviera in the New Year and very popular with many English players.

Compared to her brothers Arthur and Frank, Phoebe Riseley (Hausburg) enjoyed only modest success on the lawn tennis court. Her wins include the singles event at the 1899 edition of the Exmouth tournament, held in early August, where she beat her countrywoman Winifred Longhurst in the final, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. Phoebe Hausburg entered the singles event at Wimbledon several times between 1904 and 1910, but it seems that she actually appeared at the tournament only once in those years, namely in 1909, when she reached the third round before losing to another Englishwoman, Madeline O’Neill.

Leslie Hausburg tended to patronize the Riviera tournaments at the beginning of the season, but never enjoyed a great deal of success in any of them. Born on 26 May 1872 in Penshurst, Kent, he was educated at Clifton College, Bristol, before going up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied Mathematics. In later years he became a distinguished philatelist, joining the Royal Philatelic Society in 1892. An expert on plating, he also wrote many major articles on philately and possessed an exceptional collection of stamps. During the early part of World War One, he was chief honorary secretary of the National Philatelic War Fund. Leslie Leopold Rudolph Hausburg died on 3 July 1917 at Heathside, Weybridge. He was 45.

Phoebe Hausburg remarried in the fourth quarter of 1921, probably in Bristol, her second husband being Arthur Charles Rumboll (b. 20 August 1869 in West Grimstead,Wiltshire). He appears to have been a civil servant in the British India Civil Service, at one point being employed as Acting Agent for the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. He became an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, being awarded an OBE sometime before 1920. In the New Year’s Honours List for 1921, he was awarded a CIE, thus also becoming a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire. Arthur Charles Rumboll died on 31 July 1935 in Weybridge at the age of 66.

Phoebe Riseley (Rumboll) died on 19 November 1950 at 381 Fulwood Road, Sheffield. She was 80 years old. The funeral service took place at Ranmoor Church in Sheffield on 24 November 1950 and was followed by a cremation. It appears that Phoebe Riseley had no children. Her death notice, carried in the London “Times” of 22 November 1950, called her the “sister of Mrs Wilfred Hobson”. This was a reference to Edith Riseley, the fourth of the Riseley siblings to have survived into adulthood. She had married a Wilfred Hobson on 16 September 1913 in Saint Paul’s Church, Clifton. Edith appears never to have played any competitive lawn tennis.

According to the 1901 Census of England and Wales, Frank Riseley is 23 years of age and a barrister. He had attended the Middle Temple, one of the four Inns of Court in London, before being called to the Bar, probably in 1899. Arthur Riseley had followed a similar path before Frank, also studying law at the Middle Temple before being called to the Bar in 1895. However, in later years neither brother would make the practice of law their main professional activity. Instead they would both become members of their father’s insurance brokerage and underwriting firm, Henry L. Riseley & Sons.

Henry Riseley was a very dynamic man. In 1905, he would become sheriff of Bristol. He was also a prominent member of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and of the Bristol and Overseas Guild. In these capacities he did much business with Australia and New Zealand. (In the late nineteenth century Bristol was still one of the main ports in England, if not in the Empire, although it had recently lost some of its prestige due to the growth of industrial centres further north such as Birmingham and Sheffield.)

It is clear that the Riseley children, especially Frank and Arthur, inherited a good deal of their father’s dynamism. Both Frank and Arthur became members of the Clifton Rugby and Football Club and both at some point began to play the relatively new sport of lawn tennis. In this respect it is interesting to note that Frank Riseley was born on 6 July 1877, while the first ever Wimbledon tournament, consisting of just a men’s singles event, began three days later, on Monday 9 July 1877.

In the early years of the sport of lawn tennis, one of its distinguishing features was the success enjoyed by sets of brothers, whether they be twins, like William and Ernest Renshaw, or born in different years, like the Doherty brothers, Reginald (“Reggie”) and Lawrence (“Laurie”). Both of these pairs of English brothers won many doubles titles together and, indeed, were virtually invincible in doubles play. William was the better singles player of the Renshaw twins, while it is difficult to separate Reggie and Laurie Doherty when it comes to singles because both enjoyed periods of near invincibility.

Like the Renshaws and the Dohertys, Frank and Arthur Riseley would play some doubles together, but not nearly as often as the latter two pairs of brothers. There was also no doubting that Frank Riseley was the better singles player of the two youngest Riseley brothers, although Arthur did not play singles nearly as often as Frank.

Arthur Riseley played a certain amount of lawn tennis in the years 1895-99. He took part in the singles event at the Wimbledon tournament twice during this period, in 1896 and 1897, losing in the second round on both occasions. In 1896, he met his younger brother Frank in the second round, when Arthur retired with the score tied at 8 games-all in the first set.

In 1897, at the tournament held in Waterloo, Liverpool, during the early part of the season, Arthur Riseley reached the Challenge Round before losing to the defending champion, his brother Frank, 10-8, 6-4. As the defending champion, Frank would not have had to play any matches because in those days the holder “stood out” at most tournaments to see who would come through what was known as the All-Comers’ event.

It appears that Arthur Riseley played virtually no lawn tennis during the years 1900-02. This might have been due to business and/or family commitments. On 25 July 1901, Arthur married Gertrude Edith Castle (b. 1875 in Brighton) in Saint Patrick’s Church, Hove. Arthur and Gertrude would have two children, both of whom were born in Clifton – Grace (b. 1904) and Barbara (b. 1907). In later years the family would live in the Brighton area.

Although Arthur Riseley returned to play a certain amount of lawn tennis in the years 1903-08, his success at the sport was still rather modest. He appears to have enjoyed playing at the Sussex Championships, held on grass at the end of the lawn tennis season, the venue being the Sussex County Cricket Club in Hove. Given his wife’s connection with Brighton, this would have been something of a local tournament for Arthur Riseley (Brighton and Hove blend into each other near the location of the cricket ground). Arthur Riseley was a semi-finalist in the singles event at the Sussex Championships in 1903 and 1906.

Frank Riseley played lawn tennis during more or less the same periods as his brother Arthur, but in Frank’s case there is a gradual progression whereby he improves his game more or less year by year and, at his peak, almost becomes Wimbledon singles champion (in doubles he would achieve this feat, twice).

If Frank Riseley is remembered at all nowadays, it is primarily because of his achievements in the area of doubles, where he enjoyed his greatest victories with his fellow Englishman Sidney Howard Smith. Their two greatest successes together both came in the Challenge Round of the doubles event at Wimbledon, in 1902 and 1906, when on both occasions they beat the defending champions, the great Doherty brothers, Reggie and Laurie.

However, as already indicated, Frank Riseley enjoyed a considerable amount of successes in singles events too, especially in the period 1902-06. One of his first important victories came at the 1902 edition of the Scottish Championships, which that year was held in August in Moffat, in the south-west of the country. In the final match Riseley defeated Charles Pritchett, who was probably English too, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.

At the end of the 1902 lawn tennis season, Frank Riseley finished runner-up at the Sussex Championships in Brighton to his principal doubles partner, Sidney Smith. With the score tied at two sets-all, 5-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, Riseley retired, a not unusual occurrence among players in those days. The records show that when these doubles partners met in a singles match, Sidney Smith often had the upper hand, especially in the early days of their rivalry. Frank Riseley also retired to Sidney Smith on more than just the aforementioned occasion in the final match of the 1902 edition of the Sussex Championships. It is likely that, being close friends and regular doubles partners, they did not like playing each other in singles.

Possibly the most famous meeting in singles between Frank Riseley and Sidney Smith took place in the semi-finals of the 1904 edition of the Wimbledon tournament in early July. With a fascinating struggle played in searing heat tied at two sets-all, 7-5, 5-7, 8-6, 5-7, from Riseley’s point of view, the two players agreed to toss a coin to see who would go through to the All-Comers’ Final. Riseley won the toss.

In the All-Comers’ Final Riseley faced his countryman Major Ritchie, whom he thrashed 6-0, 6-1, 6-2, thereby gaining the opportunity to take on Laurie Doherty, the holder, in the Challenge Round. The youngest of the Doherty won this match relatively easily, 6-1, 7-5, 8-6. (The same two players had met at the same stage of the same tournament one year earlier, when Doherty had won by an even greater margin 7-5, 6-3, 6-0.)

In 1905, Frank Riseley lost in the quarter-finals of the Wimbledon tournament to the Australian Norman Brookes, but one year later Riseley reached the Challenge Round of the singles event at Wimbledon for the third time in four years. 1906 was arguably Riseley’s most successful year in singles. Early in the season, at the beginning of June, he won the singles event at the Irish Championships in Dublin, beating the strangely-named Irishman Shirely Dillon in the final match, 6-2, 6-1, 7-5. This once very prestigious tournament had lost a good deal of its lustre, but was still capable of attracting some of the top overseas players.

A week or so after his victory in Dublin, Frank Riseley won the singles title at the 1906 edition of the Northern Championships tournament, held that year in Liverpool. In the final he got the better of Sidney Smith, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1, 6-3. At the end of June, Riseley also won the singles event at the short-lived Championships of Europe tournament, held that year in Leicester. In the final match at this tournament he was leading the Irishman George Ball-Greene, 4-6, 6-1, 5-1, when the latter retired.

Frank Riseley was thus in excellent form going into the 1906 edition of the Wimbledon tournament. In the semi-finals of the singles event he met Sidney Smith again, and this time beat him after a competitive match 8-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. In the All-Comers’ Final Riseley met his countryman Arthur Wentworth Gore, Wimbledon singles champion in 1901 at his thirteenth attempt and then aged 33. In 1906, Gore was no match for Riseley who won 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

In the Challenge Round of the singles event at Wimbledon in 1906, Frank Riseley faced Laurie Doherty at that stage of the world’s most prestigious tournament for the third time in four years. Once again Doherty emerged victorious, although this time Riseley managed to win one set, the final score being 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. This was Laurie Doherty’s fifth consecutive and last victory in the singles event at Wimbledon. It was Frank Riseley’s misfortune that his peak years coincided with those of Laurie Doherty, a truly great player in both singles and doubles.

However, as already mentioned, together with Sidney Smith, Frank Riseley did manage to beat the Laurie Doherty and his brother Reggie twice at Wimbledon, in the Challenge Round of the doubles event of 1902 and 1906. (The Dohertys had won the Wimbledon doubles title in the years 1897-1901 and again from 1903-05, their eight victories in this event still being a record to this day.)

In 1902, Riseley and Smith beat the Dohertys, 4-6, 8-6, 6-3, 4-6, 11-9, the final score indicating the nature of the struggle. In the Challenge Round of the same event in 1906, they beat the Dohertys after another highly competitive match, 6-8, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.

(The Dohertys had beaten Riseley and Smith in the Challenge Round of the doubles event at Wimbledon in the years 1903-05.)

What type of a doubles team were Frank Riseley and Sidney Smith? According to the obituary of Frank Riseley by one Brigadier Sir John Smyth, published in the London “Times” on 7 February 1959, “The two pairs [Riseley and Smith and the Dohertys] presented a remarkable contrast. The Dohertys played the modern men’s game to perfection, covering the court like a well-oiled machine. Smith and Riseley adopted an extraordinary mixed double formation, with Smith racing along the baseline and Riseley dominating the net. But the combination of Smith’s pulverizing forehand drive and accurate lobbing, coupled with Frank’s devastating serving, smashing and volleying, gradually broke up the perfection of the Dohertys’ game and reduced Reggie Doherty to a state of complete physical exhaustion…”

(Frank Riseley and Sidney Smith also beat the Doherty brothers in the handicap doubles event at the 1903 edition of the Monte Carlo tournament. Although it was only the handicap event, the pairs agreed to play on level terms and Riseley and Smith won in straight sets, 11-9, 6-3, 6-4. This was one of only a handful of defeats suffered by the Dohertys when playing together, three of those losses coming against Riseley and Smith.)

Like Frank Riseley, Sidney Smith tends to be remembered nowadays, if at all, for his successes in the doubles event at Wimbledon. However, like Riseley, Smith was an excellent singles player whose peak years also happened to coincide with those of an even greater player, Laurie Doherty.

Sidney Howard Smith was born on 3 February 1872 in Chalford, near Stroud, Gloucesterhsire. His parents were James Smith (b. 1843), a colliery proprietor, and Henrietta Smith (née Thornton; b. 1845). Mrs Smith had worked as milliner before her marriage and was the daughter of a fishmonger. Both of Sidney’s parents were natives of Gloucestershire. He had several siblings.

It appears that Sidney Smith lived in or near Stroud for most of his life and that he worked in his father’s colliery for a number of years. In the 1911 Census of England and Wales, Sidney Howard Smith, then 39 years of age, states that he is living in Rush Cottage, Stroud, with his wife, Hilda, and their four-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. Sidney and Hilda have been married for five years or so. Under the heading “Occupation”, Smith writes “Clerk to Father”, thus indicating that he worked in his father’s mining company. It could be that Sidney Smith did not really need to work, but simply filled a minor role at the colliery. What type of education he had is not clear.

Sidney Smith signs the 1911 census form, “Sidney H. Smith”, proof that the correct spelling of his first name is “Sidney”, not “Sydney”, as found in many sources.

Sidney Smith began taking part in lawn tennis tournaments around 1892, when he was 20 years of age. Once he had matured as a player he won the singles title at the main British tournaments multiple times. These tournaments included the Surrey Championships, held in Surbiton; the aforementioned Northern Championships, held alternately in Liverpool and Manchester; the Midland Counties Championships, held in Edgbaston, Birmingham; the Northumberland Championships, held in Newcastle; the Derbyshire Championships, held in Buxton; the aforementioned Sussex Championships; and the South of England Championships, held in Eastbourne. In addition, Sidney Smith won the singles title at the Welsh Championships nine times, in the years 1897-1902 and 1904-06.

The only blot, if such it can be called, on Sidney Smith’s record was his inability to win the singles event at the biggest tournament of all, Wimbledon. In eleven attempts between the years 1893 and 1906, he reached the Challenge Round of the singles event at Wimbledon only once, when Reggie Doherty beat him, 6-8, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2.

Sidney Smith lost in the All-Comers’ singles event at Wimbledon twice: In 1899, when Arthur Wentworth Gore beat him, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. The other occasion was in 1905, when he was defeated by Norman Brookes after a five-set match in which Smith won two sets by the score of 6-1, the final result being 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 7-5.

Sidney Smith also played competitive badminton for a number of years. In 1900, he won the singles title at the All England Badminton Championships, the first year in which that particular event was held. After 1900, Sidney Smith did not play any competitive badminton. Sidney Howard Smith died on 27 March 1947 in Stroud, Gloucestershire. He was 75 years of age.

At the end of 1906, Frank Riseley more or less retired from competitive lawn tennis, at the age of 29. It is quite possible that he wanted to devote more time to his business interests and to his family. He had married in the early part of 1903, his wife being Elizabeth Mary Coulthurst (b. 1880 in Clifton). When the 1911 Census of England and Wales was taken, Frank and Elizabeth Riseley were living at 5 Mortimer Road, Clifton, with their five-year-old daughter, also called Elizabeth, and two servants. In the census return, which Frank Riseley completed, he gives his occupation as “insurance broker underwriter”.

During World One, Frank Riseley served in the Grenadier Guards, an infantry regiment of the British Army. He appears to have served briefly in France just before the end of the war and reached the rank of lieutenant. He was awarded both the Star Medal and the Victory Medal.

When lawn tennis tournaments resumed in Great Britain in 1919, Frank Riseley returned to competitive play for a number of years. He entered the singles event at the 1919 edition of the Wimbledon tournament, where he lost in five sets in the second to the Australian player Stanley Doust. Frank Riseley enjoyed some success on the tennis court in the years 1919-22, in particular at the West of England Championships tournament, held in Bristol. In 1920, he was runner-up in the singles event at this tournament to a Mr Underwood, a pseudonym used by an unidentified player. However, Frank Riseley won the doubles event with Arthur Wentworth  Gore – they beat Frank’s brother, Arthur, and the unidentified Mr Underwood in the final, 6-4, 8-6. Frank also reached the mixed doubles where, in a final between English players, he and Doris Craddock lost to Gordon Lowe and Mabel Parton, 6-2, 6-2.

As indicated above, Arthur Riseley also played some lawn tennis after World War One, but he did not enjoy as much success as his brother Frank. In 1919, Arthur Riseley was admitted to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in other words he was awarded an OBE. On 11 March 1919, he was invested with the officer’s insignia by King George V in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace.

Henry Lorymer Riseley retired from public life in Bristol in December 1922. He died in Clifton on 5 July 1930 at the age of 87. Barbara Riseley, Arthur’s eldest daughter, entered some lawn tennis tournaments in the 1920s, but with little success. She married a Stuart Evans at the Church of Saint Mary in Weybridge on 8 January 1930, and appears not to have played any more competitive lawn tennis after her marriage.

By 1927, both Arthur and Frank Riseley were directors of the prestigious Cornhill Insurance Company, with registered offices at 32 Cornhill in the City of London. Arthur Riseley died on 28 March 1941 in Battle, Sussex. He was 86. An obituary, written by the aforementioned Brigadier Sir John Smyth, appeared in the London “Times” newspaper on 19 April 1961. In this piece, Sir John wrote that Arthur Riseley was called “Bob” by his friends. He also noted the following:

“In his will Bob Riseley left to his family two trophies which marked the beginning and the end of his distinguished connexion with the game of tennis. First, the cabinet presented to him for his victory in the handicap singles in the Welsh Championships of 1891 – his first ever lawn tennis success. And the travelling clock which was presented to him on his eightieth birthday by the individual members of the Committee of the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon on his retirement from the chairmanship. [...]

“In 1942, in the very difficult war years, Bob Riseley took over Sir Louis Greig’s job of chairman of the War Executive Committee of the All England Club. And he kept things going until Sir Louis came back again in 1946, when Bob handed over to him and became his vice-chairman. Bob Riseley was always looking ahead to the post-war years and he and his brother Frank bought the land which is now the Members’ Car Park at Wimbledon and the site of the All England covered courts.

“On the death of Sir Louis Greig in 1952, Bob again took on the chairmanship of the All England Club and retained it until he reached the age of 80, when he retired and was made a vice-president.”

Frank Riseley predeceased his brother Arthur by two years, dying on 6 February 1959 in Torquay. He was 82.  In the obituary of Frank Riseley already quoted from earlier in this piece, Brigadier Sir John Smyth noted the following: “Frank Riseley was a magnificent figure of a man, big, strong and active as a cat. And he retained his good looks into his old age which he accepted, as Sir Winston Churchill does, with a certain amused tolerance. Whether it was in the world of lawn tennis – and particularly the International Lawn Tennis Clubs and at Wimbledon – or in the Bristol Branch of the Old Comrades’ Association of the Grenadier Guards, to which he made a great contribution, and in many other spheres, Frank was a person whom it was always an inspiration to be with.”

This obituary was a fitting tribute to a remarkable man from a remarkable family.



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