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Perera's house in Edgbaston, Birmingham, where he and Harry Gem invented the modern game of lawn tennis

Juan Bautista Augurio Perera was a Spanish-born, English-based merchant and sportsman, credited alongside his friend Major Harry Gem as the earliest inventor of the game of lawn tennis.[1][2]



Born in Spain, Perera moved to England in 1839, becoming naturalised, settling in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham and establishing a successful business importing Spanish merchandise.[3]

A keen rackets player, he was a member with Gem of the Bath Row Racquets Club in Lee Bank, a short walk from his house at 8 Ampton Road, Edgbaston. It was on the croquet lawn of this house that Perera and Gem were to develop a game that combined elements of both rackets and the Spanish game of pelota between 1859 and 1865,[4] naming it Lawn rackets, Lawn pelota or, eventually, Lawn tennis.[3]

In 1872 Perera and Gem moved to Leamington Spa and established a club to play their new game on the lawns of the Manor House Hotel, opposite Perera's new home in Avenue Road. Perera left Leamington three years after Gem's death in 1881 and his life after this date is unknown.[3][5]

Tennis' true inventor?

The invention of tennis is traditionally ascribed to Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, who published rules for a game he called sphairistike in 1873. It was this anniversary that was celebrated as the centenary of the game in 1973, and it is Wingfield's statue that stands at the headquarters of the Lawn Tennis Association.

It is now known that Gem and Perera had established an organized tennis club prior to this date, however, and had been playing the game privately for a decade or more.[2]

In addition, much less is known about Perera than his friend and fellow tennis pioneer Harry Gem, whose life is well documented as a prominent figure in several walks of Birmingham society. In a letter to The Field in November 1874, however, Gem himself largely credited Perera with the development of the game.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Rowley, Andrew, "Gem, Thomas Henry (1819–1881)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 10 July 2007
  2. ^ a b Tyzack, Anna, The True Home of Tennis Country Life, 22 June 2005
  3. ^ a b c d Osman, Arthur "Lawn tennis remembers its founding fathers", The Times, Thursday 10 June 1982
  4. ^ "Lawn Tennis and Major T. H. Gem" Birmingham Civic Society
  5. ^ Tennis Encyclopædia Britannica 2007. Accessed 11 July 2007


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