26 vivid snapshots encapsulating the Wimbledon experience 60 years ago

Silence in court for The Championships, Wimbledon 1954. The sun is out, the strawberries are in, and there’s overseas glamour in the matches and on the menu.

Gosta Johansson

This charming film from 1954 captures all the excitement and colour of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships, both on court and off. There’s plenty of tennis action, but Colourful Wimbledon also reveals much about what the culture of going to Wimbledon was like more than 60 years ago…

1. Wimbledon looking splendidly green and inviting ahead of the 1954 championships, which took place between 21 June and 2 July.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

2. The groundsmen are hard at work sweeping away debris, including mounds of earth thrown up by ants. Nothing is left to disturb the perfectly manicured lawns.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

3. Centre court is getting a trim, leaving the distinctive lines in the grass.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

4. It takes many bottles to quench the thirst of Wimbledon’s visitors.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

5. And there’s no shortage of champers either.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

6. A bit of a surprise to see hamburgers on the menu at Wimbledon. But when the first Wimpy arrived in the UK in 1954 at the Lyons Corner House on Coventry Street, London, it was something new, modern and exciting.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

7. The 292 competitors arrive from all corners of the world: Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, Japan and many more. Some came by train…

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

8. …some came by aeroplane, but all held on tightly to their precious rackets.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

9. To cope with the vast number of visitors to this small London suburb a number of dedicated temporary transport services operate.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

10. The British do what the British do best: queue.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

11. A policeman directing the long lines of traffic from his precarious position.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

12. This is the life – a courtside seat and a picnic basket full of treats.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

13. The president of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, HRH the Duchess of Kent, and Princess Alexandra arrive at Centre Court.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

14. A young tennis fan gets a close look at how the top players do it.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

15. The 1954 tournament saw the entry of the first ever female player from Japan, Sachiko Kamo. She lost in the third round to Italian Nicla Migliori.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

16. A quick look in the programme to see which game to watch next.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

17. Tennis might be the main draw, but the buffet is likely to be a close second – especially in the lovely sunshine.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

18. Wimbledon just wouldn’t be the same without strawberries and cream.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

19. On the middle Sunday of the tournament the visiting players are invited to an outing by the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association). In 1954 it was by the Thames, near Marlow, where the players got a chance to test their kayaking skills before trying their hand at archery.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

20. Rain – as much a part of Wimbledon as strawberries and cream, but with the right precautions play will soon continue.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

21. In the ladies’ final, Maureen Connolly, ‘Little Mo’, from the USA, defeated three-time champion Louise Brough, also USA. This was to be the last of her nine Grand Slam titles as two weeks later she had a riding accident that ended her career.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

22. The spectators at Centre Court admire the skills of Little Mo and Louise Brough.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

23. Little Mo receives the trophy from the Duchess of Kent. This was her third Wimbledon trophy in a row.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

24. HRH Princess Margaret arrives for the men’s final between Egypt’s Jaroslav Drobný and Australia’s Ken Rosewall.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

25. The ever popular Jaroslav Drobný defeated Ken Rosewall in a closely fought four-set match, 13–11, 4–6, 6–2, 9–7, to win his first and only Wimbledon title. Drobný had defected from Czechoslovakia and – after becoming stateless – was offered Egyptian citizenship.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

26. With King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden in attendance, Jaroslav Drobný receives the trophy from the Duchess of Kent.

Colourful Wimbledon (1954)

The film and stills on this page are taken from Britain on Film, a digital archive of UK places that mean the world to you. 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to now will be digitised and can be watched for free on BFI Player.

Britain on Film is funded by the National Lottery funding and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

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