On March 21st and 22nd, 2018 The Association of Heads of Independent Girls’ Schools (AHIGS) will host 100 years of the Tildesley Shield Tennis Tournament. The event will celebrate the longest running tennis tournament in Australian History.

To commemorate the centenary there will be a short opening ceremony at 8.00am and morning tea will be served from 9.00am for past players.

There are many activities and displays of interest planned for the day. We will also have an interviewer on hand to capture memories from ex players and thoughts from current players of Tildesley.

If you require any further information please contact your school or the AHIGS office.

Tildesley Shield Tennis Tournament celebrates 100 years

Opening ceremony and morning tea
Time 8:00am
Date: 21st & 22nd March, 2018
Venue: Pennant Hills Park Tennis Courts


by Jan Milburn and Kelvin Grose

It is fitting, in the 70th Anniversary Year of the Tildesley Shield, that a short history of the Shield and its donor be written for the Association of Head of Independent Girls’ Schools (NSW).

The Tildesley Tennis Shield competition was first held in 1918, with Daphne Akhurst the winner of the singles competition and Normanhurst School, Ashfield, the overall winner. Daphne, one of the best women tennis players Australia has produced, was a pupil of Normanhurst, a school which in 1918 had as its Headmistress, Miss Evelyn Mary Tildesley. It was Miss Evelyn Tildesley who donated “a beautiful oak and bronze shield” to encourage a tennis competition which emphasized team spirit, not individual competition. The Shield, according to a brief history compiled by the Normanhurst Old Girls’ Union, was to be presented to the school which could show the best average score in tennis. [1] Thus, in 1918, Normanhurst fielded a team of ten, one of whom was Miss Joan Denning. Miss Denning stated that this represented the A and B teams plus two girls because each school had to send a percentage of its enrolment with these being a minimum of 10 players and a maximum of 32 players. [2] The Normanhurst History states that each school had to send in a tenth of its girls over twelve years of age and in a Kambala History compiled in 1972 by Miss Fifi Hawthorne this statement is made:

Miss Evelyn Tildesley, Headmistress of Normanhurst School (Ashfield), discussed with Mr Henry Marsh, Secretary of the NSW Lawn Tennis Association, the idea of a tennis tournament that would involve all the girls’ independent schools entering pupils according to the number in each school so that many pupils would have the chance of playing instead of just a few very good girls, as was the case in the School Girls’ Championships held by the NSW Lawn Tennis Association. [3]

Mr Marsh’s interest in the Shield competition was evident in that he gave a replica of the Shield to every girl in the winning team in 1918 and, according to Miss Denning, this practice continued for some time, although whether these replicas remained his personal gift in subsequent years was not known by her.

Miss Tildesley and the NSW Lawn Tennis Association worked out the conditions of the Shield competition and, in an interview in 1964, Miss Tildesley said that they were influenced by the notion of an American Tournament. [4] In such a tournament a percentage of games won against games played is taken and thus the idea of playing for the team was emphasized.

Over the years the system of scoring has often been the centre of controversy; it was criticised right from the beginning by the larger schools. However there seems no doubt that the reasoning that prompted Miss Tildesley was that of encouraging more participation in tennis within the twelve girls Protestant schools operating in 1918 and to have a scoring system which rewarded the school with the best average.

Let us now look at Miss Tildesley and her family. Her father was William Henry Tildesley, born 16th July, 1855 at Penn Fields, Wolverhampton, the son of Matthew and Mary Ann Tildesley. He was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School. He became founder and first Chairman of W.H. Tildesley Ltd, Clifford Works, Willenhall, manufacturers of currycombs, vermin traps and dropforgings. He was a member of the Wolverhampton Borough Council 1913 to 1919 representing Blakenhall Ward, where he resided at that time.

Later he moved to Chequefield, Penn Fields, where he spent the rest of his long life.  He was for many years Chairman of the Wolverhampton New Water Company. A prominent Methodist, he served as a local preacher for over 60 years. He was very keen on physical exercise and strict diet, to which he attributed his long life. In 1881 he married Rebecca, daughter of William Wadham Fisher of Quinton, Gloucestershire, and by this union they had the following family: Evelyn Mary, born 1882, Miriam Louise, born 1883, Beatrice, born 1886 and Horace William, born 1888, who succeeded his father as Chairman of W.H. Tildesley Ltd. None of the three girls married. Horace William married Dora, the daughter of W.H. Corker of Wolverhampton and had three children: Geoffrey Horace, born 1915, David Henry, born 1917 and Joyce, born 1921. Joyce married Humphrey Windeyer, son of Richard Windeyer K.C. of Sydney. William Henry Tildesley died in 1949 aged 94 and was buried in the Wood Street Cemetery, Willenhall, with his wife who died in 1948 aged 91. [5]

Evelyn was educated at the King Edward VI Grammar School, Birmingham where she won a classical scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge. At Newnham she completed requirements for the Tripos with distinction, but as happened to her sister, Beatrice, a classical student at the other famous Cambridge College for women (Girton), the University refused to confer degrees upon women. This obstacle was later overcome by Miss Tildesley and she became a M.A. at that university. Sir Harold Wyndham, in his tribute to her at her Memorial Service on 10th June 1976 (she died four days earlier) says that the means by which Miss Evelyn Tildesley gained the degree of Master of Arts at Cambridge,

not only give early evidence of her characteristic determination not to be put down, but afford an amusing commentary upon a capacity, even in academic circles, for male chauvinism to save face. [6]

Later in her life Miss Tildesley became a Member of the Order of the British Empire, not only for her services to education but for her work for the community through the University Women’s Settlement, the National Council of Women, the British Drama League and the New South Wales Soldiers’ Children Education Board. She also was Acting Principal of the Women’s College in the University of Sydney and, when she died, bequeathed her library to the Women’s College.

Let us briefly, however, go back to Newnham. After completing requirements for the Tripos, she spent another year at Cambridge, devoted to English studies, a year in Vienna, and a period of teaching at ‘Priorsfield’. ‘Priorsfield’ was the school conducted by Mrs Leonard Huxley and, as can be imagined, she was brought into touch with an interesting circle of stimulating people, a group of which Julian and Aldous Huxley were members.

Miss Tildesley came to Normanhurst from England in 1914 and was Headmistress from 1914 until 1923. To quote Sir Harold Wyndham once more:

Consonant with her own wide range of interests, Miss Tildesley maintained a firm belief in the value of a well-rounded education for girls. One continuing reminder of this fact is the Tildesley Shield for girls’ tennis, instituted, one hopes it will not be forgotten, by a student of the classics and of English literature. [7]

This view that Miss Tildesley had a belief in a well-rounded education for girls is borne out by her article in the Jubilee Number of the Normanhurst School Magazine where, after detailing some of Normanhurst’s outstanding academic successes, she goes on to say:

Perhaps our most notable advance was in the matter of physical education. Here again the foundations had been well and truly laid by Mrs Stiles, who brought out the first English-trained Games and Gymnastics Mistress to be on the Resident Staff of a Sydney school. When she left to be married I was lucky to secure in her place Miss Eleanor Turner, whose pioneer work had permanent results extending far beyond our own bounds. It was she who introduced for our drill classes the tunic which has now become the uniform for every Sydney school girl, who brought out the English netball rules, founded the first Netball Association, and arranged our first Drill and Dancing Display; to her more than to anyone else was due the pre-eminence which Normanhurst attained in sport, and the considerable contribution which we were able to make to the raising of the standard in physical education throughout the State. We even, greatly venturing, challenged the Melbourne premier team in netball; but they had been at it longer than we had, and beat us soundly on arrival there; still, the return visit they paid us did much to improve local play. To discover a tennis champion in Daphne Akhurst was a piece of luck; but the consistent merit of the teams which carried the purple and gold colours in various events controlled by the GSSSU, to the forming of which Miss Turner gave the first impetus, rested on the basis of sound physical education she set up; moreover, the improvement in average health and physique which followed prevented any breakdown from overwork, even among the most anxious examinees. It was a great disappointment to me that we were not able to carry out plans for a College of Physical Training which she and I had in hand. She rejoiced when the School became the first winner of the Tildesley Shield – and in passing I should like to congratulate Normanhurst on its present possession of this trophy.
After work and sport, public spirit. There was never a year but many girls qualified for the Old Girls’ Prize on this third score, especially among the prefects. I believe May Pile and Kitty Stephens put up the record, having been form prefects from their earliest days in the Lower Fifth and house prefects for three years.
‘Treat your examiners like worms; they cannot hurt your soul’, said my Cambridge coach when the Tripos was imminent. It was a heartening thought. I have always felt a special interest in those parts of an all-round general education that lie outside the Syllabus – Scripture History, for instance, and the various handicrafts. Mr A E Collins’ class in Design seemed to me when I first came here one of the most successful achievements in this field. I was probably the only person who took unalloyed pleasure in the odds and ends which filled up time after the school examinations while the marks were being added up – tests in making buttonholes, reading aloud, poetry-saying. But I know that we all enjoyed the annual play, whose cast was mainly drawn from care-free ex-Intermediates. Indeed, the Lower Sixth offers a great field for educational experiments. Perhaps we might have given more attention to public affairs than we did; schools are not easily put in contact with the life of their time. One of my recollections is of Lady Cook making a fine speech in the conscription campaign under the lamp-post opposite, and the boarders all out of their beds on the verandah. Another is of a Junior Red Cross meeting at Government House, addressed by a well-known feminist, upon whom the comment of a sharp-eyed little girl in our party was, “I don’t think much of her; she had two pairs of stockings on and ladders in the under pair”. I never sent the girls to see our legislators in action at Parliament House; but I rather wish I had – or at any rate taken them to look on at the proceedings of the Ashfield Council, which seemed to me, ratepayer though I was, an admirable public body. I never tried to give a course in Economics, being convinced that I should not be able to understand it myself even by following this excellent method; but since I find nowadays that it can be made comprehensible, and since a friend of mine is at the moment compiling an elementary Economics Handbook for use in schools, if Miss Miles will accept it we shall have much pleasure in presenting it to the Library. [8]

No apologies need be made in this short record of the history of the Tildesley Shield for the preceding lengthy quotation because it so aptly sums up the educational interests of the Shield’s donor and more than adequately explains why the Shield was to be an avenue for participation of tennis players who had interest in and enthusiasm for the sport even though they might not be champions.

From this brief analysis of the educational ideas of the donor of the Shield, this short history will conclude with an outline of the controversial scoring procedures.

Up until 1922 the Girls Secondary Schools Lawn Tennis Association ran the competition; after this it was run by the Girls Secondary Schools Sports Union (now IGSSA). From 1922 until 1944 the Tildesley Shield was held (where possible) on three consecutive Saturdays in October at White City Courts. In 1918 it was held at the Double Bay Courts (White City was then a fun parlour which was taken over for grass courts circa 1920-21). Matches were the best of eight games. Entries were based on a 1:15 ratio for girls 12 years and over on October 1st with a minimum of 12 (6 singles, 3 doubles) and a maximum of 32 (16 singles, 8 doubles).

From 1944 to 1946 the numbers were modified 1:25 with a minimum of eight (4 singles, 2 doubles) and a maximum of 20 (10 singles, 5 doubles). In 1947 it reverted to the original scheme until 1971 when the Entry Scheme was redrafted.

Up to 200 pupils 8 singles, 4 doubles
201 to 260 pupils 8 singles, 5 doubles
261 to 320 pupils 10 singles,  5 doubles
321 to 380 pupils  11 singles, 6 doubles
381 to 440 pupils   12 singles, 6 doubles
441 to 500 pupils  13 singles, 7 doubles
501 to 560 pupils   14 singles, 7 doubles
561 to 620 pupils  15 singles, 8 doubles
621 to 680 pupils  16 singles, 8 doubles
681 to 740 pupils   17 singles, 9 doubles
741 to 800 pupils  18 singles, 9 doubles
over 800 pupils  19 singles, 10 doubles

In 1980 it was again redrafted to its present system by Miss Patti Dyson, Headmistress of PLC Croydon.

ENTRIES – 1983
Ratio 1:22 Players Singles Doubles
Pymble 52 26 13
Abbotsleigh 40 20 10
Canberra 32 16 8
Ravenswood 32 16 8
MLC 31 15 8
Ascham 25 11 7
Tara 24 12 6
Danebank 23 11 6
Queenwood 23 11 6
PLC Sydney 22 10 6
SCEGGS 21 9 6
Wenona 20 10 5
Roseville 20 10 5
Kambala 19 9 5
Meriden 19 9 5
NEGS 18 8 5
St Luke’s 14 6 4
Frensham 14 6 4


All matches are of one set only – first to 9 games – no advantage. A tie-breaker is used at 7 all in quarter finals, semi-finals and finals only.

Recording of Scores:

Tara v Meriden
Tara wins 8-7
Recorded in book as follows:
Tara Meriden
Games Won Games Lost Games Played Games Won Games Lost Games Played
8 7 15 7 8 15

Games Won, Games Lost, Games Played in all singles and doubles games are totalled for each school. The final percentage for each school is the number of games won over the number of games played, e.g. 1980 Tildesley Shield:

Abbotsleigh OR St Catherine's
Games Won 573   Games Won 30
Games Lost 388   Games Lost 103
Games Played 961   Games Played 133
Final % 59.63   Final % 22.56

The continuous attempts to redraft the conditions of the Shield are understandable in the light of its prestigious place in Independent Girls’ School Tennis. However, it is essential that the Shield conditions stay true to the principles of its donor, the Headmistress of Normanhurst, a school which by the 1920s had produced two of Australia’s most famous women tennis players – Rosie Payten and Daphne Akhurst. If Miss Tildesley had wished the Shield to be reserved for the champions and remember Normanhurst had Daphne Akhurst as a pupil in her (Miss Tildesley’s) time as Headmistress, then the conditions of play would have been different. However, after much thought, Miss Tildesley, with Mr Henry Marsh (and possibly her sister, Beatrice) came up with the concept that the school with the best average of games won over games played won the Shield. This concept is still in force today and it is to be hoped that in the future it is retained for, as Miss Tildesley said to a member of the 1918 Normanhurst team, Joan Denning, when she remarked that Daphne Akhurst had won the Shield for Normanhurst – “No, Joan, the team won the Shield for Normanhurst”. These words should be remembered in 1988 when in the push for victory and in the adulation accorded to individual tennis champions, independent girls’ schools may be tempted to forget the principles on which the Tildesley Shield was founded – the principles Mr Henry Marsh emphasises in his article in the Normanhurst Jubilee Magazine:

It is the most coveted trophy in school tennis because it teaches the girls to play for their school rather than for themselves, its special value lying in the fact that at least 12 girls, with a maximum of 32, according to the number of pupils over 12 years of age, compete for the trophy, thereby giving a number of the younger girls an opportunity of representing their School which they would not otherwise get until much later. [11]

Thus the ideal of encouraging team spirit, school spirit and wide participation in tennis was seen to enhance the Tildesley Shield, an ideal that reflects its donor’s interest in a well-rounded education for all students and her desire to bring out the potential of each student so that they were stimulated to try to become proficient in some subject or occupation which would give abiding interest as well as make them useful members of society. It is to be hoped that members of IGSSA in 1988 and in the years to come, continue to value these ideals of Miss Tildesley so that the Shield remains true to its conception and that the students in our schools benefit from the educational philosophy which lies behind it.


In a letter dated 8th January 1988 Tess van Sommers pointed out that the impact of Evelyn and Beatrice Tildesley on the social life of the conservative intelligentsia in Sydney could not be over-estimated. It was said that they had the nearest equivalent to a “salon” that the city knew. Their dinner parties were famous for the company and the food and wine – they were marvellous hostesses. Evelyn was a splendid cook and Beatrice a connoisseur of fine wines. If you went to them for pre-dinner drinks you were likely to meet an astonishing number of people from all the professions and the arts, milling around in the double drawing room of their small Victorian Gothic stone villa at No. 1 The Grove, Woollahra. [12] They also sailed socially in the “Bluebird” with Richard Windeyer, K.C., who was a patron of the Repertory Movement, Vice Commodore of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, and who was related to them through their niece, Joyce.

[1] Normanhurst OGU History, Sydney, 1982, p.15.

[2] Interview with Joan Denning, 4 January 1988

[3] Fifi Hawthorne, Kambala: A History, Wentworth Press, Sydney, 1972. The statement is taken from The Chronicle (Kambala’s Magazine), 1920, p.61

[4] Interview with Evelyn Tildesley, 24 July 1964

[5] Norman W Tildesley, A History of the Family of Tildesley of Staffordshire, privately printed, Widdenhall, Staffs, 1968, p.126

[6] Sir Harold Wyndham, Tribute at St James’s Church, Sydney, 10th June 1976, p.2

[7] Ibid.

[8] Normanhurst School Magazine, Jubilee Number, June 1932, pp.33-35, copy available in Mitchell Library, Sydney

[9] Information supplied by Mary Webster, Secretary of the Independent Girls Schools Sports Association, January 1988

[10] Ibid

[11] Henry Marsh, 28 June 1932, quoted in the Jubilee Number (June 1932) of the Normanhurst School Magazine, p.41

[12] Tess van Sommers to K.G., 8 January 1988