Match made in Heaven: World Class Tasmanian Tennis Racquets and their connection to Holm Oak Wines
Were you aware that our Holm Oak property was once designated to be the source of oak and ash trees that would supply wood for producing world-class tennis racquets? Well, it’s true. There’s an interesting local history that leads to the names of our Wizard wine range and our protégé Pinot Noir.
The Alexander Patent Racket Company
Back in the 1920’s, the Alexander Patent Racket Company was founded by two brothers, Alfred Alexander junior and Douglas Davey Alexander, in Launceston. Their innovative designs and the unique patented decorations saw a rapid expansion, with the production facilities quickly growing at their factory in Wentworth Street, Newstead. Success depended heavily on the use of imported English ash wood, something that was sought out for local production to ensure that incremental growth could continue.
However, it was Australian tennis superstar Jack Crawford who put the company in the spotlight when he won Wimbledon in 1933 using a Cressy ‘Wizard’ tennis racquet. Whilst many Davis Cup players were reportedly using the Alexander racquets, Jack Crawford’s racquet had a semi-flat top design reminiscent of the styles popular in the late 1880s/early 1990s. The story goes that Sir Norman Brookes (who’s nickname was the Wizard) was playing tennis at his Frankston holiday house with Alexander Patent’s Marketing Manager, W.J.Sheehan. Jack Crawford was also present and liked the way it played so Sheehan went back to the Alexander factory and fashioned a new style of semi flat-top racquet which was given the name of Cressy ‘Wizard’. According to tennis history “This new flat top design inspired the entire industry in Australia with many manufacturers producing both oval and flat-top models.” And so a new design was born.
Production started on 13 March 1926, when seven racquets left the factory. The team started small, but grew to up to 130 people at its peak, none of whom had racquet manufacturing experience. It added a much-needed boost to the local Launceston economy. By 1930, 60,000 racquets have been produced.
The Alexander brothers formed the rim of the tennis racquet entirely of tin strips of wood or flexible materials that were secured together, long enough to extend downward from the rim and lay against the core of the handle.
For over a decade the Alexander Patent Racket Company pioneered the production of a range of sporting goods, including cricket bats, golf clubs and squash racquets. Sadly, the company went into liquidation in 1961, the factory wound down and was sold to Spalding in Victoria. The Cressy name continued under the Spalding banner for a few years.
Holm Oak’s Tennis Connection
The Holm Oak property was once owned by Alexander North, who was on the board of the Alexander Racket Company. He also was involved in planting a larger English Ash Plantation at Hollybank, near Lilydale in Tasmania’s north-east. Unfortunately, the wood from Holm Oak didn’t meet the standard required and Hollybank also proved a failure because the trees were planted too close together.
When it came to finding a suitable name for Holm Oaks’s finest wines, it was hard not to go past the name of the Wizard in honour of the site’s vision for producing fine local tennis racquets. It’s a wide range that’s become synonymous with quality. It’s certainly known as an “ace” in wine circles!
Our new range (previously known as the Ilex) is named the Protégé. The meaning of which is a person who is guided and supported by an older and more experienced or influential person. The name is fitting for our youngest Pinot Noir in our range (the first red to be released). The design also pays tribute to the Cressy Tennis Racquet, the understudy of the world famous Wizard.