The Story of Pelota
Major Thomas Henry Harry Gem, most commonly known as Harry Gem, was born in Birmingham on the 21st May 1819. He was son of a local solicitor who dealt with criminal cases and a clerk to the Birmingham Magistrates. After studying at King’s College, London, Gem also pursued a career in law and joined his Fathers chambers at Moor Street.
Harry Gem was a remarkable man who possessed qualities that endeared him to all he came into contact with. He was a great athlete with a keen interest in cricket and equestrian sports. He was also a talented artist, writer and actor. Before he was 21, he founded Birchfield cricket club at a time when there were only four other clubs in the city. He himself played in several cricket matches for Birmingham.
Harry Gem was a dedicated player of rackets and he frequently played at Bath Street Rackets Club, Birmingham, where he was the club secretary. It was this connection that led him to develop a simplified form of the game that was far more accessible to the ordinary men and women.
In 1860, Gem persuaded Augurio Perera, a close friend and Spanish merchant, to join in him in developing a new type of lawn tennis. They called this “Lawn Pelota”. The new game combined elements of Basque Pelota and Rackets. This new game was famously played on the front croquet lawn of Perera’s house ‘Fairlight’ in Edgbaston.
In 1873, Gem and Perera moved to the fashionable Leamington Spa to develop their new game. Perera was the first to move into a house at 33 Avenue Road. Gem then followed a few weeks later and took up residence in an imposing Gothic Victorian villa named Arran Lodge in Hamilton Terrace.
Perera and Gem were quick to convince two doctors, Frederic Haynes and Arthur Wellesley Tomkin from Warneford Hospital of the attractions of their new game. The four men teamed up and played on the lawns of the Manor House Hotel opposite to Perera’s house. The name Pelota was dropped in favour of the more descriptive moniker, “Lawn Tennis” the result was the world’s first Lawn Tennis Club in Royal Leamington Spa.
To honour the game he called Lawn Pelota, Pelota Dry Gin has a Mediterranean citrus tones.
Pairing with an Indian Tonic, over large ice cubes, slice of orange with a sprig of thyme.