Mayor of Merton Councillor Agatha Akyigyina presented former Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles champions Virginia Wade, Ann Haydon-Jones and Angela Barrett (née Mortimer) with the freedom of the borough today (27 June 2014).
The presentation took place at Merton Council’s annual children’s tennis event on 27 June in Wimbledon Park, a stone’s throw from where the world’s top players are competing in the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.
The former players and tennis legends were granted honorary freeman status, the highest honour the council can bestow on an individual, and comes a week after the Mayor presented Andy Murray with the same honour.
Virginia Wade won the Ladies’ Singles in 1977. Ann Haydon-Jones won in 1969 and Angela Mortimer took the title in 1961.
Mayor of Merton Councillor Agatha Akyigyina said: “These sportswomen are tennis legends and have been wonderful ambassadors for tennis and sport in general. Merton is proud to be the home of the most famous tennis championships in the world and by awarding Virginia Wade, Ann Haydon-Jones and Angela Mortimer with honorary freeman status we recognise the huge benefits players of this caliber bring to Merton and the world of sport.”
Leader of the council Councillor Stephen Alambritis said: “It is with great pleasure that Merton bestows the freedom of the borough on our Ladies’ Singles Champions. Over the years they have done a great deal to raise the profile of tennis and of women in sport and I am delighted to see the Mayor of Merton present the honour to Virginia Wade, Ann Haydon-Jones and Angela Mortimer.”
Virginia Wade said: “It’s a tremendous thrill to be honoured by Merton and given the Freedom of the Borough. Merton and Wimbledon have always been a major part of my life including living in the area when I first came back to England at 15 years of age. I am hugely grateful for this award, and hope that it brings recognition to the wonderful efforts that have been made to encourage youngsters to participate and enjoy sport and recreation.”
Ann Haydon-Jones said: “I am very honoured and extremely happy to be receiving this award from Merton.”
Angela Mortimer said: “I feel very honoured to have been selected to receive the Freedom of the Borough of Merton. This is especially poignant for me because, ever since I first played at The Championships in 1950, I have had very happy memories of Wimbledon – both the tournament and the town. The highlight, of course, was winning the singles title in 1961 but six years later John and I were married at St. Mary’s Church while living in the borough. Furthermore both of our children were baptised at St. Mary’s and our daughter was married there. As a family we then spent many years in Kingston but John and I returned to live in Wimbledon in 2006 and can think of no better place to be.”