Angela Buxton (left) with Althea Gibson

BUXTON,  Angela  [1934 - 2020]

Angela Buxton was the outstanding British female tennis player of the 1950’s. In 1956 she won the ladies’ doubles title at both Wimbledon and the French championship and reached the Wimbledon singles final, the first Briton to do so in 17 years. Her short career, ended by injury when she was just 22, was marked not only by her on court successes but by the tenacity with which she fought the deep-seated racial and religious prejudices which contaminated the game at its highest levels.

She was born in Liverpool on 16th August 1934 to Harry and Violet (née Greenberg). On both sides she was descended from Jewish grandparents who had left Russia to escape the pogroms of the early 1900’s, ‘Buxton’ being an approximation of a name that (according to Angela Buxton ) was something like ‘Bakstansky’. Harry Buxton was the Managing Director and Chairman of the Buxton Theatre Circuit, his name appearing frequently in the Liverpool Echo throughout the 1930’s as he acquired more and more theatres across the North West. A report in the Echo in January 1939 noted that the group owned 21 venues in the region.

A number of articles relating to Harry Buxton, including a report on his impending wedding to Violet, referred to him as “the man who broke the bank” arising from his having won 740,000 francs at the Nice casino in 1928. The wedding report put this at £6000, a huge sum in 1930, and stated that he had given a good deal to charity and had sent a cheque to Mr Churchill to help pay off the national debt. The couple were embarking upon a three-month honeymoon and all the evidence suggests that Angela’s father was comfortably placed.

In 1934 the Buxtons were living at 183 Queens Drive L15, moving a few doors down the road to 209 by 1936. They then moved to Birkdale and for the duration of the war Angela and her mother moved to South Africa to escape the bombing. It was there that she began to show her promise as a tennis player. Soon after the end of the war her parents divorced and she moved with her mother to London.

It was here that she first came face to face with the deep-seated prejudice poisoning the tennis hierarchy. Living near the Cumberland Tennis Club, as an outstanding tennis prospect, she assumed her application for membership would be a formality. It was not, she was refused membership and told bluntly that it was because she was Jewish. Alternative facilities were made available to her by Simon Marks the owner of Marks and Spencer and her talent flourished. She later said about the Cumberland Club  “I made a point of going back to the Cumberland club to win their bloody tournament – twice! Just to rub their noses in it. And they never gave me a cup of tea – not even that.”

Her game progressed and by 1955 she was ranked 7th in the world. Whilst on a tennis tour of South-East Asia Buxton met the American tennis player Althea Gibson, the only Afro-American on the senior circuit. Noticing how she was ostracised by other players Angela Buxton befriended her, the two became close and subsequently agreed to be partners in double tournaments. Two major titles followed and this played a large part in restoring Gibson’s confidence to the extent that she would go on to win 5 Grand Slam singles titles. Many years later, when Gibson fell on hard times, Angela Buxton was instrumental in raising funds to support her.

Angela Buxton’s battle against prejudice continued throughout her life. She continued to apply to the All England Club for over 63 years but was never accepted. She remained active in the sport, writing a number of books and opening a tennis centre. She died in her home in Florida on 14th August 2020, aged 85.

183 Queens Drive  L15

The Buxton family home at the time of her birth in 1934 - now all but unseen behind its forestry.

209 Queens Drive L15

The Buxton home in the late 1930's.


The Wikipedia entry is fairly basic. The obituary which appeared in the Independent gives a good account of her life and career, similarly the Guardian. There are many other articles to be found with an internet search. There is a short video on YouTube made in 2015  in which she talks about her career and the place her Jewishness played in it.