The First Great All-England Champion – Muriel Lucas

Written by Geoff Hinder

The First Great All-England Champion – Muriel Lucas

Muriel Lucas was born in 1877, she was the daughter of General Sir Alfred Lucas K.C.B. and Lady Lucas, it was said that Sir Alfred introduced badminton to Devonshire in the early 1870s. Sir Alfred was a retired British Indian Army Officer and Justice of the Peace.

The family home was Dunmore House, Sheldon, Teignmouth, Devon. The house had an outside badminton court, the court was on a gravel surface, although the house was set on the headland next to the sea the court was sheltered from the wind by the house and surrounding trees.

Dunmore House.

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The badminton court at Dunmore House, far side left Muriel Lucas closest left Guy Lucas her younger brother. The photograph is probably pre-1901 as they are using the hourglass/waste court, this is where the net is only 16 feet (4.9m)-wide on a 20-foot (6.1m)-wide court. Having a court at home was probably the reason why Muriel had achieved such a good standard at badminton.

Muriel played at the Teignmouth Badminton Club which was reported to be the oldest badminton club in the country, the club also had the first report of an organised badminton tournament, a ladies tournament in 1876.

Muriel was also a good standard tennis player playing at the Teignmouth Tennis Club. The photograph would have been taken before 1892 as the broad-gauge railway line by the tennis courts would have been converted to standard gauge after that date.

Muriel Lucas


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The First All-England Badminton Championships

Mary Violet Graeme
Muriel Lucas and Ethel Thomson
G.L.Murray and Muriel Lucas
Muriel Lucas

At the age of 21 Muriel with her partner Mary Violet Graeme, a neighbour of Muriel and also a member of the Teignmouth Badminton Club entered the first-ever All-England Championships at the London Scottish Regiment Drill Hall, London in 1899. They would be the first ladies doubles All-England champions playing in the final against another Devonshire pair of Jean Theobald and Ethel Thomson from the Butleigh Salterton Badminton Club. Both pairs had reached the final without losing a game, Lucas and Graeme winning the final 18-17, 15-5.

In 1900 in the second All-England Championships both pairs again would reach the final this time Lucas and Graeme not winning quite so comfortable 15-9, 5-15, 15-2.

Lucas and Graeme going for their third All-England woman’s doubles title in 1901 would reach the final only to lose heavily to the Ealing B.C. pair of E. Moseley and Daisy St John 15-0, 15-5.

The next year Muriel would team up with Ethel Thomson and they would win the next 5 All-England woman’s doubles titles. The pair would be undefeated in any woman’s doubles over the period 1902 to 1906. This very successful partnership would end in 1906 when Ethel married and retired from competitive badminton and tennis. 1912 Mrs Ethel Larcombe returned to competitive badminton and tennis and would win the women’s singles tennis title at Wimbledon also the mixed doubles crown 1914.

In 1907 Muriel would pair up with G L Murray and win the next three woman’s doubles titles and in her final year of playing at the All-England in 1910 she would win with Muriel Bateman.

1908 Muriel would complete the triple, triple at the All-England, Scottish and Irish Championships by winning the singles, doubles and mixed doubles in the same year.

Muriel Lucas in her 12 years of playing at the All-England still holds the record of 10 All-England woman’s doubles titles also the record of winning 7 consecutive titles, this was with three different partners. Muriel would also win 6 All-England woman’s singles titles but only 1 mixed doubles title. She and her doubles partner, Ethel Thomson shared the All-England singles title for 11 years and never lost a match together in tournament play. Muriel lies joint third in the most All-England titles league with 17.

She won the first three woman’s doubles titles of the Irish Open and a fourth title two years later she also won the first three Scottish woman’s doubles titles- 1908 – 1910 and in 1908 a mixed title with Frank Chesterton.

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A type of racket used in early All-England Championships and a Jaques ‘Association First Choice’ ‘barrel’ shuttlecock, so-called because its feathers shape closely resemble a barrel. The shuttlecocks were manufactured in France, and in the early days with no specifications laid down, they suffered from a considerable variation in the length of flight, size, weight and uniform strength. This type of shuttle was used in the first 10 years of the Championships.

Photo: – Geoff Hinder

Muriel Lucas and Hazel Hogarth
Ireland and England Teams 1903 – First Ever International Badminton Match.

Standing, left to right B. Hamilton (IRE), L. U. Ransford (ENG), Miss Carroll (later Mrs T. D. Good) (IRE), A. P. Dawson (IRE), G. A. Thomas (ENG), Miss M. Lucas (ENG), J. F. Stokes (IRE), G. Lucas (ENG), Dr. T. D. Good (IRE) Seated, Miss M. Obre (IRE), C. P. R. James (IRE), A. D. Prebble, Captain (ENG), Miss M. Hardy (ENG), W. S. C. Crawley (IRE).

For more information on – First Ever International Badminton Match – Click Here.

Muriel with her younger brother Guy played in the first ever international badminton match, Ireland v England in Dublin, January 1903. The match was played during the Championships of All Ireland and consisted of 3 men’s singles 2 men’s and mixed doubles, Guy would lose his men’s singles but would win his mixed doubles with his sister Muriel, he also won his men’s doubles with George Thomas, this would be the one and only time that Guy Lucas played for England, the match was won by England 5-2.

In the 1903 All Ireland Championships Muriel playing with Mabel Hardy would win the woman’s doubles quite comfortably. Guy Lucas playing with R.D. Marshall would win the men’s doubles, English players would win three out of the four Irish titles, at that time there were no women’s singles played in this championship.

Guy Lucas

The only international badminton matches during this period were the annual matches between England and Ireland played alternately in Dublin and London at the Irish Open and All England’s. The international matches were very male-dominated, the men could play singles, doubles and mixed while the two women in the team only played one mixed doubles each. Muriel would play a total of 7 times for England never losing a game.

          1904 England International Team
L to R – Back row – Ralph Walting, Albert Prebble, Henry Marrett.
Front row – Muriel Lucas, Stewart Massey and Ethel Thomson.

This would be the second match against Ireland and it was the first international badminton match to be played in England, it was played on 18 March 1904 on the third day of the All-England Championships at the London Rifle Brigades City Headquarters, England would again win 5 – 2.

One sad note in Muriel’s international career was in 1910, she wasn’t selected to play for England, the England selectors received a considerable amount of protest about this. Still at the top of her game in 1910 she would win the All-England woman’s singles and doubles and was runner-up in the mixed doubles.

For 12 years (1899 to 1910) Muriel dominated woman’s badminton in the United Kingdom and is credited with establishing singles as a woman’s game.

In 1911 Muriel would retire from top-class badminton and married George Frederick Kings Adams.

Photo: – Malcolm Slack

In 1957 Muriel now Mrs Muriel Adams donated the Woman’s Singles All-England trophy that she had won outright in 1909 after winning the title four times to the Devonshire County Badminton Association. The trophy was renamed ‘The Lucas Trophy’ and is presented to the women’s singles champion at the Devon County Restricted Championships each year.

For more information on the history of the All-England Badminton Championships – Click Here.


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