Peter Smith tells the story of the extraordinary fall from grace of artistrocrat and Wimbledon finalist Vere Thomas ‘St. Leger’ Goold, who subsequently became embroiled in the murky world of gambling, alcoholism and murder.
When J. T. Hartley beat Mr. ‘St. Leger’ in the Wimbledon All-Comers Final on 15th July, 1879, few could have imagined what an historic occasion it was. Hartley was the first, and only, clergyman to win the final and the runner-up, Vere Thomas ‘St. Leger’ Goold, was to become the only Wimbledon finalist to be convicted of murder.
John Thorneycroft Hartley was an Anglican vicar with a living at Burneston in North Yorkshire. He had entered the competition with little expectation of reaching the final, let alone winning it.
In fact, he hadn’t made any arrangements for anyone to take his Sunday services in case he progressed beyond the early rounds. His initial plan was to return to Yorkshire on the Saturday, take his services as normal on the Sunday before returning to London on the Monday morning to play the semi-final should he reach that stage.