Major Thomas Henry Gem was a man of many talents, he was a lawyer, soldier, writer, playwright and sportsman amongst others. It is however for one sport which Harry Gem will always be associated.

Captain Harry Gem in his Birmingham Rifle Volunteer Corps uniform in 1868 (Wikimedia Commons)

He was born in Birmingham on 21st May 1819. He was educated at King’s College London before returning to Birmingham where he worked from1841 as a solicitor. He then became a magistrates Clerk in 1856.  He married Ellen Marie Wilcox in 1852.

Gem was an extremely active man he became a Major in the 1st Warwickshire Rifle Volunteer Corps and was heavily involved in sports most notably athletics and cricket, he also had a fondness for the game rackets. He would often play at Bath Street rackets club, with his friend Augurio Perera a Spaniard who now lived in Birmingham. The pair though became disillusioned by the game due to the expense of it being played indoors.

The pair however were soon to change the course of sporting history.

Taking the game outdoors and incorporating similarities with rackets they perfected a new game that was first played on Augurio Perera’s front lawn in 1859 this game was to be called lawn rackets and is the forerunner of the game we know today as lawn tennis.

At sometime in the early 1870’s both Harry Gem and Perera moved to Leamington Spa, where with two Doctors, Dr Haynes & Dr Tompkins they formed the Leamington Club, this would  become in 1874 The Leamington Lawn Tennis Club, making this the first Lawn tennis club in the world, this was situated on Avenue Road close to where Perera had now moved.

Major Thomas Henry (Harry) Gem passed away on November 4th, 1881 of the effects of a stroke in Leamington Spa. One obituary from a Birmingham news paper quoted “The genial, kindly – hearted Major”.  Thousands of people lined the funeral route

He was buried at Warstone Lane Cemetery with full military honours in Section P, Plot 1564.

Unburied Treasures Audio Tour – Jacob Wilson (written and performed by Dave Collins)

Jewellery Quarter Cemeteries Project


The Snowflake Trail is over now until Christmas 2023.
120 of you took a Snowflake home for your own tree and 40 people left a message for a loved one on our memory tree. Thank you for visiting and making this event so special
#JQChristmas #keyhillcemetery

The Snowflake Trail is back for a 3rd year in Key Hill Cemetery and the weather laid on some real snow for us too!

The trail is free and open to everyone from 18th December until 1st January. Wrap up warm and explore, hunting for wooden snowflakes which hang from some of the trees forming a trail around the cemetery. Add the name of your loved one to our memory tree using the stars and snowflakes provided. Choose a decorative snowflake from the trail to take home for your own tree.

Please take care while walking as paths may be slippery in snowy, icy oe wet conditions. Please visit during daylight hours only.

Share your photos of your snowflake on your tree at home and tag us!

Key Hill Cemetery too far to travel? There are also snowflake trails at Lodge Hill Cemetery (18th Dec- 24th Dec), Lodge Hill Cemetery (18th Dec- 24th Dec) and Sutton Coldfield Crematorium (19th Dec - 24th Dec).

This project is possible because of funding from: