Juan Bautista Luis Augurio Perera (c.1822 – after 1889), known as Augurio Perera, was a Spanish-born merchant and sportsman based in England, credited alongside his friend Major Harry Gem as the earliest inventor of the game of lawn tennis.
Perera was born in Spain in around 1822. He moved to England with his parents Augurio and Francisca at the age of four, and the family lived in London for ten years, before moving to Birmingham in 1836. After the rest of the family relocated to Manchester in 1839, Perera remained in the Midlands, becoming naturalised in 1856, settling in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham and establishing a successful business importing Spanish merchandise.
A keen rackets player, he was a member with Gem of the Bath Street Racquets Club adjacent to the Racquet Court Inn in Bath Street, Birmingham, about two miles from his home Fairlight at 8 Ampton Road, Edgbaston. It was on the croquet lawn of this house that Perera and Gem were to develop a game that combined elements of both rackets and the Spanish game of pelota between 1859 and 1865, naming it Lawn rackets, Lawn pelota or, eventually, Lawn tennis.
In 1872 or 1873, Perera and Gem moved to Royal Leamington Spa and established a club to play their new game on the lawns of the Manor House Hotel, opposite Perera's new home in Avenue Road. Perera left Leamington three years after Gem's death in 1881 and his life after this date is unknown.
Tennis' true inventor?
The invention of tennis is traditionally ascribed to Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, who published rules for a game he called sphairistikè in 1874. It is Wingfield's statue that stands at the headquarters of the Lawn Tennis Association.
It is now known that Gem and Perera had established an organized tennis club prior to this date (in Leamington Spa 1872), however, and had been playing the game privately for a decade or more.
In addition, much less is known about Perera than his friend and fellow tennis pioneer Harry Gem, whose life is well documented as a prominent figure in several walks of Birmingham society. In a letter to The Field in November 1874, however, Gem himself largely credited Perera with the development of the game.