A History Of Haste Hill Golf Club
Part 1. Beginnings: The Northwood Area before Haste Hill Golf Course
The earliest reliable records for the area are from the Saxon era, when the country was divided into counties and then subdivided into what were called Hundreds. The area around the golf course fell within what was called the Elthorne Hundred, in the County of Middlesex. Elthorne had an area not dissimilar to the current Hillingdon Borough but with a good bit of what is now Ealing Borough thrown in. The Hundreds were then sub-divided into Parishes, each parish being the area served by one Church. The area was part of The Parish of 'Rislepe' with St Martin's (or previous churches on the site) the parish church. In return for the spiritual support of the Church, the residents would pay what were known as tithes to the Priest. Tithes were usually around one tenth of a household income or their produce. ‘Hast Hill’ (now Haste Hill) was so named to indicate the position where a fierce, sanguinary ‘haest’ (battle or conflict) had taken place. This likely refers to a battle between West Saxon and Romano British armies in the 6th century. The Saxon forces are known to have been 'breaking into' Middlesex around that time with another battle known to have taken place around the area of Northolt Aerodrome. The modern equivalent of the name Hast Hill would be 'Hill of Fury'. The name ‘Rislepe’ is thought to mean ‘leaping place on the river, where the rushes grow’. The river in question, being the River Pinn.
In late Saxon Times, the land was under the ownership of Wilward Wit (sometimes spelt Wulfward Wight) who, as a nobleman attendant to King Edward the Confessor, could do almost as he pleased with his land, the Rislepe area and beyond.
Arnulf De Hesdin (also recorded as Ernulf De Hesdin) took control of much of Wit’s land, following the Norman conquests and he is recorded as owner in the Domesday Book of 1086. Rislepe included huge expanses of woodland and was described as having parkland for woodland beasts, pasture for village livestock, land for 20 ploughs, 1,500 pigs & 20d*, with a total value £20. Despite not having a Lord in residence, Ruislip was considered to be partly a Manor, the area of the Manor was not the whole Parish and indeed parts of the Parish fell within other Manors that overlapped into neighbouring Parishes. Leaving to fight in the Holy Lands just a year later, an endeavour from which he would not return, De Hesdin passed the land over to the French Benedictine, Abbey Of Bec. Giving land over to the church was a way for noblemen and landowners to save their souls into eternity and was a common occurence around this time. With a Priory set up in the Parish, the monks leased out the land for farming and Ruislip was also an important administrative centre for the lands owned in England, by the Abbey.
On numerous occassions in the 12th, 13th & 14th centuries, a succession of English Kings siezed control of the land from the French Priory, mostly at times of war with France. Usually it was returned to their control after a relatively short time, once peace had returned. However, toward the end of the the14th century what were known as Alien Priories were brought to an end. The Manor was handed over to a group of owners by Henry IV at the turn of the century. Following the natural death of one and land deals with the others, John, Duke Of Bedford was sole owner by 1422, perhaps the first real Lord of the Manor, albeit a non-resident Lord. The Duke handed control of spiritual matters of the Parish over to The Dean & Canons Of St George's Windosr, with whom he had links, as a Knight of the Garter.
Just a few years later, Henry VI who was the Duke's nephew, took control of the land & handed the Manor to his Chancellor, John Somerset. This lasted just three to four years until the King set up a commission to decide what should be done with the land fromerly owned by The Abbey Of Bec. They passed the land over to the control of what was later to become King's College, Cambridge. Much of the land continued to be leased out for farming, with control of the Church still in the hands of The Dean & Canons of Windsor.
The first actual mention of Northwood, was as ‘Northwode’, in 1435, formed from the Old English 'north' and 'wode', referring to the area as 'the northern wood', in relation to The Parish of Ruislp, A hamlet slowly grew up along the side of the rutted tracks between Rickmansworth & Pinner and by 1565, 10 cottages & a few farms were recorded by King’s College.
The area around Haste Hill, known as Ruislip Common Wood or The Great Common wood covered 860 acres, which residents would use for grazing their livestock and collecting firewood. Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury was lessee of the wood in the early 17th century. He cut down and sold wood from the trees covering 568 acres in 1608 for £4000. The remaining woodland became Copse Wood and the open space around this and Park Wood had been created, although it was considered unproductive 'waste' and was left mostly uncultivated.
The 19th century was a time of great change for Northwood, with Rickmansworth Road laid down around the time of the enclosures, that saw swathes of common land enclosed for farming. The acts of enclosure saw the end of tithes, so the church was alloted around 100 acres, including most of the land that is now the golf course, below Haste Hill, from which to earn an income. A small area of land at the South Western corner remained under the Manorial control of King's College, as did the adjacent land to the north. This college land to the north was soon leased out as Northwood Farm. The farmhouse at Northwood Farm still stands, today, on Northwood Golf course.
Holy Trinity Church was completed in in the 1850's, establishing a new sub-parish for the area around Haste Hill, and Northwood could now be considered a village. Soon after, Commissioners were appointed to manage land on behalf of The Church, effectivley ending the association with Windsor and Francis Deane, a member of perhaps Ruislip's most important family line, purchased all their land at Haste Hill. He had New Farm House built around 1880 and rented out the farm to tennants. New Farm House stood until the mid-1980's, when it made way for the the houses along New Farm Lane. Not all the land at Haste Hill was cultivated, though with large areas being described as 'carpeted with wild flowers & gorse'.
Then, by 1887, the Metropolitan Railway had been extended from Harrow-on-the-Hill to Rickmansworth with Northwood Station opening on 1st September that year. In 1891, nearly '100 acres between Copse Wood, Park Wood and the Rickmansworth Road' that had mostly been Northwood Farm, were leased by King's College to the newly formed Northwood Golf Club.
With the advent of the railway, development of the area began in earnest, and numerous large land sales were completed in the area before the end of the century. In 1895, The Local Government Act brought about the formation of Parish Councils, reducing somewhat the Church control over the area. The Parish Council understood the potential for over-development and transfers of land into public ownership began in 1899. By 1902 though, the population of Northwood had still reached 2,500 in 500 houses and with 36 shops. Ruislip-Northwood Urban District Council, formed to take over the work of the Parish Council in 1904, were also very keen to retain as much open space in the area as possible and sought the support of Middlesex County Council in this aim. Such was the strong feeling amongst successive administrations that between 1905 and 1953 the council aquired a further 660 acres for open spaces.
The first real overt suggestion for a further local golf course came in an article in the Advertiser & Gazette, in May 1924, which suggested 'There is a growing desire in Northwood for the formation of an artizan golf club on similar lines to the Hollybush Golf Club at Chorley Wood'. The article went on to suggest a Municipal enterprise was desirable and recommended, 'Available land at Haste Hill and around Ruislip Common, such as Poors Field, could, if once the approval of the Charity Commissioners was obtained, be cheaply made into a golf course without in any way restricting public rights'. Finally, the author asserted. 'The suggestions at the moment are tentative, but so strong is the desire for an artizan's golf club that representations from an organised source to the Council are not unlikely in the near future.' The article received letters of support in the coming days, from the readership.
By July 1927, Ruislip-Northwood Council were being held up as an example to London councils for ‘taking the long view’ as they had ‘secured the preservation of the magnificent stretch of open country all the way from Northwood to Ruislip, and a little beyond.’ They had also secured land for public use along the River Pinn, around St Martin’s Church and along the Northolt Road. More importantly to this article ‘…..sixty acres have been recently acquired in the direction of Haste Hill, for a further open space, which practically links up with the reservoir and the Poors Field so that there is now to be a magnificent stretch of open country hundreds of acres in extent, as well as a splendid view, which is going to be a permanent asset to the whole district.’
Having acquired the land from the Hawtrey-Dean estate, apart from the South-Western 'corner' that had been purchased from King's College the Council did not want to simply leave it to lie fallow. A decision was soon reached to lay down a sports ground, comprising a nine-hole golf links, sports field, putting course and a pavillion. This met with some opposition from the residents of the 18 houses along The Drive that, at that time was a quiet cul-de-sac. Enclosed at its far end by a hedge, around one third of the road was still unbuilt. The residents formed a committee, challenging the decision in view of the loss of the prinicipal charm of the road, piece & quietude. Further the council were insisting the road had to be upgraded at a cost in excess of £4500, toward which they were willing to contribute just £84 16s 3d*. The cost per household varied between £90 & £600, dependent on the width of frontage of each property, huge amounts at the time. The committee were particularly put out in view of the potential income, from the sports ground, the council would enjoy. So the issue went to court, with the magistrates finding the proposals of the council 'most unreasonable', although they were not in a position to alter the apportionment of costs. This conflict rumbled on into 1931 with the residents committee suggesting a small parking fee at the sports ground to offset the cost of the upgrade and repairs to the road. It is not clear what, if any final resolution there was, although the roadworks and the sports ground went ahead, in the meantime.
The original town plans for the area included a main North-South road that would have run through the site of the Golf Course, on to join up with Windmill Hill and into Ruislip Manor. Ruislip Manor was intended to be the main shopping & business district for the area. The opening of the Golf Course effectively brought these plans to an end.
*The currency systems prior to decimalistion used '£' for pounds, 's' for shillings and 'd' for pence. There were 12 d or pence to a shilling and 20 s or shillings to the pound. You will probably have worked out there were 240 d or pence to the pound
Bowlt, Eileen. M. (1989) The Goodliest Place In Middlesex Hillingdon Borough Libraries ISBN 0-907869-11-4
British Newspaper Archive, Harrow Leader, Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazzette (Advertiser & Gazzette), Hillingdon Gazette, Hayes & Harlington Gazette, Harefield Gazette, numerous publishing dates.