A History Of Haste Hill Golf Club
Part 1. Beginnings: The Northwood Area before Haste Hill Golf Course
It is thought that at the end of the last ice age, from about 10,000 BC, when the climate first became conducive to the growth of plants & trees, a series of species recolonised Britain in waves, spreading across from Europe. Woodland stretched across most of the country, although grazing by wild animals is likely to have created large patches of grassland, between the wooded areas.
The Mesolithic people would have been the first to have managed small areas of woodland around 6,000 years later with the Neolithic people following, clearing larger areas and converting some land over to agriculture between around 4,000 & 2,000 BC. There is more evidence of woodcraft and the construction of timber buildings from the subsequent Bronze Age, when woodland cover had reduced to around 50% of the country.
The arrival of the Romans around 40 AD saw the expansion of agriculture and the development of infrastructure to support their various industries. The Dark Ages followed the end of the Roman era & from the 5th century on, woodland took back more of the land.
The earliest reliable records for the actual district itself are from the Saxon era, when the country was divided into counties and then sub-divided into what were called Hundreds. The area around what is now the golf course, fell within what was called the Elthorne Hundred, in the County of Middlesex. The Elthorne Hundred was not dissimilar to the current Hillingdon Borough but with a good bit of what is now Ealing Borough also thrown in.
The Hundreds were then further sub-divided into Parishes, each parish being the area served by one Church. ‘Hast Hill’ (now Haste Hill) was part of The Parish of 'Rislepe' (now Ruislip) with St Martin's (or the previous church 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.
The hill itself 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, some time around the 6th century. The Saxon forces are known to have been 'breaking into' Middlesex around that time with another battle recorded in the vicinity of what is now RAF Northolt.
It is quite likely the Hill was originally named Haest Hill and that evolved into Hast & finally Haste Hill. There are several other Hast Hills & Haste Hills, in the UK and around the world. The modern equivalent of the name Hast Hill would be 'Hill of Fury' or ‘Hill of Violence’. The name ‘Rislepe’ is thought to mean ‘leaping place on the river, where the rushes grow’. The river in question, being the River Pinn.
A 1750 map records the name as ‘Hurst Hill’, literally meaning ‘wooded hill’, and the name of the Hundred as ‘Heletorne’ although this appears to be simply an isolated error, rather than a serious alternative derivation.
In late Saxon Times, the area 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 Parish of Rislepe 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. The Parish is recorded as including 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.’ *
Around this time, timber from the managed woodland around the parish was used in the construction of Windsor Castle, The Tower of London & the original Palace of Westminster. Rislepe was partly a Manor, the area of which 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 handed the Parish over to the French Benedictine, Abbey of Bec. Giving land over to the church was considered a way for noblemen and landowners to save their souls into eternity and was a common occurrence around this time. With a Priory set up at what is now Manor Farm, Rislepe was an important administrative centre in England, for the Abbey. The monks leased out much of the land for farming.
On numerous occasions in the 12th, 13th & 14th centuries, a succession of English Kings seized control of The Manor of Rislepe 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, in the latter part of the 14th century, foreign owned ‘Alien Priories’ were brought to an end and their land confiscated.
The Manor was handed over to a group of owners by Henry IV. Following the natural death of one and land deals with the others, John, Duke of Bedford was sole owner by 1422. The Duke handed control of spiritual matters for the Parish over to The Dean & Canons of St George's Windsor, with whom he had links, as a Knight of the Garter.
Just a few years later though, Henry VI who was the Duke's nephew, took control of the district & 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 formerly owned by The Abbey of Bec. They gave ownership over to what was later to become King's College, Cambridge. Much of the area continued to be leased out for farming, with control of the Church still in the hands of The Dean & Canons of Windsor.
The first noted 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. A hamlet slowly grew up along the sides of the rutted tracks, across the common land, 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. Rickmansworth Road was laid down around the time of the enclosures that saw swathes of common land enclosed for farming. The acts of enclosure brought tithes to an end, so the church was allotted around 100 acres, including most of what is now the golf course, below Haste Hill, from which to earn an income. A small area at the South Western corner remained under the Manorial control of King's College as did land to the north that was leased out as Northwood Farm. The Northwood Farmhouse still stands today, on Northwood Golf course.
Having purchased 61.5 acres of Park Wood from Kings College, The Grand Junction Canal Company dammed and flooded the valley it formed to create Ruislip Reservoir (now Ruislip Lido). The reservoir opened as a feeder for the Grand Junction Canal (now the Grand Union Canal) in 1811, with the foundations and gardens of the hamlet of Park Hearne submerged beneath. Due to poor water quality, its use as a feeder came to an end in 1851.
Holy Trinity Church was completed 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 The Church Estate, effectively ending the association with Windsor. Francis Deane, a member of perhaps Ruislip's most notable family line, purchased all the Church land at Haste Hill. He had New Farm House built around 1880 and rented out the farm to tenants. New Farm House stood until the mid-1980's, when it made way for the houses along New Farm Lane. Not all of the Haste Hill area was cultivated though, with large parts 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. Starting as a 9 hole course, it was extended to 18, when the club bought the site outright in 1920.
With the advent of the railway, development of the area began in earnest, and numerous large land sales were completed 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 Ruislip Parish Council understood the potential for over-development and oversaw transfers of land into public ownership, beginning 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 was formed to take over the work of the Parish Council in 1904 and was tasked with developing the area. At this time, Ruislip itself was a village surrounded mostly by farmland and Northwood was the more developed area. In 1913 the council became the first local authority to publish a Town Planning Scheme, the planners proposed to set aside just 159 acres for recreational use. The plan would have seen a great deal of the woodland areas built upon and would have even seen Manor Farm demolished. However, despite the huge pressures for development, such was the strong feeling amongst successive administrations that between 1905 and 1953 the council in fact acquired a further 660 acres for open spaces. Even today, Hillingdon Borough boasts over 200 open spaces, totalling some 1800 acres.
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 artisan 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 Poor’s 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, thanks to the efforts of local councillors such as the recently elected Mr T R Parker, Ruislip-Northwood Urban District 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. Mr Parker’s name will appear again, later in the history of the course.
More importantly to this booklet ‘…..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 Poor’s 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 site 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 pavilion, with road access through a gate from The Drive.
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 principal 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 upon 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.
One of the four key protagonists in the protests against the road development was a Mr R J Page, who resided in a house along The Drive. He broadly accepted the opening of the course and felt the land remaining an open space of sorts was far better than the possible alternative. It was the costs that were being passed over to the residents that were of major concern. R J Page is another name that will appear again, later in this booklet.
The issue went to court, with the magistrates finding the proposals of the council 'most unreasonable', although they were not in a position to insist the apportionment of costs was altered. 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. Later reporting would appear to indicate the Council either reduced the charges to residents or possibly met the whole cost of improvements themselves.
The original 1913 town plans for the district also 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 construction of the Golf Course effectively brought these plans to an end.
*The currency systems prior to decimalisation 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 Gazette (Advertiser & Gazette), Hillingdon Gazette, Hayes & Harlington Gazette, Harefield Gazette, numerous publishing dates.