On 1st February 1932 a company was formed by Messrs Douglas Maxwell and Eric Waller following the sale of some of their grocery and fruiterer business premises.
The aim was to found a golf club under their new company name of Wallisdown (Bournemouth) Golf Club. Shares in the company were created contributing to the capital of £8,000 which the company had amassed. In December 1932 negotiations were initiated with Lord Wimborne for the purchase of land on Canford Heath. By the end of March 1933 the deal was sealed. The then Board of Trade refused to sanction the chosen name for the company, which then remained as B & EP (Direct Supplies) Limited. The golf club was registered as Northbourne Golf Club.
Through the previous 12 months the heavy manual work of building the course resulted in an undulating 18 hole course created to the design by Cecil Wren, latterly the Professional at Crichel Golf Club, north of Wimborne.
On the 31st May 1934 the rules and bye-laws for Northbourne Golf Club were read and approved. The first AGM of the club took place on 30th June 1934. By then the membership was around 250 enjoying annual subscriptions of £4.4.0d for men and £3.11.6d for ladies. The first club committee members were Messrs King, Mitchell, Tarrant, Lester and Little. The club was formally opened with an exhibition match between Percy Alliss, professional at Ferndown GC, and Alf Padgham. Both were well known professionals at the peak of their games. The photograph depicts the original clubhouse alongside the current Poole-Ringwood road situated somewhere between the start of Littlemoor Avenue and Paddington Grove. The entrance to the course was through a wrought iron gateway.
Exhibition 1934 - Percy Alliss is seated centre in a black jacket
Sadly the summer that year turned out to be one of drought proportions and the course, though not the greens, suffered badly as it was newly constructed. In January 1935 the subscriptions were reduced as compensation to the members. 1936 saw its recovery and an expansion of membership to 400. Times must have been hard financially then too, as the company took out a mortgage from a wealthy local man but also secured the club house land, car park and the clubhouse itself as well as a close by house in which, later, the Secretary lived. The crisis must have been severe as the directors opted to take no salary and relied instead on profit from the mushroom trade which was based in buildings on the current greenkeeper’s site.
1937 did not turn out to be too good a year either as on 13th April the greenkeeper’s shed burnt down and with it was lost all the machinery and seed and other materials. A new shed was built in the pit alongside the fairway of the current 13th hole. New equipment was also purchased including a “quintuple” mower and a new tractor. The greens were still kept in good order by the services of Cecil Wren and his handy hand mower as may be seen from the photograph below! Wren must have been quite an accomplished golfer for he set the Professional Course Record of 66 in 1938. With the equipment and quality of balls then available that was no mean feat. Cecil Wren’s clubs, bag, umbrella and a few balls were donated to the club in 2007 and are housed in a display cabinet in the lounge.
Creating the course in 1933. Wren is wearing the tie!
Things soldiered on until the outbreak of war in 1939. Mr Toley of Broadstone still held a mortgage deed on the club; Cecil Wren was still the professional and a whole series of stewards had been employed and lost until Bill and Vera Freeman entered the scene in May 1938. Some years later they were destined to become owners of the club. Capt (Retd) Malcolm Clarke, who had been secretary since December 1935, was called to the Colours once more, in September. Entrance fees were abolished for the duration of the war and Mr Clarke’s house was furnished and let! Subscriptions for membership were frozen in 1940 and, in a gesture of great generosity all members who were serving in the Armed Forces were retained as members and given courtesy of the course for the duration of the war. The club limped through the early war years until June 1942. Even Mr Toley assisted by reducing the interest payments he required from the club on his mortgage to 3% for the duration of the war. Come mid 1942 petrol restrictions and the consequent impact upon public transport led to a massive reduction of play on the course. Further financial problems arose with the bank reducing the permitted level of the overdraft. In spite of it all, and taking into account the inability to obtain adequate supplies of fertiliser and the lack of available labour, the course was declared to be in good condition. By the end of December 1944 the use of the course had improved so that most of the debts, except that to Mr Toley, had been paid off. There were then only 70 full paying members. However the number of “special rate” 5 day and non-playing members brought the membership total up to 280. It would seem that there were a lot of social members at the club!
This is green cutting in the late 1930’s!
June 1945 saw Cecil Wren carpeted for not putting in sufficient time on the course. He was kept on as Professional/Groundsman and given a warning that unless he improved his professional’s post would go to another. Captain, now Major, Clarke was also about to return as Secretary. By July even the Club members voted Cecil Wren out as Professional. In January 1946 JA Paterson was appointed as Club Professional whilst Cecil Wren stayed on as a greenkeeper. Mr Toley had now died, but naturally his widow was claiming the interest but now at the pre-war rate. Jim Paterson reached the final of the Daily Mail Tournament in 1946 and played in a number of other National tournaments. 1946 seems to have been an auspicious year as an offer was made for the purchase of the course by Mr Waller the same former director of the company. The company asked for £20,000. When he declined the purchase it was also offered to Poole Corporation who also declined the privilege. The year saw fires on the course which destroyed most of the trees on the boundaries and the first of the long running saga of children invading the course using it as a playground. An early watering system was also installed comprising mainly a trailer on which was mounted a war-time pump.
Interest in the purchase of the course continued in 1947 as throughout the year enquiries were made. The Professional, Jim Paterson, and his wife were appointed as stewards of the club, whilst he continued his golfing efforts nationally. 1947 also saw Northbourne Golf Club hosting its first Bournemouth Golfing Alliance meeting which continued in subsequent years. The Dorset County Golf Union also staged the annual County Championship at the club for the first time in May 1948. Things were not altogether satisfactory with the new stewardship as account discrepancies forced the club membership to demand some form of action from the company. Financial difficulties continued into 1949 with the application of legislation affecting wages taking its toll until the company was forced to raise subscription rates. Eventually a buyer was found for the course in the person of Bill Freeman; he had previously bought one of the company’s grocery and fruiterer businesses and had had a brief spell as Steward on the club in 1938. The Freemans took over ownership of Northbourne Golf Club in late 1949 and our interest in the B and EP(Direct Supplies) Ltd ceased.
Seeding the fairways - August 1933
In 1959 it was renamed New Northbourne Golf Club by the new owner, Mr Billy Knott. He sold it on in 1972 but the new owner went bankrupt in 1976. The club members were offered the opportunity to raise capital for the purchase of the course. This was successfully achieved and the club was renamed Knighton Heath Golf Club.
Author’s note: Most of the material included in this brief resume of the beginnings of Northbourne Golf Club was extracted from the minute book of the actual company not the golf club’s records found in the rubbish underneath a corner settee built into the new clubhouse . The records date from 1st February 1931 until 12th April 1949.