A History of Heworth Golf Club - The Early Years


1912-1914  Heworth Golf Club first appeared on a 1919 survey map which had been made in 1914.  Pelaw Golf Club was on the same map on the other side of the road nearer the present White Mare Pool.  Heworth Golf Club was sited where the course is now situated.

The early history of the club is rather obscure.  Stories from the past tell us that the course at one time was on the other side of the road, but because of some difference of opinion the present Heworth Golf Club disassociated itself from the Pelaw Golf Club and set up in business on the present site.

Further research into old documents and newspapers gives the following information:

June 1st 1912  The opening of the newly formed Heworth Golf Club at Gingling Gate took place today.  Over 100 members and friends attended the opening.  The club captain, Dr. Mackay called upon Mrs. Hannay of Heworth Hall to open the new and commodious pavilion". This was a wooden erection known locally as "The Castle" sited behind the present 18th green. Other buildings and cottages were near the pavilion and near the present gate. The cottages were occupied mainly by farm workers some of whom were employed part-time by the club to help to look after the new nine hole course.

Mrs. Hannay was presented with a ‘silver cleek’ (1) with which she drove off the first ball on the new course.  She presented the club with a ‘silver cup’ (2) for the men and silver jelly spoons for the ladies competition.  Later she presented a cup to the ladies.

1 A cleek is a narrow faced, iron-headed club -a No 1 iron having very little loft to the club face.

2 The Hannay Cup - the club's oldest trophy is still played for annually.

The treasurer, Mr. Stoddart presented the club with a flag.  Mr. Hannay was an official of the club.  The open day competition was followed by tea provided by the ladies.  As the press of the day said "To get to Heworth Golf Club meant just a brisk walk from Heworth Tramcar Terminus”.  I do it often!  The Hannay Cup competition lasted throughout the season as this was the only cup in those early days.  Regularly a competition was held and each time the winner qualified for the final to be held in October, the eventual winner being presented with the cup. The first winner was G.M. Forster 94-14-80, second was D.P. Hall 101-20-81.

July 1913 It was reported that it had been a prosperous season, 50 members played in the July competition qualifying for the Hannay Cup.  By August, the membership was almost 100.  In October the first of many Whist Drives and Dances were held in Heworth Council School.  It was organised by the secretary Mr. D.P. Hall, later to become headmaster of Low Felling School.  This year a Captain's competition was conducted throughout the season.  It was run on Calcutta lines and the finalists were G.M. Forster and D.P. Hall.  After 18 holes they were all square.  A further 18 holes were played-still all square. They then played 9 holes and G.M. Forster won 2 and 1.

1914  In April a locker shed referred to as "The locker house" was ready for use.  It was opened by Major C Innis Hopkins, who also presented a cup to the club.  After the opening, tea was served in a marquee.  In May, Heworth played its first match - a friendly at home to Wallsend Golf Club.  Heworth won 41/2 to 21/2.

Then came the war and no further mention of golf appeared in local newspapers.  Although we know the club continued to function, no minutes are available.

1921 A document dated 24th January 1921 was a "Licence to use certain lands at Gingling Gate, Wardley, Co. Durham for the purpose of a Golf and Tennis Club".  We can only presume a change in ownership of the land required a new agreement.  This agreement was made and signed by the brothers John and William Gillhespy both of North Follonsby Farm, Wardley in the presence of the secretary of Heworth Golf Club, Mr. D.P. Hall.  The agreement contains certain points of interest namely that "approximately 39 acres and more could be entered upon to layout and maintain a golf course using all proper tools, machines, horses and carts.  They may now mow close with a Ransome High Wheel Lawn Mower or similar machines, seven acres of grasslands (inclusive of that used as greens) forming part of the said lands.  Also that the club from May to September could graze one horse on the said lands or on lands adjoining thereto and not fenced from the said lands.  During the continuance of the agreement the lessees shall pay as rent the sum of £35 annually to the landlords, payable in advance by half yearly instalments in the months of May and November.  The landlords retain the rights of grazing but undertake not to plough up any part of the said land".

1921 -1938  Unfortunately from 1921 until the late 30's detailed records are not available.  We know that as well as the "Old Castle", the cottages nearby were occupied by farm workers.  In one of them lived Mrs Wilkin, who looked after the cleaning of the club and locker room. She also supplied teas for the members at a very moderate price.  The older members speak very highly of her.  In 1929, Heworth Golf Club really did come into the news.  This was the year that W.D. Millar reached the semi-finals of the English Amateur Championship held at Northumberland Golf Club.  Mr Millar reached the semi-final after beating N. Dunn of Doncaster 3-2 in the 6th round.  Unfortunately, the semi-finals were played in freak conditions which included wind and snow and W.D. Millar then in his early twenties, lacking in experience lost to E.B. Tippling.  Mr. Tippling (Royal Ashdown Forest) lost a controversial final to W. Sutton.

We know that in 1937 the membership consisted of 75 men, 33 ladies and 8 juniors.  The Club Champion was R P Marley. The President was J Ramsden and the Treasurer was Fenwick Green.  Subscriptions totalled £218 7s. 6d, expenses for the year were £340 15s. 0d. and receipts were £417 7s. 0d.  Jack Green, a champion cyclist was President from 1938-41, followed by W Chapman 1941-47.  The Secretary in 1937 was J.P. Burns (click on photograph opposite to see a latger image) whose efforts kept the club going during the war years.  He stayed in office until 1960.  It is interesting to note that in 1938 when the balance sheet was presented one of the auditors was John Jardine, who from the middle twenties until the seventies gave the club valuable service and advice free of charge.  We owe him a great debt.

In the thirties Heworth played an annual match against Lambton but this discontinued when Lambton closed down in 1937.  Another cup was given, "The Scott Charlton Bowl" in memory of a pre 1938 member.  48 members attended the Annual General Meeting.  Fenwick Green who had been treasurer for a number of years died during the season and members subscribed to buy the Fenwick Green Memorial Trophy.  John Kennedy became treasurer and except for a short period in the services remained in office until 1949 steering the finances of the club through a difficult period.

The condition of the cottage was causing concern and serious damage to the gable end of the "Castle" by horses and repairs cost £6 4s. 0d.  To improve social conditions, chairs were purchased at 5s. 0d. each, armchairs at 12s. 6d. and a table tennis table at £210s. 0d.  Ale was kept under the window seats wher members helped themselves and signed a book saying how much they had taken.  At the end of the month Mr. Burns collected money for the beer, Bottled Vaux Brown Ale.  Enquiries were made re the installation of Calor Gas.  In September, 5 lights and fittings were installed at a cost of £11 12s. 4d.  The greenkeeper T.W. Hall worked full time in summer for £2 1s. 0d. per week and part-time in winter for £1 6s. 0d. per week.  If the club needed painting he worked full-time during the winter months to do this.  Winter social events included Whist Drives and Dances.  The men's committee dealt with the ladies' handicaps, which at the time ranged from 14-54.  26 ladies had handicaps, but only 3 were under 36.

1939  The Annual Dance was held in April and tickets were priced 3s.6d.  The farmer was asked to cut the rough, as "rough on the course was in too wretched a state and militated against the enjoyment of the game".  Fees were now Men £1 15. 0d. Ladies 15/- Rent £50.

We had trouble with cattle damaging the course and the farmer agreed to keep the cattle off the course, and allow the club to fence the land. Terms agreed were (a) £50 i.e. £35 rent and £15 grazing rights (b) Fencing to be done by the club but the farmer would keep the fence in repair'.  The members erected the fencing themselves, 250 posts 4' 6" at 6d. each, 21/2 cwts barbed wire at 135. 6d. per 1/2 cut.  A local rule re hoof marks on the course was "ball lying in hoof mark (except in a hazard) can be picked out and dropped not nearer the hole under a penalty of 1 shot". Our new landlord was Washington Coal Company.  A triple cutter was bought for £20 and an old motor vehicle costing £7 16s. 0d. was purchased and used to pull the cutters.

The body was removed from a car and converted so that it could be used to haul sand, soil etc. to various parts of the course.  Members drove the car and others filled the bunkers with sand and cut the greens.  Members also converted an old cottage into a storage place for the motor etc.  The greenkeeper was called up for National Service, so members had to maintain the course.  The men in nearby cottages were in full employment but agreed to help occasionally when free at 8/- per day.