Founding History of LaDBrook park Golf Club
In April 2020, we received a letter from the Granddaughter of Hugh Farquhar who was sorting out some family papers at her home in Norfolk when she came across Hugh’s early correspondence relating to the founding of Ladbrook Park Golf Club.
She very kindly included the correspondence all in remarkably good condition in her letter.
It is reproduced below in memory of Hugh Farquhar a founder and life Member of Ladbrook Park.
The story has also been supplemented by some extracts in italics from our centennial book 'The First Hundred Years' by John Moreton
Press Cutting on Tom Williamson's Inspection of Ladbrook Park - c.1907
Tom Williamson was an expert green keeper and professional at Notts GC report and was asked by Robin Hood Golf Club to carry out an inspection of Ladbrook Park.
Tom pioneered the idea of modelling greens in plasticine, a practice only recently outmoded by computer assisted design. Williamson was responsible for virtually every golf course opened within a fifty miles radius of Nottingham, around sixty in number. Many of these have stood the test of time without major alterations.
- Tom was accompanied by A.B. Bowden Sec Robin Hood GC, Tunley local professional and Mr Oscar Bowen proprietor
- Inspected on a wet and windy day i.e. worst possible conditions
- Stated “Very favourably impressed with the ground, the quality of turf and the area of land at disposal” also “worked properly on business lines you have the finest, largest and one of the best golf courses in the Midlands – the largest in area he has laid out”
- A meeting will be called to consider whether they will take over the course. If they do not the probability is the land will be taken over by a syndicate and a separate club formed
- For those whom it may concern they can have the option of some shooting on reasonable terms.
- Proposed course:
Apparently, the family had a nine-hole course at the back of the Ladbrook Hall with a small clubhouse in the yard. This course was probably laid out by the Bowen’s gardener, Bob Bradburn, who came to the parish with his father and the Rev. Lord Moncrieff, the vicar of St Mary Magdalene.
Setting out from Ladbrook Hall, we know the course started on the 17th to a green in front of the current bunkers before going across to what is now the 12th for the 2nd hole.
20-Dec 1907 Robin Hood Letters ref Ladbrook Park Scheme
Robin Hood GC was at this time was adjacent to the Hall Green Racecourse in the vicinity of Fox Hollies Road, Hall Green. By this time, however, problems began to arise. Birmingham was expanding and urban sprawl threatened the peaceful area with its “bracing air” as the Birmingham Gazette’s correspondent described it.
By 1908 the Robin Hood club received notice to quit and immediately began to seek suitable land further afield
06-Mar-1908 Robin Hood Letter
Appointing a sub-committee to:
- Draw up a scheme to acquire an 18 hole Golf Course and the formation of a new Club
- Initial capital of £1,000 in £1 shares (£120 today) and to issue 500 of them payable initially at 10/- (£60) with the balance being payable at one month’s notice
- Proposed anybody buying 25 shares or more (£3,000) becomes a Life Member exempt from entrance fees and subscriptions
- Subscription to be 3 guineas (£366) per annum with an entrance fee of 3 guineas (£366) but first 200 members will not pay an entrance fee and only a nominal subscription in the first year until the course is in fair playing condition.
- Ladies to be admitted without entrance fee at a one guinea (£122) subscription as will sons and daughters of members.
- Company to be drawn up and shares offered
- Company intend to take a lease of about 138 acres on Ladbrook Park Estate within five minutes’ walk from Wood End Station on the new line from Tyseley Junction which is to be opened to passenger traffic next month with a frequent service offered.
Note 1. Most golf courses were laid out in 90 acres – our extra space has been a key factor in the beauty of the course.
Note 2. Oscar Bowen being the Lord of the Manor was also Chairman of the North Warwickshire Railway Company, so may well have had a great influence on the development of Ladbrook Park Golf Club, although the new line from Snow Hill to Wood End and Stratford-upon-Avon was a part of the Great Western Railway.
- The Company (later called Birmingham Golf Club Limited) will lay out a full 18 hole Golf Course which they will sub-let to the Club (later called Ladbrook Park Golf Club) at such a rent as will pay the expenses of the Company and 5% interest on its capital.
- Tom Williamson, expert green keeper and professional at Notts GC has made a careful inspection on the land and given a most favourable report.
- Request to ask Robin Hood Members to sign a form if they support such a scheme
- Hugh Farquhar signed 16-Mar 1908
21-Mar 1908 EGM Notice for 26-Mar 1908 Acorn Hotel
The letter was from A.B. Bowden Hon Sec (Robin Hood GC) who later became a Director of the Birmingham Golf Club.
To decide course of action for the ‘Ladbrook Park Scheme’
14-April 1908 Membership Application letter
- Members of recognised London, Birmingham and County Clubs will be elected without a ballot at the discretion of the Committee
- In the case of Candidates not being Members of such Clubs, full particulars and references must accompany application for membership
- Members of Robin Hood GC have the right to nominate Candidates for election
18-May 1908 Birmingham Golf Club Memorandum of Association
- Object of the company include providing stables and purchasing / hiring horses which we know were used to maintain the course for many years
- At this point 7 individuals undertook to buy one share each for £1 (£120 in today’s money). These were :-
- W Harvey Gibbs – Building Contractor
- G. A. Bettinson – Solicitor
- A. B. Bowden - Timber Merchant
- W.E. Kenway - Timber Merchant
- James Coventry – Journalist (later awarded life membership probably for his championing of Ladbrook Park. He died in 1943)
- Henry Charles Church – Cycle Accessory Manufacturer
- W. G. Stewart – Bank Manager
- Positions in the new Company:
- W. H. Gibbs Chairman (still a Vice-President in 1936)
- G. A Bettinson – Director and Company Solicitor (still a Vice-President in 1925)
- A. B. Bowden – Director (Hon Sec Robin Hood Golf Club)
- A. Grainger – Director
- W. A. Green – Director
- W. E. Kenway - Secretary
- Auditor: H. S. Brown Chartered Accountant
19-May 1908 Letter from A. B. Bowden
- Informing Hugh Farquhar of unanimously being elected a Member of the Club.
- Locker rent 5/- (£60) if required
- Notice of General Meeting on 29-May
29-May 1908 First General meeting of the Club held at Acorn Hotel, Temple Street, Birmingham
- To approve Officers and Committee
- To approve draft Rules
Agreed 21 year lease @ £100 p.a. (£12,000) from 25-Mar 1908 for the land from Oscar Bowen of Ladbrook Hall who retained sheep grazing rights on the course!
Letter sent requesting payment for allotted shares
Invited Tom Williamson to lay out an eighteen-hole golf course
10 to 12-Jun-1908
Hugh Farquhar buys 25 shares of £1 each (£3,000) – deposit 10/- each – shares numbered 201-225 – making him a Life Member
Certificate signed by W.E. Kenway Sec and W. Harvey Gibbs and G.A. Bettinson
01-Jul 1908 - Unofficial Opening of the Course
A formidable throng gathered on the platform at Snow Hill for the journey to Wood End.
Mr Bowden, the club’s secretary had arranged for a Sunday service with the railway company. It was a common practice then for golf clubs and railways companies to come to agreements on services and concessionary fares.
04-Dec 1908 EGM of Members of Birmingham GC Imperial Hotel, Birmingham
- Amendments to the Articles of Association
- W.E. Kenway secretary
- Proxies asked for A. B. Bowden and W. H. Gibbs
- 204 Members and 42 Ladies
15-Dec 1908 Tenancy agreement with Oscar Bowen to use the Ladbrook Hall as a temporary Club House
18 holes now open
13-Jan-1909 Letter informing of intent to raise funds for building new Club House
- Birmingham GC now becomes a public company
19-Jan 1909 - Prospectus
- Birmingham Golf Club already setup with 2000 shares @£1 each of which 526 have been bought for down payment of 10/- each
- Each Director of the Birmingham Golf Club holds 25 shares and is a life member of the Club. Their future renumeration is to be decided at the General Meeting!
- Purpose of Birmingham Golf Club Limited was to promote Ladbrook Park Golf Club which at this time had 250 Members
- Subscription set at 2 guineas but goes to 3 guineas in 1910 when the Club House is expected to be open
- 18 Holes now being completed
- Offering another 700 shares primarily to Members in order to build a Club House (up to this time Members used a building in the yard at Ladbrook Hall)
- Site was chosen to be close to Wood End station which was key for attracting Members who used to come out from Birmingham on the train
- The cost of the new Club House including furnishings and incidentals is at a not to exceed price of £1,400 (£168,000 today) to be paid by £700 from shares and a £700 mortgage.
- According to a report in The Birmingham Gazette. Its facilities were to include a clubroom, ladies’ tea room and dining rooms, smoke room, bar, locker room, lavatories and cloakroom. There were also two billiard tables.
- The design of the Club House had been laid out in such a way that it could be converted into a pair of semi-detached residences in the event that the golf club was not a success so protecting the shareholders’ investment
- Birmingham Golf Club proposal to sub-let the Course and new Club House when built to the Club at such a rent to provide the shareholders a dividend of 5% in the first year then 10% each year afterwards
Mar 1909 first AGM held
- Clubhouse under construction
- 18 hole course expected to be open end of May
Oscar Bowen opened the new clubhouse. The ceremony was followed by lunch and a match between teams selected by the captain and the secretary, the latter’s team winning 15-12. After the match there was a supper – “a splendid spread” - at which toasts were given, followed by a smoking concert. The Stratford-Upon-Avon Herald reported that “proceedings were most enjoyable and successful”.
Work started on the Harry Colt designed course.
Apart from the turning around on the 3rd, 4th and 5th holes, the layaout has only had minor modifications over the years.
Today’s prices shown in brackets are based on money today being 120 times that of 1909 as calculated by annual UK inflation figures
Robin Hood Golf Club
Robin Hood GC EGM update on obtaining new golf course (Robin Hood) nearing completion and limited liability company duly registered
- Continued tenancy of current course (Greenfield, Old Warwick Road, Olton) at greatly increased rental
- Debenture raised carrying interest at 5% p.a. to help build the new Club House
- J.W. Magrath, Hon Sec Robin Hood
- Debenture cost £5 each (£600) with £1 (£120) payable on application with the remainder due in March 1914
- Hugh Farquhar applied for £10 (£1,200) and paid his £2 (£240) up front on 01-Oct 1913
Robin Hood Golf Club remained on its original site until it moved to the course vacated by Olton Golf Club in St Bernards Road. This remains the club’s course today
Press Cutting on Tom Williamson's Inspection of Ladbrook Park - c.1907
High Farquhar's address today 465 Startford Road, Sparkhill