It was a great pleasure on Thursday 7th July to give a talk at Reigate Heath Golf Club as part of the 2011 Reigate Heath Exhibition.
It was in 1895 that Lady Henry Somerset was persuaded to grant land at Reigate Heath for a golf course and she became the first president of the club. Lady Henry herself was a keen golfer. She had her own private 9 hole course in the grounds of Reigate Priory, down by the lake, and she employed a young man to keep these links in order. He was later chastised for playing on the Heath course too frequently. Presumably he found the heath links more challenging!
As president of both the golf club and the British Womens’s Temperance Association, Lady Henry insisted that no intoxicating liquor be sold at the club – a very unusual situation. But the club maintained this position until a few months after Lady Henry’s death in 1921, when the committee then decided the 19th hole could be released from its tee total stance!
She also insisted that men and women should be admitted as members on equal terms – so women had no right to vote, but they could play golf – at least in Reigate.
Lady Henry also put up the initial capital for the club house. Then in 1900 she sold this and the nearby mill to the golf club for £2400. The golf club then leased the mill to the church, although in 1962 this was sold to Reigate & Banstead Borough Council.
Lady Henry’s son, Somers Somerset and his wife Lady Katherine were also members of the golf club and Somers Somerset took over as president when his mother died. When he passed the manorial rights to the land over to the Reigate Corporation, he ensured the council gave another lease to the golf club, syaing that the golf club was “a nuisance to no-one and a pleasure to many.”