The Hurlingham Club.
Why does The Hurlingham Polo Association take its name from a small area of West London near Putney Bridge? Now a public park with tennis courts, a cricket ground and running track, Hurlingham Park has been reduced in size from its heyday when it was used for polo, but has recently been used again for polo with the ‘Polo in the Park’ annual event.
The land and house at Hurlingham was originally obtained in 1867 by Frank Heathcote to promote pigeon shooting matches at Hurlingham. Soon after The Hurlingham Club was formed, originally for this purpose and ‘as an agreeable country resort’. The Club went on to lease the estate in 1869 and in 1874 acquired the freehold for £27,500. The pigeon is still the Club’s crest and until 1905 clouds of live pigeons were released each summer from an enclosure near the present Tennis Pavilion. The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), an early patron, was a keen shot and his presence ensured the Club’s status and notability from the beginning. Pigeon shooting at Hurlingham continued until 1906.
Polo was brought to England in 1869. Owing largely to the initiative of one of the Club’s first Trustees, Lord De L’Isle and Dudley, and its Manager, Captain the Hon J D (later Lord) Monson, the game was established at Hurlingham in 1874.
The Club then became, and remained until the Second World War, the headquarters of Polo for the British Empire and was the scene of major competitions, notably the famous Westchester Cup matches between England and the United States of America. The estate was extended during the polo era as a recreational sports club with the introduction of tennis in 1877, croquet c. 1900, and in the 1930s an outdoor swimming pool, squash courts and bowls and finally a nine-hole golf course.
After the war the polo grounds were compulsorily purchased by the London County Council and became respectively a recreation ground – Hurlingham Park – and a school and council flats – Sulivan Court. The Club was left with the residue of the estate (about 42 acres) and is today one of Britain’s premier private members’ clubs.
Picture: At Hurlingham by Maurice Tulloch (1894-1974) printed circa 1935. Hand coloured in watercolour.