Woodcote Park is mentioned in the Doomsday Book as a much larger estate owned by the Abbey of Chertsey. In 1202 it was recorded as Wudcot, then later as La Wodecot and then, by the 19th Century. Woodcot. By that time it had left the ownership of the church, having come into the possession of Sir John Marston in 1447.
It descended through the generations until it came into the ownership of Richard Evelyn, brother of the 17th Century diarist, and it was Richard who built the mansion we are familiar with today. The estate then passed through the family to the sixth Lord Baltimore, Frederick. He led a debauched and reckless life and was forced to sell his estates to Thomas Monk in 1767, who sold Woodcote Park to George Nelson in 1770. Visitors to the Motor House can see Nelson’s name carved in the original wooden beams.
In 1778 the estate was bought by Lewis de Tessier and the iconic cedars of Lebanon on the lawn were planted by Mrs de Tessier in around 1800. Lewis de Tessier’s son James sold Woodcote Park to Robert Brooks in 1856 and his son Herbert, a Director of the Bank of England, sold it to the Club in 1913.
The members had barely made the clubhouse their own when, in 1914, the War Office commandeered the southwestern portion of the estate (known as The Ridge) for a military camp to house and train the University and Public Schools Brigade. Some 11,000 men were accommodated in its wooden huts.
The Club had purchased Woodcote Park so members could drive their cars into the countryside to enjoy sporting and leisure pursuits and, despite the outbreak of war, on 20 March 1915 a golf course was opened, designed by the renowned William Herbert Fowler.
In 1916 the military camp was handed over to the Canadian Army as their main convalescent hospital. Other patients came from across the Commonwealth. After the war the War Office kept a training camp on the site until 1923.
In 1934 the clubhouse was gutted by a fire which started in a bedroom at around midnight. Remarkably nobody was hurt but little was left of the building. Mewès and Davis – the architects responsible for the Pall Mall clubhouse – were commissioned for the rebuild and the clubhouse reopened in 1936.
In the Second World War 110 acres of Woodcote Park were turned over to food production, including wheat, barley, oats and potatoes. Sheep, poultry and bees were also kept and vegetables were grown in the Walled Garden. On 18 August 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain, Pilot Officer Peter Simpson’s Hawker Hurricane crash landed on the golf course.
The Coronation of 1953 was celebrated at Woodcote Park with the opening of the Coronation Course. This was on the site of the New Course which had been ploughed up during the Second World War.
In 1963 Lord Mountbatten presided over a day of celebrations to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Club at Woodcote Park, including a cavalcade of cars, but by the late 1970s Woodcote Park was in need of investment and came close to being sold off. A programme of improvements and renovation started in the 1980s and the Cedars Sports complex opened on 22 April 1989. That decade also saw a host of celebrities including Telly Savalas and Sean Connery and leading golfers such as Severiano Ballesteros at Woodcote Park for the Bob Hope British Classic Golf Tournament in September 1980.
Woodcote Park is now thriving with the clubhouse set in 350 acres of Surrey countryside where members enjoy a range of sports and other pursuits including swimming, tennis, squash, running and cycling as well as golf. There is no doubt that the members who had the foresight to purchase Woodcote Park in 1913 would be delighted to see so much activity.