Thursday, 3 January 2013

Gerbier and Golf

G is for Gerbier and also for golf. In the Victorian heyday of Ashdown House there was a nine-hole golf course in what is now the fields to the west and south west of the house. I have a sketch of what the course looked like and we have drawn it onto an ordnance survey map to see where it would have been.

A number of National Trust properties once had family or “informal” golf courses as part of their landscape. Many, like Ashdown, have been lost but at Lyme Park in Cheshire, Studley Royal in Yorkshire and on Lundy Island, traces remain. There is a fascinating article about the ghost of the lost golf course at Studley Royal in the National Trust Views magazine, which you can click here to see (p33).

Golf first came to England from Scotland in the 17th century with the Stuart dynasty. At Ashdown the golf course was part of a wider sporting estate that also offered hunting and shooting and had its own cricket team. Whilst we have photographs of the early 20th century cricket eleven I have yet to come across any of Ashdown’s golfers.

And so to the other “G,” Sir Balthasar Gerbier. Gerbier was born in 1598 in Holland and was, amongst other things, a courtier, diplomat, art advisor, miniaturist, and spy. He was also an architect who worked with William Winde for the first Earl of Craven on the plans for Craven’s “palace” at Hamstead Marshall. It seems plausible that the same combination of Winde and Gerbier also worked on the plans for Ashdown House, which were drawn up at the same time. Gerbier died at Hampstead Marshall either in 1663 (according to a petition to the king from his daughters who asked for £4000 in unpaid salary) or in 1667 (according to Gerbier's monument in the local church). He is also buried there. It seems likely that the date on his memorial is wrong and that the building of both Hamstead and Ashdown were in their early stages when he died.

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