Inventory Site Record

Coombe Hill Golf Course (Kingston)

Brief Description

The golf course was part of the estate of Coombe House, which the 1st Duke of Cambridge purchased in 1837, enlarging his estate for a shooting park by the purchase of commonland on Coombe Hill. In the early C20th two golf courses were laid out, Coombe Wood Golf Course in 1904 and Coombe Hill Golf Course in 1910. The latter was laid out by J. F Abercromby and the new course opened on 31 May 1911. Its notable members included royalty, politicians and later showbiz celebrities. The Coombe estate was broken up after the death in 1933 of Sir Augustus Fitzgeorge, son of the 2nd Duke of Cambridge, partly for housing development, but partly remaining open land. The golf courses were saved as a result of Malden and Coombe UDC purchasing the land in 1934.

Practical Information
Site location:
Golf Club Drive, Coombe Lane West, Kingston Hill
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Private Open Land
Open to public?
Opening times:
private, open to visiting golfers
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail: Kingston then bus. Bus: 57.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.coombehillgolfclub.com

Full Site Description

Coombe was possibly a Roman site and at the Domesday Survey consisted of 3 manors. Various springs on Coombe Hill provided water from the early C16th for Cardinal Wolsey's new Hampton Court Palace (q.v.) both for drinking and to supply the water features and fountains. Three conduit houses were built on Coombe Hill from where the water was transported by pipe to Kingston and then under the Thames to Hampton Court, which continued to be supplied from this source until 1876, even though the Longford River had been built in the 1630s to augment the supply. The Coombe Hill system was abandoned in 1900 although the conduit houses remain, situated outside the boundary of the southern part of Coombe Wood Golf Course (q.v.).

In the late C18th the Milne map shows the forested bottom of the valley marked as Coombe Wood, and the top shown as commonland, which was called Coombe Warren and rabbits were kept there. By the mid C19th areas of Coombe Hill were used for agriculture and field boundaries remain in parts of the landscape. By the later C19th the area was becoming popular among the wealthy, and numerous fine houses were built with substantial grounds. John Galsworthy (1867-1933), who was born in Kingston and whose family had lived at a number of properties in Coombe, used it as the inspiration for Soames' house at Robin Hill in 'The Man of Property' (1906), his first novel of 'The Forsyte Saga'. In the novel he described Coombe Warren, which remains the most extensive heathland in London: 'the warren was as lonely as a prairie, its silence only broken by the rustle of rabbits bolting to their holes and the song of the larks'. Coombe House was another fine property whose owners included Lord Liverpool, who was Prime Minister during the Regency and then under George IV, and the Duke of Cambridge. The Duke enlarged his estate when he acquired commonland on Coombe Hill, which he made into a shooting estate. The estate passed to his son George in 1850, who became the 2nd Duke of Cambridge and with his sons, Colonel Sir Augustus and Admiral Sir Aldolphus Fitzgeorge, converted a gravel pit on part of the estate into a 9 hole golf course in 1904, which is now run by Coombe Wood Golf Club. After the death of Sir Augustus Fitzgeorge in 1933, the remaining land of the estate was sold off, partly for housing development, but partly remaining open land. The golf courses were saved from housing development as a result of Malden and Coombe UDC purchasing the land in 1934.

Coombe Hill Golf Course was laid out by John Frederick Abercromby in 1910, the local Council having purchased part of the estate lands from Sir Augustus Fitzgeorge. On 1 January 1910 Abercromby had chaired a meeting of the Coombe Hill Golf Club Syndicate and was appointed course architect. He had previously laid out the course for Worplesdon Golf Club in Surrey. The new course opened on 31 May 1911 and was soon praised, T Simpson, writing that 'ranks as by the cleverest work done in England up to this time' and an article in the Surrey Comet remarking on the 'sylvan beauty on every hand . . . The rhododendrons, so much a feature of the woods, are everywhere ablaze with colour.' The fairways are separated by strips of woodland, some of which are remnants of the old Coombe Wood dominated by oak, and also with birch, pine and sycamore. Early members of the club included David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill who was joined at times by Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith. The Prince of Wales and future Edward VIII, and Duke of York and future George VI both played here, as did writers W Somerset Maugham and Ian Fleming, and newspapermen Lord Northcliffe, Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Rothermere.

In WWII the golf course suffered bomb damage but the Clubhouse survived a near miss, and Telegraph Cottage near the 14th tee became a secret hideaway for General Dwight Eisenhower. However, after the war the club was struggling, with only around 60 members and both course and clubhouse in need of restoration. It was saved from sale when Jewish businessman Lou Freedman and Johnny Segal decided to purchase the club, which then took an unusual step for the time in passing a vote that opened it to 'any gentleman of any colour or creed who has the suitable qualities to be a member of Coombe Hill'. From the 1950s its members included numerous showbiz celebrities such as Jimmy Tarbuck, Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, Harry Secombe, Stanley Baker and Sean Connery. However, from the early days Coombe Hill had attracted many professional golfers, four of who became Open Champions, Arthur Havers, Sandy Herd, Sir Henry Cotton and Dick Burton.

One of the conduit houses was restored by English Heritage in 1989. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

Sources consulted:

Sue Swales, Ian Yarham, Bob Britton, 'Nature Conservation in Kingston upon Thames', Ecology Handbook 18 (London Ecology Unit) 1992; A McCormack, Kingston Upon Thames, London, 1989; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Tim Everson, 'Kingston, Surbiton and Malden' Budding Books, 2001. See History section on Coombe Hill Golf Club website

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ209706 (520978,170699)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
RB Kingston, leased to Coombe Hill Golf Club
Site management:
Coombe Hill Golf Club
J.F. Abercromby
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Metropolitan Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Strategic Area of Special Character
Other LA designation:

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.