By Dennis French
Gargrave had a golf club ?
Well yes it did way back in 1893. This old photograph (above) from my parents collection is simply entitled “Golf Links, Gargrave” and shows land known to older Gargravians as Stoney Butts.
It is the area enclosed by the river Aire, the Leeds-Liverpool canal and the Anchor Road. The river bank on the left is now the gardens of houses on Riversway and the building in the distance on the right of the picture is that of Milton House.
The undulations of this site appear to owe more to the course of the old river bed rather than anything man made.
On April 25th 1893 the first inaugural meeting of the Craven Golf Club was held at the Victoria Hall, Gargrave. Mr R.B.Barret who resided at Skipton castle and was Lord Hothsfield’s agent, presided. Sir Mathew Wilson was elected as President; Mr C.J.Turner, Hon Secretary, and Mr J.H.Bramwell, Hon Treasurer.
The first committee consisted of Captain Preston, the Rev L.B.Morris, Mr R.B.Barrett, Mr A.H.Bracewell, Mr M. Amcotts Wilson and the Rev J.R.Leigh.
Preceding the meeting the course at Stoney Butts had been opened with an interesting exhibition of the game by prominent members of Ilkley Golf Club, including Tom Vardon, the professional. It was reported that there was a bright future for the club.
Subscriptions were one and a half guinieas for family members and one guinea for single members. The membership totalled 29 and the first year’s profit being over £9.
In March 1896 all was not well. The committee suggested a new course at Smipton. A decision influenced by the fact that the ground was not suitable for good golf, it was nearly impossible to play in summer and was not sufficiently central to the district.
On September 3rd 1896 the decision to transfer to Skipton was taken. The membership was then 60.
Why the change ? Well, membership was by invitation only and was made up by the titled and county families of the surrounding district. It has been suggested that the gentry invited to membership regarded the invitation to be one of honorary membership and that very few paid their subscriptions. Whatever the real reason it was the end of an era.
A century later, a walk over the old course shows no indication of tees or greens, but the setting on the banks of the River Aire must have been a pleasant one. And no doubt with coachman or footman as caddy, the members enjoyed the new pursuit.
Please note that this area is not on a public footpath.
For some of the additional information I am indebted to Skipton Golf Club’s Centenary Brochure.