T. F. (Thomas Francis) Dale.

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wet day and with the ground cut up, quite able to
hold their own. The Americans won both matches,
showing a remarkable aptitude in adapting themselves
to our English rules of offside and stick-crooking.
The brothers Waterbury had never been in England
before, but they had played with Mr. Kenyon
Stow in America, who was one of the best of the
early players of the game. These were some of
the few games in which both brothers Waterbury
played during the visit of the American team.

This was Mr. Gill's first season of management,
and he was at once wise in securing, and fortunate



70 POLO : PAST AND PRESENT

in having the opportunity to arrange, these matches.
We shall not easily forget the first match. The rain
poured down during the whole game. It was played
on the new ground on which the recentiy built
pavilion was being used for the first time. But, rain
or fine, every one wanted to see the Americans, and
every inch of shelter was occupied. Those who
wished to watch the play closely had perforce to stand
out in the rain. Yet in the excitement of the match
that followed everything was forgotten except the
interest of the moment. The American team were
Messrs Cowdin, Mr. M. Waterbury, Mr. Agassiz,
and Mr. L. Waterbury. Their opponents were called
the Old Cantabs, but as a matter of fact there were
but two of that team among them. Mr. W. M'Creery
(from California), Mr. C. Nickalls, Oxford, Mr. W.
Buckmaster, and Mr. C. D. Miller made up the
team. The impression that remained, when at last
the Americans won, was that they were too quick for
our men. They were in fact, on the day, the better
team. Mr. L. Waterbury's defence was very strong
indeed, and Mr. M. Waterbury's attack very dash-
ing, while sounder players in a fast game than
Mr. Agassiz and Mr. Cowdin no one would wish
to see.

The combination, or perhaps the confidence, of the
English team was not good. The men did not suit
each other's play. Profiting by the lessons of defeat,
Mr. Gill on the next occasion strengthened his team,
which now consisted of Mr. F. M. Freake, Mr. F.
A. Gill, Mr. W. Buckmaster, and Mr. P. Nickalls.



RANELAGH AND EXPANSION OF POLO 71

The Americans put Mr. Agassiz, a player who raised
his reputation very much by the style of his play in
England, as No. i, Mr. " Monty " Waterbury No. 2,
Mr. Foxhall Keane No. 3, and Mr. L. Waterbury
" back." At first Ranelagh had the better of the
struggle. Mr. Freake, who combined hard and
strong hitting with a fast pony, made several fine
runs and scored a goal for his side. The two
Waterburys then seemed to improve as though by
magic, and we realised how good they were. They
made a splendid goal by combined play. When we
recollect that in America the grounds are much
harder than with us, and that the absence of offside
and stick-crooking throws open the goal to hard
riding and hard hitting, their adaptation to the new
conditions was little short of wonderful, and stamped
the two brothers as first-class players, according to
the English standard.

I believe our American visitors were much struck
by a goal which Mr. Buckmaster backhanded in his
peculiarly graceful style. Nevertheless the Americans
steadily gained the upper hand, and made two goals
in quick succession. Once more Mr. Freake, in
brilliant style, galloped out with the ball, and, never
touched or hindered and seemingly quite unhampered
by the ground, which by this time was somewhat cut
up, made a splendid goal. In the end the American
team won by five goals to three. This was perhaps
their high-water mark, and I think no one who saw
the matches in the International tournament will
consider that they quite equalled the form shown on



72 POLO : PAST AND PRESENT

this occasion. It was evident that the Ranelagh
ground suited their play.

There was another memorable event at Rane-
lagh when the American visitors played a match
before their Majesties the King and Queen, and
the Prince and Princess Charles of Denmark.
There were, it is said, more than five thousand
people present. Certainly the Club was very full,
although the space at Ranelagh enables a large
number of people to see the game. It was a
great struggle, and fought out with pluck to the
very end. The Americans again altered their ar-
rangement, the brothers Waterbury being i and 4
respectively, and Mr. Cowdin and Mr. Foxhall
Keane 2 and 3. This enabled these old friends and
polo partners to be together, and as they thoroughly
understood one another's play the team was strength-
ened thereby. The Ranelagh team was a strong one
— Captain L. C. D. Jenner, Mr. Rawlinson, Mr.
Gill, and Mr. Scott-Robson. The last named is a
fine player from South America, with the rare gift of
being able to play with either the right or left hand.
He is a fine horseman and a hard hitter, rather
handicapped by his weight. Another point of interest
to polo players is that both the present polo managers
of Ranelagh were in the game. Captain Jenner
snatched the ball and raced away to the goal. Mr.
Gill rode hard and worked hard, and he and Mr.
Rawlinson combined well in attack. The last named
is a tower of strength to any side if he can attack,
and Ranelagh led at half-time by one goal. Mr. M.



RANELAGH AND EXPANSION OF POLO 73

Waterbury made a splendid long shot at about this
period of the game, and he is evidently an adherent
of the sound polo maxim that when the goal-posts
are open it is wise to try for a long shot. It was an
exciting struggle, and the score was four all, and but
three minutes remained. Ranelagh pressed, and
Captain Jenner, who had scored the first goal of the
match, also hit the last and winning stroke. Thus
the Ranelagh Club was able to show to one of the
largest gatherings of the season one of the most
exciting matches in the memorable Coronation year.
The Ranelagh Club, which was the first London
social club for the express purpose of the game
of polo, is now the largest in the world. It
has three polo grounds and a most comfortable and
luxurious club-house. The financial success of the Club
has enabled the managers to expend large sums (more
than ;£3 0,000) on improvements, without borrowing.
The men who supplied the original capital have been
content with a modest ^ve per cent. I do not think
that any one who visits Ranelagh for the first time
as it is now, will accuse me of exaggeration if I say
that it is quite the best equipped and best managed
club of its kind in the world. The situation is in-
comparable, the beauty of the grounds, the old-world
character of the house, which has not been spoiled
by the additions made to it, give a charm to the Club,
and make it one of the most notable resorts that
fashion has ever had. Ranelagh on Saturday after-
noons when some great polo matches are to be played
— the final of the Army Cup, the Hunt Cup, the



74



POLO : PAST AND PRESENT



Open Cup, or the Novices, or when Royalty is there
— is one of the most brilliant sights in the world,
and certainly one which no foreign visitor should
miss if he wishes to see English society at play, and
polo at its best.





CHAPTER IV



THE GROWTH OF POLO IN LONDON AND THE
PROVINCES



The development of polo, after the reconstruction
of the Ranelagh Club in 1894, was so rapid that the
demand for time and space for play was quite beyond
the power of Hurlingham and Ranelagh to satisfy.
For a short time the Wimbledon Club had a
considerable success. Its grounds were well laid
out and the class of polo played was excellent. But
Wimbledon had one disadvantage to contend with —
it was too far away from London, and society would
not drive the extra distance or travel in crowded
trains on a Saturday afternoon. So in spite of a
polo management that was as good as any we have
seen, and a ground that a few years' care would have

75



76 POLO : PAST AND PRESENT

made delightful to play on, Wimbledon ceased to
exist as a club, and the ground is now used by the
Household Brigade as a private polo ground. Thus
the failure of Wimbledon and the success of Ranelagh
alike opened the way for a new club. The Grove
House estate at Roehampton was available, and the
Roehampton Club was started. Captain Miller,
the manager, had had much experience. The Rugby
Club had been practically founded by him. He had
made the annual tournament of that Club one of the
events of the autumn polo season, and he had
learned, with the assistance of Mr. G. A. Miller,
during a successful polo managership at Ranelagh,
how to conduct a London club. The Rugby team
were Champion Cup winners, and the most skilled
in a close yet flexible combination. The team which
played for Rugby in 1897 was one of the best
civilian polo teams seen in our time. Roehampton
was founded and started into existence full grown,
with three polo grounds, a comfortable pavilion, and
water laid on to all the grounds. The Club has a
charming situation between Roehampton lane and
Priory lane, and the founders were fortunate in
securing a seven years* lease, and earned our gratitude
by keeping at bay the builder, to whom its three
frontages must be an immense temptation. Roe-
hampton has no club-house, but the pavilion is well
arranged, with luncheon- and tea-rooms and a draw-
ing-room for lady visitors. Some of the Household
Cavalry established their regimental games there, and
a good programme of tournaments was started. The



THE GROWTH OF POLO 77

first season was marked by some admirable games
and matches, and in spite of great disadvantages (it
was the Coronation year, the American teams were
playing their international matches, and the weather
was as bad as it could be) the club grew. The last
two seasons have been better, and Roehampton has
had time to develop, and by 1904 the club had a
strong and representative team who are at present
the holders of the Ranelagh Open Cup, beating the
winners of the Champion Cup of 1904. It is true
the Old Cantabs were out of form, but with
Rugby not up to their full strength, Roehampton
was the best team. Much good polo is played
on the Roehampton grounds, but there has never
perhaps been any match to excel in interest two
which were played in the Inauguration Cup. The
former was the first match on English ground in
which the Americans were defeated, the latter was
one of the closest games ever fought. It was drawn
at last, for one of the Rugby men met with a serious
accident. I take the account from the excellent
report given in the Field oi 17th May 1902. The
Americans were represented by Mr. T. Cowdin, Mr.
J. M. Waterbury, Mr. R. Agassiz, Mr. L. Water-
bury ; and Rugby by Messrs C. and M. Nickalls,
Mr. G. A. Miller, and Mr. P. Nickalls. "The
English team, playing in great form, hit the first
three goals in succession, and then the Americans
had a turn, and in the third and fourth periods . . .
they secured the lead by hitting four goals in succes-
sion. Towards the end of the game Rugby had all the



78 POLO : PAST AND PRESENT

play, Mr. G. A. Miller being in great form, and they
eventually won by six goals to four/' In the other
match Rugby, as above, met Roehampton — Mr. Walter
Jones, Mr. A. Rawlinson, Mr. Buckmaster, and Mr.
C. D. Miller. There was no score in the first period,
nor did the play promise the fine struggle that was to
follow. The feature of the game was the fine play
of Mr. A. Rawlinson and the steady defence of Mr.
Miller. Nothing better than these two players could
be seen. It was a brilliant game, and the Prince and
Princess of Wales stayed to the close.

This was the formal opening of the Club.

The leading tournaments played at Roehampton
are, besides the usual club handicaps, the Public
Schools Cup, a series of matches which ought to
grow in importance as the number of public-
school men who play polo increases with each succeed-
ing season ; the Ladies' Nomination Tournament ;
and the Roehampton Cup, played for under the same
conditions as the Rugby Cup. This tournament
secures good entries, but in point of the number of
teams competing, the Junior Championship is the
most notable.

Indeed there are no more remarkable instances
of the development of polo than the fact that the
Ranelagh Novices' Cup and the Roehampton Junior
Championship are the tournaments which secure the
largest number of entries. Nor is this all, for both
contests are noted for the very high average of play.
In these matches you will see displayed combination,
as well as individual skill and control of the ball.



THE GROWTH OF POLO 79

such as we should have looked for in vain a few
years ago anywhere but in a first-class match, or in
those members' games which were to be seen at
Hurlingham in the years 1890-94.

The Roehampton Club started with everything
to be done, but the managers report that they were
able to improve the grounds during 1904, and that
the practice ground has been levelled and boarded.
The following, which is from the report of 1 905, may
give an idea both of the work done by the club and
the development of the game in the last three years :

Polo began on 19th April, and continued till 28th July,
during which time there were 83 playing days, and although
polo was stopped on 15 days owing to wet weather, 104
matches were finished. The ist Life Guards and 2nd Life
Guards held their Regimental games on 18 different days,
and 27 members' games took place. In all 167 different
games and matches took place. The matches did not
commence till May, so during the 12 weeks of the regular
season an average was kept up of between 8 and 9 matches
per week, and between 5 and 6 other games. . . . During
the whole season 6804 ponies entered the gates during the
afternoons, and this does not include the very large number
that used the club for practice in the mornings.

Besides the leading polo clubs with their luxurious
surroundings, polo is played on several grounds near
London, all of them somewhat less easily accessible
than Hurlingham and Ranelagh, and having the
common characteristic that they have no club-house
or other accommodation for members than a pavilion
more or less commodious.



8o POLO : PAST AND PRESENT

These clubs depend almost entirely on their polo
grounds for attracting spectators. They have the
advantage of making the game considerably less
expensive, their subscription and entrance fees
being, with the exception of Roehampton, not more
than half those of the older clubs. Of these clubs
the first to be established was Eden Park. The
possession of an excellent polo ground, at one time
the only one that was of full size, i.e. 300 x 200
yards, was a great advantage. Excellent manage-
ment and the support of some keen and enthusiastic
players gave this Club a success from its establish-
ment.

For some time the Royal Horse Guards made
Eden Park the practice ground of their team. There,
were partly trained those admirable players who
made up the four which held so strong a hand in
the Inter-Regimental Tournaments of 1903 and 1904.

The Eden Park Club, which is near Beckenham,
has one of the best natural polo grounds it is possible
to conceive. The situation is picturesque, the turf
is level, sound, and old, there are magnificent trees
which shade the ground and give shelter to the
waiting ponies. There are excellent stables for about
seventy ponies, and a most comfortable and well-
arranged pavilion. The subscription is five guineas.
The Club was founded by Mr. Percy BuUivant and
Mr. L. Bucknall in 1897. The first manager was
Colonel Sanders Darley, the present one is Mr. F.
C. Nash. Soon after the opening of the Club in
1897 one of those opportunities occurred that go



THE GROWTH OF POLO 8i

far to give a club a start. As has been narrated else-
where, the County Cup had passed into the hands
of the County Polo Association. The Hurlingham
Polo Committee, with but one match ground, did
not at that time see their way to grant a day for a
Cup no longer under their own control. It must
be recollected that the Hurlingham Polo managers
had already a heavy list of games and tournaments
to provide for. Eden Park, several of whose
members were on the council of the County Polo
Association, opened its gates to the semi-finals and
final of the County Cup, and before a crowded
company one of the best matches in the annals of
that Cup was fought out on the Eden Park ground.
It was not merely a good county match but one of
the best matches of the season, and one of the most
exciting in the history of county polo. In offering
their ground for the match, Eden Park not only
benefited themselves but gave a stimulus to county
polo all over England. The Cup of 1898 drew an
excellent entry. The earlier matches were interest-
ing, for such teams as Rugby, Warwickshire, Chisle-
hurst, Stansted, Feltham Park, Eden Park A were
among the competitors. Of these Stansted, the
holders of the Cup, and Chislehurst were left in the
final. The afternoon of 14th July was a lovely one.
The stand was full of ladies, and most of the best-
known polo men were present. The turf was in
excellent condition. There were some famous ponies
playing, and the Stansted men were particularly well
mounted. Mr. Guy Gilbey made full use of his



82 POLO : PAST AND PRESENT

well-known No. i pony, " Black Diamond." Mr.
Tresham Gilbey, who never played a better game
than he did that day as No. 3, rode " Spinster," one
of the handiest ponies of the day, and a plain but
very useful Argentine of the dun colour known as
" buckskin " in America.

Stansted had Messrs. Guy Gilbey, P. Gold, Tres-
ham Gilbey, and Gerald Gold ; Chislehurst, Messrs.
Cecil Nickalls, H. Savill, M. Nickalls, and P. Nickalls.
The latter team came from a new club and one that
in the course of its brief existence has produced three
first-class players in the Messrs. Nickalls. Stansted,
having the greater experience, and perhaps better-
trained ponies, were quicker on the ball than their
opponents. Both teams were willing and able to
gallop, and revelled in the freedom of the large
ground. It was a fast game from start to finish.
Stansted made a goal in the first few minutes and
then came a desperate, struggle. As Chislehurst
gained confidence, so they improved their position.
It was then that Mr. P. Nickalls showed, for the
first time, what a fine back player he is. With
constant pressure on his goal he nevertheless kept
the ball away from it. Yet it was a near thing.
The ball was over the boundary line continually and
several times Chislehurst hit out in self-defence.
Then came the fateful third period. The young
Oxford players — for I believe they all learned polo on
Port Meadow — had condition on their side. Chisle-
hurst hit out, kept possession of the ball, and
Stansted lost for a time their combination. It was



THE GROWTH OF POLO 83

Mr. H. Savill, on a brown pony of the race of
" Hermit " that showed extraordinary smoothness of
action and a great turn of speed, who hit the desired
goal. It was again Mr. Savill who saved the Chisle-
hurst goal when the ball seemed to us, who were
looking on, to be on the point of rolling over the
line. After the fourth ten minutes Chislehurst
gained the upper hand and won a close and exciting
game.

Thus within a year of its start did Eden Park
make itself a name in the history of polo, and its roll
of members is now nearly six hundred. The Club
has continued to prosper, and each year the manager
puts forward an attractive list of matches. Such
clubs as this have a great influence on the game, for
they make polo known to many people who would
otherwise never see it, and enable men to play the
game at its best for a moderate expenditure.

The next club to be founded was the London Polo
Club, at the Crystal Palace. The first managers
were Major F. Herbert, late 9th Lancers, and Major
Cecil Peters, late 4th Hussars. Both were first-rate
players, and Major Herbert had had considerable
experience in the management of polo clubs. Both
in Monmouthshire, which was one of the earliest of
county clubs, and at the old and new Ranelagh
Major F. Herbert had managed polo with success.
The Crystal Palace ground is a good one, and except
that it is more level is not unlike Hurlingham in
shape. I have heard it argued by a most experienced
player that an oval ground is really better for polo



84 POLO : PAST AND PRESENT

than the usual parallelogram. I do not, however,
think that opinion can be sustained ; nevertheless, we
have seen some first-rate matches on the London
Polo Club ground. The situation, too, has its
advantages. A polo club should if possible not be
isolated but have other clubs within reach, so that
matches with visiting teams can be arranged. The
London Polo Club has Woolwich and Eden Park
within a reasonable distance, and ponies can easily be
sent thither by road from Hurlingham and Ranelagh.

Then the London Polo Club keeps a good stud
of ponies which can be hired by members. This is
a great advantage to Indian and Colonial players who
are making a short stay in this country, and wish to
play polo in England without burdening themselves
with a stud of ponies. Thus the London Polo Club
has become international and cosmopolitan in its
character. Some of the most noted Indian and
Colonial players have been seen on its ground during
the seasons polo has been played there, and several
tournaments played at this club can compete with
those at the older clubs both in the interest they
excite and in the quality of play.

I pass on now to the Enghsh and Irish County
Polo Associations, which will fitly conclude a chapter
on polo clubs.

The County Polo Association is one of the chief
notes of the advance of polo. In my chapter of
recollections I have said that the establishment
of this Association was one of the most important
events in the story of modern polo. Nor do I think



THE GROWTH OF POLO 85

that this view is in any way an exaggeration. There
were indeed a number of county clubs before the
Association was formed, but many led a struggling
existence. County polo needed support, "regulation,
and unity. Hurlingham was then to a certain extent
in a state of transition between a private club and a
public body, and the county clubs did not receive
very much encouragement. For one thing, I do not
think a great many people believed in the spread of
polo beyond London and Dublin and a few favoured
centres like Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Rugby. The
idea was strongly fixed that polo was a game for
men of money, and that it would never spread in
the country on account of the expense. Two men,
however, believed greatly in county polo, Mr. Moray
Brown and Mr. Tresham Gilbey. I have often
discussed the future of polo with them both. I
think we saw that if polo depended on the favour
of fashion, the tide which had borne it to prosperity
might ebb as well as flow, and that the permanence
of the game depended on its establishment in the
country and on a wider basis. Much of the expense
of polo was accidental, as I have several times pointed
out. The necessary outlay on polo is not very
large, and hardly out of the reach of any man who
can aflFord to keep horses at all. The immediate
occasion of the County Polo Association was the
desirability of placing the County Cup on a firmer
basis. The difficult point was to decide what should
be the qualification of the players. On the one hand,
it was necessary to exclude those players who,



86 POLO : PAST AND PRESENT

although they might be members of a club near to
their country houses, yet were too strong for the
average county team. It was evident that only a
central body could make rules and regulations in
the matter, and the County Polo Association was
founded, with Mr. Tresham Gilbey as its first
president.

Very wisely the founders decided to have a
committee room in London. They fixed on the
West End headquarters of the P. and R. P. S. at
No. 12 Hanover Square, and appointed Mr. A. B.
Charlton as Secretary. This step decided at once
the success of the Society. It was plain that an
Association whose affiliated clubs were as far apart as
Edinburgh and Barnstaple could have a common
headquarters only in London. The stronger of the
county clubs at once set the example by joining the
Association, which gave to each club a voice in the
election of the Committee of Management and thus
a control over the affairs of the Association. How
well the Committee have fulfilled their trust may be
seen from the great success of the County Cup
contest since it came under their control. The
preliminary ties of the County Cup are played in the



Online LibraryT. F. (Thomas Francis) DalePolo past and present → online text (page 6 of 33)