Celebrating their 25th Anniversary (see page 12)
Stories to be Told
The Donnington Grove Estate, set in beautiful countryside on the outskirts of Newbury, is spliced by the River Lambourn and bedecked with a varied and mixture of iconic English parkland and woodland. Records tell us that the house, the centre piece, was built by James Pettit Andrews between 1763 and 1772, on a site overlooked by Donnington Castle. It was designed by John Chute in Strawberry Hill Gothic style, and described as expensive to construct and costly to maintain, and was eventually sold to William Brummell (father of Beau Brummell) in 1783, and it was Brummell who turned it into a true country estate. By the time of his death, the estate covered 800 acres, and the house had been substantially extended, stables built, and entrances lodges erected. The superbly landscaped gardens were probably the work of William Brummell himself, as he had knowledge of estate design. When he died the estate was sold, as directed in his will, and the proceeds shared amongst the children. John Bebb an East India Company executive became the owner, until it passed to Head Pottinger Best, eventually being requisitioned for Allied Supplies Ltd for the war effort. Sometime after World War 11 ended the estate was sold to Hon Reginald Fellowes (the cousin of Winston Churchill) and his wife Daisy, the heiress to the Singer Sewing Machine empire. Renowned for her decadent behaviour, she had one of the most lavish collections of jewellery in Europe. The house became infamous for the parties held there, and Daisy had a little white cottage built in the style of the main house, where she would take shelter accompanied by her maid, and recover from her party excesses.
October 1644, in the midst of the Civil War, the Second Battle of Newbury was fought on the land between the rival armies of the Cavaliers and the Roundheads. The Parliamentarians had had several successes in the field, and had moved to Berkshire. On this occasion, the forces of King Charles 1 fought an unequal battle against the Parliamentarian army, which had twice the number of men at arms as the Royalists. The rebel army had laid siege to Donnington Castle, a key royalist outpost, but abandoned the siege when Charles came with reinforcements. Oliver Cromwell was among the commanders of the Roundheads, and it is believed that the flanking manoeuvre which was attempted was used for the first time in combat. The Battle however was inconclusive but both sides suffered heavy losses, and King Charles was allowed to retreat to Oxford. Nonetheless it was a significant event with far reaching consequences. The following year, with the New Model Army the throne was defeated, King Charles 1 executed and a republic declared and Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. The republic was to last eleven years until 1660 when Charles 11 was restored to the throne.
More radical change came about in modern times when in 1991 the estate was purchased by Shitenoji International. The Japanese buyers bought the site with the purpose of building a top quality golf course on the land. They were also responsible for the creation of the wonderfully tranquil temple area and ornamental gardens. As the twentieth century was heading to a close, the estate was to have a new and totally different purpose, an elite golf facility, in an era when golf was going through a period of high popularity and rapid expansion. Donnington Grove was to become a major player in the Berkshire golfing countryside. The Japanese then made a master stroke in appointing Dave Thomas to be the architect for the new course. The brief that Thomas was given was simple, build a course of championship standard that would blend in with the surrounding countryside, test the best players, but be enjoyable by those less accomplished. In my opinion, he met the criteria perfectly. The result is a modern resort style course, with USGA specification greens, American style bunkering, but looking perfectly in place in the rolling Berkshire countryside. From the back tees it is over 7100 yards, but from the yellows a more manageable 6576 yards, though still a tough examination needing all the clubs in the bag, only made easier if the driving is spot on. Work began in 1991 and on June 12th 1993 The Donnington Grove Country Club opened. In 2005 the estate changed hands when it was acquired by the present owners; it is now privately owned and managed and remains a successful independent and unique resort in Newbury.
However history had made a mark on the grounds centuries before the house was built, for on 27th
March 2018 | TEE TIMES 11