In the 1930’s the Chester family lived in Southsea near the sea front. ‘RP’, as old Mr Chester was known, bought the Warnford Estate from the Woods family before the outbreak of the Second World War in bits and pieces from 1936 to 1938. Colonel Woods had a vast estate stretching up to East Meon. He’d made his money out of mining. RP was an industrialist and realised that, with war imminent, farming would become very important. The estate covered an area of about 1500 acres and included nearly every house in the village with the exception of the George and Falcon pub and a couple of other houses. The Chesters lived in Wheely Down House during the war.
|My earliest memories of RP was not relating to golf but about cricket. There was a cricket pitch at the Corhampton golf club which was between the first and second fairways. Just after the war RP organised a cricket match between Hampshire County Cricket Club and the Police force. It was all very exciting for us kids. Apart from the centenary cricket match that was the only time I think cricket was played at the club after the war. |
RP did a lot for Hampshire County Cricket. He was a director of Portsmouth Football Club. He played most of his golf at Goodwood before he moved to Warnford.
He was a wonderful character and a great sportsman. He built up the Warnford Estate from its being nearly derelict. He realised that pig farming was profitable. Within three years of starting he had one of the largest pig farms in Europe. There were pig houses everywhere. At feeding time you couldn’t hear yourself shout in Warnford. During the war pig food was difficult to come by and after the war the herd got scaled down. The last pig was sold in about 1960. Young Rex sold the estate in 1993, half to Andrew Sellick and half to Malcolm Isaac, who ran the watercress farms.
RP, at the right, standing by a young Peter Short.
The photo was taken in the late 1940’s
Ron Clarke, who was RP’s chauffeur, would have probably done some of the mowing at the golf club. RP put a lot of effort into the golf club after the Second World War and got it going again. He was friendly with Dedman, the head greenkeeper and professional.
RP built the Hampshire Hogs cricket ground from one of the fields. It was used as the village cricket ground originally and West Meon used to play there before they had their own ground. It was sold in 1994.
A lot of my holidays as a schoolboy were spent here on the estate. I met young Rex Chester in 1943 at Westbury House School which was a private prep school in West Meon. I was invited back to one of his birthday parties. Eventually I became his father’s farm manager. I used to play golf occasionally with both Rex and his father but never took it very seriously. I first started playing golf at the age of six with a set of hickory shafted, brass headed clubs.
My father, who started Will Short’s garage in Winchester, taught me at Southampton Municipal golf course. I was a member with Charles Lock at Blackmoor when I first came to live permanently on the Estate. Our first few years membership at Blackmoor as a country member was £10. I don’t belong to any club now but play about once a fortnight with friends.
About five or six years ago Derek Gibson came to me one day and asked if I could help out with a problem there had been at the golf club but I replied that under the circumstances I probably couldn’t. Rex Chester went up to the golf club to play one day and was teeing up on the first hole when the secretary came out and asked who he was. Rex said he was an honorary life member and as such didn’t need to pay to play on the course. The secretary could find no record of this and so refused to let him play. Rex was very put out by this rebuff and went off in a huff and that was the end of Rex Chester’s playing golf at Corhampton.
There was mention of a letter which Rex gave to the secretary but subsequently the secretary denied all knowledge of honorary membership and the existence of the letter. Rex was extremely angry. You would have thought that someone in the club would have known about his honorary membership. I’m sorry that it happened as the family had done a lot for the club over the years. It would be very good if something could be done to re-instate Rex’s honorary membership.