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History of the Women Golfers' Museum

"At the Annual dinner of the Veteran Ladies' Golfing Association held in April 1938, a speaker urged the establishment of a Museum for the purpose of collecting and exhibiting objects relating to the origin and growth of women's golf. The scheme is now in the process of being organised."

This notice was circulated by the LGU to all clubs in 1938, and "the scheme" certainly took off… for when the Museum officially opened in the Lady Golfers Club, 3 Whitehall Court, in April 1939, it was judged a great success.

The first committee had as its President, Issette Pearson, and the first Chairman was Mabel Stringer, who was affectionately known as "Auntie Mabel" to her golfing friends. Ladies' Golf owes a lot to Aunty Mabel, she was the first female golf journalist, assistant secretary of the LGU; she founded the Girls’ Golfing Society and the Veteran Ladies' Golf Association. She was a born organiser, and knew everyone involved in Ladies Golf. Her enthusiasm would certainly have driven "the scheme" forward, and there would have been no doubt about its success with Aunty Mabel at the helm.

The list of her fellow committee members in the 1938 flyer from the LGU is a veritable Who's Who of famous Lady Golfers. Miss M.H. Benton, Mrs E.T Bolton, Miss Doris Chambers, Miss D.I. Clark, Mrs R.F. Garnham, Mrs Jessop Hulton, Mrs H.C. Rabbidge and Miss Cecil Leitch.

These Ladies and their friends donated antique golf clubs, golf balls, badges, trophies, books, photographs and other ephemera to the Museum.

Mr Hornsby, Managing Director of Whitehall Court, gave it a home in the Lady Golfers Club, which was the rendezvous for many women golfers, particularly those visiting London from overseas. During the 1939-45 war all exhibits were stored at Whitehall Court without the loss of a single item, and after the hostilities the Museum re-opened with "Auntie Mabel" as President, Cecil Leitch as Chairman and a newly elected Committee.

In 1961, a trust was formed to administer the Museum, consisting of three Trustees, Miss Cecil Leitch, Mrs Holloway and Mrs E.B. Spence. In that same year, the Lady Golfers Club amalgamated with the Golfers Club, and the Museum found a new home at No 2a Whitehall Court.

In 1968, the Museum was asked to vacate the Golfers Club, and the collection moved around various London Clubs, including the Devonshire and the Nineteenth. until finding a home in 1977 in the offices of the Colgate-Palmolive Company in Oxford Street. Colgate were great sponsors of Ladies' Golf at that time. It must have been a relief to the Trustees to have found a permanent home, where members of the public could view the collection without restrictions. Cecil Leitch said at the opening "It has always been my wish to make the Museum available to the widest number of people" but unfortunately the tenure was short-lived, and in 1980 the Museum was homeless again.

There was some talk of the collection being loaned abroad, but the Trustees, under the Chairmanship of Miss Maureen Millar, niece of Cecil Leitch, stepped in and arranged for it to go to the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh where it was on display from 1982 to 1984. Those who visited will remember the costumes, and in particular the outfit worn by Gloria Minoprio who shocked the golfing world by wearing trousers.

Since then the Women Golfers' Museum has remained in Scotland but the collection has been split with the display items e.g. clubs, balls, trophies, medals and costumes housed at the British Golf Museum at St Andrews whilst the books, photographs and other paper artefacts are now in the Special Collections Unit of the University of St Andrews Library. The latter were housed in the library of the Royal Museum of Scotland up until 2007.

Maureen Millar continued as Chairman of the Trustees until 2002, when Christine Watson took over for a short period before handing over the reins to Gillian Kirkwood, a past Chairman of the SLGA and LGU. John Pearson, a past Captain of the British Golf Collectors’ Society is Secretary and Dr Bridget Jackson MBE, Sue Timberlake, Dr Eve Soulsby, Christine Watson and Diane Bailey MBE make up the seven Trustees.

  This page published by Gillian Kirkwood