The land at Woodham, on which the New Zealand Golf Club now stands, was originally part of the great Royal Forest of Windsor, but by the end of the 18th Century it had reverted to open common land. Under the provisions of the Enclosure Act of 1815, the land was acquired by Peter, 7th Lord King (1778-1833), the great-grandson of Peter King, 1st Baron King of Ockham in the county of Surrey (1669-1734), the Lord Chancellor of England and himself the nephew of the great philosopher, John Locke (1632-1704).
When the 7th Lord King died, his second son, the Hon. Peter John Locke King (1811-1885) inherited vast tracts of land in Devon and Surrey – the latter including Brooklands House in Weybridge, built by his father in 1830, and the land at Woodham. In the early 1850s, when he built two cottages on the land at Woodham and required a name for the area, he called it ‘New Zealand’ to mark the family’s special links with the Colony during the preceding decade.
These special links were forged by Captain Henry King, R.N. (1783-1874) who, following his retirement from the Navy, organised a group of his fellow West Country-men to sail from Plymouth, Devon, to found the settlement of New Plymouth in the Taranaki District of New Zealand’s North Island in March 1841. Captain King was the leader of the Colonists and he served as High Commissioner and as Resident Magistrate for many years. He named his house and estate ‘Brooklands’ – an understandable sentimental reference to the King family house in far-away Weybridge, Surrey.
In 1860, when war between the Colonists and the Maoris of Taranaki broke out, Henry King and other settlers were forced to withdraw for some years into a fortified area of New Plymouth. King’s beloved ‘Brooklands’ was burnt to the ground and the gallant Captain suffered great personal loss when his son, William, an officer in the Taranaki Volunteers, was killed. When Captain King died, aged 91, in 1874, he left ‘Brooklands’ to the City Council and it survives to this day as the beautiful Brooklands Park, in the centre of New Plymouth.
Meanwhile, back in England, Peter the 7th Lord King had become an active member of the House of Lords, where his contemporary Robert Browne held the Parliamentary office of Gentlemen Usher of the Black Rod. In due time, Robert Browne’s son, Thomas (1805-1877), became General Sir Thomas Gore Browne K.C.M.G, C.B.E. and served as Governor General of New Zealand from 1855-1861. In that office, he had occasion to hold a number of meetings with Captain Henry King, one of whose functions was that of ‘Protector of Aborigines’. The King family’s link with New Zealand was further reinforced when, in 1884, Ethel Gore Browne, the former Governor’s daughter, married Hugh Fortescue Locke King (1848-1926), the grandson of Peter, 7th Lord King. The couple made their home at the family estate, Brooklands House, Weybridge.
Hugh Locke King inherited the family estate when his father died in 1885 and it was in 1893 that he engaged the famous amateur golfer, Samuel Mure Fergusson, to design and supervise the building and management of a private golf course on his land at Woodham. On its opening, on Saturday, 25th May 1895, the New Zealand Golf Club took its title from the name which, some 40 years earlier, had been given to the cottages and land on which the present-day Clubhouse stands.