Foxhills is a family business and a family club, offering locals and visitors a place to escape in Surrey. Just moments from the M3 and M25, a short drive from Heathrow and London, Foxhills is an oasis of tranquillity with the 19th century Manor House at the heart of the popular club and resort.
Since its early days as heath and woodland, owned by Chertsey Abbey in the Middle Ages, the land became part of the Botleys Park estate towards the end of the 17th century.
The mercurial 18th century politician Charles James Fox came to live in the area in the 1780s with his mistress and former courtesan Elizabeth Armistead. A brilliant young parliamentarian (MP for Midhurst aged just 19), Fox was a passionate orator with an appetite for gambling and the high life; he once made a wager with the Prince Regent as to the number of cats they would see on Bond Street, and survived a shot in his ample belly during a duel in Hyde Park, quipping he would have died had his opponent, William Adam, not used the government issued gunpowder.
A member of the Prince of Wales’ set, Fox never endeared himself to the establishment of George the Third. Neither did his intellectual support for revolutionary causes in France and America, nor his espousal of civil liberties and slave emancipation. When ill health struck, and gambling debts forced him out of London, Fox sought to restore his body and spirit in the peace of his country estate and company of his neighbour and friend Sir Joseph Mawbey at Botley Park. He returned to public life in 1801, before his death in 1806.
Sir Joseph did not long outlive Fox and estate broke up upon his death in 1817. His son-in-law, John Ivatt-Briscoe, bought the area then known as Fox’s Hill and France Farm. A successful lawyer and local MP, Ivatt-Briscoe commissioned the architect Basevi, cousin to Disraeli whose work included Ely Cathedral (Cambridge), to build the current Manor House. A prodigy of the great Classicist Sir John Soane, Basevi designed the Manor to reflect the spirit of the new Victorian age in its restrained charm and elegance.
As an MP, Ivatt-Briscoe was concerned with local issues, helping to found the Chertsey Agricultural Association, whose annual ploughing match is held to this day. His only national initiative was to campaign for the outlaw of the treadmill as a form of punishment!
In the 1870s, the estate was passed to a distant relative of Ivatt-Briscoe, General Hutton. A veteran of the Zulu and Boer wars, Hutton took an active role in parish life and invited the families of men who fell under his command to play in the grounds during their holidays.
After serving as a convalescent home for wounded officers during the Great War, the estate was sold to the Borthwicks, a successful merchant family in the 1920s. They ran the estate and farm in a manner unchanged since Ivatt-Briscoe, with a staff totalling 15 including a second chauffeur, Trevor Francis and third housemaid, Evelyn. Fraternisation amongst staff was not encouraged and when their relationship was discovered, she was forced to leave the estate. The couple subsequently married in 1940, and in 1990 returned to the Manor House to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
During the Second World War, the family energetically turned the farm – now the site of the Bernard Hunt golf course – over to the Dig for Victory campaign. By the 1960s, a gradual decline had set in and saw the estate sold before being turned into a golf club in 1975, owned by Aer Lingus and known as Foxhills.
Pam and Ian Hayton purchased the club in 1983, with their son Marc taking over as Managing Director in 2010. In addition to strengthening the Club’s reputation as a family-friendly leisure destination, Foxhills has expanded its sporting facilities far beyond a simple golf course to cater for the diverse interests of its members and visitors.
Today, Foxhills features two Championship golf courses, one par 3 course (the first of its kind in Britain), 70 bedrooms, three restaurants, eleven tennis courts, four squash courts, four swimming pools, an award-winning healthspa, conference and meeting facilities, and a weekly cycling club, capitalising on its status as official resort partner to the Aviva Tour of Britain and home to Team GB’s road race cycling team during the London 2012 Olympic Games.
With a growing membership and a strong reputation as a business and leisure destination, the love of food, wine and gracious living which Charles James Fox displayed in the 18th century lives on.