The membership fee was set for men at five guineas and at three guineas for ladies, with no entrance fee. To put that into today’s terms, that is approximately the equivalent of a membership fee of £100 for the men– no wonder the Club soon got into financial difficulties despite the very rapid early growth in its membership!
Particularly surprising is how little change occurred in fees for the next forty years! They reached ten guineas in 1928; were reduced to seven guineas in 1933 when membership numbers were very depleted and only recovered to ten guineas in 1946! The growth in joining fees was hardly more enterprising! For a brief period in 1919 they were raised to 10 guineas, then removed altogether and, with various fluctuations up and down, only reached ten guineas again in 1962 – forty three years later! Membership shortage was of regular concern during most of the first fifty years of the Club’s existence, yet despite various attempts, it was never proved that reducing joining fees significantly helped recruitment.
Membership in 1911
It is clear that from the very start it was not just a club for gentlemen – it was a Ladies’ club too. Founder members included Mrs H H Asquith, the Prime Minister’s wife, and Miss Violet Asquith. Of the 477 members recorded in 1919 as being or having been members, 155 were female, including eight titled ladies – the Countess de la Warr and the Ladies Wild, Benn, Ferrier, Kirby, Hamilton, Finlay and Northcote. It is interesting to note that from the very start the ladies of Harewood Downs had full voting rights, even if they were outnumbered!
Nearly all the founder members were from London, with Mayfair being a speciality! Only a handful was local. By that time the proportion of local members had risen considerably, although nearly two thirds of the membership still came from London.
As the Club was started to take advantage of the railway coming through Little Chalfont, it was important that arrangements were made to collect members from the trains and deliver them back. Right through into the mid-twenties the Club’s fixture list included the times of all the “up” and “down” trains, with the caption underneath reading “Conveyances will meet all trains”.