‘Bloody-minded’ countess tried to shut Royals’ favourite polo club: Earl of Bathurst tells of battle to stop his late step-mother cancelling Cirencester Park matches in favour of ‘gentlemen’s weekend’ events after father’s death
A late Dowager Countess who tried to close the Royals’ favourite polo club was being ‘bloody-minded’, her stepson has claimed.
Dowager Countess Bathurst Gloria Clarry attempted to revoke the licence of Cirencester Park Polo Club after her husband died in 2011.
She owned 3,000 acres of land that included the polo park clubhouse and an access road and threatened to end over a hundred years of sport there.
It was only after the trustees of the 8th Earl Bathurst’s estate overruled her that the club’s future was secured.
Cirencester Park Polo Club was beloved by Princess Diana as well Prince Charles and their sons William and Harry.
Until now it had been thought the countess had relented on the licence herself.
The late Dowager Countess Bathurst Gloria Clarry tried to shut Cirencester Park Club in 2011
Cirencester Park Polo Club is a Royal favourite and frequented by William and Harry
The trustees of the 8th Earl Bathurst’s estate overruled her and the club was reinstated again
Speaking to Tatler magazine, her stepson the 9th Earl Bathurst Allen Bathurst, 60, said: ‘To be honest, she was just bloody-minded.
‘The club was on a licence from year to year. Then, a month after my father died, she was theoretically in charge and she said, ‘No, there will be no licence.’ I’m not even sure why.
‘Luckily, we had managed to get a lot of my father’s land into a trust and the trustees said, ‘Why on earth aren’t you letting this go ahead?’ and forced her hand, and that annoyed her even more.
‘We have been able to take the reins off, as it were, so the clubhouse has undergone a huge transformation, and with so much buzz and excitement around it, it’s somewhere you want to be.’
Allen Bathurst, who is the current Earl, said he and his stepmother ‘did not see eye to eye’
Lord Bathurst 8th Earl Bathurst Henry Allen died in 2011, which sparked the club chaos
A club fit for royalty
The Polo Club was founded back in 1894 by the Seventh Earl Bathurst.
The Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, was the first member of the Royal Family to play Polo at Cirencester Park in the 1920s.
It has ten match grounds, whose names include Ivy Lodge, Peddington, Meadows, Sweethills, Coombe Farm, Savannah, Soushi and Upper Field.
The Dowager Countess died in 2018, aged 90, which sparked a Christie’s auction of heirlooms that fetched some £1.8million.
When the dispute over the club first emerged a former chairman of it claimed her opposition to it was over the commercialisation of the sport.
She apparently wanted it to become somewhere where ‘gentlemen’s weekend’ matches were held.
It was not the first incident of the countess rubbing people up the wrong way.
The local hospital car park also fell foul of her after she refused to renew the lease there as well.
When she died she left £33million of money she had inherited to two of her friends.
The Earl added to the magazine of the club: ‘It has not made money for a great number of years.
‘My father in particular, the farming didn’t work for him, which is one of the reasons I came back and took over the farms.
Prince Harry and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales take part in the Ronnie Wallace Memorial Trophy charity polo match for the Hunt Staff Benefit Society at Cirencester Park Polo Club
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a white blouse, kiss during a polo match at Cirencester Park Polo Club back in June 1985
‘We had crippling death duties following the war – it devastated things for us.
‘It sounds like a long time ago, but actually 60 years in the history of an estate like this is nothing, and we were really struggling.
‘Bits have been sold off, bits have been added, there is much more of a commercial attitude being taken now than previously.’