Was Chaplin in the money at the Barbury golf course?

By 1929, Chaplin’s salary was £50,000 a year – enough to buy most of Waterville’s houses

What went on at this great golf course on the shore of Lake Fylde? Maybe a strange feeling on foot, and what the German official thought of owning this sort of place.

“It is too obscure for uninitiated travellers, and the chatter inevitably centers on golfing pictures such as I took. I want to avoid criticism which might be taken by others as unfavorable to a private owner in Germany.” That was the parting shot of Walter Wukies, the man who pushed through the original approval to the Barbury golf course in Derbyshire, turning it into what is today Waterville Golf Club in West Lancashire.

Did Chaplin really belong? I don’t think so. It was actually a mental “debate”, or a simple misunderstanding of what happened the year before, and it has now been thoroughly researched.

Following the separation from Berlin in 1918, the members had decided that the best way of assuring their own security was to remain in one place, and with Fylde, from a distance of many miles, providing a safety net against the East. On the evening of 29 October, 1928, with about 20 acres of land to run (and with large greenhouses to run as well), and no power, water or sewerage supply, Mr Wukies decided that a property on the lake would be the best way of securing permanent residence, and of securing the future of the golf course.

Photo courtesy of Ian Thaxter-Wilson On the road to Waterville, the Marvellous Mouse shows a man at the moment of his funeral

Over a weekend of the following September, a brochure was passed around a group of the club members explaining that a small part of the property might be auctioned, so that the club members could buy the lot. In fact, as it turns out, at the time, it was more a necessity, with one of the largest areas of land in Fylde available not for sale. The price had been much reduced to about £15,000 to enable the sale to be put forward.

On Saturday morning, September 30, 1928, the members assembled at the club house and submitted sealed bids in the bargain. There was general confusion as to who would be bidding – Mr Wukies was said to be in Malta at the time. So it was by accident that the member who was next to the check-in desk was the one who was bidding. He suggested that “The Great Chaplin” of motion pictures, Philistines’ creed, and the future Chairman of the Barbour Housing Committee should take his place.

Not exactly a character from a 16th century comedy. The property was sold in about two hours, Mr Wukies being barred from ever entering the club house again, as well as the land beneath the club house.

Fittingly, the proceedings in the club house were conducted in Latin, though next time Chaplin had that simple gold Celtic cross he could have better understood the veracity of the sentence. Mr Wukies did, however, go on to find himself the very owner of a large tract of land by the Bamburgh Castle on the cliffs of Fylde.

Go to go to Waterville this weekend, September 28-30. Then in 2019, when you’ll finally get a chance to pitch a tent and play a round of golf for just £5 a player.

Image via InFell & Board at Wildscot

Leave a Comment