Polo, the ‘sport of kings’, was introduced to the UK by the army from India in the 19th century. The game grew in popularity, mainly amongst military units, but by the start of the 20th century, it had spread beyond the army into civilian life.
William Riley-Smith, who was born in 1890, provided the inspiration to set up Toulston Polo Club and although a match was recorded back in 1893, the first official match took place here on 28th April 1913.
The Riley-Smith family lived at Toulston Lodge and owned the John Smith brewery at Tadcaster.
William’s brother Douglas inherited the club in 1954 and kept it until 1979. Douglas was a polo fanatic and was Chairman of the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA).
In 1980, Christine and Jim Haigh acquired the ground and purchased adjoining land to make a second polo pitch which came into use in 1992.
The Haigh family relaxed restrictions adopted by the Riley-Smiths’ (one of which was membership by invitation only) and the club now welcomes and encourages new members.
The Club and ground remain in the ownership of the Haigh Family and in 2012, the HPA gave Jim Haigh a Lifetime Achievement Award for services to polo. In 2013, the Club celebrated its centenary and published a book to which all present, and many former members contributed. The book is available on match days for £10, or by calling 01422 372529.
The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry, playing at Toulston in 1955 (With the kind permission of the Durham Light Infantry Association)
Spectators at the pavillion in 1914 (With the kind permission of Hamish Riley-Smith)
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