Viscount Cowdray was regarded as "the father of English polo" by the sport's followers, writes Sarah Dukes. Cowdray Park Polo Club was started in the year of his birth, 1910, and he took up the sport himself at the age of 17. At Christ Church, he continued to play polo for "The House". A year after coming down from Oxford the young John Pearson inherited the title and the estate from his father and Cowdray Park blossomed further as a centre for the enjoyment of polo.
In 1939 he led the British team as non-playing captain to the United States in an unsuccessful attempt to win the Westchester Cup from the Americans. During the war, the estate was requisitioned for various purposes, including the use of the polo fields for the planes of the Fleet Air Arm. The loss of his left arm at Dunkirk did not deter Cowdray from playing polo again. After the war he was determined to ensure that the game had a future in England, but also that he could continue to play it himself. The combined skills of his gunmakers, Purdey, and the Roehampton Centre produced an artificial limb that enabled him to play again.
In 1949, Cowdray led a team to the Argentine. The visit was an enormous success. It established England as an international force and prepared the way for the visits of many famous Argentinians to this country. In the 1950s the club attracted many of theworld's leading players and it continues. Cowdray's younger son, Charles Pearson, the current chairman of Cowdray Park Polo Club, has carried on the playing tradition, captaining the Cowdray Park team principally in medium- and high-goal.
But it is not as a player that the polo world will long remember John Cowdray but rather as the man who did more than any other to ensure the game's continuity and development after the war and through to the present day. He played a large part in the Hurlingham Polo Association as a Steward and Chairman for 56 years and then as President. The Cowdray Park Gold Cup, which he introduced in 1956, later took on the additional title of the British Open Championship, and remains the most cherished tournamentin England. The crowds that gather there this year will be testimony to the vision and determination he displayed in ensuring the future of polo, as are the many young players who take part in the annual Pony Club Polo Championships held at Cowdray Park.
Weetman John Churchill Pearson, businessman and landowner: born 27 February 1910; succeeded 1933 as third Viscount Cowdray; Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Under-Secretary of State for Air 1941-42; Steward and Chairman, Hurlingham Polo Association1947-67; chairman, S. Pearson & Son Ltd 1954-77, president, Pearson plc 1983-95; married 1939 Lady Anne Bridgeman (one son, two daughters; marriage dissolved 1950), 1953 Elizabeth Mather-Jackson (one son, two daughters); died Midhurst, West S ussex 19 January 1995.Reuse content