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This year is the centenary of Gillingham Bowling Club in Dorset. New signage and bunting will be hung, a history board sited, a donated weather vane and a commemorative plaque placed.

Last autumn, the green was stripped, levelled, seeded and tended with care over winter. This centenary year will be celebrated with a visit from Bowls England and officials when they challenge the club in a match on Saturday, May 13th. Dorset county players will be joining them on Wednesday May 24th. Spectators will be welcome at all matches. 

Gillingham BC will be holding our own celebration for all their members, past presidents, friends and business supporters with some entertainment from their local ukulele band and complimented with a splendid special tea party.

Gillingham Bowling Club was built in 1923 with a four-rink green. The members were local businessmen and the land was owned by Gillingham council. The initial cost to put down the green was £300 and included the necessary equipment. The initial 56 men paid £1.1s. membership and six ladies who as social members only paid 10s.6d. and helped with making teas. Fundraising was high on the list with only a small wooden building for a clubhouse. By 1950, the green was extended to six rinks and a new ‘second hand’ pavilion purchased. Ownership of the land changed to Gillingham Senior School and the bowls club negotiated a lease on the land.

Bowling and work, looking after the green, clubhouse and surround continued with all members taking on tasks and fundraising. By 1964, ladies were allowed to join and bowl – not just make the tea. Washing up facilities were installed, and later by 1969, a toilet block built at the end of the car park.

When GBC celebrated 50 years of bowling, they acquired a new lease, membership had risen steadily, the membership fees then were £10 for men and £7 for ladies. In 1981, Gillingham won the county cup for the first time. County games and leagues grew and ladies were given full voting rights. All through the years, new equipment was purchased, and improvements made.

A building fund raised the hopes for a new clubhouse and after much negotiating members won the freehold of the land. GBC management team put together a plan for a new building that would meet the lottery format. Members offered loans for a fixed period to show Sports England their commitment. An architect was employed, and a 100 Club opened to help raise funds. With success, the work started in 2000 with the nearly rotten clubhouse being demolished and the new clubhouse built with work completed in 2003.           

On August 14, the new clubhouse was officially opened. Sir Francis Drake Fellowship Touring side, David Bryant and Tony Allcock, English Bowling Association and 11 guests, including officials from DCBA and DCMBA and Gillingham School head were invited to the match with afternoon tea and cakes.

All members have worked hard with fundraising and the care and upkeep of the club which continues to this day. The club has remained strong through the years with over 100 members joining county leagues and players taking part in county and national competitions.

Gilligham BC look forward to welcoming new players at open days in May and through the season and invite all to Gillingham BC to try their hand at lawn bowls.

Helen Aylett.

Photographed: Club members are looking forward to the centenary


GET IN TOUCH Is your club celebrating a special occasion or anniversary? Have you got fixtures, events or parties to celebrate? The Bowls International team would love to hear from you. Please email ceris.hewlings@keypublishing.com