Chesham Celebrate Centenary

In 2012, Chesham Bowling Club celebrated its centenary. Here is a history of the club…

HISTORY

The founding meeting of the club was held on Saturday, March 9th 1912, at the Crown Hotel, situated in Market Square. For its first season, the club took up the offer of the local baker to use his private lawn on certain evenings and Saturdays.

Mr. W. F. Lowndes, local squire and landowner, became President and remained so until his death in 1956. One of the Club’s first activities was to organise a bowling tournament at the Grand Bazaar held in aid of church schools in the grounds of Mr Lowndes’ estate on Thursday, June 27th 1912, with prizes donated by club members.

GOOD RESPONSE

The club proved so successful in its first season that it was imperative to find a green of its own. Thanks to the support and generosity of Mr Lowndes, it moved to its current site in what is now Lowndes Park in time for the 1913 season at a rent of £2 per annum. That season there were 84 members paying a subscription of 10/- per annum, and the club also joined the EBA that year.

This site was known as the ‘Level,’ having formerly been the lawn of an ancient Manor House which had been demolished in the early 1800s. The old lawn, which was big enough for four rinks, proved to be far from level and needed a lot of attention in the early years. It was extended to six rinks in the late 1920s and relaid with Cumberland turf in 1932.

On the occasion of the green’s opening in 1913 and when it was relaid with Cumberland turf, Mr Lowndes was presented with an inscribed silver jack in recognition of his generosity. Many years later these jacks were returned by the Lowndes family to the club and are now on display in the pavilion.

THE ‘BOWLS HOUSE’

The Club’s accounts show that its ‘bowls house’ was purchased for 15 guineas from a Mr Rose, proprietor of Canada Works, a local company who manufactured portable buildings and poultry houses. A new pavilion was built in 1939 and the club acquired the freehold of the extended site in 1947. There have been a number of changes to the pavilion since, culminating in a major refurbishment and extension between 2006 and 2008 at a cost of over £50,000 with all the work being done by the members. As a result the club can now offer the increasingly popular short-mat bowls in winter as well as outdoor lawn bowls in summer.

A ladies section was formed in 1965 and the Club became a fully integrated mixed club in 2000. Since 1990 blind bowlers have played on the green on Wednesday mornings during the season. This led to the formation of the Chesham Pioneers and one of its members, Sarah Marshall, won the Ladies B1 (totally blind) National Singles Championship in 2011.

WELL-KNOWN PLAYERS

Over the years the club has had a number of famous players, including Dick Goodson who won the EBA National singles championship in 1936 at the age of 31, and went on to represent England from 1937-1939, and in 1946. The club holds his scrapbook which contains many telegrams and letters of congratulation from which is it apparent that the later stages of the competition were broadcast on national radio. John Coles, a member from 1947 until his death in 1972, was President of the E.B.A in 1958. He also skipped the fours and was Captain of the England team in the British Empire Games in Canada in 1954.

Other notable successes include winning the National Double Fours competition in 1980, and winning all four men’s major county titles in 1975, split between six players. More recently there have been successes at national level with Roy and Pat Rodgers winning the Mixed Pairs title in 2003 and the ladies winning the National Top Club trophy in 2007. Pat is the only lady member to win international honours playing for England in 2002-2003. In addition Sue Springell won the national over 55 singles title in 2001, and, with Brenda Thomas, the National Over 55 pairs title in 2008. Furthermore, Sue came runner-up in the over 55 singles this year. The club also has its own international umpire in Ray Keen, who officiated at the Commonwealth Games in India last year and is due to attend the World Bowls championships in Australia later this year.

RAISING MONEY FOR CHARITY

Each year the club supports a chosen local charity though donations and collections after matches. This year’s charity is Bank Farm Riding for the Disabled for which a total of £2,100 has so far been raised.

The Club continues to thrive with a current playing membership of around 80 men and 45 ladies, with members of all ages ranging from youngsters aged 10 to veterans over 90.

THE RETURN OF THE LOWNDES FAMILY

Included in thecCentenary celebrations was a visit of Peter Lowndes, grandson of William Lowndes, the club’s benefactor. Peter Lowndes is a senior figure in the Masonic movement and he brought with him a team of Masonic bowlers from Buckinghamshire, Sussex, Cambridgeshire and Berkshire. During his speech Mr. Lowndes jokingly commented that over the years his family had only received £350 from the club, so he thought that the members had got a good deal!

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