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Severalls Jubilee marks 100th anniversary

At the end of World War 1, Crewkerne, a small market town in Somerset, had many problems – a lack of adequate housing, recreational facilities, and major unemployment (writes Anne Bright, chairperson of Severalls Jubilee Bowls Club). This latter made more acute due to the large number of returning soldiers from the war. It also had a visionary town council, determined to provide recreational and leisure facilities โ€œas part of our efforts to keep alive the memory of our glorious deadโ€ (the town had lost more than 100 men to the war). A memorial was also planned.

An enormous amount of money was required, fundraising commenced, and plans were drawn up. Eventually a trust was set up, with land earmarked for housing, a memorial, tennis courts and a bowling green. The first sites selected for the tennis courts and green were found to be unsuitable, so they were re-sited to their current position opposite each other at the entrance to the new Severalls Park housing estate.

A group of unemployed men and ex-soldiers laboured long and hard for a minimal wage to clear the heavy, rocky land.

But steady progress was made. A grant for equipment and several sets of lignum woods were donated by the United Services Fund for use by the members. The green was finally ready for play.

Crewkerne Severalls Club was officially opened on May 5, 1923, by Mr E J Blake, chairman of the war memorial committee, the town Silver Band played afterwards. A match was played between Severalls Bowls Club and Crewkerne Town Bowls Club.

The green proved to be very popular, and street leagues were an integral part of the community. We still retain a trophy made from two lignum woods, showing the winners of the annual competition between the local streets.

In 1939, a new pavilion was erected, and the original old black hut remained on site until it was demolished to make way for the new toilet block.

Over the years, improvements were made to the clubโ€™s facilities, improving the pavilion and green, and the club remained popular until the 1960s, when membership and finances declined and the club closed.

However, in 1977, four club members negotiated with the town council to reform the club as a silver jubilee project. Only one rink was useable due to weeds, long grass and stinging nettles. The pavilion was in disrepair with a leaking roof. Volunteers were requested and eventually the green was restored, and the pavilion was repaired. Following the reforming of the club, Jubilee was added to its name. Membership slowly increased and by the mid-1980s membership was approximately 40.

In 1978, a few friendly matches were played, while a year later in 1979, the first fixture list was printed and the club has gone from strength to strength.

Severalls Jubilee Bowls Club was amongst the founding members of the Wessex Friendly League and has been successful as winners on a number of occasions.

A message from Dave Rees, president

I have been bowling at the club for over 40 years, along with several other long-term members, and I have been involved, with them in lots of the improvement, which have taken place. I am also the greenkeeper.

In the 1980s, several major improvements began. The kitchen was added to the side of the existing clubhouse and the front veranda was enclosed to increase the size of the club and the patio was laid. The wall that surrounds the playing area on all four sides was also built. The next large improvements to take place were during the 99/20 closed season. A factory in South Street in the town closed, and the wooden building used as their canteen was offered to the club. Roy Deveney and I were the members who led this project with help from four other members, Sheila, Prue Robbins, Ken Robbins and Graham Chant. We dismantled the building at the factory re-erecting it on our site. It was just an empty shell. The then spent all winter lining the walls and ceilings then partitioning it to create the changing rooms etc. Two or three years later, during the time Roy Hodder was a member, he led a team of us who fixed metal cladding over the whole building and the kitchen roof. In the mid-1990s, the clubhouse was extended on the side to create the bar area. In the years that followed, the sprinkler system was added. Both these projects were led by Roy Hodder. This work has been carried out by members only, over several closed seasons. The windows in the changing rooms came from my house when we had new ones fitted. Only the building of the toilet block has been contracted out. A new toilet block was erected with funding from members, the town council and Lottery Funding in 2009.

Severalls Jubilee Bowls Club is a friendly, welcoming club, with between 60-70 members, and has several new members. It embodies the spirit of a club being run by its members; all duties are undertaken by volunteers.

To celebrate our centenary, we had an internal bowls match with the opening and first wood being bowled by our Deputy Mayor. Prior to this, we had a group of local schoolchildren attending for some coaching. The match was followed by entertainment and a meal.

We also had a bowls match against Bowls England, one of only a couple in Somerset, once more to be followed by a meal and socialising.

Caption: Severalls Jubilee BC members are celebrating the clubโ€™s 100th anniversary