The History of Newport (Salop) Bowling Club
Newport Salop Bowling Club, founded in 1904, had its’ origins in the need for the shopkeepers, tradesmen and professionals of Newport to have an outside activity where they could meet and enjoy each others company with more going on than in the already established Literary Institute. A new road had recently been completed connecting Station Road with Audley Avenue in the hope that land either side would be built upon, as the farm land did not provide an adequate return at that time. John Carrier Brown was the driving force for development and change in Granville Avenue, having built the 8 semi detached villas known as Granville Villas in 1902 at a cost of £2,597.85 and now purchased land in Granville Avenue from the Marsh Trust in 1903 with a view to turning it into a Bowling Green, all at his own expense. Those interested in the game of Bowls attended a meeting in February 1904 in the Schoolroom in Avenue Road and Arthur John Davies, of Pooler Davies Auctioneers, was elected Chairman with a view to forming a Bowling Club. The land would be rented from John Carrier Brown but he would return the rent as his subscription to a newly formed Bowling Club.
At the first meeting of the newly formed Bowling Club Arthur Davies was elected President, John Carrier Brown was Vice President, Edgar Bennion, of Bennion and Horne in the High Street, was elected Treasurer and W T Wilson, Secretary. Other members of the committee were Mr G Ingram Muirhead (the builder of Granville Villas), Mr A R Walton, Mr G H Sidebottom (draper), Mr S Clegg and Mr W Bromfield (plumber and painter). Mr George Lewis was elected Captain and Mr J Ide (Master of the Workhouse) Vice Captain. The meeting set the rules and fixed the subscription at 10s 6p, or 7s 6p for those living over 5miles radius from the Club. There was an entrance fee of 10s 6p for new members after 1 year. The committee had high hopes of providing tennis and quoits but they never really caught the member’s imagination and also to including ladies but they had to wait until 1977 before they could become full members of the Bowling Club with voting rights and management responsibility.
The Bowling Club had 30 members and on Thursday afternoon 19th May 1904 the Green was opened without any formality. At 4pm there was a Captain versus Vice Captain match with the ladies seated on the Cricket Field side. The President provided additional woods for use by the novices. Tea was provided by Mrs Elkes of Elkes and Son (the High Street bakers) followed by a supper in a large marquee on the quoits ground.
Mr Arthur Davies provided a silver cup for competitions. The Presidents Bowl which was won on October 21st 1904 by Fred Keeling, 15-5, was followed by a supper at the Royal Victoria Hotel. At this time there was only one Green and that was a Flat Green and the players only played to 15. At the A.G.M in April 1905 the accounts showed a deficit of £44 but they had spent £80 on equipment and £38 for a pavilion. Mr John Carrier Brown was elected President and Mr W T Wilson Captain, as well as Secretary.
The land on which the Pavilion was erected, as distinct from the Bowling Green, belonged to the Marsh Trust and was rented at 10s per annum, whilst the Bowling Green was on land owned by Mr John Carrier Brown.The pavilion furniture was annually removed to the Literary Society for the winter months and brought back in the spring. An alcohol licence was obtained in 1911 but it was only for half of the year.In 1906 Mr John Carrier Brown became Secretary and it was in that year a small fire occurred in the pavilion.
|1906-1909 Col Sykes from Longford Hall|
|1910- 1911 Mr E M Webster of Lloyds Bank|
|1911-1912 Mr A J Hoole|
|1913-1914 Mr Beville Stainer M.P.|
|1915-1921 Mr R P Liddle (Liddle and Heane)|
|1922– Col JGB Borough|
In 1910 membership was 73 but this declined in the war years to 40. In 1915 gas was installed and paid for by Mr R P Liddle. The Greenage fee was 1p and in 1908 2582 games were played, which produced a profit for the year but it was not until 1911 that the Bowling Club could be said to be self supporting and they celebrated with a Dinner at the Barley Mow with Mr Underwood’s band, toasts and merriments.
In 1923 an ex army hut from Prees Heath costing £250 was purchased and erected. It was officially opened on September 22nd 1923 by Mr John Carrier Brown as the new Pavilion. By 1923 only 3 of the original 1904 members were left. The Bowling Green was owned by Mr John Carrier Brown but in 1931 he sold the land to the Bowling Club for £361 paid for by an overdraft. Mr John Carrier Brown died in 1932 aged 71 years.
In 1930 the Urban District Council absorbed the Marsh Trust which owned the strip of land on which the Pavilion stood and in 1949 the Urban District Council sold the strip of land to the Bowling Club for £100.A small piece of land was purchased from Mrs Glassey in 1972 on which was erected in 1973 a sectional building obtained from Lilleshall and this is still used today. The newly erected Pavilion was slowly improved so social events such as the Annual Dinner and Whist Drives could be held and a ping pong table was installed. However, the Bowling Club could not break even so subscriptions were increased, members paying their own expenses at matches and the value of prize money was reduced. The offices of Secretary and Treasurer were amalgamated and an honorarium given.
In 1927 there was still a deficit and subscriptions were increased to £1. 1s. 0d. but they did receive a free annual supper. Teams were often short or no team could be put out. In 1931 there were only 30 members rising to 70 in 1934 but members thought the subscription of £1. 5s. 0d too much. Two stalwarts were Tom Elkes, from the bakers and Ernest Wright, who ran the town hall garage and the cinema.
The Bowling Club continued throughout the Second World War when the pavilion was used as a fire watching post and prospered despite competitions being suspended, with membership of 70 in 1944. In 1945 membership reached 79, the Club was debt free for the first time with a surplus of £103. The playing surface was good through the work of George Barnett, who was steward and green keeper from 1943.
In July 1945 Ladies Day was revived and competitions were reinstated, the scratch cup, the handicap cup, the pairs and matches against Cannock. From 1945-1948 Joe Gough was President and in 1948 Charles Williams was secretary. By 1950 the Bowling Club had 120 members. In 1952 the Bowling Club was affiliated to the Shropshire County Bowling Association. In 1954 Jubilee Year the Jubilee Challenge Cup was inaugurated when Joe Gough was President and Jack Trevor Captain.
In 1968 ladies had not gained general admittance to Newport Bowling Club except on special occasions and on Tuesday evenings. The ladies were encouraged to play on the Green for one shilling one evening a week and this was open to any lady being introduced by a member. In 1971 Newport Bowling Club joined the Mid Shropshire League and visiting ladies from other clubs were present so it was agreed on 20th May 1971 at a Special General Meeting that ladies could become Ordinary Members of the Club and play Bowls on payment of 50% of the full membership fee but could not hold any Management position or vote. However, if just accompanying a member a fee of 10p per visit would be paid. Ladies had to wait until the A.G.M in February 1977 before they finally got equality with full voting rights and equality of subscription of £6 for full membership and £2 for social membership. Senior citizens paid £4.
In 1968 subscriptions were £1.50 and there was a need for improved floodlighting so was increased to £2 in 1969. The Cricket Club drive and car park was improved in 1969 initially by 50 tons of hardcore which was supplied, levelled and rolled at the Bowling Club’s expense on condition that the bowlers could use the Cricket Club car park. This is still the position today.
An application to join the Mid Shropshire Bowls League was made in 1970 and at a Special General Meeting on Thursday 24th September it was finally agreed to convert the No 2 Green into a Crown Green. The meeting was called to discuss and agree which Green would be made into a Crown Green. In order to facilitate the decision the current Flat Green, divided by a white line was, for the purposes of the resolutions, divided into the No 1 Green, being the Clubhouse end, and the No 2 Green the Audley Avenue end. It was on an amendment to the original proposition that was carried by 17 votes to 14 votes, with a number of abstentions, that the No 2 Green would be the first Green to be converted into a Crown Green. In the autumn of 1971 100-150 tons of good, garden soil from Sambrook was laid on an ash pad, together with additional soil from the Audco. The original turf from the Flat Green was reused together with new seed, where necessary, ready for the 1972 season. The cost was about £300 but a tremendous amount of work had been carried out by members and Mr Stokes in particular.
The official opening was on Friday 7th July 1972 by Mr K Leach C.B.E. Also, in 1971 gas was brought into the pavilion. The pavilion was modernised in 1970/71 at some considerable cost to the Club, namely £1,816, at a time when money was being spent on the construction of a Crown Green with ditches and paths and this necessitated a loan at 11% from Lloyds Bank. The new, revitalised pavilion was officially opened on Friday 26th May 1971 at 7pm by Bert Williams, ex England and Wolves goalkeeper. The Club now agreed to keep open this revitalised pavilion in the winter months on Fridays and Saturdays and the chairs were not removed to the Literary Institute. The Club entered a team in the Newport Domino League which played on a Friday and a dart board was erected.
In 1972 the small piece of land on which the shed and lean-to were erected was purchased for £1 but the total cost including solicitor’s fees was £6. This shed and lean-to was in need of repair to make it suitable but a Banbury concrete sectional building, 19’x11′,was for sale at Lilleshall for £41 and this was to become what we know today as the Garage. Members dismantled and re-erected this sectional building in the summer of 1973 replacing the shed and lean-to.
The Club entered two teams in the Mid Shropshire League. New floodlighting was installed to the Crown Green with new heavy duty cables at a cost of £418 with the help of members and the expertise of Walter Franke. Mrs S A Sandiford presented, on Ladies Day the first Sunday in July, a photograph of the original members when the Bowling Club was formed. By the end of 1973 the overdraft had been paid off. In 1974 Mr P Roberts and Mr G Worth were chosen to represent the Mid Shropshire Bowling League 2nd Division and on Ladies Day on Sunday 30th June 1974 there was a strawberry tea with 203 people attending.
1975 saw subscriptions raised to £3 with members over 65 years paying £2. The new porch entrance was built at a cost of £816 and the main room carpeted for £950. Ladies Day was for ladies only to play bowls and the men to mark their cards. The Butter family would present the silver Challenge Cup to be awarded annually to the winning lady. The inaugural winner was Mrs Irene Worth with the runner up Mrs Joan Morris. 224 strawberry teas were prepared that day. Winter opening in the winter of 1975 was increased to Thursday , Friday and Saturday evenings.
1976 saw members who had reached 80 years or who had 50 years membership granted honorary status. New floodlights were installed on the Flat Green. Mr Whitworth donated two solid silver cups , one of which was for the Annual Handicap Competition. Also a tubular steel barrier around the corners of the Flat Green on the Pavilion side was erected to protect the grass. Plans were being made by Mr Ray Butler for a new Bar storage area as the underground cellar was considered dangerous and damp but this needed planning permission. In addition plans were being prepared by Mr Ray Butler for the laying of the flagstones around the Pavilion together with a small retaining wall and a flat area to be covered with coloured flagstones. The work on the Bar Storage area was finally carried out in 1977 at a cost £1,042.80 and the Patio area at a cost of £544. Previously the Flat Green had been shortened by a yard and rails erected to stop people walking on the Green.
The winter opening of the Pavilion was extended in 1977 to Monday , Thursday , Friday and Saturday evenings. In 1977 there were 190 members comprising 110 full members, 31 senior members, 40 lady members and 8 honorary members and 2 honorary life members. A seat in memory of the late Tom Gough with a plaque was dedicated on the Good Friday opening of the Greens. 1978 saw the County game between Shropshire and Lancashire played at Newport on Sunday 6th August. It was agreed in 1978 that players under 18 years should pay a subscription of £2. It was agreed to convert the Flat Green (No1 Green) into a Crown Green and club ties were introduced. A home and away fixture with Cannock was played with the home tie on 20th July being the 50th Anniversary of that fixture.
The new Crown Green (No1 Green) was officially opened on Good Friday 1979 but was not used for matches until 1980 by which time the Club had introduced gold blazer badges as well as ties. The cost of converting the Flat Green to a Crown Green was £1,700+V.A.T. The away members rule for members residing over 20 miles from the Club was introduced in 1979 and Mr Ray Butler became Chairman of the Mid Shropshire Bowls Association and subsequently Deputy President of Newport Bowling Club In 1980 a youngster Alan Davidson (12) was mentioned in the Hon Secretary’s report to the A.G.M as a star in the making. How right he was, as this youngster would become the backbone of the Newport Premier team, County player and County merit winner. Also in 1980 Newport joined the Market Drayton League. At a meeting in March 1980 in order to spread responsibilities the following sub committees were set up , Bar Committee which included Ben Evans, a Bowling Committee which included Eric Lightwood as Chairman, a Greens Committee including Mr G F Worth and a House Committee including Mr Ray Butler.
In order to facilitate afternoon games and practices use of the Pavilion would be made available by fitting a Yale lock to the door by the Cricket field and 6 keys cut to be loaned to members for a £1 deposit. At this time Newport Cricket Club members could use the Bowling Club Pavilion on payment of a £1 fee which was the same as the Cricket Club had for Bowling Club members who attended the Cricket Club. There always seemed to be a strong bond between the Cricket and Bowling Clubs over the years, with help and advice freely given between the Clubs. It was also resolved that 3 honorary lady members be accepted, widows of past presidents, namely Mrs Tom Gough, Mrs Edith Adams and Mrs George Gray.
Dry rot was eliminated from the cellar, bar, kitchen and toilets. In 1981 a complaints and suggestions book was made available and displayed in the Pavilion. Newport Bowling Club was chosen for the prelim round of the Midland Masters on the 5th July 1981. By 1981 the Mid Shropshire League consisted of 6 divisions and the playing fees increased to include prize money for the 1ST, 2ND and 3RD in each division. It was also suggested that Newport Bowling Club players should pay a contribution on top of these fees to help Club funds for maintaining the Greens. A special meeting was called on Thursday 9th April 1981 when members stood in silence for a short while out of respect for the late Secretary/Treasurer Mr R Butter who passed away suddenly on Tuesday 31st March . He had been the most efficient Secretary/Treasurer for 21 years. It was now resolved to split the functions of Secretary and Treasurer into separate posts. Mr Anderson became Secretary and Mr Ray Butler Treasurer. A commemorative board recording past Presidents, Secretaries and Captains and suitably engraved was purchased in his memory for display in the Pavilion . This was sited on the end wall and necessitated the door on the Cricket Club side being filled in. The No 1 Green was kept open for the winter with competitions played on a Sunday afternoon.
Today the Pavilion is a modern Club House, a large comfortable building with a bar and seating for 80 people. The Green which was once a large Flat Green, divided by a white line, is now two excellent Crown Greens voted in 2009 by the Shropshire Playing Fields Association as the best playing surface in the County. The Greens are now mowed in the playing season every weekday, not twice a week which was adequate years ago.
Membership in 2010 was 180 with a much wider social background and a greater age range than at any time in its history and the Club was also voted by the Shropshire Playing Fields Association as the Best Club in Shropshire in that year. Today, under the guidance of the Treasurer Mr Bill Titley, the Club House boasts a modern kitchen, toilets and disabled facilities. Women no longer attend only once a year or to make the teas. They play in their own leagues as well playing in the Mid Shropshire League alongside their male colleagues. The Shropshire Premier Bowling League was formed in 1994 to encourage better bowling in the County. The aim was for Shropshire to win the Crossfield Cup as County Champions and this Shropshire did in 2009 and that team included a number of Newport bowlers. A Newport team had joined the Premier League in 2004 by defeating Battlefield B C in the play-offs the previous October after being crowned Mid Shropshire Division 1 Champions at the end of September 2003. Newport now regularly has men and ladies representing their County. In the 2011 outdoor bowling season the Club now boasts 16 teams in a variety of leagues and playing most nights and some afternoons, as well as 4 teams in the indoor Short Mat Wrekin League in the winter months.
The Newport (Salop) Bowling club has come a long way in 107 years from frugal beginnings to being recognised as one of the foremost bowling clubs in Shropshire with a Lady President, Mrs Mary Gough and a progressive attitude for youth development under the guidance of Mr Peter Carter. Crown Green bowling has become much more competitive with much advice provided from the sidelines but at its grass root level it is still a leisurely past time for a summer afternoon or evening over a quiet drink as envisaged by John Carrier Brown all those years ago.
Bill Titley F.C.A Hon Treasurer May 2011