The following is a brief history of the club up to 1999 and was written by a club member to celebrate 75 years of bowling on our green.
AVON BOWLING CLUB ------ A BRIEF HISTORY
BY DOROTHY LAURENS
This year, 1999, the Avon Bowling Club celebrates seventy-five years of bowling on the green by the River Avon at Stratford. Many things have changed, especially the landscape, in those seventy-five years as the club has evolved but despite what the meteorologists say, little has changed when it comes to the weather.
In early June 1924 this neighbourhood suffered torrential downpours which swelled the rivers and flooded the fields from Charlecote to Stratford, even affecting Flower's Brewery and Joseph's factory on the Birmingham Road, as well as flushing pigs and poultry from smallholdings in Park Road.
The recreation meadow and the newly laid Bowling Green must also have been under water at this time but, nevertheless, on Thursday the 3rd July 1924, the official opening of the Avon Bowling Club took place with the Mayor, Alderman R.C. COX, captaining a team against Avon members. His Worship's side won the game by twenty-eight shots! An annual match is still played between a Mayor's team and Avon, commemorating this opening, and the club is proud that each current Mayor becomes our President.
It is fitting that the Avon Bowling Club should have kept its ties with the Mayor and the Corporation of the town, since the land is leased from the Town Council. Moreover it was the vision of Mayor Cox, Alderman Matthews, and other councillors which caused the green to be laid where it is, on what was to become one of the most beautiful bowling sites in England
In 1924, cattle and horses were allowed to graze on the recreation meadow, deterring residents and visitors from using it. Mayor Cox, particularly, wanted to make it a place where everyone could go to relax and play in peace and tranquillity. Providing a bowling-green was part of a much wider scheme for making the riverside fields an attraction for visitors. The estimated cost of the green at that time was about two hundred pounds, but inevitably unforeseen circumstances raised it to three hundred pounds.
The Mayor spearheaded the fund-raising by organising and advertising a dance to be held on February the 14th 1924 at the Hippodrome, which once stood on Wood Street The dance was a great success with one hundred and forty attending. Alderman Cox gave a short speech in which he encouraged the people of the town to join the bowling club and described the pleasure he received from the game However, in July of that year, not long after the opening, he wrote to the Stratford Herald and Warwickshire Advertiser, as it was then, asking its readers for financial support He received two generous offers of £25, provided the club was able to raise the remaining deficit of £100. This they did and the club has developed and thrived ever since.
In 1924 there were between thirty and forty members. Today there are seventy-two. The ground rent at the start was one pound and ten shillings, in pre-decimalised currency, and three pounds was paid for the lock-up sheds, a sum shared between the bowling club and the adjacent putting green.
By the year 1957 the club was still in rather a primitive state with no hedges, trees or flower beds, no paved paths, no electric lights or modern conveniences and no automatic watering systems or green maintenance during the winter months, all of which we have today. With the advent of the sixties, conditions were gradually improved, mainly by members themselves.
Electricity was installed in 1965 and flush toilets in 1967. Reading the minutes for these and subsequent years, one is struck by the energy, practical expertise, and generosity of time and labour which the members dedicated to improving standards.
Up to 1963 there is no record of ladies playing on the green at Avon Bowls Club but in October of that year one rink of four ladies bowled against one rink of four ladies from another unspecified club, the remaining five rinks being all men.
No formal dress was required and slips (so-called because they were slipped on over ordinary shoes) were often used, and most of the men wore flat caps.
In 1965 a new badge was designed and the men adopted as their uniform a navy blue or black blazer and a club tie which today has a maroon background with a blue and gold stripe. The ladies were invited to choose their own uniform but no record has been found of their choice. Today, they wear a most attractive maroon blazer with white top and a grey skirt except for certain matches when a white skirt is worn.
The first ladies' captain, Mrs Palk, was elected in 1966 and she had the dubious honour of sweeping out the clubhouse on a weekly basis and ensuring that a tea or supper was served for all home matches as well as performing her duties as captain of match selection, administration and leadership. 1966 was also the year when the ladies' section became affiliated to the Warwickshire Women's Bowling Association and the England Women's Bowling Association.
ABC increased in stature as a bowling club to be reckoned with in the late seventies and early eighties, when the men won the coveted Bush Cup three years running and the Waldron Cup and Payne Trophy twice in 1977 and 1978. The ladies succeeded in winning several important titles in the County Competitions. The green was in excellent condition; the hospitality almost legendary and the club was held in great esteem by its many and widespread visitors. Such a flowering of achievement was surely due to the enormous vitality and commitment of its membership and this energy and devotion is still apparent in the club today.
These qualities were put to the test in April 1998, when history, or rather weather, repeated itself and the waters once again flooded the club and the green with inches of silt, mud and debris. The task of restoration was a daunting one, but typically of Avon Bowling Club, plans were made, responsibilities shouldered, working parties organised, and by the end of May, the green was playable and the season got underway.
Unfortunately, this time the flood had damaged the clubhouse beyond economic repair and a new building was considered now essential The A.B.C. launched a rebuilding project to be more in keeping with the vision of the 1924 Town's Council to encourage local schools, other clubs, the disabled, and visitors to use the planned two all-weather rinks which were to be laid next to the existing green.
Recruitment for new members, both social and playing is being advertised, and fund raising projects are being prepared.
Mayor Cox and his Councillors would find it all quite familiar!