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Bridgewater Bowling Club Potted History

At a general meeting held in Whitchurch on 22nd April 1926 chaired by the local vicar to discuss the possibility of taking over the tennis courts and a bowling green, it became apparent that there were over 60 people interested in joining such an organisation. The meeting felt that this fully justified setting up a club and it should be called 'BRIDGEWATER BOWLING AND TENNIS CLUB'. The grounds would be rented for £18/year and £10 was set aside to buy the necessary equipment (mowers etc). The club would be open to anyone and the annual subscription would be 17s 6d (87p). A committee was formed and a groundsman was to be paid £1.50 for the first 2 weeks to get everything in shape and then they would be paid £1.00/week thereafter. 

After lots of hard work by many volunteers, the bowling green opened on 12th May 1926, and the tennis courts on 18th May 1926. Members were encouraged to bring guests along at a cost of 2p /afternoon or 3p/evening.

By the 1930's the tennis and bowling sections were thriving with over 100 members. 

1935 - 1953

At the start of 1935 the membership was split 73 tennis and 27 bowling, but despite this it was decided to invest some money in improving and expanding slightly the bowling green. The club organised a number of fundraising events to pay for this, and whist drives, dances, and a hot pot supper brought in £50 which allowed the work to go ahead. The two old club mowers were sold at the local cattle market for a total of £1.50 which went towards the purchase of a brand new mower at the cost of £3.00. The club advertised for a groundsman to look after the green and the 2 courts for which they would be paid £1.25 week... they had 14 applications.

In 1937 the club approved the work to commence building 2 hard courts.

During the war the club continued to thrive and membership rose to 110, excluding those that were on active service. The bowling and tennis club gained a reputation for organising great social events and the organised bi-monthly dances held at the Oddfellows Hall, which attracted 200 people each time.

In 1943 the then president (A S Hopley) kindly offered to provide the club with a new pavilion at the end of the war. It was to be called the 'Peace Pavilion'. The committee gratefully accepted this offer, and the brick pavilion was built after the end of the war.

In 1945 the club threw a wecome home party for members who had been serving in the war. The club membership rose to 164 and by now there was an equal split of tennis and bowling members. As there was still only one bowling green, one of the grass courts was used as a second green. For the first time in the bowling clubs history it realised its ambition of winning the league cup. The lease on the grounds was extended for another 10 years but by 1949 the committee was looking to purchase the land. After much negotiation a sum of £975 was agreed for the purchase of the land, and an 'anonymous' member offered to loan the club £600 at a 2.5% interest rate which was less than the banks.

After the purchase of the land, the club opened its doors for the first time on Sundays. Competitions were often run on a Sunday, but could not start before 1.00pm, so as not to interefere with the Church services.

By 1953 the club membership had topped 180 and they had some big expansion plans drawn up. This was to include 2 more tennis courts, and an additional bowling green. This would see the club with 2 bowling greens and 6 tennis courts, and was the biggest club in Whitchurch and the surrounding areas. Several working parties later and with a lot of hard work and input from the members, the new green and tennis courts were formally opened on Saturday 10th April 1954.

1955 - 1962

By 1956 2 new bowls teams had be formed the 'Harriers' led by Tom Harris and a third team which was to be known as the 'C' team. Fundraising continued at a pace to pay off the loan for the land, and an annual 'fete' was organised. Unfortunately by now the membership had reduced significantly to 88 and so the annual subscriptions were not enough to meet the loan payment terms, and so a New Years Eve dance was organised to be held in the town hall and open to all. It attracted over 250 people from Whitchurch and surrounding areas and kept the club solvent and enabled them to keep up the payments in the short term. In 1958 and in some financial difficulty, the club decided to advertise some of the club grounds for building work. The sale of a piece of land was agreed at £1175 - but unfortunately planning permission could not be agreed and the sale of the land fell through. A few lean years ensued for the club, but by 1962 the membership was back up again to 153 members  and the club was starting to thrive again. Both the 'A' team and the 'C' team won their divisions and the Harriers had finished 3rd. In fact the 'A' team continued to be the team to beat for the next few years, winning the first division for 6 successive seasons between 1960 and 1965. The club was as active in the community as it was on the bowling and tennis front, and as well as running whist drives, dances, they organised annual Xmas fairs for the town with Santa arriving on the train and then ferried on a tractor to the waiting crowds at the Town Hall. At its heights it is noted in the minutes, that a working party be organised to wrap 1500 Santa gifts for all the chidren that they were expecting!

1966 - 1993

In 1967 unfortunately the 'C' team had to withdraw from the bowling league as the membership was dwindling. Mr Hopley (son of AS Hopley - president for many years) wanted to present the club with something in memory of his father - he suggested a small pavilion in between to two bowling greens. A working party was convened to build the base and the 'Chalet' as it became known was put in place for the 1968 season and lasted for exactly 50 years before being replaced by the current pavilion in 2018 which was also donated by 2 long standing members. At the AGM on 29th March the club reported for the first time in 20 years that they had no debts, and they fnally owned the land.

By 1969 the bowling season was extending into darker nights and the club decided that floodlights would be a good move so they purchased 6 second hand telegraph poles to get the work started. Plans were drawn up but it wasnt until 1971 (when the club had raised the money) that the lights were finally put on the small green at a cost of £25. The big green followed 3 years later and we became one of the only clubs in the county with 2 floodlit greens

In 1976, the old tennis pavilion was pulled down, and the tennis section closed due to lack of members, and the club became known as BRIDGEWATER BOWLING CLUB. Membership for the bowling section continued to flourish and as such the 'C' team was resurrected and entered into the Whitchurch league again in 1978. As the Tennis club had folded serious discussions began over selling the land and planning permission was granted which would make the sale of land more attractive. After several aborted attempts to sell the land, Anchor Self Build Association put in a proposal in 1981.

2 years on and the land was still not sold, but on 28th March 1983 our then chairman Peter Williams gave the club the news it had been waiting for that the sale of the land had finally been agreed and the money was now with the solicitors awaiting release. The club was delighted but decided not to take the money until 6th April (new tax year) to give 12 months grace with Capital Gains Tax & a total of £29,087.73 (after expenses) was handed to the club.

Excited by the prospect of being able to finally get a club house that the club felt it deserved plans were drawn up and agreed and the clubhouse was built by one of our longstanding members Roger Bailey and was finally opened on 31st May 1986. This started a new chapter in the clubs history.


Nothing really exciting happened in the following years, and the club was thriving until one cold winters night and the outside temperature -6. The alarm at the club went off, and when our two intrepid explorers Ray Foster and Julian Willis went to investigate, they found the club completely flooded as a pipe had burst in the loft. The stop tap would not turn off and they had to go to the next one which was 100 yards down the road. Over the winter many volunteers worked really hard to reconstruct the club into the shape that it is today. Then in 2018-2019 the club had a new pavilion between the two greens replacing the old one that had been there for 50 years, and also new floodlights on both of the greens. The club now has excellent facilities that can be enjoyed by all.


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