With the war in Europe over, things slowly started to get back to normal.
The club had a full fixture list which included Beeston (Nottingham), Northampton Transport, Leicester, and Tally Ho (Birmingham), many of the Coventry and Rugby clubs, as well as our local clubs, Avenue and Lillington. We were victorious in about 75% of these games, won the Ivens cup and beat Ebbw Vale away. The club’s Under 60’s beat the Over 60’s in the annual challenge match.
The Leamington Open Tournament had an entry list of 232, and for the first time, with the full support of the Town Council, the Leamington Ladies Open Tournament was held at Victoria Park.
At the Annual Dinner, the County representative appealed for the encouragement of younger players and suggested that men returning from the war should be encouraged to take up the game.
The Welsh connection continued and Brynhyfryd were beaten at home. After the game the Mayor entertained the party at an official reception in the Town Hall. However the club lost later in the season to the Glamorgan tourists, and also lost away to Barry.
Results were similar to the previous season and an interesting feature of the match against Leicester & District was that in addition to the 6 rinks played, the Ladies also put out two rinks, although there was still no Ladies section.
The club was delighted that C D Billington from the Avenue club received his first call up for England after having had two trials in the past, a great honour for the town. He originally played for Leamington and in the late 1920’s had won the Club Handicap event on two occasions before transferring his allegiances.
It was a very good season, and as a flourishing club it was becoming recognised as one of the best in the county. The ladies played a very big part in the success by providing refreshments throughout the season and it was the hope of many that a Ladies section would soon be formed as many of them were already bowling.
Despite this excellent atmosphere, results were a little disappointing. There was a further appeal for more members to make themselves available for Saturday games but it was most encouraging that there had been over 300 entries for club competitions.
The greens were in very good condition and at the Annual Dinner, which was held in the pavilion, a presentation was made to W Bayliss, the green-keeper, in recognition of his efforts.
All eyes were now fixed on the provision of a fourth green, but there was considerable prevarication in the Council Chamber and it was becoming very much a political issue. One suggestion was that the £1400 set aside could be reduced by using direct labour instead of professionals for the laying of it. This did not go down very well!!
W J Haynes was elected as President of the Warwickshire Bowling Association, the second Leamington man to be so honoured. He must have been delighted when both the winners and the runners-up in the county fours were from his club. Unfortunately neither of them got beyond the quarter final stages when they attended the National Championships.
This was one of the most successful seasons of the club to date. On a tour to South Wales in June, 4 of the 6 games were won, and they were entertained at Civic Receptions at Cardiff, Pontypridd, and Porthcawl. In one weekend during August, 4 matches were played – 3 at home and one away, and three of them were won. Permission had been received from the Council to play one match on a Sunday against a touring side from London. Membership stood at 131.
With the prospect of a Ladies section being formed the following season it was agreed that they should affiliate to the County Ladies Bowling Association. Meanwhile they had played one match at home against Leamington Police and had won by 7 shots – a very good omen.
At the Annual Dinner of the County Bowling Association held at Leamington Town Hall, it was stated that the greens in Victoria Park were, without doubt, some of the finest in the country. The Mayor, Councillor Bill Wallsgrove, said: ‘Not only the Leamington bowling clubs, but the town itself will not be content until we have a National Championship in the town’. It is doubtful if he ever thought that it would be the Ladies who came!
Alderman Salt was a huge supporter of bowls and had contributed much to the development of the greens.
At the start of the year a huge furore broke out in the Council Chamber over the decision of Alderman Salt, chairman of the Parks & Gardens Committee, to give instructions for the work to start on the laying of the fourth green. He had interpreted the various discussions, proposals, and counter-proposals over recent months to mean that the council had approved the decision to go ahead, but this was not so and he was accused of all sorts of misbehaviour.
The Council immediately stopped the work and there were calls for his resignation. Once more it appeared to develop into a political wrangle, with many of his supporters believing that it was a genuine misunderstanding. It caused a lot of bad feeling and eventually Alderman Salt was replaced as chairman of the committee.
Several letters were written to the local paper on the subject. Many of them criticised Councillor Baxter, the leading and extremely vociferous objector, who thought that the fourth green was unnecessary. It transpired from this correspondence that he was a bowler himself, sat on the Open Bowls Tournament Committee, and was a member of another club in the town!
In February, the Parks Superintendant submitted a new layout plan for Victoria Park, and this included the completion of the green. It was not until August that it was actually finished, and the public were allowed to use it while the Open Tournament was on.
Tourists went to North Devon and during the season 19 matches were won with a loss of seven. Visiting sides included London Grasshoppers and Pontypridd.
Season tickets were now in use and match fees were fixed at four shillings, both home and away, with coaches being used for all away games.
Most importantly, the Ladies Section was formed, but there are no results available for the games played at this time.
Twice during the season, two teams were put out on the same day, and on one of these the club also had a party of 32 players on tour in Cornwall.
Many applications were being received from touring sides wishing to visit, and the ‘local’ fixture list now included sides from further afield. Evesham and Nailsworth (Gloucestershire) appeared on the list, as well as Cheltenham and Northampton. There was also a return visit to Grasshoppers in London. Of the 34 matches played, 25 were won, 8 lost, with 1 abandoned.
The Ladies Open Tournament was now attracting over 200 entries and all four greens were being used.
‘D’ green was now well established, and an article in a national magazine, congratulated George Ingle, the Parks & Gardens Superintendant, on it. Thanks to the good work of the staff, the playing surface was first class.
The club was now hosting county games on a regular basis and this year welcomed Buckinghamshire.
At the beginning of the season the Avenue club suggested that all matches should be played as three-wood triples over 18 ends, thus allowing the players more bowls during the course of the game. It was also mentioned that this did away with the need for rinks to carry ‘rabbits’ at No. 2. Other clubs in the area did not take this up, and although Avenue did play a few games in this way, one of them against Leamington in May, by the end of the season practically all games had reverted to rinks.
In September the death occurred of Alderman Rowland Salt, one of the most enthusiastic and active bowlers who worked tirelessly on the council to advance the game of bowls in the town, often incurring considerable wrath amongst some of his fellow councillors. He had been the driving force behind the setting up of both Open Tournaments, and it was these events that had helped to improve the facilities that were enjoyed by all.
It was decided that ‘whites’ would be worn by everyone for all Saturday games in the future, and that match fees be reduced by a shilling.
At the Annual Dinner, several speakers spoke on the subject of getting national and international matches to the town. The county representative on the EBA in reply openly stated that it was his desire to bring some of them here and he felt that the facilities offered were equal to anywhere in the country. He queried whether there was sufficient hotel accommodation in the area for the number of people that such events would attract.
For the first time, a Bowlers Thanksgiving Service was held in Spencer Street Church for people from all the clubs in the town.
At last financial arrangements were agreed with the Council and at the commencement of the season the club agreed to pay them £150 for the use of 9 rinks per day.
This was to be a year of celebration and the club sought permission to purchase and erect a flagpole. This was granted, but then came the question of a suitable flag. Finally one was commissioned to be made, 6ft x 4ft, with the club crest (taken from the town crest) on it and the letters R L S B C in gold, the whole on a royal blue background. No mention can be found why the word Royal was added to Leamington Spa Bowling Club, so it can only be assumed that it was in recognition of the coronation.
The results for the season were very good with most of the games being won, and a number of Leamington players were now featuring strongly in the county side on a regular basis.
The Ladies were becoming a strong force within the club, particularly with the catering that they were doing both for matches and for the tournaments. The Treasurer stated that were it not for their efforts subscriptions would definitely have to be increased.
Equally on the greens they were making an impact. They again beat the Leamington Police and their fixture list included home and away games against Nuneaton, Gosford Park, Civil Service (Birmingham) and Avenue. The Chairman of the Ladies section, Mrs Maycock, had been the first President of The Ladies Open Tournament. Three ladies, Mrs Rose, Mrs Hammond and Mrs Batterby, had already represented the county.
The Ladies’ coronation event took the form of a mixed triples competition and they invited the men to join them. This proved a great success and became an annual event, and in later years the trophy donated by the Hooper family was put to this competition.
Mrs Rose was invited to speak about catering at a committee meeting and in consequence a Catering Committee was formed consisting of three men and three ladies. The Club Chairman, Bill Imrie presented a shield for competition amongst the ladies, and it was agreed that from 1955 onwards, the ladies’ competition trophies would be presented at the Annual Dinner as well as the men’s.
Publicity for bowls was very poor in the local paper this year with little coverage for any clubs.
It was decided that in future fixtures would not be played against clubs who could only field four rinks.
For the first time it was decided to have a signing-on evening in 1955, and to encourage attendance this was to be at The Cricketers Arms.
A club tie was produced by Lol Hooper and most members immediately purchased one. This was just as well because the following season it became part of the required dress for all matches. Our ladies continued the tradition of beating Leamington Police, but unfortunately there had been a down-turn in the condition of the greens. After the Open Tournaments the Sports Editor of the local paper wrote a leading article about it and said that the future of these events looked to be in doubt.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the Tournaments, it was decided at the AGM to increase the subscription the following year to £2-5-0d, for without the income derived from the catering at these events the club would be in deficit.
It was also agreed that 4 rinks should be booked at Rugby Indoor Bowling Club on the 1st Thursday of every month during the winter
An upturn in fortunes saw a big improvement on the playing side, and of the 32 games played, 22 were won with only 10 losses. The tour party visited the Hastings area, winning 2, losing 2, with the remaining fixture drawn.
After the success with the club tie, Lol Hooper turned his attentions to a blazer badge which was introduced for the first time during the season.
The greens remained an enigma, despite hard work by the green-keeper and this was reflected in a big drop in entries for both the Men’s and the Ladies’ Tournaments, and it was being suggested that it was not a viable proposition to keep the Ladies’ Tournament going.
The subscriptions remained as before, but a concession was made to pensioners, allowing them to pay only £ 2-0-0d. In addition to the indoor bowling at Rugby, 6 Saturdays were to be booked at Banbury Indoor Bowling Club for matches during the coming winter.
To improve the facilities new tables were needed in the pavilion, and it was decided to run a sweepstake to try to raise the necessary cash. By the end of the year, this showed a profit of £32, but as the quote for the tables came to £98 the decision was made to use the money for purchasing rink scoreboards instead, the cost of which was £28.
Despite previous reservations, the organising committees decided to go ahead with both Open Tournaments and this helped the club in that the catering for the year again made a healthy profit.
A number of indoor matches were played at Banbury and a Leamington rink won the Banbury Indoor league.
With the Jubilee year of the club approaching, provisions were being made for the various celebrations and fixtures.
To cover some of the costs arrangements were made for a tote to be run. By the end of the season this had produced on average about £5 per week, amassing a total of £150.
The council were at last realising that the club was as important to them as they were to the club, and they opened negotiations to enter into a formal agreement. Needless to say this produced a number of sticking points, and several meetings were held before it was finally signed. One of the stipulations of the council was that the club took out insurance for third party liability and having reached a reasonably amicable arrangement the club had no hesitation in writing a diplomatic letter to the council requesting that the outside of the pavilion be painted in time for the Jubilee celebrations.
Other expenditures during the season included the purchase of special enamel Jubilee badges, and a donation was also made to the Ladies Open Tournament which was running in deficit.
During the Men's Open Tournament, the Sports Editor of the local paper, who three years earlier had criticised the greens, felt able to dole out praise to those responsible for their upkeep. He went on to say that ‘bowlers, because they are bowlers, will always find something about a green at which to grumble (nothing changes!), and there had been a few moans during the event’. He went on to say that the general opinion of the many players that he had spoken to was that the greens were in good condition and considerably better than in recent years.
At the AGM of the club it was suggested that we join forces with the Avenue and Lillington clubs in an approach to the council to try to obtain an indoor bowling green for the area. At the same meeting David Sayce presented the Jubilee Cup to the club.