Bowling Along For 100 Years

Chapter 3 - The Coming of Age


Subscriptions were increased to 3/6d, and it was suggested in Council that one of the army huts near the Adelaide Road entrance, which had been left empty since the end of the war, be purchased at a reasonable cost as a shelter for the joint use of persons playing tennis and bowls.

Later that month the club was stunned to learn of the death of the founder President, James Thorburn. He had been instrumental in starting the club and had been Club Captain from the outset until he died. There is no doubt that the work he did for, and on behalf of the Club in his role as a councillor and as an official and player was immense, and his wife immediately donated a cup to the club in his memory. This is still competed for to this day as the James Thorburn Memorial Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Men’s Handicap event.

In the report of the game against Banbury Chestnuts, away, which Leamington won, the correspondent had a swipe at the Town Council when remarking on the perfect green and proper accommodation, stating that ours is a disgrace to a Royal Spa. The following month the games against Banbury Central and Coventry LGO’s were both recorded as wins, giving the fiery reporter another opportunity to dig at the Council. He also suggested that it might be possible for the club to start a Bowling Tournament, with the help of the Council, as in other health resorts.


A very controversial year for the club.

Although not recorded, it is assumed that the club had taken over the responsibility of its own affairs. However at the AGM in February, it was declared that the finances were in a bad way, with only £3-7-10d in the bank. To help redress the balance a whip-round took place in which £7-12-0d was raised, thus putting the club on a more healthy footing.

Finances were not the only consideration, and the Secretary wrote to the Council requesting that the small green in Avenue Road be used by people other than season-ticket holders and the larger green in Archery Road be reserved for the latter.

In April the Council decided to abolish season tickets altogether, which meant that the club members, along with the public, would have to pay at the rate of 3d per hour. As can be imagined, this caused considerable uproar and a deputation from the club met with a working party of councillors to try to resolve the issue, without any success. A Special General Meeting was called in May at which it was declared to be totally unsatisfactory to play matches or competitions in this way and a proposal to suspend activities for the season was carried by those present. A strong letter was sent to the Council stating what had happened, and a full report of the meeting was sent to all the local papers.

An approach was made to the Council later in the year requesting the use of the small green by the club for the following year, but this was refused.


Leamington played a major part in the foundation of the Warwickshire County Bowling Association, although the majority of the clubs were from the Rugby area. These were B.T.H. Rugby, Rugby Town, L.M.S. Rugby, and Caldecote Park, along with Three Spires and St. Thomas’s from Coventry.

The founder President was Dr. D Wardrop from Rugby, followed in 1924 by W. Ivens from Coventry, and in 1925 by W. Pollard from Leamington. It is interesting to note that all three gentlemen donated trophies which are still competed for today, the Pollard Cup being awarded to the county singles champion. The first winner of this trophy in 1923 was John Tarplee from the Leamington club.

Meanwhile the club had re-grouped and come to a somewhat tenuous agreement with the Council, and at a General Meeting it was decided to carry on as before under the Council’s new conditions, but with the subscriptions going back to 2/6d per year. A sub-committee of the Council was appointed to consider the desirability of providing an additional bowling green, more tennis courts and children’s play apparatus in Victoria Park.

In November they reported to the Council with a recommendation that, provided that the number of tennis courts was increased rather than decreased, a new bowling green should be constructed on the site of the three tennis courts nearest to the existing green. The original green in Avenue Road should be converted to two hard tennis courts, and six more tennis courts be constructed.

The club were delighted because this would mean that there would be two full size greens on one site in Archery Road. In December the Council accepted a tender for 1860 yards of turf at 2/-d per yard.


Subscriptions were put back to 3/6d because of the addition of the new green, and the affiliation to Warwickshire. It was hoped that this would provide great benefit to the club.

The county itself wanted to affiliate to the English Bowling Association but at the beginning of the season needed just one more club. By the end of the season four more had come on board and it was decided to apply the following season.

Inspired by Open Tournament at B.T.H. Rugby at which several local players competed, a tournament was played at Leamington in aid of the Warneford Hospital, and proved to be a great success.

Leamington finished third in the county league, and Councillor Donald presented a silver bowl for competition within the club in recognition of the achievement.

Avenue Bowling Club, our near neighbours and keen rivals, was founded and domiciled further along Avenue Road from our original green near the Victoria Park.


One of the most contentious arguments was always how our players should be charged by the Council for the use of the greens, and in January the Club Secretary wrote asking if they would make a nominal charge for the greens for league and friendly matches, instead of the present system of issuing tickets. Unfortunately the issue was not resolved and continued to remain a running controversy for many years. It is believed to be one of the reasons for a constant interchange of players between Leamington and The Avenue, which was a private club.

The results for the season are a little sketchy, but it is known that several players appeared for the county.


At the Annual General Meeting, held very conveniently in The Cricketers Arms, it was agreed that as the club was affiliated to the English Bowling Association through the county, all matches should in future be played under EBA rules.

Quite a few bowlers still did not have their own woods and the Council were urged to provide more, not only for club members but also for the general public, and these should all be stamped.

A successful season saw the club finishing as runners-up in the county league to Three Spires, Coventry.


During the season several players again represented the county, and Warwickshire also hosted a party of Australian and New Zealand bowlers who were playing in the area.

A club tour went to Somerset, and was based at Weston-Super-Mare.

In November Mr. John Tarplee, a very successful bowler with club and county, was appointed to the county selection committee.


After a good start to the season it was mid-June before the first defeat came at the hands of St. Thomas’s, Coventry. Encouragement came when F. Tiller, the Club Captain and former Secretary, was nominated by the county to play in an International trial at Bedford.

By this time the county league consisted of seven teams, including Leamington, while the Ivens Cup within the county, attracted 10 entries.

Four players took part in the successful county tour to Sussex, which was based at Eastbourne.


The Championship Trophy had been won outright by F.Tiller and a smoking concert was held to raise funds to replace it. As the Chairman remarked ‘we have lost our championship cup for which we have ourselves to blame!’ At the AGM later in the year it was agreed that no longer could any trophy be won outright, however many times it was won by an individual.

It was during this season that several members of the club defected to the ‘private’ Avenue Club, having spent many years learning their trade on the municipal greens in Archery Road. The reason for this is obscure but it seems that those who went were not happy bowling on the same greens as the public and were unhappy being beholden to the Council.

Over succeeding years several who were to become very successful bowlers made the short journey back and forth between the two clubs. Among them was F Tiller, who had first joined Leamington in 1910, and others using the same route included G W Rawlings, C D Billington, who went on to become the area’s first International, S Simmonds, J Meredith and H Bryan.

At the Annual Dinner a plea was again made for a new pavilion, and it was pointed out that the improvement of the greens must be maintained if Leamington aspired to becoming a private club.


Pressure on the Council to erect a new pavilion to cater not only for the bowlers but also for the tennis players was stepped up. A petition containing 468 signatures was submitted, with the full support of several councillors, asking for a suitable building to be erected with accommodation and proper sanitary arrangements.

The Town Clerk was instructed to hold discussions with the club, and with tennis players, to establish exactly what was required, and in December the Council ordered that the sum of £1000 be included in the following year’s estimates to cover the cost of the erection of a new pavilion.

New clubs appearing on the fixture list included Willens from Rugby, Leamington Avenue, Snitterfield and Barford.

1930 - The 21st Anniversary of the Club

Although not planned that way it was a remarkable coincidence that the first, and rather magnificent pavilion, for which they had waited so long, was opened towards the end of the club’s 21st year, much to the delight of the members. They now had a building of which they could be justly proud. Much of the credit went to Councillor Howard Jones for his efforts in securing this addition, and while there was no official opening ceremony, it was completed in September of that year.

However this was only the beginning. At the AGM the Chairman pointed out that there was a lot of work in front of them to equip it properly and it was also necessary to ensure that the greens were put into proper condition to match the facilities. Membership stood at 93 playing members, and it was important that results were improved, with more people making themselves available for matches.

An interesting article written by the Club Captain, John Tarplee, was printed in the local paper. In welcoming the new pavilion, he pointed out that our club was the oldest in the county playing under EBA rules, and in the past members had to go into Oxfordshire to play clubs under the same rules, and for a time the club was affiliated to that county. Under EBA rules, no betting or playing for money was allowed, and any prizes awarded had to be in the form of vouchers which were redeemed by local shopkeepers, with the Club Secretary settling the account.

In an endeavour to encourage the Council to improve the conditions at Victoria Park, he wrote: “The management of bowling greens is a very important factor of the game. The greens themselves may look very beautiful, but they are like some beautiful women – you have to live with them before you find them out! The eye is very apt to be deceived. To be successful, and to give satisfaction, the management must study the technical needs of the bowlers as well as the greens.” What an excellent observation this was.

Thus ended the first 21 years of the club. The Annual Dinner and the AGM were both lively affairs with lots of enthusiasm and thanks to those who had helped so much in the growth of the facilities and the playing strength. It had been a successful year on the greens and the Treasurer reported a healthy financial position.