Bowling Along For 100 Years

Chapter 7 - The Ladies Are Coming

1959 - Jubilee Year

Under the chairmanship of Lol Hooper the year was celebrated in fine style, with representative games against both the English Bowling Association and the County President’s team, both of which were won. Both games were followed by a dinner to which not only the players but also all old members of the club were invited. The wonderful hospitality shown was talked about throughout the county for several months afterwards.

It was an excellent year, both in the weather and in the achievements of the bowlers. Every Jubilee celebration game that was played was won, and only one match was lost all season. Messrs Whittaker, Fuller and Amphlett won the County Triples, and together with Mr Spicer reached the final of the County Fours. This quartet then went on to reach the semi-finals in the National Championships.

A large scoreboard was given to the club and inscribed “Presented by Alderman W H Wallsgrove and Frank Wallsgrove to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the club – 1959”. The scoreboard has survived but the plaque has since disappeared. A new design of club tie was approved including the colours Blue, Red, Gold and Green, which is the tie still worn today. The end-of-year balance sheet showed that about £600 had been spent on Jubilee celebrations, but thanks to the efforts made with the tote, a small profit was made on the year.

The ladies, under the leadership of Mrs Ricketts, had worked extremely hard in the kitchen during the celebrations and were also making inroads on the greens. Seven of them were now playing for the county.

It was reported that the greens were in excellent condition, but the strong playing strength of the club was obviously presenting some difficulties. A letter was sent to all our opponents asking that all matches should be 6 rinks, and a proposal was passed ‘that a panel of 9 – 12 skips be elected by the selection committee, and that a record be kept to ensure that each be given an equitable number of games’.


An approach was made to the council to get exclusive use of the pavilion for the coming year, because of all the catering being done by our ladies for the Open tournaments and other events, but this was unsuccessful.

An estimate was obtained for a new flag, incorporating the town coat of arms plus the words ‘Royal Leamington Spa Bowling Club’, indicating that the “Royal” was now very much a part of the club name.

During the year there was a fire at the Avenue Bowling Club pavilion, and a donation was made to a fund to help them re-build. An offer was also made to assist with post-match catering whilst they were without facilities, but it is not clear if this was taken up.

What had started out as a town Open Bowls Tournament, with officials from the Council and other bowling clubs all taking a part in organising it, was now becoming almost solely run by the Leamington club, and representations were made to shed the load more evenly.


Further meetings took place with the Council to try to improve the leasing arrangements. A suggestion was made that the pavilion be extended, with the club contributing to the costs, but before going down this path it was necessary to formalise the agreement to pay a yearly rental.

There was success on the greens for Tom Carter who won the coveted County Singles Championship, the first time a club member had won it since 1923.

The ladies again came up trumps with the catering for matches, but there were rumblings of discontent at the work involved with the tournaments.


A great year for the club. The triple rink of Tom Whittaker, Bert Fuller, and Vic Amphlett won the National title in the EBA championships at Mortlake, having previously in the year won the county title. The Mayor, Alderman Edwin Fryer, entertained them and other members of the club at a reception in the Town Hall.

The club also achieved success in winning the Wardrop cup, and off the greens Vic Amphlett was elected to the County Executive Committee and also became a county selector.

The greens were reported to be bowling better than ever and the singles competition at the Open Tournament was won by Mr Harry Reynolds from the Rugby area.

A year later he took on the role of County Publicity Officer and is still, at the time of writing, doing the same job – 45 years of service to the game of bowls. Is it any wonder that he was made a county Hon. Life Member in 1989? He remains a great friend of the club.

A new local rival was born with the opening of the bowling green at Whitnash.


Another very good season on the greens, with the men winning 33 out of 35 matches.

Vic Amphlett was selected for England on the indoor green, and also had an England trial on the outdoor greens. The club voted him and Tom Whittaker the sum of £22-10-0d towards their expenses when playing for their country.

National Triples Champions 1962
National Triples Champions 1962
Tom Whittaker, Vic Amphlett and Bert Fuller

Mrs Rose had success at the Ladies Open Tournament but off the greens the ladies decided that they were unable to continue with the catering without more assistance.

Honours were accumulating and David Sayce presented a new honours board to the club.


The Ladies requested a fixture against the men, but there are no details of when or even if it was played. However, for the first time a mixed game was played by the club, and the men also helped in the organisation of a Ladies evening at the club to encourage more players.

Vic Amphlett became the first International player for the club when he was selected to play for England. For what is believed to be the first time in this country, a Gala was held on the club greens. It was introduced by Bill Lewis from the Lillington club who had seen the format played when he was in New Zealand. An enthusiastic official he was County President in 1962/3 and went on to become President of the EBA in 1966.

The event was organised by a committee from all the local clubs with the aim of raising funds to support the Open Tournament, which was in financial difficulty and it was a great success, with 54 teams entering. The first winners were D Sayce, M Steele, H Sayce and T Carter, all from the Leamington club.


This was a year of considerable success for several members, with the overall club performance also being very good.

There were triumphs in both the County Singles and County Fours, the triples event in the Leamington Open, and the club also won the Ivens Cup.

Word had obviously spread about the success of the Leamington Galas and three were held during the course of the season with over 60 teams of four entering at each.

Moves were afoot to establish a new pavilion, solely for the use of the club, and planning permission was applied for to erect one on the land between ‘A’ green and Adelaide Road, with money from the tote going towards the cost. Subsequently the Council allocated a piece of land opposite ‘D’ green and also offered their assistance in the project.

The ladies section was to become more formalised and a major breakthrough came when they were allowed full use of the pavilion for their activities.

Despite the successful season, the club was not financially sound and but for the tote would have been in deficit. Sadly it was reported that the Avenue club had asked for fixtures to be arranged in alternate years in the future. On a happier note it was pleasing that there had obviously been a change in policy at the Leamington Courier and sport now covered three full pages, with bowls having a section of its own.


In an endeavour to alleviate the financial problem, subscriptions were increased to 55 shillings (45 shillings for OAP’s), and match fees to 5/6d (OAP’s 4/6d).

The biggest drain on finances was the £150 annual rental paid to the council for the use of 9 rinks each day. In order to reduce this figure it was decided to use only one green, and after much negotiation the rental was reduced to £75.

The ladies’ section held a coffee morning to raise funds for the Ladies Open Tournament and afterwards played a challenge match against the men. It is not recorded who won!

There were again individual successes with the County Fours and the County Pairs titles coming to the club, and Bert Fuller had the first of his three England trials, but he was unable to catch the eyes of the selectors.

In an endeavour to make potential players more welcome, a rota was formed to ensure that at least two committee members were at the greens each evening for a ‘Host and Coach’ scheme.

Hopes were raised for the building of an indoor bowling green in Leamington, which was deemed to be the ideal location. Speaking at the club dinner, the County President said that the scheme was to build the county bowling headquarters over the indoor green on land adjacent to the Edmonscote running track. Planners and indoor green representatives had had several meetings, with planners giving approval to the elevations of the proposed building.

It was decided that the posts of Chairman and Vice-Chairman now become President and Vice-President, and no longer would the town Mayor be automatically invited to be the club President.


A year of negotiations with the Council saw a request from the club to extend the existing pavilion instead of having a new one, with the club having exclusive rights to it.

Although this was initially rejected, agreement was eventually reached after new plans had been submitted. This allowed the pavilion to be extended on the river side, giving room for a bigger kitchen and a bar, the work to be done at the club’s expense. In return the club would have exclusive rights and be responsible for maintaining the inside of the building, whilst the council took responsibility for the outside. The club agreed to put £1000 down, with the balance coming by way of a loan from the local authority.

On the greens it was equally successful with the records showing 29 games won out of 34 played. Amongst notable scalps was a win over The Royal Household at Windsor, and the Ladies improved on previous years, this time beating the County Police, although they lost to the Leamington’s ‘Afternoon Bowlers’. Such was the pace that at one stage the club turned out seven teams in 14 days.


Having secured exclusive use of the pavilion it was in this year that Royal Leamington Spa Bowling Club became a private club, and at a Special General Meeting called for the purpose, the rules were altered to reflect this. The Ladies’ Section was at long last offered membership of the club and 2 of their number were co-opted on to the Management Committee.

Three sub-committees were formed to report to the Management Committee and these were Finance, Bar, and Social & Catering. The Catering Committee took over all catering for club games plus galas, and one of the first tasks for the bar committee was to obtain a license for the sale of drinks and tobacco.

At the beginning of the year a grant of £200 was received from the council towards the cost of the extension and a loan for the balance was obtained. The corporation’s nominated contractors quotation came to £2570, which was unacceptable to the club, and an offer from David Sayce, a local builder and a club member, to do the work was accepted.

In September the extension was completed for the sum of £2154, and the extremely generous offer of Mr Sayce to accept £2000 in final settlement of the account was gratefully accepted.

The AGM reported that despite the £2000 spent on the pavilion, there was a balance of £421 in the bank.

It is reported that the greens were bowling extremely well and better than at any time during the past 5 years. As well as winning the County Pairs, Chris Shakespeare and Bert Fuller reached the semi-final stage at the National Championships before being eliminated.

The South Warwickshire Bowling Association was formed and in the first championships held, club members won both the singles and the pairs.

1969 - 60th Anniversary year

A new flag was used for the first time when the extended pavilion was officially opened on April 14th.

Applications were received from Warwickshire Women's Bowling Association for some of their matches to be played at Leamington as well as the Men's County team playing here.

A new Sports Editor at the Leamington Courier, Roger Draper, was devoting more space to bowls in the area and Leamington Ladies started receiving quite a lot of coverage.

The Chairman, Bill Imrie, spoke of all the activity that had taken place over the past three years, including the Diamond Jubilee year. Finances were steadily improving and a lot of this was down to the profit now being made on the bar, but it was essential for more members to come forward to help, in order to avoid having to bring in paid staff.


The slow but steady increase in membership was providing some problems on the availability of greens, as there was still only one green being leased per day. It was agreed that whilst membership remained open, it should be closed for new members wishing to join at the reduced OAP rates, and it was also agreed at the AGM that for the following year the club should go back to having nine rinks per day, costing £225 p.a.

A major problem had been caused with some of the greens when the wrong type of sand had been spread during the previous winter and this had killed off all the grass. However with careful control and nurturing, they were getting back to normal towards the end of the season.

New extractor fans were fitted in the pavilion, possibly because there was a lot of smoking at the time. At the Annual Dinner, it was proposed to put wine on the top table and cigarettes on all tables!

A strange minute in the records states that a ladies toilet is to be provided, the cost being shared between the council and the club, but it is not clear whether this was something new or a replacement. If it was the former, one wonders what had been used previously!

Bill Ward, the son of the current treasurer, joined the club and was to become arguably one of the most successful players over the years that we have had.


Although the club won the Wardrop Cup and club players had success at the Leamington Open Tournament, there was a disappointing response to Sunday fixtures and it was proving very difficult to put out full teams.

The new toilet scheme, incorporating a ladies toilet, was approved. Flushed with success, the ladies’ also decided to hold their own dinner for the first time at The Manor Hotel. They had a very good Press Officer during the year and received far more coverage than the men.


The pavilion was becoming attractive to non-savoury characters and it was decided to investigate the fitting of iron bars to the windows for greater security.

No more Sunday games were to be arranged after 1972, with the exception of the fixture with the Royal Household at Windsor, due to lack of enthusiasm. The Wiles family offered an honours board for the ladies section, and in an unusual reversal of gender, Kent requested that the men travelling with the Ladies touring side be given a fixture. It was finally agreed, after much discussion that the Hooper Cup, which had been competed for in many different competitions, continue to be awarded for the Mixed Triples.

Stan Winbush, who was to become a stalwart of the club in many ways, joined the club, as did Lil Hawkins, a very successful county bowler. Lol Hooper became a Trustee, a position he was to hold until his death in 2007.


Current membership of the club was – 79 Men, 24 Ladies, 2 Male Social, 20 Female Social The suggestion that the club was becoming too big and that membership should be restricted, was overruled. The subscription for men was now £3 and for ladies £2.

Joyce Sadler became the first club lady to become President of the County Women’s BA.

The men’s county association proposed that a county league be started but the Leamington members decided that they did not wish to enter.

This was to be the last year that the EBA championships were held at Mortlake and there were high hopes that they may come to Leamington at some stage in the future.


In local government reorganisation, Warwick District Council took over from Leamington Town Council and responsibility for sports facilities came under the control of the Leisure and Amenities Department of the new authority. There were some reservations as to how this might affect the club, but subsequent events have shown this to be an excellent partnership between the department and the club and there has been a first class working relationship.

One of the first things that the new authority did was to establish a contact with the English Women’s Bowling Association and offer them the facilities to stage their National Championships here in 1975.

Regrettably Tom Whittaker, one of the club’s most successful bowlers, had to give up playing on medical grounds.

The county coaching scheme was established and the club’s first coach was Bob Hall. ‘D’ green was nominated as the preferred one for club matches and Bill Ward was selected for the county Middleton Cup team for the first time.

Mrs Sadler presented a cup for the ladies’ novices competition, and for the first time it was agreed that an honorarium should be paid to the General Secretary and the Treasurer.

Peter Rourke was appointed to the Leisure and Amenities Department of the council, with a responsibility, amongst other things, for the bowling greens and attendant activities. He has proved to be a wonderful asset to the council and to the club for the way in which he has cemented relations between the two and has been most efficient. At the time of writing he is due to take early retirement and will be greatly missed by all the bowlers who use our greens.

Leamington Open Tournament Triples Winners
Leamington Open Tournament Triples Winners
Ken Jennings, Bill Ward and Bill Jennings


Another momentous year for the club – the English Women’s Bowls Association held their National Championships at Leamington for the first time. This event, which continues to the present day, was to have a big impact in many ways. Whilst there have been a few down-sides, there is no doubt that the club has benefited greatly, due largely to the efforts of our members in working extremely hard to give a service to fellow bowlers and their supporters, and at the same time earning money for further development of bowls in the area.

Initially, due to the lack of facilities, our ladies were unable to cater properly for the championships, but the bar profits showed a marked improvement, with the result that the club tote was finally wound up.

With the men’s membership now just under 100, and the ladies at 25, the results for the season were good, with 19 out of 25 matches being won. In addition, 13 out of the 36 finalists in the men’s county championships were from the club.

A touring side from City of Glasgow Police was entertained and at last we received permission from the council to use the greens between 2pm and 6pm on Sundays, at an additional cost of £35.

After many years of service the club piano took ‘early retirement’.