Bowling Along For 100 Years

Chapter 8 - 75 Years On


John Whelan, who was to become a major factor in the future development of the club, joined us, as did a quartet of ladies from the Avenue club, Betty Norbury, Ivy Burns, Hazel Spreckley and Eve Medlam. Betty and Ivy were both playing for England and the four of them had already enjoyed considerable success at county level. Another to join was Lil Hawkins from Shipston, who was to be the County Singles champion no less than 8 times and the County 2-wood Singles winner on 4 occasions, both with Leamington and later with Welford-on-Avon.

At the same time Wilf Pass came to the club, bringing with him his son, who was under 16, but he was advised that the son would not be able to bowl on the greens. Fortunately this short-sightedness was not to last long.

Regrettably Len Brooks, the landlord of The Cricketer’s Pub opposite the greens, who had been a good servant of the club for many years, died.

Lists for matches were being over-subscribed and it was decided to cap membership at 120 for men and 40 for ladies, and review the position after a couple of years.

The kitchens were refurbished during the close season, and club members also decorated the changing rooms.

It was a very successful year for county honours for the club, and Chris Shakespeare won the singles title at the Men’s Open Tournament, having knocked out Bob Stenhouse, the England captain, in the semi-final. With entries now at the 500 mark, the Leamington Open Tournament was having to turn away entries.


Having been in power since 1974, Warwick District Council decided to put arrangements on a more formal basis, and gave notice to terminate the club’s existing license, but they were willing to enter into negotiations over a new agreement, the terms of which were to be agreed.

Previously the cost of 9 rinks had been £550 per annum, but under the new lease this was increased to £1250, the amount payable would include all green fees.

In consequence, at the AGM in December the subscriptions was raised by £2 for both men and ladies, and match fees were also increased.

The men had a reasonable season on the greens but the ladies had an even better one, and it was early September before they actually lost a game (against Blossomfield).

The popular and excellent greenkeeper, Fred Harris, retired. He had done a first class job and this was acknowledged with a presentation at the Annual Dinner.

Another Harris, Ivor, known throughout the county as ‘Ivor the Engine’, joined the club. A first class member, he went on to serve on the Management Committee. It is significant that at the meeting that he was elected a member, the committee decided subsequently the same evening to close membership. It is lucky for us that they didn’t do it earlier in the evening!


The committee had noted the lead being taken by the EBA in trying to encourage younger people and formulated the following rules:

  • Nobody under the age of 14 to be allowed on the greens
  • There was to be no membership for persons under the age of 16
  • Youngsters who were between the ages of 14 and 16 and who were sons and daughters of members would be allowed to bowl under strict conditions and the parents were to take full responsibility.

After the experimental period, membership was re-opened.

The loss of Fred Harris was being felt and the greens were deteriorating. The council were approached and as a result, towards the end of the season there were signs of improvement.

The cost of using coaches for away matches was becoming prohibitive, it was agreed that in future cars would be used.

The security of the clubhouse came into question after a 2nd break-in in the space of 2 years.

A loan was obtained from Whitbreads brewery for improvements to the bar, but an experiment of Friday evening opening during the winter was abandoned due to poor support.


The Ladies requested that they receive the same standard of meal as the men as they paid the same match fee. They were also struggling with transport for some of their away matches and asked to be allowed the use of a coach providing they paid extra.

Following the brewery loan, the new bar was opened under the leadership of Stan Winbush, who had been running it for some time. There was a marked lack of volunteers to work behind there, particularly during the EWBA Nationals and the Tournaments, and it was decided to try to get paid help for these events.

The reduced profits caused by this partly accounted for another increase in subscriptions for the following year and match fees were also increased.

Avon Valley Indoor Bowling Club members were working hard to complete their building and were given a £100 loan by the club.


This was a year of change in many ways. Bill Jackson stood down as President after 5 years to become Senior Vice-President of the county, and into the Club Presidential chair came John Whelan. John was a local businessman with a very sharp eye and great acumen, and he reigned supreme for the next 18 years, during which the club made huge progress. John was to become known as ‘Mr Leamington’, not only in the county but throughout the country through his presence at the EWBA championships.

During the winter months it was discovered that the club had been paying for all the electricity used by Warwick District Council in the whole pavilion area since 1975. This became one of the first challenges for the new President and he revelled in it!

It was the year that Avon Valley Indoor Bowling Club opened, with many of our club members joining, and the club invested £500 in the project.

Six members held office in various associations during the year:

  • Bill Hyde – President, English Bowling Association
  • Mrs Kay Wiles – President, Women’s Indoor Bowling Association
  • John Wiles – Chairman, Warwickshire Vice-Presidents Bowling Association
  • Frank Chandley – President – Midland Counties Bowling Association
  • Bill Jackson – Senior Vice-President, Warwickshire County Bowling Association
  • Ian Flynn – President – South Warwickshire Bowling Association

The Assistant Secretary of the EWBA, Mrs Nancie Colling, took over as Secretary and remained in the post for the next 22 years. Through the time she spent at Leamington, Nancie became a great friend and favourite of many of our members, most especially John Whelan, with whom she developed a great working relationship, and she would spend many relaxing hours hiding in our kitchen from ‘those b..... women’.

Another change of Sports Editor for the Leamington Courier saw the appearance of Doug. Hughes, who was to remain in his post for 20 years. He was a lover of bowls and did the sport great service both locally and nationally.


Word was obviously getting around about the lack of security and there was a further break-in. The insurers not only increased the premium but levied an excess of £500 until a burglar alarm was fitted.

The EWBA staged their Golden Jubilee National Championships receiving sponsorship from Lombard Insurance.

Regrettably the club had to withdraw the offer to stage the County Finals in 1982 when Bill Hyde was county President because the date clashed with one of the Leamington galas.

A further supply of club badges were purchased but great difficulty was experienced in getting them into the country as they were made in Pakistan – but it was a good price!

Ivor Harris was elected to the committee and has remained a member of it to the present day, including six years as President.

The Leamington Open Tournament celebrated it’s 40th year with over 500 entries.


As a result of the earlier closure of membership, the effect was now being felt and numbers had dwindled to 56 men, 23 ladies and 18 social members and a number of bowlers had moved to other clubs following an internal dispute.

Lil Hawkins won the county singles, and in the first round of the singles at the National Championships she beat Betty Stubbings, a member of the English Commonwealth Games team. Unfortunately she fell in the second round to an up-and-coming Mary Price.

In the Club Championship final, there was a big upset when Nicky Walker, a Middleton Cup player, lost to John Neville 21-1, the biggest winning margin on record.

A burglar alarm was at last fitted to the pavilion.


In an endeavour to encourage youngsters, it was agreed to accept children of 14 years of age and above as full bowling members.

Two contentious issues arose during the season, one regarding mid-week afternoon bowlers who were contributing little to the club and were not playing in matches, and the ladies staged a mini-revolt by refusing to pay their money into the club’s general account. Both these points were discussed in detail and at length by the Management Committee.

Tom Whittaker, a keen supporter of the club and a fine bowler, passed away, and Lil Hawkins, who had achieved a lot of success whilst with the club, moved to Stratford.

1984 - 75th Anniversary

In the celebration matches, the men were defeated by the EBA President’s team by 120 – 96, and the Ladies were defeated by the EWBA President’s team 117 – 108.

No details are available of the results against the county Presidents, but a most successful season was enjoyed with club plaques being presented to all the clubs we played against.

First match of the 75th Anniversary Season
First Match of the 75th Anniversary Season v GEC Willans (away)
Back row (L to R): W. Smith, B. Bache, G. Kennard, H. Lees, D. Lloyd, G. Taylor,
R. Rooker, J. Whelan (President), J. Sunderland, W. Edkins, R. Womersley,
G. Symonds (Secretary), D. Proffit-White, L. Moore, S. Winbush
Front row: I. Harris, D. Talbot, J. Nichol, D. Massey, F. Smith, S. Milway (Captain),
D. Mogford, A. Woodward, M. Mann

The men’s games were often over-subscribed and it was decided to ask visiting teams if they could bring seven rinks for all our home games. The ladies also requested that more mixed matches should be played, but nothing came of this.

Leamington was pleased to host the Women’s International Championship which was won by England, with Wales as runners up.

Hilda Hill won the Saga Over 60’s singles championship, and during the season Jean Muddeman joined us from Whitnash. She contributed much to the club in succeeding years.