Bowling Along For 100 Years


It is said that a week is a long time in politics, and we’ve had an awful lot of politics in the development of our club, but it can also be said that a century is a huge amount of time in the history of any club.

In 2009 we celebrate the centenary of Royal Leamington Spa Bowling Club, and what a 100 years it has been. Like all clubs it owes an enormous debt to all those who, over the years, have devoted a huge part of their life to developing, expanding, and maintaining it and bringing it to where it is today.

Not all of these people are necessarily members of the club, because we are in the position of being tenants of the local council, originally Leamington Town Council and in later years, after re-organisation, Warwick District Council, and both these authorities have, in their turn, had councillors and officers who were aware of the value of having a wonderful bowling facility in the town, and have pushed very hard to achieve it.

This association, and the active co-operation between the council and the club, has been a very important factor in the growth of the club and its facilities, and it continues to the present day. Various events have played a significant role in this development and most of them have been established through a joint partnership.

  • The Leamington Men’s Open Tournament
  • The Leamington Ladies’ Open Tournament
  • The Leamington Galas
  • The EWBA National Championships
  • Women’s World Bowls

About 20 years after the first green was opened, to be followed in a short period of time by a second one, far-sighted councillors realised that the town was in a position to stage a tournament to compete with other spa towns and resorts, and it was they, supported by other local clubs and in particular our own, who started the first Men’s Open Tournament in 1936. From then on it became a chicken and egg situation because the growth of the this event, to be followed by the Ladies’ Tournament, led to the demand for a further green, and more rinks required more use.

Having obtained the third green and some facilities to go with it, there were then some financial problems, so the idea of the galas to provide monetary assistance came to light. Galas had been seen initially operating successfully in the southern hemisphere, and they soon took off here. What started as one gala soon became three a year, attracting competitors from all over the Midlands and beyond.

By this time people throughout the country were learning of the facilities we had to offer bowlers, not only with the greens but with the town shopping, our central location, and many other amenities, and when Warwick District Council took control they immediately courted the English Women’s Bowling Association, brought them to Leamington, and added a fourth green. It was the success of this association’s National Championships year after year that led to us attracting Women’s World Bowls in 1996, and with that event came yet a fifth green and a totally new clubhouse.

Behind all these activities our own club was expanding and we were very much an active participant in all of these events. Our officers and members worked tirelessly, and without their participation it would not have been possible to stage many of them. Not least among these were the ladies who, as in most bowling clubs, were beavering away behind the scenes to supply the necessary refreshments for the competitors and spectators alike, and once we had the necessary license we were in a position to provide liquid sustenance from the bar.

Thus, through our members’ efforts we were in a position to provide superb facilities when the new pavilion was opened, after coping with pretty basic conditions for a very long time.

On the greens we have had our share of successes, both as individuals and as a club, nationally as well as locally, and we now have an active social calendar as well as providing short mat bowls during the winter months. In recent times we have made a positive effort to encourage young bowlers and it is significant that in the past three years both the ladies’ and the men’s club championships have been won by youngsters.

It is on this basis that we celebrate our centenary, and as we look back to what has been achieved since 1909, we must, whilst not forgetting the past, look forward to the next one hundred years and build on the start that has been given by these young people. Older people are still able to enjoy bowls, and they do, but it is no longer an old person’s game but one in which young and middle-aged people are most definitely coming to the fore.

I have endeavoured in this book to chart the various milestones along the way and have tried to be as brief as possible without skimping on important facts. The contents will mean more to some people than to others, but I do hope that you, the reader, will take time to read it through and that you will enjoy it.

This book has been a labour of love on my part and was done for no other reason than for people to be able to learn something of our history. It would not have been possible for me to complete the task without the extraordinary patience of my wife, Mary, often stretched, I am sure, to the limit, and it is with gratitude for such understanding that I dedicate it to her.

To Mary

Richard Ashley
January 2009

Index First Chapter