History of Chester Road Bowling Club


Chester Road Bowling Club by Rod Willis



What was the scene at the time of the meeting, on 3rd September 1902, of a handful of businessmen seeking to arrange an outdoor pursuit for interested townsfolk to participate in friendly games of bowls?  One has to imagine the melancholy attitude of the late Victorian days with the sad but expected passing of Queen Victoria just a year previously.  Now a new King Edward, flamboyant, jovial and outgoing, would transform the nation into a different life.  Back in 1902 the band of gentlemen met in "Ye Olde Seven Stars", a reputable hotel in Blackwell Street, with the one notable personality of Joseph Pritchard (Phipps and Pritchard) becoming our first Captain.  Other members comprised Richard Brindley, William Siminson, and Alderman Holloway.  They persuaded William Adam junior to rent his land for the promotion of a likeable sport; possibly for older people.  He also provided an interest-free loan for the purposes of building a pavilion, the structure and red tiled roof of which remains today, with the central chimney piece now a ventilating cowl.  A local specialist, Mr. Grove, had the warrant to lay out the green and shrubberies together with a quoits pitch to the west of the green, possibly where the spare ground remains.  The cost of the work was £154.
One important condition of the lease was that "no intoxicating liquor" was to be consumed on the premises, a rule which was to be static until William Adam's death in 1922.  He was the first choice to be our first president, a duty which he attended with regularity and great interest.  His brother Peter also found this graceful game of bowls to be in keeping with the family's standards and later agreed to be our second president in 1906.
The formal opening of our green on Saturday 9th May 1903 was a grand affair headed by Joseph Pritchard whose portrait hangs in our clubhouse.  Later in the month the President's and the Brindley Handicap Cups were played for, cups being donated by William Adam and Thomas Brindley.
Discipline ensued in these early years with reports of the groundsman (£20 per year) being brought to book at not rolling the green (50 x 50 yards) every day.  Women were only allowed in the grounds initially to pick the weeds out of the newly laid green but later were rapidly requested to form a Ladies' Tea Committee to provide refreshments etc.  Now the ladies form a very vital and strong presence and have full member entitlement.


The Barons

Kidderminster still had, at this time, many of the "carpet barons" controlling the town's affairs whilst living in their palatial houses with acres of land.  William Adam (Jnr) built a large house, Lyndholm, in 5-6 acres whose boundary was the Great Western Railway line (now Lyndholm Road) and Linden Avenue.  Next door lived his brother, Peter Adam who lived at Cairndhu with half as much land (now Merton Close).  William Adam also owned land on Chester Road (now our bowling club).  This land was close to their father's house, Elderslie, and land 0wned by William Adam senior (now part of Holy Trinity School), which was sold to the Trinitarian Sisters at the time of our opening in 1903.
Before continuing our own history, it is interesting to observe that several other carpet barons had residences close to our club.  At Leswell House, now Leswell Grove, lived the Woodward (Woodward Grosvenor) family.  The Oaklands 3.7 acres belonged to Henry Talbot, later acquired by Tomkinsons, and Greenhill owned by George Talbot overlooking Broadwaters, now Waverley Close, which included the Highfield Road area.  The last residence of note is the Larches near Brintons Park where Thomas Lea (spinning business) lived.  His house was used as a Red Cross Hospital during the Great War and in charge was Michael Tomkinson's daughter, Marie.
The first A.G.M's were held at the Lion Hotel (now Woolworth's) with attendances of over 120 members.  Public houses provided fixture lists from the Bell Hotel, Stourbridge, The Swan Hotel, Stourport and the Bylet as far away as Bridgnorth.  Even a surprise match was arranged with the Kidderminster Cricket Club in 1904 but a thunderstorm prevented any "bowling" feats!
In the latter years of existence, various rules were adopted to include making a maximum jack length of 40 yards and altering the 3 bias bowls to 2, due to the circumnavigation of bowls on a crown green.  No mention was made of a biased jack which we presume to be the norm of the time.  George Law (Snr), builder, became President in 1908.  In these tough times a summons was issued against a member for non-payment of subs and a law was uncovered to prevent members organizing Whist Drives.


The Great War

At the start of the 1914-18 war the financial position of the Club brought a ‘winding-up' threat but, following a suggestion of the ‘Corporation' taking a club and ground into their body being impracticable, the benevolent Peter Adam generously allowed a reduction in annual rent to just £5.  The debilitating war brought wounded soldiers to The Larches, a Red Cross hospital.  The officers of the Club paid for tramcar transportation and Midland Red buses for these men to play bowls at Chester Road.  The 1st prize, from Joseph Pritchard, was a box of 100 cigars.  Another donation was a box of "spearmint"!  The sadness of the war caused the Club to send condolences to Mr. and Mrs. W. Adam on the loss of their son, Captain Rowland Adam, in Mesopotamia.
The usual "pick-up and brush-down" attitude after the war brought another lull to the Club activities until the land was actually purchased in 1922 for £700 after the death of William Adam, to whom the Club was indebted.  A private liability company (Ltd) was established with a share issue of £5 to directors and £1 to members with the Articles of Association being adopted in June 1922 which limited members to 150 shares at any one time.  A Life Members policy was adopted in 1923 with E. Scott being one of the first two named life member at 80 years of age.
The 1930's showed increasing interest in the bowling activities of the Club which led to a small extension of the pavilion.  The Kidderminster Bowling League was formed in 1934 with larger footers being agreed which would prevent damage to the green.  Fixtures with an old established club in Worcester, the Brotherhood, were added, together with Severnside at Shrewsbury.  A Ladies Day was included in the Coronation celebrations of 1937 and finally a new Club flag was designed and purchased to end the decade


The Second World War

The Second World War brought misery and restrictions to all and made the 1940's unforgettable years for the teenage boys and family men who were sent to join the fighting.  Recorded in our minutes were:-  Purchase of second-hand wireless for reception of new bulletins,  sandbags and stirrup pumps ordered, ARP shelter, fire-fighting equipment comprising two sand buckets and nozzle, telephone to be installed along with darts lighting.  However, blackout precautions were to be preserved.  Bowling continued but members on military service were excused subs.  Boards were installed around the gutters of the green to prevent damage to bowls hitting the concrete.  (Surely the thoughts of rink bowling were already in embryo?).  Beer was reduced to 7d (3p) a pint.  Spirits were 11d (5p) a measure.  The poplar trees, now 40 years old, were to be cut down and there was a change to Batham's Beer as a supplier.
In June, 1945 a "Welcome Home" Party was laid on for obvious reasons and on Victory Day, 10th May, 1946, nine gallons of beer was provided and most of it consumed!
Later, in 1948, the crown in the centre of the green was found to have sunk from the original 9" to 3"!  In the same year, architects Godwin, Clist and Greenway drew up plans to extend the pavilion.  A reported reprimand was evidence of the failure of officers to enforce signing of the Visitor's Book when the bar was found to be still open at 11.15 p.m.!  Normal closing time was 10.00 p.m.

More Modern Times

In 1969 members of the club who had been to watch Worcestershire Cricket Team also saw men playing the rink game at Cripplegate Park in Worcester.  They returned with ideas and proposals for our green to be converted.  This was initially pursued with real enthusiasm and government financial support was sought because of the national drive to improve sports facilities.  However it was not totally supported by the club members and no changes were made. 
In 1976 we had a loan from the Brewery (Mitchells and Butlers) to relocate the bar to its current placing having been in the corner now occupied by the dartboard.  Serving hatches into the snooker room and into the original small snug were all lost in the changes.
The snooker table was bought from Lord Woolton (the post War Minister of Food) and delivered on the back of a lorry.  It was superb and elegant looking with a walnut veneer but was replaced in the eighties because the slates had bowed and balls rolled better towards the centre of the table than the pockets.  Many members joined the club and there were several teams in local leagues.  At the same time we had seven teams in the Kidderminster and District mid-week Bowls League.  The green was well loved as a venue and home advantage with the "Harry Thomas corner", on the near left corner looking from the Club being the trickiest and needing a special bias to combat!
Our floodlights were the first in Kidderminster.  The original set, bought and installed by members in the early eighties, were replaced by lights purchased from Bromsgrove F.C.
During the eighties many members again recognised the attractions and interests of the rink game and fixtures took place against Brintons to allow members to try their luck at this new game.  Considerable work followed with loans being secured from the brewery to facilitate changes to both the green and the club premises.  Funds were secured from Courages, coincidently the brewery who still supply the Seven Stars Pub in town.  At the end of the 1988 bowling season we began the work to flatten the green and lay the new sea washed turf.  By Christmas all work was complete and the green was formally opened the following year as a full rink bowling green.  We were admitted to the Worcestershire Bowling Association to start playing under EBA Laws.  The green was opened by the English Bowling Association President, John Hall (a Worcestershire Bowler), on a superb summer day with bowlers in attendance from counties throughout the Midlands
A plan to rid us of the punishing brewery loan involved members providing loans of varying sizes to the club to be repaid over a four year period.  This was funded by the elimination of the repayments on the loan and the increase in discount we gained on bar supplies once we again became a free house.
We now have teams in the local bowling leagues on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings and also Thursday afternoons.  We are the current holders of the Worcester Six Rink League Championship and play about sixty league and friendly matches in the outdoor season.  There are two snooker teams and two crib teams and a ladies darts team all busy during the winter season.  Regular General Knowledge Quizzes, Race Nights, Auctions, Casino Nights and other social gatherings keep the club alive during the winter months.  Members also bowl at Bromsgrove and Worcester Indoor Clubs in both competitive and friendly matches.
Now, after 100 years, we must salute those earlier pioneers who instilled the spirit of the game into our town's first private bowling club and the dedicated members of today who are continuing to follow their high standards.  Achievements of the century must be recognized along with acknowledgement and appreciation of all that has been done by so many to give us the facilities and advantages that we are all enjoying today.

Chester Road Bowling Club