It would appear, from "A History of Cheltenham", by Gwen Hart, that bowls was being played in Cheltenham as early as 1739, for there is a record of a non-conformist preacher having a "congregation" of about 2000 people to whom he preached on the large bowling green at the rear of the Plough Hotel - now the Regent Arcade - and in the 1750's, bowls, on the same site, was listed as one of the attractions for the many visitors to the town, who came for the spa waters.
However, bowls did not come to Whaddon until 1927. In that year, Cheltenham Original Brewery opened a new sports ground, having football and cricket pitches, and a bowling green.
The opening was apparently a grand affair, the official ceremony being performed by Sir John Agg-Gardner P.C. M.P. on 18th May 1927, and Brewery staff were given a half day holiday in order that they might attend. He 'threw" the first bowl, and finished up, would you believe, one yard short of the jack'!!
A match had been arranged between an E.B.A. team and a Gloucestershire team, and of the 32 players taking part, 11 were Internationals. The match resulted in a win for the E.B.A., 68 shots to 66.
Little is known of the club during the following 20 years, but it seems that there were insufficient brewery employees making use of the facilities, and the directors of the Brewery felt that they could not justify the expenses involved, so in May l945,the sports ground was handed over to Cheltenham Council. It is interesting to note that during the 1944 season (whilst the war was still being fought), the club fielded 10 rinks against Cheltenham B.C.! !
Likewise in 1953, a plea was made to the fixtures secretary not to commit the club to more than 9 rinks on a Saturday!!
In November 1969, it was agreed that the name of the club be changed to the present one (2002), namely Cheltenham Whaddon B.C.
The club has provided G.C.W.B.A. Presidents on two occasions, and it is hoped that this will soon be three, and G.B.A. Presidents on four occasions.
Initially the premises were apparently small and primitive, and committee meetings were held in local pubs, but in 1950, the Council having taken over the green, etc, planned a new pavilion, and by 1958 the club are asking for an extension to be built, but when, in 1961, the Council had plans to extend the building, the club could not afford their part in it, and decided to wait until bank rate was lower.
In April 1967, members agreed to build an extension to the club-house, at an approx. cost of f,2000, and it was officially opened in May, 1969. (The present lounge).
The next development was what is now the skittle alley, and this building was started in April 1981, at a cost of approx. f 18,000, funded by club funds and substantial loans from members. It was officially opened in May, 1982.
This provided the opportunity for the club to buy short mats, which was done in 1985 and 1986, at a total cost of £960. The leagues were started in 1986, since when the mat income has exceeded £5000.!
Only 7 years later, the members are seeking a further extension to the premises, and work was started (by members), in October 1989, and the Pearson building, as it became known, was opened in June 1990, having been mostly built by members at a total cost of just over £20,000.
When the Council took over the premises in 1945, the rent was £l0, but by 1950 this had increased to £125, and by 1964 to £270, plus £51 rates. As a result, subs. were increased from £3 to £4.
In the winter of l954, the club had a balance of just £2 (Two POUNDS).
The Treasurer retired in 1962, after 17 years, during which time, turnover had increased from £300 to £3000
Gaming machines were installed in 1964, and the finances improved so much that two outdoor seats were bought at a cost of £29.10s. A Supporters Club was formed, into which the gaming machine profits were paid. Things must have been looking much better, because subs. were REDUCED to £3.10s. However, only two years later, when a decision was made to build an extension, subs. were increased to £4.10s.
A Government grant of £1000, and a £400 loan from the Playing Fields Assoc., helped to fund the building, and all debts had been repaid by Nov. 1971.
At the end of the 1972 season, the club had assets of only £48, and debts of £252.
A Special General Meeting decided to change the rules so that the Treasurer was a member of the Bar Committee. By the end of l974, the club is again in trouble, and is only saved by a legacy of £200. However, the Supporters Club (gaming machine profits), has £700. Subscriptions were increased to £6.
In l976, the Council told the club that due to the high cost of green maintenance, each member was being subsidised by £50 per annum. Club must look after green etc., and so once again, subs. are up, this time to £11. At the end of the 1976 season, the Supporters Club, with £1450 in their kitty, decided to buy a watering square. It was at this time that the 200 Club was started, and over the next 15 years, was to raise £17000. !!
In 1977, winter income improved as a result of more skittle teams using the alley, and a scarifier and greenkeepers shed were bought.
By 1980, a further extension was sought, and with no outside help available with the finances, it was eventually funded by loans of £10000 by members, and the extension was opened in May, 1982. Members came to the aid of the club again in 1983, and made loans of £3500 in order to have an automatic watering system installed. It was at this time that a professional auditor was appointed, and as a result, the club learned that V.A.T. should have been paid on gaming machine income, and the taxman was owed £2,700. !!
However, this setback having been overcome, by 1988 thoughts once more turned to an extension, and thanks to a great deal of voluntary labour, the Pearson Building was built during the winter of 1989, at a cost of approx. £20,000 This was largely financed by some members paying their subs. in advance for 5 or 7 years.
By 1992, the income from gaming machines had fallen from £5000 to £3000 per year.
In 1994 there was a change in VAT legislation, as a result of which the club had a refund of £5900, and in Feb. 1995, the Treasurer reported that there was £18,780 in the bank. £5000 of this was promptly spent on a new mower, a new boiler and re-upholstery.
Records show that in 1946 there were 58 members, and although the number varied during the next 18 years, by 1964 there were only 45 active members.
The first lady member joined in April 1970, but by the following year there were only two ladies, the reason being that they were not allowed to bowl after 6p.m. This restriction was lifted, and by 1975 the Ladies Section had 17 members, and played their first match that year.
In 1977, membership was restricted to 55 men and 20 ladies, these limits being raised to 75 men and 25 ladies in 1982.
By 1988, membership, including "afternoon only" bowlers, totalled 87 men and 35 ladies. In 1990, the club had over 100 men members, and in 1996 the totals were 87 men and 38 ladies.
Alas, as we enter our 75th Anniversary year, membership is down, expenses are up, income is down, and things do not look very rosy, but as is shown in the foregoing, the Club has had its low points before, but has come back again.
Let us hope that it can do so once more.