Combe Martin Bowling Club
In 1944 The Combe Martin Bowling Club started life as the Berrynarbor Bowling Club. The Rev. Mylcrest being a keen bowler, converted a tennis court in the Rectory gardens into a bowling green and invited members of the church congregation to join him in a game of bowls. As the number of players increased the need for more rinks grew and two more were added in the field adjoining the garden.
In 1954 the Rev. Mylcrest retired and moved to South Devon so the club had to find another venue. Mr D Richards offered part of his back garden, the club’s present location, as a site for the new green and the first year rent free.
Work started on the green in April 1955 with the sum of £200.00 raised by the club members in the form of bonds to be paid back at a later date when the club had more funds. In fact, most of the members waived the right to payment, and donated the money to the club. It was at this time that the name of the club was changed to The Berrynarbor and Combe Martin Bowling Club.
Work went well, although in January 1956 the secretary agreed to make enquiries regarding “a solution for the extraction of worms”. Pebbles for the surrounds were collected from Watermouth Beach. Mr Snell of Higher Leigh, opened the green at 6pm on May 2nd 1956. This was the year when ladies were first allowed to become members, but with restricted playing times, although still paying the same fee as the men.
At that time the entrance to the green was from the High Street, through Mr Richard’s garden. A toilet and a tool shed had been built but no other facilities; the tool shed doubling as the men’s changing room.
Visiting teams were restricted for the first year as it was felt that the green would not stand up to the wear, but thereafter all visitors were welcome. Visitors were given tea on the green at ten ends. This was made by Mrs Richards in her kitchen, then carried to the green in large jugs. After the match the ladies were entertained to tea at the Nelson Cafe, whilst the men went to a public house for their refreshments!
The club’s first pavilion was bought from Glenavon in 1959. A second, given by Mr Richards, had done duty on Barton Farm as a cricket pavilion. There had been plans to build a pavilion but these were shelved owing to lack of funds.
In 1963 the club leased the land that was to become the car park and in doing so gave the club an entrance in Kingston Avenue. In 1971 all seemed lost when the owner of the land informed the committee that he was applying for planning permission to build bungalows on the site. Happily these plans did not reach fruition.
The Committee made an appeal to the then Barnstaple Rural District Council to buy the green. The council agreed, but not until 1972 when the lease ran out. (The Parish Council now own the ground and charge the club a ‘peppercorn’ rent).
The ladies continued to share the single toilet with the men until 1975 when it was decided to divide it to accommodate both sexes.
In 1978 yet another pavilion was bought from Ilfracombe Golf Club and Mr Rook offered his land to the Parish Council allowing the green to extend to six rinks. Again members were asked to donate the cost and provide the labour for the work that needed to be done.
The Parish Council suggested that Berrynarbor be dropped from the title and so The Combe Martin Bowling Club came into being. The ladies’ section was granted full membership and playing rights.
In 1985 it was agreed to alter the storerooms and construct a bar. This was completed in 1986.
In 1987 plans were made to build the present pavilion. Work commenced in 1989 with the vast majority of the work carried out by members, some taking two weeks unpaid holiday. After tremendous effort the shell of the building was finished in those two weeks. All work and fitting out was completed for the commencement of the 1990 playing season.
Alterations and refinements have continued to be made to the clubhouse and green by an ever willing band of members.
In 2003 a new constitution was written to enable unification of what was still a men’s club with a ladies section, into a single club with equal rights for all.