THE EARLY HISTORY OF WONERSH BOWLING CLUB
Created from the early committee minutes
The formation of a bowling club in Wonersh may be said to have originated in the City of Oxford when I used, in the summer evenings, to see middle aged men busily engaged in the game of bowls. I had been living for more than a year in Wonersh when the idea came into my mind that there were men in the village too old for active games like cricket and football; why not try to start a Bowling Club.
The subject was first broached in the winter of 1925/26 after a meeting of the Unionist Association Committee in the Corner Cottage, in the room now Dr. John Bell Nichol’s consulting room. There was not much enthusiasm but those present thought it would be a good thing if the necessary money could be raised.
I then consulted Mr. John Courage of Derry’s Wood who was always very generous in helping to promote any scheme that brought benefit to the village.Mr. Courage at once promised his support and agreed to call a public meeting to find out whether there would be general approval.
The meeting was held in the Memorial Hall - about 50 persons were present including some of the most influential people in the Parish. Mr. Courage presided and was supported by Mr. J.H. Cook, Mr. Frank Rogerson and Mr. Robert Haslam. A resolution to form a Bowling Club was approved.
It was decided that the annual subscription should be kept as low as possible (5/-) but it was hoped that members themselves would look after the ground. A subscription for funds was proposed toward the preparation of the ground, Mr. Courage and Mr. Cook each promised £25 and Mr. Haslam £12.10/- (£87.10/- in all). These gentlemen were elected Founder Presidents with Mr. Courage as the Senior President. Dr. Hawkes agreed to act as Secretary and Mr. Neil-Miller as Treasurer. A committee was also formed.
The most appropriate site appeared to be in the field behind the Memorial Hall which belonged to Mr. Rogerson. Mr. Rogerson promised to lease sufficient ground for three rinks at a nominal rent of 2/6d per annum and his offer was accepted with thanks.
As the ground was on a slope it had to be levelled and the contract was given to Mr. John Butcher for an estimate of from £ 60 to £ 70. This included the laying of the turf. The ground was enclosed by Astolat for £ 22:3/3d in September 1925. The turf for the green was given by Mr. John Sudbury, the then tenant of Wonersh Park, with the consent of the owner Mr. Haslam. The first turf suggested was unsuitable and Mr. Elliott, head gardener of Derry’s Wood and I suggested turf from the Deer Park - on the site of what is now Mrs. Paice’s garden. The turf was cut and carted free by Mr. Cook’s men. The work of levelling and turfing was finished in 1925 and the ground left to settle for the winter.
In 1926 Mr. Courage had the outskirts of the ground planted with shrubs and lime trees, costing between £ 30 and £ 40. He also presented the Club with a box of woods. A small cycle shed was bought as a temporary pavilion. A water supply with a stand pipe was laid on in April. An appeal was made to the founders who promised £ 16:16/- for a J.P. lawn mower. Mr. Courage £ 8, Mr. Cook £ 4, Mr. Rogerson £ 4. (The mower was got through Mr. Mitchelson at his request and the Club received a discount of £ 1.00). Not much play was possible during the summer as the members had to learn the rules of the game and a good deal of rolling and mowing was required. Mr. Edwards was paid 32/- for attending to the grounds.
1927 My proposal was, that after the ground was finished an advisory committee should be formed of men skilled in the management of lawns to give us the advantage of their knowledge. Three head gardeners undertook to do this, Mr. Elliott of Derry’s Wood, Mr.Bagular of Chinthurst Hill and Mr. Mitchelson of Barnet Hill. I had not realised that co-operation between head gardeners is as difficult as to mix oil and water. Mr. Elliott took umbrage over something - I never found exactly why but believe it was because Mr. Thornton who lived at Shalford was accepted as a member. Anyhow the Advisory Committee never met and never gave any advice. One possible reason was they were asked to do the work for nothing. For later on when I asked the Committee to help me move a mound of soil to level up the ground with, I regret to say, Mr. Mitchelson as their spokesman they flatly refused to do anything on the ground unless they were paid for the work. The only exception was Mr. Lucas of the Liberal Club and he was a publican. The work was subsequently done by Mr. Neil-Miller, Mr. Brett, George Hammond and myself and Lucas. My vision of help in return for favours received vanished into thin air.
The first Captain of the Club was Major White of the Forrest Arms, Blackheath who was chosen for his knowledge of the game. Mr. Courage came to the opening and when he saw that we had only a bicycle shed for housing things, at once decided to present the club with a pavilion and commissioned me to obtain details of the cost. The result was the present building which cost over £ 300. The inside furniture, tables, chairs etc. was the gift of Mr. Cook.
In order to provide a nursery for new turf for the ends I levelled the triangular piece of ground to the South of the green and sowed it with a special mixture of Suttons and it has proved of use.
When it was known that Mr. Rogerson was going to leave Chinthurst I approached him with an offer to buy the land on which the bowling-green stood. At first he offered to sell for £ 20 but later on very generously said he would make a gift of the freehold to the Club under Trustees, but the Club would have to pay the necessary legal fees and the strip of ground along the West border would remain his property and be leased (until/unless) wanted, for a rent of 1/- a year. Mr. Haslam presented a Challenge Cup for the best player of the year.
1928 The Club was approached by Bramley Bowling Club to form a restricted alliance. A General meeting was called but the suggestion was defeated by a large majority. Major White was succeeded as Captain by Mr. John Jay who had come to live in the village. His captaincy put the Club on a proper basis and I felt that my part in forming the Club had come to an end, it was on a sound footing and Mr. Jay by his good humour and tact was able to produce a more community spirit than had existed before. The Deed of Gift is deposited at the National Provincial Bank in Guildford.
Here follows extracts from the Committee meetings held from 1934 to 1939.
They started off by holding meetings in April, May and September with their Annual General meeting in January
1930 Mr. Robert Haslam presented a Challenge Cup to the Club. This was to be a knock out competition to be played over 11 ends. 32 players entered and the final was held on the 6th of September 1930 when J.F. Anning beat R.E. Daws 17 to 6. The 1st round losers were entered into a Captains Prize when G. Hammond beat Niel Miller 17 to 2. After the finals were played a Spoon Competition was held which Messrs Lock and Burstow won with 22 points.A year later the rules of the Haslam Cup were set up with the games being played over 21 ends with 4 woods with “the loser to pay three pence into the box. Messrs Anning, Douse, Hews and Grass, four bowlers living in Bramley, challenged and four from Wonersh, Messrs Burstow, B. Hammond, G. Hammond and S. Simmons accepted and won the match 20 shots to 16.
1934/5 Mr. Fillis resigned as Secretary and the post was taken up by Walter Enticknap. A vote of thanks was accorded to Miss Payne and her assistants for organising a jumble sale.
At the AGM in January 1935 the Secretary reported that 28 matches had been arranged for the coming season. Mr. Haslam invited the Club to play at Wonersh Park. Mr. Mitchelson was reappointed as Head Grounds man.The offer of an additional piece of ground, to increase the size of the green, so allow play both ways was considered. After some discussion it was decided to leave the matter in the hands of Mr. Miller and Dr. Hawken. It was decided to paint the doors and windows of the club house, inside and out. The sum of 5/- was given to G.L. Lock towards the cost of paint.
1937 Membership had now risen to 31 with the club playing 31 matches through the last season. 18 won and 13 lost. The Treasurer in presenting the balance sheet referred to the fact that the green had not been used as much as it might have been for practise, consequently ”the box” suffered from lack of funds. He urged the members to support the Club more in the next season. Lord Inchcape was elected as Vice President. Mr. Mitchelson was elected as Treasurer. Major Pain offered to present a cup for a pairs competition to be known as the Ladder Cup. It was decided not to include Shere Bowling Club in next years fixture “owing to them only being able to play two rinks”. A suggestion was made that the Club buy a flag and adopt club colours but the matter was dropped. Entrance fees for competitions were set at 6d for the Haslam and Club competitions. Pairs 6d (now 21 ends with 4 woods). The ladder competition of one penny for each game played (11 ends 4 woods). Losers in each round to put 3 pence in “the box”. Closing date for competitions to be 12th June with the draw on Monday 14th. A coach was ordered for a trip to Worthing. At the meeting of 7th September Mr. R. Shannon proposed that “some sort of manure” be put on the green in the autumn. It was decided to give the winners of the Pairs competition “a pipe in a case”. The runners up not to have a prize owing to the small entry of competitors.
1938 At the AGM in March the Secretary reported that the competitions had been “carried through with a certain amount of difficulty owing to members not playing their rounds as quickly as they might do so”. Walter Enticknap gave notice that he would do one more year as Secretary and then stand down. A letter was later received from Mr. Hook offering to be Secretary. Lords Hill Stores were appointed to do the catering for all home matches. A Rinks competition was set up as follows: All members eligible to enter and can play as many games as possible with a minimum of nine games. One penny to be paid per member per game of seven ends. The points scored by each rink (triples or fours) will go to each individual player. The best eleven scores to count. The player with the most points at the end of the season to be the winner. Players to be drawn from a hat and the order in which they are drawn to determine their playing position (Lead, 2, 3 or skip). The Pairs competition was dropped in favour of the Rinks Competition. Major Pain’s prize to be given to the winners of the Club prize. An estimate was requested from Astolat for the cost of levelling the green and dressing with sea sand. It was agreed to close the green on the last Saturday in September. It was reported at the next AGM that the levelling estimate was too expensive but the sea sand dressing had been applied. At the meeting of 17th May Mr. Smith of Lords Hill Stores declared that it was impossible to do the teas. Mr. Elain offered to supply teas at 1/- per head. It was suggested that a jumble sale be arranged.
1939 At the AGM in February the Treasurer in presenting the balance sheet for 1938 drew the members attention to the unsatisfactory statement with regard to the competitions and the “Club Box” which were both below the previous seasons entry fees and collections. The competitions were costing more than the entry fees.
War clouds were gathering and towards the end of the year the committee became concerned as to the future of the club in “view of the International Situation”. After all the South coast was a bare 50 miles away and the threat of invasion was very real. Some members had served in the forces engaged in World War One which had only ended 21 years before. It was agreed that the Club should be “kept solvent” and the assets liquid in the event that it had to be evacuated.