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Central Avenue, Whitehills, Northampton NN2 8DZ

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History of Kingsthorpe Bowling Club Since 1896

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Kingsthorpe Bowling Club: Established in 1896

In 1896 on 17 February the inaugural meeting was held to form a committee for a bowling club in Kingsthorpe. Councillor F W Ellen, Northampton Mayor, was elected the first President of The Northampton & County Bowling and Tennis Club sited on the ground opposite the Tramway Terminus in Kingsthorpe (Welford Road). Initially, 31 gentlemen and 15 ladies were accepted as members with fees of one Guinea and 10/6d respectively. It is believed that the very first match was played at Wellingborough BC with the first home match against Kettering Lodge BC.

Clubhouse 1896 (Where Waitrose is today)

So was the start of our proud history.

The club joined the Midland Counties Bowling Association in 1905. In 1909 the original club was dissolved and the bowling club formed and called Kingsthorpe Bowling Club.

In 1912 the club won the Mansfield Cup for the first time and on eight more occasions since then.

For the first time in 1923, members had to send their bowls for testing as recommended by The English Bowling Association.

With the increasing expansion of Northampton in 1970, the corner site at Welford Road, Kingsthorpe was very valuable for development. The bowling green however had one drawback – there were only 4 rinks, bowling one way! So after much discussion and regret it was decided that a new site be sought and a piece of land of 1.5 acres was purchased at Central Avenue, Whitehills. The club moved to Central Avenue, where the club remains to this day.

Clubhouse 1971 (After moving to Central Avenue)

In 1976 the club President Mr Jim Foran reported that following a Directors’ meeting, they had decided on the surface of a second green for the club. The Sports Council asked the club to consider an artificial surface known as Scarpa-porrit at the cost of £20 thousand pounds. The club invested £7,000 and the Sports Council covered the balance. The outdoor Scarpa green opened in 1978. However, the ladies were not allowed to play county competitions on it although eventually, the Northants Bowling Association passed the green for use. This artificial surface became the source of much controversy amongst bowlers and officials and was finally banned from county competitions being played on it. The green became dangerous to play on and could not be cleaned so the carpet was removed and the surface became a temporary car park in 1989.

Serious discussions had started about building a new club and indoor facility. Many fundraising activities were arranged to raise the £60,000 required. By 1990 half of this target had been raised by members and the project was underway. Club members of the time did so much of the necessary work in construction, from carpentry, plumbing and lighting to decorating. Members, young children at the time, also joined in the work with several going on to achieve bowling success of their own – Neil McKee, Ben Sharpe and Michelle Tansley. This engendered a true Club spirit and saved many thousands of pounds. Some of those willing members are still playing bowls today and the club holds special memories for them.

1990 saw the official opening of the Indoor facility and the Club has flourished since then.

Clubhouse 1990

Such is the history of the club and why it is held in high esteem by its members over the years and within the County and Countrywide bowling community.

Long may it continue to thrive for future generations.

This is only a snapshot of the origins and club history. Documents and a photo library are available to view.

July 2022

Appreciation for the record-keeping of past Secretaries in particular Eric York and Tina Walker.

Extracts are taken from the club’s Centenary Brochure, Opening Souvenir Brochure and historic minutes of the Club.

History Hightlights

HISTORIC HIGHLIGHTS

1896 — a year to remember: the Inaugural Meeting was held on the 17th February at the home of Mr. W. H. Dawson. Eight days later a meeting was held at the “Rose and Crown” at Kingsthorpe when the first Committee was formed. Northampton Mayor Councellor F. Ellen was installed as President, a position he would hold until 1923.

In 1897 a steward was engaged at 9/— per week including tramfares. Later the same year it was decided to engage two boys at about 2/— per week “‘to attend upon the members when playing bowls” and the coppers in the Pence Box were to be used to provide the boys’ wages. The Steward was offered another 1/— per week on the condition that he keep the Clubhouse clean.

An offer was made at some time during this period to supply whisky at 20/— per gallon, and after providing the Committee with a sample, an order was booked. Unfortunately the bulk did not come up to the quality of the sample and the Bar Committee were requested to return same. The Annual General Meeting of 1902 was held on 20th February, and was preceded by a Tripe
Supper at the George Hotel. The Bowls Club applied to enter the Midland Counties Competitions. In 1905 the Secretary was requested to make the necessary arrangements for the Club to join the Midland Counties Bowling Association. During June of that year it was resolved that in future players be required to wear rubber shoes on the Bowling Green and also that rubber shoes be provided for the boys to use.

In 1906 it was resolved that the Club join the recently formed Northamptonshire Bowling Association. Lockers were provided at a charge of 2/— each per season. The Club entered a team in the Manfield Cup Competition in 1907.

The Manfield Cup was won by K.BC. in 1912 with 49 points up. After joining the E.B.A. it was decided that the ground be ditched in conformity with E.B.A. rules. In 1915 the Manfield Cup Competition was suspended on account of the war. The only item of note in the minutes of 1922 is the first mention of fixtures with Abington Bowling Club.

1923 saw the first occasion since the Club was formed of the need to elect a new President.

Mr. F. Ellen had presided for 28 years. A Mr. H. Johnson was elected.

On the 3rd November, 1926 Kingsthorpe Bowling Club Limited was incorporated. The Company was formed “‘to acquire, take over, prepare, establish and maintain in or near Kingsthorpe, Northampton, in the County of Northamptonshire or elsewhere, land and property suitable for
use as bowling greens, sports grounds, recreation grounds, playing fields, pavilions and club premises.” The Company thus formed bought the land on which the Club was situated and raised some of the Capital through the issue of debentures at £5.00 each.

In 1943 the late Mr. J. P. Foran joined the Club, to become a prominent and invaluable member for 47 years. It was during his time as Company Chairman that the Club moved to Whitehills.

Nothing of note is recorded over the ensuing years until 1964 when a new development in the Kingsthorpe area became apparent. An offer was made to the Club to purchase the site it was on; after many discussions it was decided to sell the ground provided a new suitable site could be found. After scrutinizing several options the site at Whitehills was chosen. A lot of time was
taken up with negotiations with developers, contractors and the Planning Authority, and the green and pavilion were not ready for use until 1971. Lady bowlers were admitted as Club members in 1972; quite a few of the founder members of the ladies section are still bowling members today.

With the new facilities the membership increased rapidly, attracting a number of first class bowlers. The piece of ground adjacent to the bowling green was now considered for development, and after many meetings it was decided to install an all-weather surface, a “Scapa Green”. This artificial bowling surface was to become a source of much controversy amongst bowlers and officials and it was finally banned from County Competitions to be played on it.

The possibility of an Indoor Green at Whitehills had already been considered by some members as far back as 1971 when the Club moved into the area. Then it was thought more land might become available, now with the failure of the Scapa to remain an all-weather alternative to the grass green, it became a possible location for an Indoor Project.

After many obstacles were overcome, largely due to the sustained enthusiasm of the Company Chairman, Mr. Bob Worth, whose total commitment and determination to see it through was an inspiration to us all, the plans were executed and the building gradually took shape. Today, 31st October, 1990 we have the Official Opening of these newly built facilities and anyone can see that they are as good as anyone could wish for.

It will certainly be an event to be recorded in future annals as an “Historic Highlight”.

Aaltina H. Walker,
Company Secretary

Souvenir Brochure 1990

Souvenir Brochure Front Cover
Souvenir Brochure Frontispiece
KBC Indoor Opening Souvenir Brochure
Souvenir Brochure Foreword
KBC Indoor Opening Souvenir Brochure
Souvenir Brochure Foreword cont.

FOREWORD

It was some years ago that the idea of an Indoor Green at Kingsthorpe first came about but when we took up the suggestion with the Planning Authority we were given the “thumbs down.”

Then again in 1987 the Directors were instructed by the Members to ‘‘proceed” to obtain plans and specifications from professionals with a view to covering the Scapa Green.

At an early meeting with the Planning Officer positive guidelines were established and an Architect was engaged with the express purpose of “obtaining Planning Approval.”

We went through the stages of meetings with Planning Officers, Planning Committees and Site Visits and in September 1988 our Company Chairman’s application went before the full Committee; Les Gilder and I attended and after lengthy debate it came to the vote and it was approved. We rushed back to the Club to spread the news. Plans were put in hand to obtain prices for building.

As we hadn’t received formal notification of Approval within the specified period an enquiry was made and it was established that it had been “withheld” on a technicality and it would be referred back to the December Meeting. There was a problem with the number of parking spaces so to alleviate this we decided to improve the situation by removing the banking and conifers. Sad but necessary if we wanted to achieve our aim.

We had reinforcements when we went to the December Meeting — Mel tagged along. The decision was very close but as you can now see we got the decision we wanted.

Now the work really started.

Prices were coming in and on our preliminary costings and investigations it was fairly obvious that a package price was totally out of our reach. All that previous effort in vain?

Discouraged, maybe — but some of our more handy members got their heads together and suggested that we could utilise our own skills, put together our own package and build an Indoor Club second to none. When we were ready with full details a presentation was made on 17th March 1989 to members. Although I put everything into that presentation, little did I know what I was letting myself in for when you overwhelmingly voted to go ahead.
Long hard negotiations followed in our efforts to obtain the financial backing for the Project.
During the Autumn of 1989 all the indications were that we could meet our requirements and instructions were issued to commence work.

If I thought I had problems before, this was like climbing Everest wearing flippers and a bikini. Weekly site meetings were held and problems started rolling in from all sides.

I’m sure that we now have the deepest, most solid foundations in the Kingsthorpe area. Our girders are more “fireproof” than any in Northampton. Our “Soak-a-ways” will fill several swimming pools. Our DPC’s are beyond comparison. Our Steelwork has stood up to some of the fiercest winds known in the County, and it has been said “There may be one or two greens as good as yours in the Country — but there won’t be any better”’

It has been a revelation to see the way that everyone has contributed financially and physically and much as I would like to mention names I might miss someone out and I would hate to do that.

Two paragraphs caught my eye recently and could apply to our project:

At the start — “The past is gone; the present is full of confusion; and the future scares hell out of me.”

Now — this seems more appropriate — ‘My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.’

So enjoy the fruits of your labours and thank you all for the realisation of a dream which I hope will go from strength to strength and mean a whole new future for K.B.C.
Robert C. Worth

Would you like to be part of our club’s future?