Updated: 08 May 2014 14:01

Worthing Bowling Club Founded 1907

Worthing Bowling Club was proud to celebrate its Centenary Year in 2007 and this brief history of the club which was compiled during that Centenary Season has now been slightly updated.
Bowls is an ancient game and Worthing made a belated and tentative entry to the sport but subsequently made up for the initial lack of enthusiasm.   It has hosted three World Bowls events and the EBA National Championships since 1974 and is widely considered to be the “Bowls Capital of England”.
The first reference that can be found to bowls in Worthing is an appeal by Mr E Lake of East Chichester on the 18th August 1897 when his letter was published in the Worthing Gazette.   He referred to the lovely greens and stated that there was no bowling club in the town.   He was a member of Chichester Club which had 90 members at the time and said the game was indulged by “gentlemen who were past playing lawn tennis, cricket etc”.   What a change from the current position!
In 1904 Mr W. George and ten other Worthing residents wrote to the council requesting that a small portion of the “People’s Park”, later known as Homefield Park, “be prepared and set apart for the playing of bowls as a way of attracting visitors to the town”.   This was agreed and the cost to the council, who levied a charge to players of three old pence an hour or ten shillings and sixpence (52½p) for the season, was £85. Worthing had a rudimentary bowling green but not a club.   Due to the length of time required for greens to grow, they were not available until 1905.   A local report described the facility as follows; “the green was 47 1/2 yards square accommodating 7 links” (the name used at that time for rinks).   There was a small trench some five inches deep all around the green to serve the dual aim of draining the green and catching the bowls.   Seats were provided around the green for the convenience of spectators.
The first recorded bowling match for the club was in 1906 against Chichester Bowling Club in Priory Park, Chichester, played by men who were interested in the game of bowls.   This match is commemorated each year between the two clubs towards the end of the season with, a 5 rink triples match in Priory Park.   There are no records to show who won the original match but Worthing won the Centenary game played in 2006 by 19 shots.
The club was formed in 1907, following a meeting held in The Nelson Hotel in South Street, on Wednesday 17th April. Records show that The Nelson Inn was built in 1785.   It was a coaching inn until 1842 and it closed in 1961.   “The Officers Club” shop is now on the site.   The Mayor, Alderman F.C. Linfield JP, supported by two councillors Mr Gray; Mr Arthur, as well as the landlord of The Nelson Inn, W H Ellsworth and Mr Barnwell made the proposals to start the club.   On the 30th April 1907 the first full committee meeting was held to agree the new club rules.    It was agreed that the annual subscription was to be 10/6d.
The following officers were appointed:-
President                    Mayor, Alderman F C Linfield JP
Vice President           Cllr E W Morecroft
Secretary                    Cllr T Gray
Captain                       G V Bell
Vice Captain               H Barnwell
Committee                 H W Sandell
                                     W H Ellsworth
                                      E H King
                                     M Lowther
Worthing won the first recorded club match on the municipal green against Littlehampton on 29th May 1907, which Worthing won.   However we lost the return match on the 12th June 1907 by 19 shots.
The Worthing Gazette contains numerous reports of early matches such as:-
“Exciting Game in Homefield Park – An interesting bowling match was witnessed in Homefield Park on Wednesday 11th September 1907.   The opposing teams were drawn from Homefield Park and the Worthing Club and ended in a tie.”   Homefield was not a club at the time; but they formed the club in 1927.
“Worthing BC’s first dinner was held in December 1907 and a profit of £1-12s-6d was made.”
“On the opening day of the 1908 bowling season, it was observed that the erratic course occasionally pursued by the bowls appeared to suggest some slight and almost imperceptible depressions in the turf.”
For the next two years the club managed without a clubhouse, and it seems that changing rooms were not required as players took to the green in their everyday clothes.   The first club room came about when, on 4th September 1909, the Worthing Club played the Town Councillors.   Tea was provided for both teams by the Mayor but rain stopped play, and the players were sent home hungry and thirsty without having tea.   The players took the opportunity to try and persuade the Mayor and the Council to provide a clubhouse which would cost £32 to erect.   The Council, however, decided that the Club should erect the pavilion and pay a ground rent to the Council of one guinea.   The new pavilion was first used in 1910. At this time the Club had more than 40 members.
The green would hardly be recognised by present day bowlers as there were no ditches or banks around the green.   No mats were used and the dress code was normal everyday wear.
Beach House Park was originally part of the grounds of Beach House, which still stands to the south of the park, across Brighton Road.    It was purchased by the town in 1922.   The first two greens were opened in 1924 at a cost of £1,929. In 1925 the pavilion (now the main pavilion and offices in the park) was constructed at a cost of £3,039. In the same year the Club transferred to Beach House Park and the pavilion it had erected in Homefield Park at its own expense was left for use by the Council.    The third green was laid in 1929 at a cost of £425; the fourth green was laid in 1934.    In 1935 when Beach Park Ladies BC was formed the council erected the West Pavilion to which our Club was transferred.    At this time the Town Council BC and West Sussex Police BC also made Beach Park their headquarters.
A great deal of work was carried out immediately after the war to repair the two northern greens that were badly damaged by enemy bombs. The local residents at this time were unhappy that cricket pitches in the town were turned into allotments but the bowling greens were reinstated.    The fifth green was laid in 1967.
During its history, Worthing BC has had  close associations with professional and business families in the town, including former Club Presidents F C Linfield JP, our first President (confectioners), Alderman J.G. Denton (who gave the town Denton Gardens), W.G. Tree (builder) and Arthur Stubbs (Chartered Accountant with Stubbs and Spofforth which is still in existence as Spofforths).   House and hotel furnishers H.G. (George) Scadgell and his son G.H. (John) were synonymous with bowls in Worthing as were shopkeepers, father and son Knowling (Arthur snr. and jnr.) before them.
The late Jock Munro was the green keeper who, over a long period, made the greens in Beach House Park the best in the country.   With backing from the Borough Council, the Men’s National Championships were attracted to our seaside town because of the excellent greens.
Jock (later elected a life member) was a leading player and was Club Champion in 1966, 70, 73, 74, 77, lifting numerous Sussex titles, including the Singles in 1970 and 1978.   In 1975 along with his pair’s partner, the 1955 Chelsea F.C. Championship winning team member, Eric Parsons, he won the County Pairs title.   Eric was also County Singles champion in 1974.
The first ever National Title was won by Worthing BC members in 1934.   This was in the Fours when A. Cole, W.T. Bevan, S.C. Griffin and R. Whiteside won the title.   The Pairs title was won on two occasions by father and son Arthur Knowling snr. and jnr. in 1937 and 38. Arthur Knowling jnr. was the Singles Runner-up in 1936.
In 1947 Peter Mercer won the National Singles title having been a semi-finalist in 1946.   The National Triples title was won in 1947 by the father and son pair of Arthur Knowling snr. and jnr. together with Gordon Sparks.
The 1950’s and 60’s saw many National titles won by Worthing BC:
         Pairs in 1955 by Harry Ward and John Scadgell
         Pairs in 1957 by Gordon Sparks and Arthur Knowling jnr.
         Fours in 1961 by the four members above who went on to win the British Isles title the following year.
         Pairs in 1966 John Scadgell and Rex Glover-Phillips.
Other successes were:
         Singles runner-up in 1964; John Scadgell
        Pair’s runners-up in 1965; John Scadgell and Rex Glover-Phillips, losing to David Bryant and David Rhys-Jones (both of whom will be our guests during the Centenary season).
John Scadgell (skip) represented England in the Empire Games along with Norman King (who later became a member of Worthing BC) in 1958 and they were Gold Medallists in the Fours.   He made International appearances 1956 – 60 and won 16 County titles: as follows - Singles 4 times; Pairs 5 times; Triple 3 times and the Fours 4 times.   In addition he was Club Champion 9 times.
Arthur Knowling jnr. made nine International appearances (1937-39, 1947-48, 1958-61) and was Club Champion in 1934.
Our other Internationals were Gordon Sparks (1958-59), his father Fred Sparks (1946) and Peter Mercer (1947-48). Peter held the Club title three times and was Sussex Singles Champion twice.
During the 80’s and 90’s the Club won several County titles:
1981    Pairs -    John Dicker, Gerry Bridger,
1983    Triples - John Sheehan, Steve Dyson, Gerry Bridger;
1986    Triples - Gordon Jones, Gerry Bridger, Peter Caswall
1998    Singles - Ted Hayward.
Worthing BC has been Abergavenny Cup (Sussex double rink) champions eleven times.
Worthing Corporation built a second pavilion in Beach House Park for the 1972 World Championships in which England won the fours and Norman King and Ted Hayward were in that winning rink.
Both later retired to Worthing and joined Worthing BC.   Norman King was lead in the 1972 World Championship Fours winning team and Ted Hayward was No. 3.   King was an England International 12 times and National Singles Champion in 1957.   Hayward had seven England appearances, and was singles champion twice in Middlesex and once in Sussex in 1998.   Ted reached the final of the National Over 55 Pairs with Wally Hayward in 1993.   Wally was known to bowlers from all over the country as an excellent exponent of the game and someone who willingly passed on his vast knowledge.   Latterly Wally was the instigated the provision of teas and coffees from the club house during the National Championships.
The Women’s World Bowls Championship was held in Beach House Park in 1977 and again our club facilities were used by the organisers.
The pavilion built for the 1972 Championships by the Council provided our Club with new premises.    In recent years the clubhouse and bar have proved very popular, particularly during the EBA Championship fortnight.   The licence for the bar, which was due to be in the west pavilion, was granted for commencement on 4th July 1991.   However, the plans were put on hold until after the 1992 World Championships as the EBA required the use of the pavilion for these Championships.   During this holding period, the Club decided that the refurbishment of the west pavilion to incorporate the bar would be too expensive.   It was suggested that the bar would go into the changing room of the current pavilion and that the changing room would be housed in the west pavilion.   The Council agreed to this change of plan for the new bar and its surrounding facilities came on stream at the start of the 1993 season.   The fitting and work required for the bar and surrounding area were carried out entirely by members of the club, including Norman Lewington (Building), George Osborne (Plumbing), Ernie Edge (Electrics), Peter Norman (Honours Boards) and Graham Page (Carpets).
Many of our members have represented Sussex at all levels over the years including the Middleton Cup and Home Counties League.    In 1956 when Sussex had its only success in winning the Middleton Cup, John Scadgell (skip) and Harry Ward (lead), both members of Worthing BC, were in the same rink in the final.    Over the last few years, the club has had three Middleton Cup team managers amongst its ranks: Gerry Bridger who was an Indoor and Outdoor International Trialist, Chris Young and Ted Hayward.
In 1930, the Club was instrumental in introducing the Stracey Shield which is a local league for Clubs in the Worthing area.    Worthing Bowling Club has won the Shield 29 times which is many more than any other club in the competition.   The Brodie Tray for the “B” team competition was presented in 1994.   During the previous season the Worthing Club was offered the tray by the nephew of the original recipient (Mr E R Brodie) who had been a long-time member and had received the tray for services rendered to the Club.   The Worthing Club committee agreed it be offered for the Stracey “B” Competition, which was accepted.    The tray remains the property of the Club to this day.
Club records show that in 1959 there were 220 members which is the largest number of recorded members in our history.    It was in this year that Domenico Perilli, grandfather of one of our current day members, Russell Hallett,  joined the Club aged 68.    An entry in the cash book for that year shows he paid 18 shillings for the dinner held on the 10th November at “Mitchell’s Arcade Café” (now the Nationwide Building Society on the corner of Montague St. and Royal Arcade).    96 members attended the dinner and, with receipts totalling £86-8-0d and expenditure £92-14-6d, the Club made a loss of £6-6-6d.
The 1974/5 season saw the one and only English Indoor President from our Club – Rex Glover-Phillips, who was also a National Selector indoors, and out. In addition, he was also Sussex County outdoor President in 1970 and County Indoor President 1980-81.
The Club competitions in 1978 produced the youngest winner and this record still stands.   Fifteen year old Steve Potten played ninety year old George Mockridge in the Club Wheeler Cup and won 22-21.
Steve’s father Ray was the Centenary Year Captain.    He joined the club in 1952 Club and is the longest serving Club member.   He played Middleton cup for Sussex in 1964 and is a well known journalist for local newspapers, being the press officer for the Sussex C.B.A. for many years. He has also the S.C.I.B.A. press officer since 1963.
One of the club’s past members Roy Downing was acclaimed as Britain’s first professional bowls coach.   His weekly courses encouraged numerous new players over the years and assisted the Club in many ways.   He also owned Worthing Bowls Shop for several years.   One of his pupils was Geoff Godden who has helped greatly in the preparation of this publication.   At this point the Club wishes to acknowledge our appreciation for the help Geoff has given with background information in the production of this history of our Club.   Geoff has written many articles and books on bowls, Worthing and its history.   These included his 1988 book The Beginners Guide to Bowls which brought Worthing and the Club to the attention of new bowlers across the country and overseas.
Further major achievements occurred in 2006 when Matt Ives qualified to represent Sussex as under 25 Singles Champion at the National Championships in Worthing.    Matt narrowly lost in the semi-final to the eventual winner.   Ted Hayward and Ken Woodcock with respective wives Peggy and Yvonne (Beach Park Ladies Bowling Club), qualified for the Mixed Fours in the National Championships in 2006; they also lost in the semi-final to the eventual winners.   This is the second time Peggy and Ted reached the National semi-final in the Mixed Fours, the first time being in 1990 with Betty Potten (wife of the centenary years captain Ray) and Ken Andrews.
When the English Bowling Association built its office in the corner of Beach House Park some of its officers became members of the club including Chief Executive: George Shaw; Treasurer, Bob Jack MBE, Deputy Chief Executive Fred Inch (Club President 1991-3, 1997, 2001-2) and Acting Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive Ken Woodcock, one of our Past Presidents.
Over the decades the Worthing Bowling Club has been blessed with stalwart volunteer officers, including Mick Ford, Secretary for the  16 years and Geoffrey Taylor, Treasurer for 17 years. They were ably supported by a team of enthusiastic club members.
Throughout the 100 years there has been a close affinity between the Town’s administrators and the Club.   The town in general and Worthing Borough Council in particular are deserving of our grateful thanks for the help and support we have received over the years.   We should also thank the many ground staff who over the years have prepared the greens to ensure we play at the “Mecca” of men’s bowls in England.   Without them there would be no bowls and no Club.
Worthing Bowling Club may now be well over 100 years old year but it is a vibrant and forward looking club and its members wish those who read these notes good health and good bowling in the future.
The largest recorded membership was in 1959, when the club boasted 220 members, today the membership figure is around 70.

Compiled by K.J. Woodcock and club members 2007 - updated slightly in 2014.