The History of Daventry Town Bowling Club

The History of Daventry Town Bowling Club

(Reproduced from the booklet by Derek Balding – year unknown)

The Wheatsheaf

Just four months after the death of Queen Victoria and two years before the founding of the English Bowling Association a group of men met at the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Daventry and passed a resolution—“that a club be formed which shall be called the Wheatsheaf Bowling Club”.

The subscription was limited to 5/- per year and 39 names were listed of gentlemen who had promised to become members. Two days later on 24th May, 1901 a further meeting was held at which officers and committee were elected and it was decided that the club grounds should be opened at 3 p.m. on Whit Monday, 27th May.

By 1906 the name of the club had become the “Wheatsheaf Bowling and Tennis Club”, but a meeting held on 3rd May, 1906 club rule number one was amended changing the name to “Daventry Town Bowling Club”

The green used by these early members was within the grounds of the Wheatsheaf Hotel itself, and the landlord at the time, Mr.E.W.Killick was the first vice-captain. In 1903 when he ceased to hold office in the club a resolution was passed that Mr. Killick be appointed ex-officio a member of the committee. This very amicable arrangement with the landlord was to pay dividends. At the end of the 1904 season and again twelve months later approaches were made to the brewers to have improvements done to the green. These included putting the whole of the green onto one level and relaying the bottom green. Finally in October 1905 with no offer of help from Messrs. Hopcraft and Norris the work was undertaken by Mr. Killick himself. For the 1906 season the subscription was raised to 7/6 and in 1907 the club guaranteed to Mr. Killick the sum of £12 for the use of the green for the season.

Some changes took place by 1908 because in February of that year an Interview took place between the committee and a Miss Idle, who re-presented her mother, and it was agreed that the club could have the use of the green rent free provided that they engage a man to keep the same in good order. The club appointed Mr. B .Sharpe as groundsman at 4/6 per week, and granted to Mrs. Idle the use of the green on any days except Thursdays and Saturdays, but she had to provide “her own bowls”.

Just how good was this early green it is not possible to say, but not infrequently the season started early in April, and in 1910 the green was not closed until the first week in October with the proviso that “…in the event of the weather holding” the groundsman was to prepare a rink on Thursdays until further notice. For this he was paid an extra 2/6 per time. It is also recorded that members were requested to play in “rubber soled boots”, and this was after the club had been running for five years.

Of the grounds man’s equipment there was at least a roller and on one occasion a parcel of lawn seed was given by one of the members. In 1912 a hose and sprinkler was purchased but one month after this acquisition it was pointed out that according to the Water Company’s rules and by-laws the club was liable to a special rate of 10/- per year for its use. A committee went into considerable discussion on the matter but eventually the secretary was instructed to write to the “collector” informing him about the sprinkler and hose and that it would be used when required.

Among the early opponents were teams from the Bath Hotel Club at Leamington; Northampton County Ground; Northampton West End; Kingsthorpe; Banbury; Northampton W.M.C.; Wanderers; Rugby Scottish; Abington Park rangers; Mansfield; and the Walkeasy B.C. Arrangements for a game at Daventry against the Leamington Club in 1902 show that the game was played in threes of 21 up, and twelve a side. Two boys were employed to wipe bowls, and the visiting team to be entertained at Daventry after the game, each member paying for “…his ex’s and those of his opponent”. For a later visit of the same club “…further refreshments and cigars also be supplied after the tea”. Transport to away matches was made in style—the char-a-banc of Mr. G. Perkins at 30/- a time.

As early as 1903 the club was holding a singles handicap competition with the winner receiving “a pair of bowls, numbered and biased according to his instructions”. An entrance fee of 1/- was charged. In 1904 a subscription was made among the players in order to buy a pipe for the runner–up, and it was later found that sufficient had been collected for the next highest to have a pipe also.

Annual dinners were the order of the day almost from the beginning. The cost was 2/6 and members were entitled to bring one guest. The Mayor was usually invited and music was often provided by such persons as Mr. Gibbs or Mr. Collett at the piano. At one stage the formality seems to have been overdone as in 1906 it was decided to leave out several of the toasts “…the chief one being the Town and Trade of Daventry”. In 1909 the green was opened on 15th April and this was followed by a tripe supper after which there took place “a friendly game of cards.

Between the Wars

The First World War curtailed many sporting activities including bowls. It also saw the end of the club’s playing days at the Wheatsheaf. The brewers wanted to develop a cattle market and the bowling green had to make way for animal pens. Fortunately, however, in May 1919 the town council instructed the surveyor to prepare and lay a bowling green in what was then known as the ‘Jubilee Recreation Ground. London Road’. Money for this recreation ground had originally been raised by public subscription and many people in Daventry felt that the Council was wrong to take the flattest piece of the park and let it be used for a minority interest. Despite this opposition the green was laid and since then it has been the home ground for the Daventry Town Bowling Club.

By 1923 the club singles handicap was being played for the same trophy on the same lines as today. The winner in that first year was Archie Vogt who remained a very active member until shortly before his death in 1968.

Soon after World War 1 Mr Frances Samuel Newbould was elected President and for many years he was to serve the club exceedingly well.

Among Mr Newbould’s friends was the Archdeacon of Brecon, himself a very keen bowler and as a result of this friendship there developed an annual outing for the Daventry bowlers to Builth Wells in Wales. This was always on the first weekend in July, but  on only one occasion did the Welshmen visit Daventry. That was in 1939, but it was also the year Britain again went to war with Germany and the exchange of visits had to stop. It is on record that Daventry Town B.C. was the first club in the country to go on tour.

Mr Newbould’s home for the later years of his life was Stone House in New Street, and once a year in invited the members of the club into his grounds and a bowls competition was played on the lawn. During this time the winner was given a silver cup which was his to keep. After his death Mr F.B. Newbould came to Daventry, took over his uncle’s house, was elected President of the Club, and until the war continued the practice of holding an annual bowling event on the lawn. In memory of the former President his sister, Mrs Burt, gave the Newbould Cup, and members still compete for this in a two wood competition early in the season.

The Club maintained a connection with the Wheatsheaf Hotel by continuing to use it as the headquarters for meetings, and for several years after World War 1 had as a member yet another landlord, Stanley Turnell. Stanley retired from the Wheatsheaf with the coming of the by-pass and moved to live in Rugby, but he entrusted to the Club the “Daventry Bowlers—Hospital Challenge Shield”. This was competed for by rinks from other clubs in the area with proceeds being donated to the local hospitals. This shield is still in existence but has not being competed for since 1937.

At the end of 1929 the then secretary, Tom Goode, resigned and one of the Club’s younger men was elected in his place. Three seasons later this young man took over the treasurer’s job as well. From then until his very sudden death in 1963 can be called the Wilfred Bailey era. With a small gap from 1948-1951 he held both these offices and was the man mainly responsible for keeping the club affairs in order during the second world war.

But administration was not Wilfred’s only claim to fame. Bowls was very much a family pastime, his father W. J. Bailey, Snr. was the second person to win the handicap trophy, and later Wilfred was to have his name inscribed five times on the same trophy, a record which stands to this day. On two occasions Wilfred reached the semi-finals of the country triples competition. The first time was in 1954 playing with his brother-in-law Ron Dodson and Archie Vogt, and then in 1969 together with Fred Warne and Tom Ashby. On this second occasion Wilfred was to die before he was able to play in the semi-final match. Wilfred’s work and achievements have ensured that his name will always be associated with the Daventry Town Bowling Club.

When the Second World War broke out it was decided at first to keep the club going despite the fact that the N.B.A. and the E.B.A. closed down. Soldiers stationed on Borough Hill were invited to play as honorary members, and throughout 1940 competitions were run to raise money for the Major’s Red Cross Fund. During War Weapons week in 1941 £10 was invested in National Savings. However on July 1st that year a resolution was passed that “…the club should cease to function and should be revived as soon as hostities ceased.

And since

Hostilities did cease in 1945 and at an A.G.M. held on 27th September the club was revived. Immediately a letter was sent to the

Council ‘with Suggestions for improvements’ to the green. This had always been meadow turf and in the early days county competitions were only permitted on Cumberland  turf greens. However in 1936 the Northamptonshire B.A. agreed to such competitions being played on meadow turf if of a sufficiently high standard. At this time the green in the Daventry Recreation Ground was in poor condition, so much so that for the season 1938 even the club competitions were cancelled. After the war when Hector MacDonald was the green-keeper a large area of the turf was lifted and raised and the green generally was improved. In 1946 the N.B.A. gave their blessing to the green.

On this much improved green one player’s achievements stand out. In 1948 Percy Abbott reached the semi-final of the county singles competition, he won the club singles four times and the club pairs twice. Awarded his county badge in 1950, he was the first Daventry Town player to gain this distinction, Percy later went on to represent the county in the Middleton Cup games for a period of three years, 1953-55. Other players have since been awarded their county badge but Percy’s achievements are yet to be equalled in the club.

A club pairs competition had been started in 1931 when George Miles presented two gold and silver medals for the finalists, but it was in 1946 that a cup was given to the club. It was donated by Harold Wright in memory of his father, and was one of the cups won by W. T. Wright during his playing days. A cup for runners-up in the pairs was given in memory of W. J. Bailey, Snr.

The triples cup was given in 1968 by the Sharpe brothers in memory of their father, but an entirely different triples tournament resulted from a gesture made by Archie Vogt in 1963. An annual one day event is held and is open to bowlers from any club in Daventry, with the arrangements left in the hands of the Town club.

The game of bowls has never been looked upon as an expensive pastime, and in this respect it is worth looking at the subscriptions of the club. Founded in 1901 with an annual charge of 5/-, it was raised in 1906 to 7/6. This figure remained untouched until 1952 when it went up to 10/-, rising again in 1969 to £1. Three rises in over 60 years. Not surprising then that the year end balance never exceeded £50 until the 1960’s.

It was in the sixties that the development of the club came in for serious consideration. In 1962 a proposal was put forward to explore the possibilities of developing a site alongside Stopford Hill as a private bowling green in conjunction with other sports such as tennis. The expansion of the town and the impending introduction of a town map showing the proposed developments resulted being left dormant. It may yet be raised again.

With this idea shelved the club approached the council in 1966 to seek permission to erect a clubhouse of its own alongside the green in the recreation ground. For over 40 years this green had been the home of the club and for shelter it had always relied upon the Council. In the early days an open-fronted wooden pavilion was used, replaced by more permanent construction as part of the coronation celebrations in 1953. But of this the club had the use of only one small room.

The club got the ready agreement of the Council and set about raising the necessary finance, the main source of which was a weekly tote started in 1967. By the end of 1969 the figure raised for the club had exceeded £1,000 and during that year the erection took place of the very first clubhouse owned by the Daventry Town Bowling Club.

Yet another development took place towards the end of the 60’s, and to many people it will always hold sad memories. One of the Town Club’s keenest rivals, Stead & Simpson B.C. wound up in 1967, their very fine green and sports field fell victim to the bulldozers of Daventry’s expansion. So it was for the 1968 season with many of the former Stead’s players joining the Town club the fixture list was handed over to the Town Secretary, resulting in the Daventry Town club having probably its most active fixture list ever.

Most bowling clubs have families who are well represented in their ranks. At Daventry one can think of Wilfred Bailey, who with his father and brother –in –law could turn out a formidable triple; the Newboulds who gave the club two presidents; the Hackett brothers who played in the very early days; but in this respect one family stands out, a family whose connections span three generations. Joseph Stratford was a founder member, one time secretary, treasurer and president of the club, his son Harold joined during the Wheatsheaf days and remained a member almost until his death in 1956, and Eric joined the club in 1956 for a time emulating his grandfather by holding the office of treasurer.