The Game of Bowls

From Hoole History and Heritage Society

The Game of Bowls[1]

Bowls Advertisement April 1842

Bowling has been a popular pastime for centuries and in April 1842 the landlord of the Ermine and Railway Hotel in Flookersbrook was pleased to announce “the addition of a splendid bowling green”.

Bowls Advertisement May 1834

Another pub in Brook Street was actually called ‘The Bowling Green’, its address being given as Flookersbrook, by which name that area was also then known.

There were originally two bowling clubs in Hoole. The Hoole and Newton Bowling Club which had a private green in Vicarage Road, and the Hoole Alexandra Park Bowling Club which used the public greens provided in Hoole Alexandra Park.

Hoole and Newton Bowling Club

Sale of Bowling Green 1974

This seems to have been a private club with its own green on the east side of Vicarage Road between Nos.4 and 6. The green is not marked as such on O.S. maps but the vacant land shown between the houses make it easy to identify. The earliest record of the Club dates from July 1910 when Mr. Samuel Davies aged 66 of Fairfield, Kilmorey Park collapsed suddenly while playing there. He was taken to Mr. T.W. Chalton’s house at No.3 Vicarage Road where brandy was administered. Dr. Butt was called but to no avail.

The Club had strong links with the Freemasons and for many years dinners were held in conjunction with the Deeside and the Tattenhall Bowling Clubs. Prominent citizens such as R. Cecil Smith (Hoole Volunteer Fire Brigade and Mayor of Chester), Chas Jones (Agricultural Machinery Merchant at Cowlane Bridge), William Kearton (Guardian of the Workhouse) were associated with the Club which appears to have been a men only organisation. The land it occupied in Vicarage Road was sold for housing in 1974.

Hoole Alexandra Park Bowling Club

Invitation to Tender to erect Bowl House and the Park Lodge February 1912
Drinking Fountain at the Bowl House[2]

The bowling greens installed in Hoole Alexandra Park in 1913 by the Urban District Council were intended for public use, bowls being available for hire from the Bowl House which also later serviced the tennis courts, and the putting green which opened in 1933 next to them. The Bowl House was enhanced by the provision of a drinking fountain provided by William Williams, a prominent local builder and one time Chairman of the Council. The history of the Park can be read above.

The Hoole Alexandra Park Bowling Club was formed as soon as the greens were open in 1913 and had an initial membership of 40. Its President for the first 3 years was W. Mills who was also Chairman of the Urban District Council. In 1914 the Club asked the Council for a reduction in fees for its members which was refused "there should be no concessions, since the facility had been paid for by all ratepayers of the District".

Cups and Trophies

Some of the Bowls Trophy Winners 1977

Teams were formed and competitions held and by 1934 there were 128 members.

Dr. Butt gave impetus to the Club when he presented a cup for competition amongst members. Dr. Butt was the Council’s Medical Officer of Health. He was a keen sportsman who played cricket for Hoole and he was also the Team Doctor for Chester Football Club.

Edward Paul gave a cup to enable money to be raised for the Hoole & Newton Nursing Association.

Sir Owen Phillips M.P. for Chester between 1916 and 1922 presented a cup in aid of the Chester Infirmary.

Maurice Sharp also donated a trophy which raised money for the Chester & District Blind Society.

By 1945 there were also the William Brown Championship cup, a Jubilee Challenge cup, the Crosland Taylor cup and a Merit Medal for each season.

Edmund H. Dawson also presented a cup to be competed for by members of the Hoole Veterans Association whose hut was adjacent to the greens.

In more recent years other trophies have been bowled for: the Ernie Evans Cup, the Bernard Payne Shield, the May Kenney Cup and the Frank Wilding Trophy.

The Presidents’ Honours Board

The Presidents' Honours Board

The Board was presented to the Club in 1948 by Edmund H. Dawson and his wife to mark their golden wedding in the previous year. A well-known newsagent in Hoole, Edmund Dawson was a member and one time Chairman of the Urban District Council and President of the Bowling Club in 1924.

Charity Work and Civic Pride

Over the years teams have taken part in the different leagues which have operated in the Chester area. Many of the Club’s events have raised a significant amount of money for local charities and the Club continues to dominate the greens today. Sadly the pride and effort which went into providing the facilities 100 years earlier were not sustained and neglect by successive members and officials of the local authority meant that by the 2020s the Pavilion, as it became known, and the toilets were in a disgraceful state.

The Ladies Section

The Hoole Alexandra Park Bowling Club had always welcomed lady members from the start, a Miss Barton who died in 1940 was “a member since its formation”. In 1934 there were 25 lady members, Mrs. R.H. Pryce was a member of the otherwise male committee and went on to be President in 1941; other lady members were also to become Presidents. In 1943 Mrs. E.G.M. Kenney was the first lady to win the Club’s championship. The Club set up a dedicated ladies’ section and although it continues today as a mixed organisation, in 1947 a new separate ladies bowling club was formed.

Hoole Ladies Bowling Club

During the 2020 Covid 19 lockdown the Secretary of Hoole Ladies Bowling Club, Jane Branson was able to use the minute books and secretaries’ reports of the Club to provide a detailed history of its formation and activities.

Hoole Carpet Bowls Club Fixture Card 1977/8

Hoole Carpet Bowling Club

The Club was formed in 1902, games being played in a small pavilion attached to the house of its first president, Robert Wallace of “Emrys” in Kilmorey Park. He was a draper with premises at 92 Northgate Street and several of the earliest members were also in the tailoring trade including the Becks and the Todds who both ran shops in Hoole. When the original club room became inadequate accommodation was found first in the Newgate Street Presbyterian Church schoolroom (Robert Wallace was a prominent layman there), the Westminster Hotel stockroom, the Temperance Hall in George Street and then The Elms Pavilion which was the corrugated iron meeting room behind the Council Offices on Hoole Road.

Matches were played against other clubs e.g. Warrington and Liverpool and from the 1950s trophies played for included the Magnus Clark Rosebowl Competition (Magnus Clark was a Chemist in Charles Street) and the Elsie Oates Trophy (wife of Harry Oates who ran a garage business in Westminster Road where Rowena Court now stands). There was a Ladies Section and a fixture card from 1977/8 contains many old Hoole names which may jog a few memories. Following the demolition of The Elms Pavilion the Club played at All Saints Church Hall. Like all the bowling clubs in Hoole the Carpet Bowling Club has given support to many charitable causes.

  1. Article contributed by Jane Branson, Secretary of the Hoole Ladies Bowling Club, January 2021
  2. Copyright Jeff Buck re-used under the Creative Commons Licence