Wayback Machine

The History of the

Gloucester & Severnside Co-op

Bowling Club

An Ancient Sport: Bowling in Gloucestershire in times past

History has many legends. Generations of children grew up with the story of King Alfred burning the cakes, Canute trying to hold back the tide and one that takes us back many centuries to the game of bowls. In 1588, so the story goes, Sir Francis Drake was on Plymouth Hoe and about to deliver a wood when news was brought to him of the approach of the Spanish Armada. “Time”, Drake said, “to finish our game and then beat the Dons!” With which he continued his game and went on to send in the fire ships off Calais that destroyed the plans of King Phillip of Spain to invade England.

So, bowls was an established game in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st; indeed, it is much older than that. There is a drawing in the Royal Library at Windsor, of 13th century date, in which two players are shown aiming at a small cone. Prior to this, in his biography of Thomas Becket, written circa 1190, William Fitzherbert refers to “casting of stones”. The claim for being the oldest bowling green in the country, indeed in the world, is made by the Southampton [Old Green] Bowling Club. Here, it is said, bowls has been played continuously “since prior to A.D. 1299”, when a “Master of the Green” was appointed. The green was on a site in an ancient part of the City known in Medieval times as “the Saltmarsh” and, it is claimed, the lawn on which bowls was played was laid in 1187. King Edward III (reigned 1272-1307) had his Parliament pass laws to prevent men from playing bowls when they should be practising archery to ensure they were fit and trained in the event of war.

In these medieval times the bowls that were used were wooden and without the bias that is such a notable feature of the later “woods”. The credit for introducing bias is given to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk (c.1484-1545), a courtier and favourite of King Henry VIII, and his brother-in-law through his marriage to his sister, Mary Tudor. He had managed to shatter one of his bowls when it was “fired” down the green. So he replaced it with an ornamental bowl sawn off a convenient banister rail! This, because it had a “flat” side, took a different path to the straight woods in play, enabling him to take the green to run past them.

The oldest green in Gloucestershire where bowls is still played is Painswick Falcon, which celebrated its 450th anniversary in 2004 – although the modern club dates from the early 20th century – on the basis that the Inn was founded circa 1554, at which time bowling and cock-fighting took place adjacent to the building.

Painswick Falcon Bowling Club – there is an old photograph in the clubhouse, dated 1870, showing the thatched shelter with players in front sporting straw boaters. The un-named green keeper, complete with broom, is to one side!

In Gloucester there is an early reference to it being played in Tudor times in the City Records. Early in the following century it is mentioned in the Gloucester Diocesan records when one Matheus Knight of Slimbridge was brought before the Diocesan Court in 1603 having been “detected for playinge at bowles upon the sabath dayes at servis tyme.” He confessed “that he & others did bowle upon sonday the xxviith of August laste after dynner, but whether it were at s(er)vis tyme or not he cannot tell”.

In 1628, a green was opened at the Long Butts, outside the south side of the City wall, as an attraction for visitors. Another reference occurs in September 1636 when the Corporation Minutes record: “It is also agreed that Mr. William Kinge shall have leave to digge the bauke over against the bowleinge greene & to make the way there …” A green was destroyed during the Siege of Gloucester in 1643 and the “bowling greene” is amongst various properties listed in the Chamberlain’s Accounts in 1644 for which rents could not be collected, in this case because the area was “dig(ge)d up in p(ar)te for the fortifications”. Bowling was popular with Stuart Monarchs. The ill-fated King Charles 1 famously played bowls whilst held prisoner in Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight in 1648 and his son, the “Merrie Monarch” King Charles II, was also an aficionado of the sport and drew up the first set of bowls rules.

In Gloucester, a green in the grounds of Greyfriars was in use by 1714; the more recent club, which closed in September 2003, was established in 1921. James Kimber established a bowling green and tea garden in Barton Street in 1812, later known as Vauxhall Gardens. The green behind the Vauxhall Inn continued in use well into the 20th century and was at one time the home of Caer Glow Bowling Club, who shared the Co-op green from 1982. A Bowling Club was established at Gloucester Spa in 1866.

A notable step forwards for the development of the game of bowls in England came in 1903 with the establishment of the English Bowling Association [EBA]. Amongst its founding members was the famous Gloucestershire and England cricketer, W.G. Grace. Although better known for his prowess with bat and ball, Grace was also a very keen bowler. He was President of the EBA from 1903-05.

Meanwhile, the Gloucester Bowling Club had been founded in 1897 as the Park End Bowling Club with its green behind the Park End Hotel. Renamed in 1901, it continued on that site, with a break during World War II, until 1967 when it had to make way for an extension to the Hotel. From 1969 to 1989 it shared the green in Hucclecote used by the Pineholt Bowling club, after which, without its own premises, numbers declined so that in 1997 it went into ‘suspended animation’ after celebrating its centenary. Its members had by this time joined other clubs, with a number signing on with the Gloucester & Severnside Co-op club.

Another old club is Gloucester Spa, which was formed in 1920. The Citizen [15 May] carries a report of their first game, against Kingsholm on a “public green”, which Spa won by eight shots. Winget Bowling Club can trace its origins even further back, to the Gloucester Wagon Works site in Tuffley Park in 1912. A very unusual feature of that club is the old railway carriage which is used as a changing room. There is a report in The Citizen [14 June 2011] which describes it as “the only original Argentinean railway carriage left from Gloucester’s famous Wagon Works Company”. It was recovered from a ship that was carrying rolling stock but sank.

Today the Gloucester & Severnside Co-op is one of several bowling clubs still active in the Gloucester area, the others being Caer Glow, Gloucester City, Gloucester Spa, Barnwood, EDF (previously British Energy), Pineholt, Sir Thomas Rich’s, Churchdown and Winget. Sadly, Greyfriars folded in 2003 and Woodlawns (Brockworth) in 2004, while Gloucester Civil Service had its last season in 2011, the latter a victim of cuts in Government expenditure.

Gloucester Co-op Bowls: Early Days

The origins of the ‘Co-op’ club can be traced to a match arranged against the British Workers Sports Association [BWSA] in August 1947. There had been an earlier attempt to set up a Bowls Section in 1939, as recorded in the Gloucester Co-operative Employees Sports and Social Club Minute Book: “May 1st. Mr. Webb drew attention to the possibility of forming a bowling section”. A circular letter was sent out to branches and departments for names of those interested, and fourteen positive replies were received. It was then proposed on 5th June that the matter “‘be held in abeyance until there is evidence of greater support”, but an amendment was carried, by the casting vote of the Chairman, “that a portion of the ground be laid out, not expensively, for use on nights other than Cricket nights”. A sub-committee was formed “to consider fully this matter and report progress”. This met three times and reported to the monthly meeting of 31st July, drawing attention to “ such snags as increased ground maintenance costs, wiring and costs of banking a green, removal of concrete cricket pitch (and the) possibility of retaining interest”. At this point it was “resolved to let this matter lie on the table for the time being.”

A few weeks later and the outbreak of the Second World War focused minds on other things. Not until January 1947 was the idea of playing bowls revived when a meeting of the Club held on the 7th was presented with a letter from the BWSA asking for a fixture. This was arranged for 14th August, to be played on the Spa Bowling Green. It was resolved that “Mr. A Jones be captain and make arrangements for 24 players together with Mr. E. Davis (vice-chairman) as helper” [28 April]. Progress was reported on 27th May, when it was “resolved that badges be purchased and presented to the BWSA team – as is customary in Bowls fixtures”. At a meeting on 16th June it was “unanimously resolved to present Mr. L. Y. Currall with a set of bowling woods, inscribed with his initials, in view of his past services.” The match was duly played and reported to the September meeting as “successful”, although the result, alas, is not, given. Mr. Hawker presented Mr. Currall with his set of woods on the bowling green. The meeting confirmed the action of the Secretary “in ordering a further 12 badges as mementoes and also in paying bills for the ‘greens’ and catering.”

Meanwhile, on 28th July, another match had been agreed against a team from the Coventry Co-op, when “it was resolved that Matson Bowling Club be approached to hire the green” in return for a donation of £2.2s.0d. By November the Gloucester Co-op was again looking at setting out its own green: “The Chairman drew attention to the question of a natural bowling green; after some discussion the Secretary was instructed to call in the advice of Mr. Restall (Glos. Wagon Co.) re the use of say two rinks only at Sisson Road.” [4th November]. However, nothing came of this because “the costs would be approx £300-£400 – needed constant attention etc. and it would not be a paying proposition”, and it was “decided to hold the question of a bowling green in abeyance.” [17th February 1948].

The next reference to a bowls match occurs in September 1949, when the Gloucester Co-op played, and defeated, the Cardiff Co-op Society on Gloucester Spa green [Minutes 6th & 20th]. The following year a match was played on 5th July against a touring side from Plymouth Co-op, again on the Spa green [Minutes 7th February]. After this, there is no mention of bowls, or fixtures are simply not recorded.

A Bowls Section is formed

Fourteen years went by until the next significant event in the Club History came in 1964. At the Annual General Meeting of the Sports & Social Club, held at the Guildhall on Tuesday 28th July, it is recorded that “Mr. Galling thanked Mr. Ball for arranging several matches which everyone seemed to enjoy.” It was then agreed, 25 years after it has been first proposed, “that a Bowls Section be officially formed”. The resolution was put forward by George White, who was later to become President and Chairman of the Club. It would appear that some rinks were set out at Sisson Road at this point, Mr. Davis reporting to the Committee in April 1965 “that the ground was progressing quite well; he had had no complaints so far.” On 18th August the Committee agreed that a grant of £15 be made available to the new section. Evidently several matches were played the following year, as it was recorded, on 3rd August, that “The Bowls matches had been enjoyed by the players although to date they had not won a match, it was not for the lack of interest or enthusiasm.” By the autumn of 1967 things seem to have been going well, the season having been “the most successful as yet”. However, the increased cost of a bowling green meant that the section would have to raise extra funds, and the Committee duly approved a request for a Dance [13th October].

In 1968 the Club was looking to build a new pavilion and it was agreed to move the cricket and football pitches to give more scope for the development of the bowls green [Minutes, 11th November]. It was about this time that Lionel Davis, who was later to be Captain and then President of the Bowls Club, took up the sport. He recalled that most of the early games were played at Barnwood Bowling Club, the green at Sisson Road being a two-rinker used for roll-ups. The Section was proving a success and the Committee, on 28th September 1969, congratulated them on their “growing prestige” and the “tremendous job being done at Sisson Road”. By 1969, the new hut was “beginning to take shape” [2nd March] and in May 1970 it was resolved that “Mr. Davis would have control of the Bowling Green”. [26th May]. It is recorded that Mr. Harris would “attend to surrounds and the weeding around the bowling green” while “Mr. Butler offered his services to Mr. Davis wherever possible.” Bill Harris and Roy Butler were both to become Chairman of the Bowls Club and to be commemorated by 4-wood competitions played for trophies named after them. The same meeting agreed to purchase a sprinkler and spiker. Despite on-going problems with weeds the season was a successful one.

Weeds continued to be an issue in 1971, but by January 1972 they seem to have been brought under control, Mr. Davis reporting that “he was extremely pleased with the progress of the new grass” [24th January]. Work on the hut, though, was very slow. The “large room and kitchen” were nearing completion by the spring of 1973 [Minutes, 5th March] and the first stage was completed by August. Roy Butler [Chairman of the Sports & Social Club] said “that at long last he could achieve an ambition by having been able to pull a pint of beer at Sisson Road.” [11th August]. It is clear that proper fixtures were now taking place, although the absence of surviving records prior to the late 1980s does not admit of any specific references to them.

The original clubhouse at Sisson Road – pictured in a sorry state in 2010. Following the construction of the new clubhouse it was used as a store

Lionel Davis recalled that these early games played at Sisson Road were on a rather bumpy 5-rink green, which had been created through a great deal of hard work over an 18 month period. Tennis courts and a concrete cricket pitch used to be on the site. Lionel would go up to Sisson Road at 10 o’clock in the morning and not return home until 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon. He was assisted by Arthur (Andy) Andrews [who was later Secretary, Captain and President of the Bowls Club], George Hudson [Fixtures Secretary for the County] and the Vining brothers [contracted labour]. They used a Ferguson Tractor over the weekends, shifting a massive amount of dirt, and had a great problem with gravel, which would be washed to the surface after a storm.

Andy Andrews was Club President 2004-06

and Vice-President 1996-2003.

He served as Club Captain in 1975, 1979-88 and 1988-89, and was Secretary in 1977, 1989-91 and 1994-95

An Established Club

The first formal game at Sisson Road was played on 14th May 1973 against Churchdown under the captaincy of Lionel Davis.

Lionel Davis, pictured with the chain of office as President of Gloucester Indoor Bowling Club, 1988-89.

Lionel succeeded Andy Andrews as Co-op Club President in 2004. He had been involved with the Co-operative Society Sports & Social activities since coming out of the Royal Navy in 1951. For many years he served as Greens Adviser for the Gloucester section of the GBA.

Watering problems meant that the green could only be used for three more matches that year, the remainder being played at Barnwood. The problem stemmed from a four inch water main that supplied the laundry opposite, so that Lionel would have to go up at 11 or 12 o’clock at night to water the green. Full use of the Sisson Road Green only resumed in 1974. It survived the great drought of 1976 when Lionel would be up there watering the green until 1 o’clock in the morning. Unfortunately no records survive of how the club fared in its fixtures through the late seventies and well into the eighties.

In April 1982 Caer Glow [formerly the Vauxhall Bowling Club with their green at the hostelry of that name] came to Sisson Road to share the green with the Co-op. They had been playing at Gloucester Spa after their green in Barton Street was enclosed for a car park.

There were now three clubs with an interest in the facilities at Sisson Road: the Gloucester & Severnside Co-op Sports & Social Club, the Gloucester & Severnside Co-op Bowling Club, and Caer Glow Bowling Club. To ensure that club facilities were managed and maintained a Joint Management Committee (JMC) was set up.

In 1984 a grant of £18,000 was obtained from the Co-operative Society and in January 1985 planning permission was secured for a new Club House. This had been completed by June of that year. The green was extended by one rink towards the club house and one towards the Sports Field. According to Lionel Davis, the peculiar runs that can occur on these rinks and also (depending on the settings) on rink 2 are due to a drainage ditch that has soil on top of gravel.

On 18 November 1986 the Club lost its President, Cyril Barnfield, who died suddenly at his home in Gloucester age 79. He had been active in the Co-operative movement in Gloucestershire for 65 years and had been appointed President of the Gloucester & Severnside Co-op Society in 1976.

On 11th May 1987 the green was approved for use for County Competitions, except for two rinks, and approval for these was given in May 1989. In November the Committee agreed that Friday should be reserved as an official ‘roll up’ evening for Co-op members, which could include instruction sessions. In December of that year a Greens Committee of six was set up as the JMC had expressed concern over the upkeep of the green. It included two green keepers, Lionel Davis being the green keeper for the Co-op. The AGM in November 1988 adopted a Constitution and Playing Rules. By 1989 membership had increased substantially and there were 47 male members and 18 ladies.

Progress in the Nineties

An interesting innovation in this new decade was Co-op participation in the Golden Valley tournament, a triples competition over 21 ends involving the Co-op, Dowty, Churchdown and Sir Thomas Rich’s bowling clubs. Co-op ladies won in 1996, 2001, 2005, 2007 2009 and 2010; the men in 1990, 1992, 2002, 2008 and 2009.

At a special meeting held on 25 June 1990 members discussed the possibility of an extension to the clubhouse. An invitation to tender was sent out by Chairman and President George White on 13th December. Apart from the enlargement there was to be a substantial reorganization of internal accommodation, especially in relation to the bar area, kitchen and Ladies changing room and toilets.

George White, pictured on tour in Cornwall in 1994.

He was Club President from 1987 to his death in 2003.

The new Club House was built in 1985 and extended in 1991. It is seen here during a friendly game against Painswick Falcon on 22 May 2010

In February 1991 the first instalment of £3255 was paid to the builders and the works, completed in May, added the area to the south of the fire doors. Once the building work was finished there was a great team effort in painting, decorating, carpeting and curtain making. The new facilities greatly enhanced the social side of the two clubs with ‘short mat’ bowls and light suppers available on one night each week during the closed season. In addition, as Do Bennett recalled, “the ladies were particularly delighted as, until then, the floor area of their changing room was around two square metres with nothing but an old fashioned hat stand to hang their ‘wets’ etc. The provision of a second loo was a great relief all round!”

Focus of the social side of bowling

– the bar at Sisson Road (May 2010)

Much work went on every year between seasons to make sure that green was well set up for its opening and further work to look after it during the playing period. The minutes of the greens committee, December 1992 – October 1993, show that it met monthly to monitor progress and report to management. During the winter 100 bags of top dressing were ordered along with two types of grass seed. Maintenance was not always straightforward. Apart from problems with fungus there was an unwelcome visitor in the shape of a fox, which used the far end of the green as a toilet and killed the grass in that area!

In March 1994, it was agreed that the skittle alley should be carpeted so that short mat bowls could be played on top of it during the winter seasons.

Interior of Club House (taken May 2010)

The area on the left (plain carpet) was used for

Short Mat bowls from the autumn of 1994

A number of successful bowls tours were organised during this period. They were based in Torquay 1992, Newquay 1994, Bournemouth 1995, the Isle of Wight 1996, Ilfracombe 1997 and Mortehoe (North Devon) 1999.

Ron Gardner, Cyril Barnes & Andy Andrews

on the pier in Falmouth, 1994.

Keith Bedford delivers a wood at Falmouth bowling club: Note that the ‘wet mats’ are in place to protect the green

Other features of the nineties were the formation of a joint Co-op/Caer Glow Senior Citizens team in 1995, and entry by Co-op men into the County two-rink league and cup competitions, while Co-op Ladies entered the Ladies League. It was during one of these early County games that Ron Gardner and Reg Webb, who were of a height, acquired the nickname of “book ends” – in which they delighted. Looking down the green from his position as skip of their rink, Mike Stokes, seeing the two standing still on each side of the jack, called down: “You two look just like a couple of book ends standing there!”

1997 saw the club celebrate its Golden Anniversary, which featured a special match in July between Co-op Men and a Gloucestershire Vice-Presidents’ team, the ‘VPs’ winning by 15 shots.

Gloucester & Severnside Co-op Bowling Club: 50th anniversary photograph

Back Row:

John Papworth, Don Izard, Alan While, Peter Bloomfield, Roy Allen, Bert Bettridge,

Keith Parsons, Arnold Hazelden, Wilf Jones, George ………?

Middle Row:

Val Smith, Rowley Smith, Reg Webb, Keith Bedford [Captain], Andy Andrews [Green Keeper],

Dennis Brain, Ron Gardner, Roy Tanner, Margaret Brain

Front Row:

Bob Cameron, Colin Bruton, Norman Chamberlain, George Harris,

Harry Gribble, Bob Crockford, Dave Lunnon

The 21st Century

Special anniversaries

The Gloucester & Severnside Co-op Bowling Club celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2007 and its 65th in 2012. To mark the Diamond Anniversary on Sunday 19th August 2007 – Club President’s Day - a club photograph was taken minutes before it started to rain!

Gloucester & Severnside Co-op Members on President’s Day 16th August 2007

Back row: Charles Wallace, Brian Elkins, Marion Simpson, Dennis Baker, Peter Elkins, Pam Bloomfield,

Kath Oates (mostly hidden), Pat Boaler, Iris Wadley, Tony Morris, Margaret Morris, Simon Allsopp,

Pete McKenna, Danny Bower, Roy Allen, Terry Yardley, Jim Oates, Colin Bruton.

Front row: Peter Bloomfield, Margaret Wallace, Veronica Baldwin, Ron Gardner, Lionel Davis,

Sylvia Webb, Reg Webb, Jan Bruton.

2007 was also a significant one for outdoor bowls on the national scene, seeing the inaugural meeting of ‘Bowls England’, which brought together the English Bowling Association (which had celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005) and the English Women’s Bowling Association into one organization. The new flag was blessed by the Dean of Gloucester at a special service in the Cathedral in the following year.

Membership

Many bowling clubs have struggled to maintain viable membership numbers in the new Millennium, something that was highlighted by Tony Allcock, Chief Executive of the English Bowling Association, in 2004. At that point the Co-op had just 38 members, down 7 from the previous year. For the next few seasons membership hovered around the 40 mark, but in 2011 increased to 49, mainly due to the sad demise of Gloucester Civil Service, ten of whose members transferred to the Co-op club. With the addition too of the members from Caer Glow the Co-op now had 25 ladies and 24 men. For most of the first decade of the new century Tony Morris was the club captain.

Tony Morris - Club Captain 2000-2002 & 2004-2009

He is pictured here at the dedication of the memorial seat

to Club President Andy Andrews in 2007

On Tour

The club marked the new Millennium with a tour to Scotland from 25 August to 3 September 2000. It was based at the Rosemount Hotel, Pitlochry. Apart from the bowling the tour featured visits to the Scottish Liqueur Centre, Caithness Glass near Perth, the Aberfeldy Distillery and Blair Athol Castle. Members played at eight different bowling clubs. The tour, organised by club Chairman Derek Shergold, was reckoned a great success, even though several members had to seek medical attention through a variety of accidents – nothing to do with the availability of good Scotch whisky - or so it was said!

Members continued to enjoy the regular bowls tours, the Scottish tour being followed by a visit to Mortehoe in 2001. One of the fixtures was at Coombe Martin, of which it was recorded in the Co-op newsletter of September: “The non-bowlers were entertained by Iris Wadley, who was mimicking the mannerisms that some members of our party displayed whilst delivering their bowls and how some of the skips received the bowls at the head. We won’t mention the lead who bowled her wood before bowling the jack in an earlier game of the season!”

Subsequent tours included Eastbourne, 2002, Tenby, 2003, Carlisle, 2004, Torquay, 2007, 2009, York 2008 and Bournemouth, 2010, 2011. The Torquay tours were based at the Derwent Hotel. The company and food were excellent, and early risers were able to enjoy a pre-breakfast dip in the indoor pools. The 2007 tour included a match against Torquay Country Club, where Co-op scored 115 to win by 11 shots. This club is in an interesting location being adjacent to the mansion, Oldway House. This was formerly the home of the Singer family, of sewing machine fame. It was built for Isaac Merritt Singer in the mid-19th century and improved by his son, Paris Singer. At the head of the internal staircase is a fine replica of an oil painting of the coronation of the Emperor Napoleon in 1804. Downstairs is an exhibition of sewing machines, with pictures of the house and family. The bowling club was established c.1920.

The c.1930 listed club house at Torquay Country Club

The first match in 2009 was at King’s Bowling Club, with Danny Bower as captain. This was a particularly interesting venue as it was here that the film Blackball was shot. It was based upon a real incident at this very club which had led to the banning of a player who had offended the bowling authorities. In real life it was Griff Saunders, who wrote the infamous inscription ‘tosser’ on a scorecard, directed at the Devon county secretary. In the film he was portrayed by the actor Paul Kaye playing the fictitious character Cliff Starkey. There is a splendid performance in the film from James Cromwell playing the traditional club captain whom Starkey beats in the singles final and, yes, insults by writing ‘tosser’ on the card.

Today the incident is remembered in the clubhouse by news cuttings and photographs, and several club members participated in the film as extras! Anyway, the Kings v. Co-op game was so evenly contested that it was level on shots, 113 to 113, and rinks, three apiece.

King’s Bowling Club, Torquay

In 2010 and 2011 club members enjoyed a tour in Bournemouth, based at the Marsham Court Hotel.

Members appreciated the fine accommodation in this Bournemouth hotel, with the lucky ones having a sea view – even a balcony! The food was very good and the service excellent. Directly opposite was the Russell-Cotes museum, with its ‘High Victorian’ décor and fascinating collection of pictures and objects.

For the 2011 tour the coach arrived at the hotel within minutes of an identical one carrying Gloucestershire Presidents! As this occupied the hotel driveway the Co-op tour had to wait until the green blazers had made their way into reception. Had our vice-president not been five minutes late arriving for the coach then roles would have been reversed.

After a few sandwiches and crisps off we went again to split into two groups, for a four-rink match at Richmond Park (captain: Derek Shergold) and a five rink game at Iford Bridge (captain: Tony Morris). Although the weather was showery both matches managed 10 ends before breaking for tea. Alas, down came the rain and play was abandoned. Co-op was 45-28 up at Iford at this point, with Margaret Morris’s rink winning 17-3.

Co-op put out six rinks at Moordown Bowling Club, under the captaincy of Colin Bruton. The situation was a pleasant one, the club, established in 1928, being adjacent to a park. However, the green was rather heavy and the home side won 111-105, level on rinks at 3-3.

Before the match at Moordown Bowling Club: Derek Shergold (Co-op Club Chairman from 1997) sitting left of centre, with Colin Bruton standing to the right (in white cap) and Danny Bower on far right.

Preparing for play at Moordown Bowling Club

The 2011 tour included a fixture at Bournemouth Electric, with Vice-president Ron Gardner as captain. The club was established in 1936, its club house rebuilt in 1963. The game was preceded by a ‘spider’, to take part in which members had to put in £1 each and have a cross marked on their hands to prove they had paid! The first ten ends were played in bright but cloudy weather. Some nice home-made cakes were produced for tea adjacent to the green. Not long after the resumption of play it rained and the bowlers took shelter, to re-emerge to start the 14th end. It then absolutely tipped down and the match was abandoned, with Electric ahead on shots 89-79 and 3-2 on rinks. Mike Hancock, guest player from Caer Glow, was the best Co-op rink being 16-9 ahead.

Rain stopped play at Bournemouth Electric.

Ron Gardner (third from left) looks to the heavens, more in hope than expectation; Club chairman

Derek Shergold, in dark top, is on the left.

An early start was called for on the final day, with cases loaded onto the coach around 7.30 am. In a repeat of the first day, two clubs were visited to accommodate all the rinks: four at Branksome Park (captain: Danny Bower); five at Boscombe Cliff (captain: Colin Bruton). Both matches were close, the score at Branksome being 79-74 and even closer at Boscombe, 86-85 to the Co-op. One of the Branksome rinks only played 20 ends due to pressure of time. The setting there was delightful, adjacent to the Chine with its beautiful trees. The club was established in 1926, but a ladies section was not formed until 2004. Boscombe, sited a stone’s throw from the sea, had been visited in 2010, and the tour party came back together here for a buffet lunch before the drive back to Gloucester.

The pleasant setting of Branksome Bowling Club

Despite the weather, all were agreed that this had been a most enjoyable tour, a credit to the organization of Colin and Jan Bruton. The hotel was again excellent, with fine food every day. The final evening had been enlivened by Co-op captain Steve Allsopp who ‘fined’ many members for various ‘misdemeanours’, the £101 raised this year going to the charities ‘Winstones Wish’ and MacMillan Nurses. He had, prior to the tour, instituted a ‘Wrong Bias Club’, and this certainly helped towards the total.

Steve Allsopp fines Ron Hyam of Sir Thomas Rich’s;

Mike Hancock (Caer Glow) and our coach driver look on.

Men’s County League and Ladies League

The club has enjoyed limited success in the county leagues and cup competitions in recent years, although, as Ladies Club Champion, Vera Bower went on to win the Gloucestershire Women’s Bowling Association [GWBA] in 2008:

Vera Bower at the GWBA awards ceremony. On the right is Angela Harris of Gloucester Spa Bowling Club, President of Bowls England. Vera had won the Co-op ladies 4-wood competition in 2007 and, as club champion, had gone on to play in the Gloucestershire competition. She beat Josie Sullivan of Fairford 21-7 in the final at Barnwood on 18th July.

The ladies, playing in Division 2, had a successful season in 2011 and in finishing second secured promotion to the First Division of the Ladies League for 2012. They have been something of a yo-yo side over the past few years, winning the second division by nine points in 2009 only to be relegated from the First Division the following year.

In 2011 the men finished fourth out on nine in Division 4 of the Gloucestershire County League with 26 points, having won five and lost three. They only missed promotion by a single point. Had they scored 27 then their superior shot difference would have put them ahead of both Cheltenham ‘C’ and runners up Forest Of Dean ‘B’. The champions, Bishops Cleeve on 44 points, had a one hundred percent record of wins.

The Glevum League

In 1999 application had been made for the Co-op to enter the local ‘Glevum League’ in 2000. This is a mixed competition of five rinks played on a Thursday evening, with points awarded for each winning rink and for the overall winner on shots in a game. The club struggled at first in what is a much more competitive environment than the bread and butter friendly matches. The first two seasons saw Co-op finish at the bottom of the pack, but things gradually improved over the next few years as a settled side was developed and Co-op bowlers gained in experience. Co-op finished eighth in 2006 and seventh in 2007. In 2008 Co-op secured sixth place in the League (out of ten), this based upon a very good start to the season when the club had amassed as many points by the end of June as in the whole of 2007!

For 2009 a new scoring system was adopted for the League which put less emphasis on the overall shots win, so that the overall winner only scored 6 points instead of 10; two points per winning rink was retained, and one for a draw. The Co-op had the best season since entering the League, finishing in 4th place, having won ten matches out of eighteen. At one stage the club was in third place behind Gloucester City and Caer Glow, this following a clean sweep over Gloucester Civil Service on 18th June with victory on every rink and 112-81 on shots.

Co-op had another good season in 2010 finishing in fifth place on 149 points, winning nine games and drawing one. One memorable and most unexpected result was the win over Caer Glow in August, by 53 shots to 51. Members could not recall when Co-op ever came out winners in this local derby! Co-op had three winning rinks with one drawn. Jan Bruton, with Roger Boaler (lead), Sylvia Webb and Tony Morris, led the way with a fine 15-5 win. Margaret Morris won 11-8 and Steve Allsopp 11-10; Danny Bower drew 11-11; Colin Bruton went down 5-17. A memorable evening indeed!

The 2011 season was rather disappointing, especially with the club having an increased membership and gaining players from Civil Service and Caer Glow. Co-op got off to a shaky start, losing the first two games, but recovered somewhat to lie sixth after eight games, only one point behind Pineholt. Ultimately, though, the club could only manage eighth place out of ten, finishing on 110 points, albeit only one point behind British Energy. There were some good results, with double wins over Winget and Sir Thomas Rich’s. The first defeat of Winget, at home on 2nd June, was the best result of the season. Co-op secured 14 points winning 118-73 on shots, 4-1 on rinks. Jan Bruton notched up 32 shots to Ron Hannam’s 9; Geoff Heath beat Keith Collier 29-10; Steve Allsopp overcame John Wakeman 27-15; Colin Bruton edged it over Ron Phelps 19-18. The only rink to miss out was that of Margaret Morris, which went down 11-22 against Bob Waldron.

The League was won by Gloucester City with 216 points over Caer Glow on 215. Co-op had lost to City 64-93 on shots in the final game, with City taking 14 out of the maximum 16 points; Caer Glow had been held to an 80-80 draw by Barnwood, mustering only 9 points.

Friendly Fixtures

The ‘bread and butter’ for all bowling clubs, where all members can enjoy the sport, are the friendly matches. Although space will not permit of a full review of Co-op matches in recent years the following will hopefully give a flavour of the fixtures by looking at a few memorable occasions.

One of the more distant friendly matches was played on 12 August 2001, away at Kidderminster against Chester Road Bowling Club. The club was established in 1903 as a Crown Green club, converted to flat green in 1989. Co-op lost overall, and on rinks, but it was such a friendly afternoon that nobody seemed to mind. This was the occasion when the lead on Lionel Chiswell’s rink started the trial ends by bowling up a wood to a non-existent jack! It was also the occasion when we heard skip Carl Shorting on the next rink shout out to his no.2 “you’ve got the shot – but it’s on the next rink!” An excellent buffet rounded off a really good day.

Saturday 19th August 2006 was a day of sunshine with heavy showers. Members drove to Fairford in anticipation of a match on an excellent green, in good company and with the promise of a nice meal to follow. Although the green bowled well the rain came down so that everyone trooped off after around 13 ends. A curious and amusing phenomenon about this game was the presence on the green and in the ditches of literally hundreds of tiny (and some not so tiny) frogs and toads. Interestingly, in 1660 it is on record that there was also “a plague of frogs” in Fairford as mentioned in contemporary pamphlets. This followed immediately upon the Restoration of King Charles II and two of the writers who mentioned it saw the invasion by these amphibians as a visitation from God in revenge against the failure by the lord of the manor and a local JP to protect the separatist congregations there from harassment by an unruly mob. In 2006, frogs and toads notwithstanding, Co-op won on shots 53-52 and Fairford on rinks.

The 2006 friendly season ended on a real high with an historic victory over Caer Glow! Co-op won by 129 shots to 95 over six rinks and by five rinks to one, with the losing rink (skip Danny Bower) only going down by a single shot, 19-20. The winning skips were: Tony Morris (over Wendy Slatter, 18-11), Pete McKenna (over Jim Clifford, 27-12), Reg Webb (over Andy Letts, 19-13), Margaret Morris (over Thelma Griffin, 22-16) and Veronica Baldwin (over R. Purser, 24-23). This made up for a heavy defeat in the ‘Opening of the Green’ match against Caer Glow on Saturday 15th April, when Co-op were beaten 75-107 on shots and won on only a single rink out of five. A white-wash was only prevented by a good 24-10 win on the rink skipped by Danny Bower.

On 20th July 2008 members travelled to the new Cotswold Bowls centre at Cainscross, where an indoor rink has been built on the site the former outdoor green once used by Cope Chat and RHP bowling clubs. The new green had only come into use a few weeks before and there were some strange runs on a rather bumpy surface. Members who played on the original green some years earlier could remember how it drained remarkably well. The Co-op went there for a friendly against RHP on 1st August 1998 and had no sooner arrived than the heavens opened and what were a few puddles became a solid sheet of water over all. Yet within 20 minutes of the rain stopping we were out there playing! Anyway, the match on the new green saw Co-op emerge victorious by 108 shots to 83, and by 3 rinks to 2. The rink of Roy Allen (lead), Malcolm Hamlet, Peter Bloomfield and Colin Bruton (skip) had a particularly memorable day winning 40-8, this including a 7 on the sixth end; with the opposition failing to register a single shot between ends 2 and 12. The day was rounded off by an excellent tea, during which club captain Tony Morris announced that Co-op bowler Vera Bower had won the Ladies County Champion of Champions competition.

The 2009 season included double wins over both Sir Thomas Rich’s and Victory Park (Stroud) bowling clubs. The home match against near neighbours Sir Thomas Rich’s saw Co-op win over 18 ends 83-66 on shots and by three rinks to two. Most memorable was the 24-4 shots win by the rink of Roger Boaler (lead), Brian Elkins, Chris Beard and Colin Bruton (skip). The away fixture featured a convincing 107-59 victory, with a Bruton family success as Jan (32-7) and Colin (29-6) recorded notable wins on the rinks they skipped. Victory Park, so-called having been formed in 1919 by a group of business men following the victory in the Great War, were beaten 88-57 and 91-84. There were also impressive wins in July against Cheltenham [Suffolk Square], 116-79, and Bishops Cleeve, where Co-op finished 58 shots ahead. The victory over Cheltenham was largely due to good scores on two Co-op rinks. Roger Boaler (lead), Sharon Handcock, Vera Bower and Colin Bruton (skip) won 35-6, their opponents failing to score until the tenth end. Chris Beard (lead), Pam Bloomfield, Dennis Baker and Danny Bower (skip) won 27-9. The highest scoring rink at home to Cleeve – Kath Oates (lead), Pam Bloomfield, Peter Bloomfield and Danny Bower (skip) - won 31-6; they were 2-5 down after six ends but their opponents failed to score again until the 16th.

Another good win was registered in September, at home to Cinderford. Co-op won the match, cancelling out the heavy defeat suffered away on 20 June, by winning on all five rinks, the margin on shots being 120-81. Two of the rinks were very close, with only one shot difference. The best rink was Kath Oates (lead), Margaret Wallace, Vera Bower and Steve Allsopp. They won by 30 shots to 11.

The author, Peter Bloomfield, with opposing Cinderford no. 3, Arthur Rigby, on rink no. 2 before the game at Sisson Road in September 2009. The Co-op four won 18-17, having been 11-17 down after 19 ends! Peter was Club Secretary from 2000 to 2008.

One nice feature about bowling is the after match teas at the weekend (or suppers in the evening). These ‘High Teas’ build upon the sociability of the game itself and there is a pleasing ritual about them. At the conclusion of the meal both Captains say a few words, thanking those who provided the meal and the members who manned the bar. Depending upon the individual a joke (often rather naughty!) may be told. The raffle follows, the prizes normally a bottle of whisky, a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates. Inevitably the first number drawn brings out cries of “take the chocolates” – but, of course, it is usually the whisky that goes. This is followed by “Co-op members only” and the draw to see which member of the home rink on each table gets to do the washing up! Members of the home side will have bought their opposite numbers a drink when coming in from the Green and the opposition should then return the compliment.

A bowls tea awaits the eight players from Rink No.1 in the Co-op club house.

The 2010 season opened with a new captain. Tony Morris had stood down at the AGM the previous autumn having done two spells in charge: 2000-02 and 2004-09. Steve Allsopp took over, with Tony as vice-captain. The first match was the traditional “Opening of the Green” fixture against Caer Glow, with the two presidents (Lionel Davis and Cyril Leach) bowling the first wood. The match was level on rinks, three apiece, but Caer Glow won on shots 107-125. Terry Yardley (26-18), Steve Allsopp (22-19) and Tony Morris (18-17) skipped the winning rinks; but Jan Bruton (17-29), Danny Bower (10-21) and Colin Bruton (14-21) all went down. Terry secured his win by picking up 5 on the final end. Steve had a ding dong battle with Dave Gent on rink 4, picking up a six on the sixth end. After eighteen ends he was 16-18 down but won four of the last five ends to secure his win. Tony Morris, as the score suggests, was in a pretty even contest with Simon Allsopp, although the Caer Glow rink finished strongly and nearly overhauled their opponents at the end. Jan had led 11-2 after six ends but lost the lead by dropping fives on the eight and ninth, falling away and only scoring two single shots on the last eight. Danny had also led early on but failed to score for eight ends in the middle part of the game and was unable to get back on terms from arrears of 5-15 on thirteen ends. Colin Bruton was 5-1 up after four ends but Kay gent’s rink then won the next six ends to make the score 5-11, and Co-op were unable to close the gap.

The weather had not been good for the first few weeks of the season but summer really arrived for the game against Painswick Falcon on Saturday 22nd May. The visitors took an early lead on four rinks, only Margaret Morris bucking the trend and gradually building on a solid start. By a third of the way through Falcon were 25 shots ahead and later extended this to over 30 shots. Margaret Morris pulled ahead on her rink to lead 20-10, but saw her advantage whittled down, although hanging on for a solid 22-15 win. All the other rinks lost. Roy Gunn’s rink slowly closed the gap to level at 18-18 but their opponents came back to record a four shot win, 18-22. Tony Morris went down 17-33, Steve Allsopp 13-19 and Veronica Baldwin 15-16.

Starting the match at home to Painswick Falcon on 22nd May:

Iris Wadley is about to deliver a wood; beyond her, Kath Oates is looking to see where her wood has finished up, as is Peter McKenna in the distance.

Pete McKenna delivers a wood playing in the match against Painswick Falcon

Good shot! Steve Allsopp gives the thumbs up as a Co-op wood comes to rest near the jack on rink 5.

The match ended with a Painswick Falcon win on both shots and rinks, with an 85-105 score. Everyone involved must be congratulated on playing right through in the heat; it made for thirsty bowlers so that the bar did well netting over £120.

Studying the head as the skips send down the final woods of the end are Co-op players on rink 1 against Painswick Falcon on 22 May 2010. From the left: Trevor Oliver, Joyce Baker and (centre right) Jim Oates.

Co-op players travelled to Cinderford on Saturday 26th June for the first friendly of 2010 against the Forest club. Two of the rinks had a string central marker running down the green as Cinderford fielded two visually handicapped players. One of them, Paul Harris, had recently returned from representing England in a multi-nation contest in Israel. The overall score was close, with Co-op finishing five shots ahead at 98-93. The best Co-op winning rink was skipped by Derek Shergold. They started well and were 9-0 up after 4 ends and 17-4 ahead at tea. However, the Cinderford rink, skipped by Arthur Rigby, fared better for the second half to finish 25-14 down. Tony Morris’s rink won 24-16 and Vera Bower’s rink also won, 22-19: but husband Danny Bower went down 11-23 and Veronica Baldwin lost 16-21.

It is not uncommon for the captains’ speeches after tea to include a joke. On this occasion the mid-way tea featured one by Arthur Rigby, appropriately set in the Forest of Dean: 300 years ago the Foresters decided they wanted to trade with Ireland, so set to work to build a wooden ship. When complete, they loaded up the cargo and set sail down the River Severn. They were never seen or heard from again. Making enquiries as to what might have happened someone asked “what was the cargo”? Well, came the reply, they were transporting 50 woodpeckers!

Next day, the hottest of the year, featured another away match as members travelled to Dursley. Co-op were 100% more successful than the England football team playing against Germany in Bloemfontein that same afternoon, which history records went down to a humiliating 4-1 defeat and so came home dejected from the World Cup in South Africa. By contrast, Co-op won on all rinks, 5-0, and by the substantial margin of 127 shots to 58. The rink of Chris Beard (lead), Molly Knight, Sylvia Webb and Tony Morris won 32-8. Terry Yardley won 26-10, Margaret Morris 28-15, Roy Gunn 26-11 and Steve Allsopp 15-14.

One of the best wins of the 2010 season was recorded on 14th July at home to Cheltenham Spa, a solid 5-0 win, 131-68 on shots. Jan Bruton skipped the highest winning rink, 34-9, with the help of Sharon Handcock at lead, John Baker and Tony Morris. The opposing rink only won four ends. Steve Allsopp’s rink won 36-16, helped by fives on the 11th and 14th ends. Colin Bruton won 21-13, Veronica Baldwin 23-18 and Danny Bower 17-12.

The ‘Closing of the Green’ fixture saw Co-op ‘at home’ to Caer Glow. Although Co-op was successful on two rinks, Caer Glow won on three, and 83-106 on shots. Steve Allsopp (with Ron Gardner, lead, Pat Boaler and Derek Shergold) had a decent 25-16 win over opposing captain, Dave Gent. They were level, 9-9 after nine ends, after which Steve built up a lead which was never seriously threatened. Margaret Morris skipped the other successful rink. Going 7-12 down on thirteen, ends she won the next four ends, with a five on the 17th, to go 17-12 up and hold on for a narrow 18-17 win. The losing rinks were Colin Bruton, 13-16, Jan Bruton, 18-27, and Danny Bower, 9-24.

2011 featured some very fine games, with rather mixed results – but ending on a real ‘high’ with four wins, not least the defeat of Caer Glow in the ‘Closing of the Green’ fixture in September. The result: Co-op 112 shots, Caer Glow 95; level 3-3 on rinks. Steve Allsopp beat opposing captain Dave Gent 26-10; Margaret Morris beat Ivor Holder 21-12; Danny Bower beat Pauline Gunn 19-13. Derek Shergold went down 12-21 to Roy Gunn; Jan Bruton lost 16-19 to R. Leach; Colin Bruton lost 18-20 to Dave Heath.

Apart from September, July was also a good month for the Co-op, starting with a win at home to Churchdown on 3rd. During this game players were plagued by flying ants, with over 100 seagulls circling overhead. As soon as the bowlers had quitted the green so the gulls descended to feed on the insects. Co-op won 99-88 on shots and by 4 rinks to 1.

Five straight wins followed, over Cheltenham (rain reduced), Bishops Cleeve, Olveston, Cheltenham Spa and Oldington. The win at home against Cleeve, 89-61, was largely due to a splendid 36-6 win on Danny Bower’s rink, with Margaret Young (lead), Betty Hankin and Dennis Baker. Their opponents only won four ends. Danny’s rink scored well on ends 4, 5, 10 and 13, notching up two fives, a six and a seven. The mid-week game on 13th was at Cheltenham Spa on a pleasant, sunny evening though chilly once the sun had gone down. The club was established in 1924 and is near the busy town centre, with much noise from traffic on one side.

Cheltenham Spa Bowling Club: established 1924

Co-op came out on top against Spa on shots 100-81, the overall win due principally to a solid 33-11 score on rink 1: Pete McKenna (lead), Carol Leahy, Peter Bloomfield and Danny Bower (skip). However, Spa won three rinks to Co-op’s two.

Senior Citizens

A popular feature of bowling at Sisson Road is ‘Senior Citizens’. For this members of both Co-op and Caer Glow form the team. Matches are played as a ‘Triples’ and are well supported as they take place in a very relaxed manner – and it is good to have the third wood!

For the past two seasons, 2010 and 2011, the team has been captained by Jim Oates, who took over from Danny Bower. 2010 was a good season: played 14, won 10, lost 3 and drew 1. The results included a fifty shot win over Gloucester Civil Service, 130-80, although the return match was an 87-87 draw. By contrast, of the 13 games completed in 2011, the team won six but lost seven. It was a curious season, all the defeats coming in the first half, with only a single win before July; however, the combined side won the last five matches, including a solid 123-81 shot victory over Lydney.

Club Competitions

‘Finals Day’ in September has become a popular feature of the Co-op calendar and is well supported by members. Cups, trophies and other prizes are awarded in November at a Joint Presentation Night with Caer Glow. Details of the winners of all competitions from 1987 are given in the club competitions section of this web site.

2006: Caer Glow President Dick Phee presents Mixed Pairs winners Jan and Colin Bruton with their trophy at the Joint Presentation Evening.

Club Finals 2009: The view shows Vera Bower in one of her two finals against Jan Bruton; behind, Steve Allsopp delivers a wood in the Bill Harris Cup against Roy Gunn.

Bowling Attire

An interesting feature of bowls in recent years has been the gradual move towards more informality in dress, away from the blazers and ties (men) and the pleated skirts and scarves (ladies). In 2003 the Co-op club was one of the first in Gloucestershire to adopt the new-style club shirts. The research for this was done by Colin and Jan Bruton. They came up with a short-sleeve white shirt, with a broad red and blue stripe and an embroidered badge. To facilitate the change it was agreed that, initially, everyone should be given one free shirt. Permission was given by the GBA to wear the new shirts, so long as all members playing did so in any one game. Another change made in recent years has been the general ruling that ladies may play in trousers rather than skirts if they so wish. Normally, evening matches are played in ‘greys’, weekend games in white trousers.

The Green

Evidently, a good surface upon which to bowl is an essential feature of any bowling club and one that tends to produce more comment than any other aspect of the game! The sterling work done by Lionel Davis and Andy Andrews has already been mentioned. In recent years Colin Bruton has undertaken the arduous task of green keeper, assisted by Pete Lines of Caer Glow. In 2007 Colin oversaw the installation of a new and automatic irrigation system. The cost, of just over £3000, was split three ways between the Co-op and Caer Glow, and the Joint Management Committee.

It was reported to the JMC in March 2007 that “quite a lot of damage has been caused to the green with the crows digging for insects”. This was a difficult year for bowlers in Gloucestershire, with the inclement weather culminating in the Great Flood of July 2007. Although Sisson Road escaped an inundation the Green suffered from the wet conditions as it encouraged mould and moss. Two club members had their homes flooded. The Tewkesbury and Pineholt clubs both had to close up when the floods covered their greens and entered their club houses.

It had rained heavily on Friday 20th July and Gloucestershire was soon experiencing some bad flooding. Tewkesbury was cut off by Sunday 22nd and flooding of the waterworks at The Mythe forced Severn Trent to shut off the water supply to Gloucester and Cheltenham. Remarkably eight Co-op bowlers travelled to Avonmouth that morning to fulfil a County Two-rink fixture.

The floods near Westgate Bridge

By Monday the floods had worsened, with a threat to the county’s electricity supply as the emergency services fought to keep the water out of the Walham Electricity sub-station, which supplied over 100,000 people in Gloucestershire. Gloucester was now cut off from the west by flooding at the Westgate Bridges. Rather surprisingly the Gloucestershire Bowling Association still ran a coach to West Ealing for their friendly fixture against Middlesex (who won by ten shots). The club friendly away to Painswick on 28th was cancelled. By this time many people were obtaining drinking water from the many bowsers distributed around the streets and bottled water was being supplied, free, to collecting points. Nevertheless, the Gloucester Tournament still went ahead at the end of the month, for which the Sisson Road clubs were amongst the hosts.

Special Days

Two special features of the Co-op club in recent years have been Triples Day in June and Club Finals Day in September, where the hard work of Margaret Morris (Club Competitions Secretary), supported by husband Tony, help to make these occasions to remember.

Margaret Morris, winner of the 2008 Ladies two-wood trophy. As Competitions Secretary, Margaret makes all the arrangements for Finals Day (ably assisted by Club Captain Tony Morris) and ensures that all the matches leading up to it are played in due time – an unenviable task!

In 2010 the new Captain, Steve Allsopp, instituted a ‘Captain’s Charity Day’. Steve, Sharon Handcock and their helpers put on a dinner, the first such on 7th August that year. The three course meal in the evening was well supported by Co-op members, with almost a 100% turn-out. With guests, there were 56 present, sampling a wide range of main courses including wild rabbit pie, albeit not from the family that inhabits the Barnwood “Walls” roundabout! £505 was raised for the two charities. The final tally for the season, which Steve announced at the AGM on 20th October, was a commendable £610.

Steve Allsopp, the new Club Captain (pictured on tour in Bournemouth in July 2010)

Winter Activities

The club is open through the closed season on a Friday evening when members can continue to socialize, use the bar and, if they wish, take part in a mini-league playing triples in short mat bowls. One innovation for the winter 2011-12 has been a monthly ‘fish and chips’ night, courtesy of Sharon Handcock.

The Future

A shadow had hung over club in recent years over its continuation at Sisson Road because the 21 year lease from the Co-operative Society was due to expire in March 2012. Negotiations over a possible purchase of the freehold had been initiated in 1993, despite the opposition of George White and some others who maintained that the Society would always be willing to grant a renewal of the lease. So the JMC opened negotiations with the Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-operative Society. The two bowling clubs offered £6000 and, if the Society so wished, two covenants: that the Club would always remain as a sports and social facility; that the Society should retain first option to repurchase should the Club become a non-viable concern. The Society’s Management Surveyor replied on 9 December, indicating that the offer price was too low and the proposed covenants were of no benefit to them. On 23 February 1995 the JMC wrote again with an improved offer: £15,000. They also applied, on 12 April, to the South West Council of Sport & Recreation for a form with which to apply for a grant in support of the proposed purchase. Following informal discussions with senior executives of the Society’s board in 1996 the JMC felt “reasonably optimistic” and in 1997 it was informed that the matter had gone to the Chief Executive for a decision. The months went by; nothing was forthcoming; letters were sent, only for the JMC to be told on 2nd October that “a decision had yet to be made”. By now the whole subject had become something of a saga and the issue was left in abeyance for several years.

By 2008, with only four years left on the lease, members were becoming very concerned about the future. Letters to the Society about a renewal had gone unanswered, not helped by the frequent reorganizations and amalgamations in the Co-operative movement. At one point it seems that no file could be found and the Society appeared unaware of our existence! Eventually contact was made with the Midlands Co-op and visits were made by their officers to view the premises and hold preliminary discussions with JMC representatives. In 2009 The Midlands Co-op responded to the request for a decision with a letter that said that no decision had been made. In a letter from the Property Operations Manager to JMC Secretary, Pete Lines, on 1st May the clubs were informed that the Directors “would not wish to finalize any agreement for your use of the land beyond 2012 at the moment, this is not to say that a decision has been taken not to offer a new agreement. The Directors would like some time to consider how we might better support and benefit from the facilities that you offer.” The following year the Society offered to extend the lease for ten years on payment of £500 per year, but with the proviso that it could only to continue on a yearly basis, with the possibility of notice being given at any time during the ten year period. In 2011 the JMC, with less than a year left on the lease, agreed to these conditions. So outdoor bowling at Sisson Road was secured for the 2012 season, the Co-op club’s 65th anniversary; but the future remains uncertain …..

Appendix 1

CLUB OFFICERS [from 1974]

Presidents: Cyril Barnfield 1974-86, George White 1987-2003, Andy Andrews 2004-06, Lionel Davis 2006 to date.

Vice-Presidents: Andy Andrews 1996-2003, Lionel Davis 2004-06, Ron Gardner 2006 to date

Chairmen: Roy Butler 1974-76, Bill Harris 1977-87, George White 1988-91, Andy Andrews 1992-93, Mike Stokes 1994-95, Andy Andrews 1996, Derek Shergold 1997 to date.

Captains: Roy Butler 1974, Andy Andrews 1975, B. Meek 1976, R. Roach 1977-78, Andy Andrews 1979-88, Mike Stokes 1989-91, Ron Gardner 1992-93, Dave Hughes 1994, Ron Gardner 1995, Brian Warren 1996, Keith Bedford 1997-98, Andy Andrews 1998-99, Tony Morris 2000-02, Simon Allsopp 2003, Tony Morris 2004- 2009, Steve Allsopp 2010 to date

Secretaries: E. Ball 1974-76, Andy Andrews 1977, F. Shackleton 1978-86, P. Dowling 1987-88, Andy Andrews 1989-91, Ian Farrell 1992-93, Andy Andrews 1994-95, Mrs. Val Smith 1996-97, Ian Farrell 1998-99, Dave Lunnon 2000, Peter Bloomfield 2001-08, Mrs. Do Bennett 2008 to date.

Ladies’ Captains: Hilary While 1998-2001, Sylvia Webb 2002-07, Veronica Baldwin 2008 to date.

Life Members: 1989 Mrs. L. White, 1994 Mr. A. Andrews, 1994 Mr. G. White, 1994 Mr. L. Davis, 2000 Mr. R. Gardner

SOURCES

Gloucester Co-operative Employees Sports and Social Club Minute Books:

1933-1943, 1944-1958, 1958-1975

Gloucester & Severnside Co-op Bowling Club records:

Committee & AGM minutes 1987 – 2011

General administration records, 1981-82, 1988-2006

Membership records 1987-92, 2000 to date

Joint Management Committee minutes (Secretary’s copies), 2004-08

Glevum League records [Secretary’s copies] 1999-2008

GBA minutes, with papers concerning County games played 2002-08

EBA/Bowls England correspondence & newsletters 1994, 1999, 2002-08

Greens Committee minutes 1992-93, with maintenance record, 1997-2000

Gloucester & Severnside Co-op Newsletters, number 1-5, 2000-01

Despite extensive enquiries, and the acquisition of some bowling records from the estates of George White and Andy Andrews, the whereabouts of Club records prior to 1987 are unknown. The older Club records are now on deposit with the Gloucestershire Archives Service at their premises in Alvin Street, Gloucester under reference D 11447.

Joint Management Committee: minutes & correspondence 1993-96, 1996-2000, 2004-08

Reflections from: club members Lionel Davis, Ron Gardner and Mrs. D. Bennett.

Other records held at Gloucestershire Archives: Gloucester Borough records: Chamberlain’s Accounts [GBR F4/5]; Corporation Minutes, 1565-1632 [GBR B3/1 f522v, f546v]. Gloucester Diocesan records [GDR 93]. Gloucester Bowling Club records [D9847].

The Victoria History of the County of Gloucester, Vol. IV: The City of Gloucester, edited by N. M. Herbert, Oxford University Press 1988. Pages 80, 97, 107, 157, 217-218, 291

A.R. Warmington Civil War, Interregnum and Restoration in Gloucestershire 1640-1672 [The Royal Historical Society: The Boydell Press, 1997].

The First 700 Years: Southampton (Old) Bowling Green [Booklet printed by New Forest Printing, July 1999]

The Citizen – this daily Gloucester newspaper has regular reports on Glevum League matches, county games and the Gloucester Tournament. It also features, from time to time, individual bowling clubs, such as the historic Greyfriars Club (7 January 2004) following its closure.

Gloucestershire Bowling Association: results/league tables, 2008-09 seasons,

from www.glosbowls.co.uk

Gloucestershire County Bowls League: results and tables, 2010 season, from www.gloucestershirecountybowlsleague.org.uk

Bowlsnews.co.uk: for results in Glevum League and the Gloucestershire Ladies League: www.bowlsnews.co.uk ; also www.glevumbowlsleague.co.uk

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