Horley Bowling Club History - Image Circa 1930
We have written evidence of the club dating back to 1894 when the grounds in Vicarage
Lane were shared with Horley Tennis Club. Indeed there is record of a Tennis match following on from a Bowls match after which both sports enjoyed a fine high tea together. We also have record of a Ladies Wightman Cup Tennis match being played on the Bowling green in the 1930's.
Since 1933 the Men’s Section of the Club has been affiliated to the Surrey County Bowling Association, but its position on the borders of Surrey and Sussex has naturally involved it in a wide range of fixtures with teams big and small, town and country, from both sides of the border.
Men’s teams will have played over 50 matches and the ladies over 40, home and away, before a season ends in September. The Ladies Section of the Club was formed in 1965 and affiliated to Surrey County Women’s Bowling Association in 1968. 2018 is the 50th anniversary and the club has Mrs Nan Bennett as Club President to mark the occasion.
The occasion in 1933 for its affiliation to the Surrey County Bowling Association (SCBA) was the Club’s move to its new green in Vicarage Lane. Its earliest history is somewhat veiled to present members, but the Surrey secretary has traced the County records which show that at the time of its affiliation in 1933 the Club was then recorded as having been in existence 20 years, i.e. since 1913.
It is known that in the twenties the old “St. Barts” Club played on a green then existing behind the Church Rooms in Albert Road and as the 1933 green was laid out on glebe land in Vicarage Lane this is probably the connection. One outstanding pre-war member was Ted Anderson, who was the Club’s singles champion in 1937 and obtained his badge to play for Surrey County in 1938.
Members of the Club who played on the old green in Vicarage Lane remember it very much as an unsophisticated village green. However well the green was maintained, bowls would tend to find ruts and runs in channels making attempts to find the jack a difficult sport Even the purchase, funded by a special jumble sale, of a large horse roller, pulled by members on the shafts up and down and across the green with the greatest efforts and enthusiasm only served, it seemed, to consolidate the clay soil and to emphasise the waywardness of the green.
Move to the Recreation Ground
The church, however, sold the whole Vicarage Lane site, including the bowling green, to the adjoining tennis club in the middle fifties. After many anxious years spent by the Bowls Club, fearing extinction, Horley Parish Council ensured the continuance of this part of the town’s traditions by laying out a new green in the recreation ground in 1964.
Just laying the green, without any buildings or equipment, cost £4,500, a major item for the Parish Council, but in late 1962 Surrey County Council agreed to contribute nearly £2,000 and this turned the tide. A special Parish meeting at the Empire Hall in January 1963 gave a virtually unanimous vote approving the project as put before them by the then Recreation Committee Chairman, Harold Turner.
Harold Turner bowled the first wood to open the new green in the recreation ground on the 3rd July, 1965, and then celebrated with an enjoyable match between the Horley Parish Council and the Club. The skilled and dedicated attention of the Council’s first green keeper, Arthur Harman, in the initial years, so improved the playing surface that it is still spoken of by visiting clubs as one of the most even running and truest greens over a wide area. Recent green keepers of Graham Seldon and Brian Wilson have maintained that reputation.
'We have a Pavilion'
The Parish Council could not go beyond the laying of the green and it was left to club members to provide a much needed pavilion. The necessary club finances were gradually built up and in 1968 the centre part of the pavilion, a prefabricated hut, was enthusiastically erected by members. Shortly afterwards private toilet facilities were added, with an expensive connection to the main drain. 1974 saw major improvements with the addition of a men’s changing room and facilities and a bar for the necessary refreshment of visitors and home bowlers. This extension was built with breezeblocks and cedar boarding to match the existing building. More improvements and works, including ladies facilities, were undertaken in 1985 by a party of volunteers covering all trades and grades of work.
Exalted visitation for our 75th
The Club reached another achievement with the visit of the President of the English Bowling Association and his team on the 27th July 1988 in celebration of the Club’s 75th Anniversary and again on 5th June 2003 for the Club’s 90th anniversary.
National Lottery Money
A major change then was a grant of £156,000 of Lottery money from The Sports Council to completely rebuild the Clubhouse. The Club also received a grant of £15,000 from a local trust. The total cost of the building was £215,000. The difference of £44,000 was raised by the Club which included an all day and night game that saw the club for a time included in the Guiness Book of Records. The old wooden structure was demolished during the summer of 1997 and the new Clubhouse opened in October 1998.
Horley Bowling Club Continues to Thrive
One can see that over many years the Bowling Club has certainly become a thriving part of the Horley community and in recent years it has been successful in the leagues its members compete in. The gents section saw them second division champions of the East Surrey League in 2016 and first division champions of the Border League also in 2016. New members are encouraged to join, participation particularly encouraged in the Friday evening open sessions to make use of a rink that is always open to non-club members wishing to have a game of bowls.