In 1985, Headley Bowling Club celebrated its Silver Jubilee and in doing so produced a report on how The Club rose from demise and desolation in 1965 to become an active Bowling Club once again, twenty years later. To follow in instalments are extracts from that report.
In the beginning
Following WW2, along with housing, there was a need for more recreational facilities. Local councils everywhere were seeking land for these purposes. Headley Parish Council was one such and land at Mill Lane was identified.
In early 1948, a meeting was held between the Ministry of Education and Lady Fforde, representing Headley Parish Council, aimed at obtaining financial aid. She was successful.
It appears that we had some very good friends in those days and RCB Thakeray, the driving force of local bowling, was a Leader of both Parish and County Councils. By February 1948, the Playing Fields Committee, consisting of Council, Football, Cricket and Bowling representatives, plus three co-opted members, had met. Afterwards, Captain Palmer attending on the Council’s behalf, was able to return a satisfactory report. The Committee had decided to erect a temporary barbed wire fence and a quick set hedge to enclose the facility.
Seed would also be sown in the next week or so. The grass grew well and in November the Council agree to spend £15 on a bang mower, subject to condition (it eventually cost £110)
With the project reaching completion, there was still a need for funds and a Rate of 3d was proposed. This was not, as one might expect, universally popular. At the parish Meeting held in the Holm on 1st April 1949, Mr Snow called for a vote against the Rate, particularly in view of “the waste of money on the expensive Bowling Green.” In hindsight, he may well have had a case. However, Major Garforth was having none of it. Speaking of the Bowling Green, he firmly stated that sixty percent of the cost had been provided by the Ministry of Education.
The official opening of the Green was marked by a fete on Whit Monday. The Green was in continuous use throughout that Summer and happily for the next fifteen years. Each year, competitions were keenly contested amongst, what appears to have been a healthy membership. There was even a groundsman in 1960, paid the princely sum of £15 for four months work.
The Dark Years.
By 1965, membership numbers had fallen to crisis level and play was discontinued during that Summer. In the Autumn of that year, Mr Thakeray, bowling’s driving force in the village, passed away. Despite hopes expressed at the time, it was to be ‘nineteen years’ before a bowl was delivered at a Green in Headley.
Those dark years brought increasing neglect and shameful misuse. On at least two occasions, bonfires were held there. Some attempts were made to revitalise the game, but soundings seemed to indicate a lack of interest in the Village. It was the soundings that led to a revitalisation of tennis and its sidelong glances at the Green area that helped spur further action. A little like Robert the Bruce, our ‘founding fathers’ tried and tried again before achieving the final success!
Renaissance 1980 - 2005
Revival attempts in 1971 and 1975 had no success. ln 1978 Frank Smith. who was to become our founding President, made a further attempt. He was armed this time with a quote from a local contractor (£7l8) but the result was the same, considered too expensive and insufficient interest! By March 1980 he was back again, but this time in strength. The period in between had been usefully employed gathering local support. Presented with this the Parish Council agreed to a meeting with the prospective members, to be held on the 10th July.
The show of support worked. It was agreed that a club be formed and a quote forwarded to the Parish Council for reinstatement work. In October Frank Smith attended a meeting with the Parish Council and Lt. Col.Tull of Hampshire Playing Fields Association. Lt. Col.Tull indicated that a grant of £1000 could be made towards the cost. Frank Smith felt that the Club could provide a similar amount. It was resolved that following a further feasibility study and receipt of estimates, a recommendation should be made to the Finance and General Purposes Committee.
On 7 November 1980 Headley Bowling Club was formed. As yet it was without formal rules and a working party to act as the General Committee was appointed. The Committee consisted of: - Chairman Frank Smith, Secretary-Gilbert Burtenshaw, Treasurer - Les Jaques Committee Members; George Arnold, Nancy Burtenshaw & Arthur Brown We were up and running! Club formed, bowling green on the way. But, as in all of life there were to be many obstacles and much hard work before finally achieving the 'Holy Grail', four years later. A report from the National Playing Fields Association following examination of cores taken from the green site, estimated a reseeding cost of £3000 and two years before the Green could be playable. The minutes of the Recreation Committee 21" April 1981 say: -
"RESOLVED. Reinstatement of the bowling green. The Committee considered the two estimates received, detailed below: -
Alton Garden Services £3577.10
Ivan A. Freeman £2342.96
Proposed. seconded and carried unanimously that a recommendation be made to full council that the lower estimate be accepted."
“RESOLVED. That Hants Playing Fields Association be requested to attend site on a number of occasions in order to see that the specification was adhered to."
This was approved in May, with work commencing in June. All appeared to be going well. However due to the lack of watering facilities on site, the Club suggested that reseeding be held back for more favourable weather conditions. AIas, their advice was ignored and seeding was completed within the month. The Club was unhappy with the work and compiled its own report."
It was found that there were variations by as much as three inches over the whole area. It was also evident that the major covering was weed, rather than grass. The Club indicated, quite naturally. that it could not accept the green in such a condition.
The Parish Council set up a subcommittee of three councillors and three Bowling Club members, to discuss terms for a handover. The Full Council minutes of 13 July record that the Contractor had been paid, £1741, so far. They go on to state:
“The main problem appears to be with the levels of the Green. Mr Smith of the Bowling Club, a retired Civil Engineer, had produced drawings of the levels and claimed that these were not acceptable. His drawings had been forwarded to the NPFA and a report was awaited. As a result, there had been no discussion at the sub-committee on 3rd July.”
Council members considered that every effort should be made to see that the grass should not fail.
RESOLVED: watering should be carried out.”
The Parish Council had been badly let down and attempted to arrange remedial meetings with the Contractor and Hampshire Playing Fields Association.
By September a meeting had been held with the Contractor who agreed to address the levels. Using turves. As there was still no action the Council arranged for a solicitor’s letter to be sent. The Contractor replied that it was on his priority list!
By their meeting of 12th February 1982, the Council had run out of patience. They decided to cut their losses. No Further payments would be made and using NPFA specification a recommended contractor would be employed.
At the meeting of 5th April quotes were announced for two companies:
Maxwell hart £2,489.66 + £,124.48 Contingency sum
Roffey Bros £1,135.20 Subject to Bowling Club maintaining.
Further problems arose at the meeting on 15th April between the Council and the Bowling Club over future maintenance. When the position could not be resolved, reinstatement was put on hold.
However, meetings continued and on 6th September agreement was reached for the Bowling Club to carry out ‘day to day’ maintenance. A further quote obtained from Maxwell Hart of £2,614.14 + £1,000 for five months maintenance was accepted on 10th January 1983. The decision was taken because of the company’s experience with this type of work. At long last the end was in sight.
It is of interest that at this time the Club set its first membership fees and reported to the council. These were: Playing Member £10; Juniors £3; Non-Playing Members £1. The Council considered this to be ‘very reasonable’.
A contract was signed on 14th March. Maxwell Hart quickly set about the work and on 9th May it was complete. It was envisaged that the Bowling Club would take over on 1st April 1984 and a grant of up to £600 was awarded. Inevitably there were hiccups. The grass cover was not up to the necessary standard and there was a weed problem. Maxwell Hart put this to rights and by 3rd Feb 1984, Frank Smith was in a position to proudly announce that agreement had been reached. From 1st April the Club felt able to resume responsibility for the Green under the terms agreed with the Council.
At this point, two significant additions were made to the committee. John Sharples and John Coombes (A. Brown had retired some time before.)
On Sunday 8th July, twenty members gathered and the first bowl was rolled on the Green, which was opened on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, until season’s end in 16th September. By this time the Club had 54 playing members and 14 associate members, after three years of delay and disappointment, events began to move very swiftly. True to their commitment the Council; provided accommodation. On 20th November a temporary classroom, purchased from an infant school in Hartley Whitney, was placed on site. It cost £400 for the unit and £2665 to move!
On 21st November, membership of Hampshire County Bowling Association and of English Bowling Association was approved. On 9th December the Club was accepted into the Three Counties Bowls Fellowship.
In between, on 20th November, the Club held its first AGM. The main business of the evening was to adopt the club rules. Chairman Frank Smith thanked John Sharples who had drafted them. With only slight modification, they were accepted. We operate today, using basically those same rules. Just one example of the sound legacy our predecessors left us.
The Club was now fully operational. Frank Smith was elected President. Gilbert Burtenshaw was confirmed as Secretary and Nancy Burtenshaw as Ladies Secretary.
During the year, reports were being received on other, not so welcome items that still stay with us. Soil samples from around the Green where privet had died back, were found by Alice Holt Research Station to contain Honey Fungus; junior footballers were trying out their boots on the Green; and in true Wind in the Willow tradition, moles were wreaking havoc all over our precious new sward.