Friday, 30 July 2010

Palmer Park Bowling Club centenary

Last weekend I attended the centenary celebrations of Palmer Park Bowling Club. I was pleased to see lots of people making use of this facility, but disappointed that our new mayor didn't get a "toucher" with his first bowl as one of his predecessors did!

The club have plans to get more young people using it. They have already purchased some junior woods and shoes. All they need now are more young club members. One of their committee informed me that they have open coaching sessions on a Saturday morning for anyone interested in taking up the sport.

Below is some of the history of the club which they sent me:

In April 1908 the ‘Reading Standard’ reported that the first “municipal bowling green” was laid in Palmer Park, an area of land given in trust to the local community by Lord George Palmer, Mayor of Reading in 1875. Apparently members of the local council pressed ahead with the project despite strong opposition about the cost involved. The ‘Reading Standard – April 1908’ reported that “.. by the happy combination of the Parks and Pleasure Committee and the Mayor’s Distress Committee a handsome green has been provided on a strictly economical plan. The former supplied the ground, the turf was taken from the Thames Promenade and the labour (unemployed personnel) was provided by the Distress Committee.” On Whit Monday in June 1908 the green was officially opened by the Mayor of Reading, Councillor W. Colebrook. A match was played between Borough Officials and a team of Reading bowlers that included members from the ‘Suttons’ and ‘Biscuit Factory’ Clubs. It was noted that the Mayor’s opening shot scored a ‘toucher’ – a good sign for the future of the green. Bowling in the Park thrived, although little can be found about the first two seasons apart from occasional reports of matches between a Park team and the ‘Suttons’, and Biscuit Factory’ Bowling Clubs. A small wooden pavilion provided shelter for players with basic ‘facilities’ being shared with the local community in a building across the park.

In 1910 Palmer Park Bowling Club was formed officially, and affiliated to the B.C.B.A. The Club Honours Boards reflect the successes over the early years, with a fair share of County Honours being won at Club level as well as by individual members.

When reporting the 1908 Opening Ceremony, the Reading Standard noted that, “..a fair proportion of ladies..” showed an interest in the game, although the Mayor, and his Deputy, both emphasised that bowls was essentially a game for men – a sign of the times. This proved to be the case, as it took until 1964 before the Palmer Park Ladies’ Section was formed, and Ladies were given official recognition within the Club. Minutes from a Club Management Committee meeting of June 1964, recorded member’s good wishes for the success of the Ladies Section. Today the Ladies are fully integrated members sharing equally in all Club activities. This is reflected in Palmer Park being one of the first Clubs to have a Lady Club Secretary and a Lady President.

The difficulties of space, brought about by success and an increasing Club membership, has always proved to be a major problem. The original wooden style pavilion has long since been replaced as, over the decades, enthusiastic groups of members have gained planning permission from Reading Council, raised funds and set about constructing major alterations to the Clubhouse building. Records show that this occurred in the 1960’s, during 1994 – 1995, and more recently over the period 2003 – 2006 when a large scale extension to the existing Clubhouse was constructed and all existing facilities in the older building were renovated. The site resounded to the sound of digging, hammering and sawing, as members set about their self-build project. 2005 saw the new main room opened by Councillor John Howarth from Reading Borough Council and in May 2006 the whole building was opened by Ken Blackhall (Senior Deputy President R.C.B.B.A.) and Kath Seymour (President B.C.W.B.A.) It was a fantastic day for all our Palmer Park members – one which we remember with great pride.

Palmer Park Bowling Club is now a well established, mixed Club. We have a strong reputation for being a friendly and sociable Club. We welcome all bowlers, from beginners to those who are more experienced. This year, in particular, we have been looking for ways to attract junior bowlers to the Club. We play both friendly games and many matches with a keen ‘competitive edge’. Whilst the Club maintains a good record of success in local Leagues, we continue to record individual successes at County level.

In 2010 Palmer Park Bowling Club will be celebrating its centenary year along, with the R.C.B.B.A.. Congratulations to everyone. We look forward to sharing in our joint celebrations when you visit us during what will be a very special season for us all.

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