Headington Bowls Club - Home Page
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History - 2007 Season Review
Oxford & District Mens League 1
Oxford & District Mens League 4
81 Years of Bowling
Headington Bowls Club is a fine example of what can be achieved with enthusiasm and determination.
In the early 1920's a group of local business men acquired a field in Manor Road, Headington with the intention of making a sports ground for the local inhabitants.
By 1924 both cricket and football were played on the site and the possibility of playing bowls was being explored by Jack Stow and two or three others. Part of the cricket pitch was used with strings representing ditches. There was an assortment of odd woods with lead weights inserted to give the bias. A two rink green was laid out and bowling commenced.
The first game, a two rinker, was played against Exeter College Servants on 12th July, 1926 on a green at the Iffley Road Running Ground. Headington won 32 - 31. At this time there were 16 members and the subs were three shillings (l5p).
A third rink was added in 1927 and subs were increased to five shillings (25p). By 1932 membership was up to thirty and a need arose for a six rink bowling green. The Secretary was reluctantly voted £2, to convert a rubbish dump in a corner of the sports field and this he and ten others did by fencing and levelling the site and fixing ditch boards. The grass seed was delivered by donkey and cart to the site in 1933 and the green was opened by Lord Elton on 23rd July 1934. However, owing to a severe drought, play became impossible and the bowlers returned to the original green until the new green was once again formally opened by Lord Elton on Jubilee Day - 6th May, 1935.
A wooden pavilion was erected in March 1936 by Gilbert Coppock at a cost of £99.18s.6d. Other interesting purchases during the thirties were a new 15" Ransome Mower for £11.0s.0d, installation of a water main £6.19s.5d, and electricity at £7. 6s 6d.
Jack Stow was presented with an inscribed gold watch by his fellow members in appreciation of his twenty one years service as Secretary and Treasurer since the Club's foundation.
In 1958 membership had risen to 80 and subs were £2.7s.6d. and according to a notice of that time "friendly games only" were played.
Over the years the Club expanded and has played matches all over the county, some of the venues are now long gone, Horspath, Brill,Culham,Milton, Sandford, Oxford Co-op and The Fish at Sutton Courtenay. Headington however survived and prospered.
In May 1967 the Bowls green ground was purchased from Headington Sports Association for £1,400. later in July the Headington Sports Association gave £600 to pay off loans raised and a further £100 for maintenance costs.
The Club is still using on a regular basis during the closed season a Ransome Mower purchased in May 1971 for £145. 17p and it is in superb condition.
In 1974 the English Bowling Association were invited to play the Club by Jack Stow who was still Club Secretary. The occasion was the Club's fiftieth anniversary coupled with Jack Stow's amazing achievement of fifty years as secretary, probably a record in the Bowls world.
The day of the match came and as members gathered for a pre-match photograph it was realised that Jack Stow had not arrived. He had been at the Club the previous evening and was looking forward to the game. Sadly, he had died during the night and two or three of the members found his body when they called at his house which was only a few yards from the green. It was decided the game would go ahead in his honour and so with flags at half mast the game was played.
By this time of course, lady members had been admitted to the Club. Originally Susan Parrott, who was a member of the Townswomen's Guild and a College Servant bowler, somehow or other persuaded Jack Stow and his committee to allow the Guild to play four afternoons during the week.
This was in 1967 and in 1969 a Ladies Section was officially started with the proviso that play would be in the afternoons and until 6pm only, furthermore lady members would be restricted to fifteen only. Male membership at this time was pegged to eighty-five and there was always a waiting list of people wishing to join.
On 16th February 1977, the fine wooden pavilion and club house was burnt to the ground after a break-in and the task of clearing the site and rebuilding began. Many of the Club's artefacts and records were lost but one picture fitted with non-reflective glass survived the flames it was the EBA Pennant and playing order for the fiftieth anniversary match. Bowls matches and club games continued using salvaged wood to build a changing room and a local pub for suppers and drinks to entertain visiting clubs. Members contributed generously to the rebuilding fund and practically every club in Oxford raised money from various functions which they donated. Thanks to everyones' efforts a spacious and well appointed clubhouse was opened just nine months later! and was then officially opened by the County President E J Gibbard on 1st May, 1978.
A further improvement to the clubhouse was made in 1993 when an extension was added giving vastly improved bar and lounge facilities. The entire cost of some £25,000 was met from Club funds raised by social events and short-mat bowling during the closed season. The extension was offically opened by the County President F.D. Roberts on 14th May, 1993.
The club house underwent yet more improvements in 2001 - two new walls, a ceiling(!) and central heating which now means that the Club boasts one of the finest Club Houses in the County. In April 2003 an automatic watering system was added to keep the green in shape.
The Club continues to play an active part in local bowls with some success in local competitions - Barry Foster's rink reaching Worthing in 1999 and 2000. Headington have proudly provided two Presidents for Oxfordshire Bowling Association and two lady Presidents for the Oxfordshire Women s Bowling Association. We have also had an OBA Men's singles champion in 1974, OBA Mens Triples champions in 1986, OWBA Champion of Champions in 1985, repeated by Barry Foster in 2002. Shaun Claridge came close to emulating this in 2006 but eventually had to settle for the runner's up spot. But Shaun did manage to acquire the Allison Cup singles title in 2006. We were OBA Double Fours winners in 1996 and 2002 and were runners up in 2001, 2005 and 2006. The Club won the 2006 League Cup Competition. In 1999 the Club entertained the English Bowling Association on our green at Headington in celebration of our 75th Anniversary.
The Jack Stow Triples Open Competition continues to attract many entries every year since its inception in 1970 and the Jack Stow Trophy has now been joined by the John Mason Plate which is played for by the losing quarter finalists on finals day - traditionally the August Bank Holiday.
With the new Oxford United Football Stadium completed at Littlemore,and the relocation of the cricket and tennis clubs,having taken place some years ago, only the Bowls Club remains on the original 1920's sports ground in the new Millennium.