Chipping Norton Bowls Club History

The Story of Chipping Norton Bowls Club.
I have so often been asked how, where and when did Chippy Bowls Club start. 
The idea started in summer I973 on the lawn of Mr and Mrs Lainchbury at Kingham, when members of the newly-formed Monday Club were being hosted to a strawberries and cream tea. After tea, several bowls appeared on the rather bumpy lawn and the thirty visitors were shown the technique of bowling by Will and Win Page who were former Gloucestershire county players. At this introduction to the game, I was asked why can not Chippy have a bowling green - a lot of surrounding villages have. So the idea was duly tossed around and, as I was next year to take the chair of Rotary, it seemed at the time to be a suitable project. 
This gave Rotary its big headache for the year. Places such as the corner of the cricket field, a paddock of Mr and Mrs Lord (now occupied by J P Reeve Garden Machinery), behind the swimming pool, waste land behind the old quarry and even Cotshill were all thoroughly discussed. Sadly, none of these plots ever took off, but they were all kept on file hoping one day something might happen. The response from Rotary members at the time came mainly from John Hunt, Graham Harris, Bob Gainey and our late friends Ken Hill and Sam Martin. They gathered a large number of signatures from people who would support the formation of a bowling green. This provided the enthusiasm not to give up trying for a suitable site. I977 came with the news that the Town Council had purchased some of the land at Greystones for sporting purposes, e.g. rugby, football, rifle range, bowls and tennis. Each organisation was to fund its own project and pay a rent to the Town Council. 
This surely was the chance we had been waiting for, so Rotary was asked to call a public meeting at the Cotshill Pavilion on Tuesday, I4th June I977 to discuss the formation of a bowling club. With the President of Rotary, Mr Doug Johnson, taking the chair, Mr Ron Stares outlined from the Council what they had in mind. After a lengthy discussion, according to the minutes, Mr Will Page proposed and Mr Archie Sole seconded that the club be formed. Twenty members of the public present all voted in favour. Naturally there was a follow on as to who the new committee should be and the following were elected: Hon. Chairman Bob Ellis, Hon. Secretary Margaret Anderson, Hon. Treasurer Joe Roughton, Committee Ron Stares, Will Page, Win Page, Joe Townley. This is my potted version of the start. 
From June I977 to June I98I, many hours were spent in committee meetings, discussions and debates and on the main question: how were we going to finance the project? Starting as we were from scratch with no funds was our main problem. Every idea that would raise money was used.. cheese and wine parties (wine 20p a glass), a weekly Greystones lottery, sponsored walks, raffles and penny end dances all contributed. We were now able to start asking for subs from members, as clubs like the Wychwoods and Chadlington were kindly offering playing facilities. By the end of the I979 season we had played 22 matches on a home and away basis with us supplying the food on the second visit. These matches and the fund raising all helped to make a start with the coffers and some members took up an offer of giving £50 for ten year membership. Others gave interest-free loans. Several firms were approached as well as sporting organisations. West Oxfordshire District Council's Grant Aid for Sports awarded us £400, Chipping Norton Town Council £5,000 and Southern Sports Council loaned £3,000 repayable over three years. 
A Constitution and Rules for the Club was another hurdle for the committee to get over. Then came the preparation of turning the quarry- looking site into a bowling green. Three estimates were submitted by national firms. Doe's of Essex was the tender accepted for the sum of £I2,504 for laying the green only. All the work on the surrounds, planting of the leylandii hedge etc was done by volunteers with wheelbarrows and shovels. We were fortunate to get the expertise of Mr Charlie Smith of Thame, an expert in the laying of bowling greens, to oversee the work of the contractors for us. In I979, we had the pleasure of Mr Alan Lynn, a Past County President, giving a lecture on "The Etiquette of Bowling". We were able to rent two rooms in the 'big house' from early days which we turned into a social room with a bar and a kitchen. 
All games and competitions up to I98I had been played on hospitality greens. Now, on Ist May I98I, the first wood was rolled up on Chippy green - what an accomplishment! On 7th June, President Cecil Winsor of the Oxfordshire Bowling Association, brought a team to play against Chipping Norton and so the outdoor green was officially opened by him.
The history of the next few years was to consolidate, get the green started, pay off our debts, build up equipment, continue fund raising and to return the hospitality we had received. I suppose the surprise that came so quickly after the opening of the green was members wishing to ask the Town Council to hire the Terrapin building to the bowls club two nights a week to play short mat bowls in the winter. To this the Council agreed at £2.50 an hour. An Indoor Committee was formed and, with 20 votes for and I8 against, it was agreed to purchase a short mat for £300. Looking back. that was a very brave decision when we had so little money. But that investment paid off. Short mat in I982 was not a household name.
At the end of I983, news came that West Oxfordshire District Council would no longer be using the Terrapin building for the Registrars Office. After much negotiation, we were able to obtain a suitable lease and so the whole building became our club house, after many alterations carried out by members. At the Annual General Meeting in November I983, our Treasurer Joe Roughton announced that the last loan had been repaid but had been returned as a gift to the club on the condition that the money he invested in a development fund towards an indoor bowling green. It was at the I983 A.G.M. that Margaret Anderson retired as Club Secretary, a job which she had put her whole heart and soul into right from the start. Fortunately, the late John Sale took on the secretarial work of the club and so much is owed to John. The next few years began to show the strength of the members as players on the green, as the trophy awards on the honours board in the clubhouse will show. At the A.G.M. in I985, the late Joe Roughton gave up the Treasurership after eight years and what a wonderful job he had done in steering nil finances in I977 to the healthy position then. At this juncture, Ron Stares took on this difficult task. 
During I984/85, there was a lot of quiet research work being done by a few into the 'ifs' and 'buts' of building an indoor green. In I985, those who had done the ground work felt it was time to form a small steering committee to establish if it was feasible to form an indoor green. As the minutes prove, this committee had very regular meetings for the next three years thrashing out difficulties such as fund raising, locating a suitable site and architectural planning, to mention only a few of the problems they had to solve. A recommendation came very soon after the committee was formed - that an open meeting should he held at Chipping Norton School and a well- known celebrity, such as Mr David Bryant, should he asked to give some guidance on matters we should consider when deciding whether or not to go ahead. So, on Sth October I986, Mr David Bryant, C.B.E., the master of bowls, addressed a large gathering of enthusiastic members and very forcibly declared that he felt enough research had been done to go forward and build an indoor four rink green at Chipping Norton.
This was a great boost to those members attending and, if someone like David Bryant had put the icing on the cake by recommending we go forward, this gave the members the confidence to vote for it. The work, the problems, the set backs of the next two years, with planning regulations, electricity supply and all the worries that go with an enterprise of this magnitude still make me wonder how we got through it all. But I know it could not have been without the support of committee members - people like the late John Sale, Ron Stares, David Eddershaw, Betty Pease and Lily Pratley to mention only a few of those who worked so hard. With a brewery loan, a very large bank overdraft and members' loans we had set ourselves on the road. Had we done right? There was no turning back now! 
The first wood was rolled up on I7th January I988 and the indoor green was officially opened by David Bryant, C.B.E. on 25th March I988. Such was the success of the first three years of the indoor four rinks bowling green that the committee agreed to approach the bank to see if they were satisfied with our payments so far. If so, would they grant us another loan to build on a dining room, a kitchen, changing rooms and a bar area at a cost of a further £80,000. They agreed. Finances were tight for the following years during which our priority was keeping to a budget which meant our monthly payments to both the brewery and the bank were met, whilst keeping the finances ticking over. This difficult task was watched over the whole time by our Treasurer Ron Stares who took great pride in the loans being repaid. This superb achievement will enable our new Club Treasurer Lew Bullard to build up reserves for replacement items and repairs - and at the same time I am sure those members involved in the future planning of the club will have plenty of ideas for the next five to ten Years to put to our Treasurer to mull over.
The success of the club in its formation in its twenty five years has to he attributed to so many members (and sadly we mourn a number who are no longer with us to see what has been accomplished.) Another important aspect of any club is its success on the green and we are certainly able to claim our share locally. In addition to playing matches at Club, County and at National levels over the years, members have represented the club at Worthing, Melton Mowbray and Nottingham. The club is run overall by nine officers who are elected annually at the club's annual general meetings and I would like to thank all those who have held office during these last twenty five years.
Bob Ellis
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Saturday, 2nd of December 2023