Club History

A Brief History

1903 is the first date Indoor Bowling is mentioned so far found in any local records, the mention came soon after the Shelter Hall (now the Bexhill museum) was built in Egerton Park in that year. The idea was that a Temporary Green to play Indoor Bowls would be laid down so that it could be removed when the hall was being used for meetings and Concerts.

bowls old

We do not know if the Shelter Hall was ever used for Indoor Bowling at this time as no hard evidence is available, but we do know that in 1907 the then Borough council put aside £15 for an Indoor Rink to be provided in the Hall. Little is still known after this date whether Indoor Bowling ever came to fruition in Bexhill but the seeds were definitely sown in someone’s mind well before this later date as is shown later.

Outdoor Bowls had been played on Public Greens in Bexhill since 1907 when the first Green was opened in Egerton Park. Previous to this the game of lawn Bowls was played mostly in private gardens just like croquet.

egerton park old

Bexhill Bowlers Pre First World War

Bexhill Bowling Club was the first established club in the town although there was a previous attempt by St Barnabas Cricket Club a few years earlier to start a Bowling Club but it failed to prosper.

Also at this time we know that a Pergola was also in place in Egerton Park for open air concerts and services and was much in use for public meetings. This was on the future site of the Pavilion and the current Centre.

In 1933 the Egerton Park Pavilion Theatre was built, a design being chosen so that in the winter the auditorium could be used for Indoor Bowling Rinks. It was then known as one of the earliest indoor Bowling Centres in the Country.

Egerton Theatre
Theatre with Bowls Surface Down 1930’s A guide book at the time quote: ” two Indoor Rinks are provided for winter play for the club and visitors use, the rinks are generally regarded as second to none on the South Coast.”

The Summer seasons in the Theatre were followed each winter by the seats being removed by the members and the Indoor Bowls carpet being laid ready for play. In the early 50 s the Theatre was being used less and less and finally the resident company the Penguin Players moved to the De La Warr Pavilion.

The members of the Bexhill Bowling Club now had sole use of the building granted to them. With this development the club decided in 1954 to have the Theatre stage taken out and added two more Rinks to the Centre. This was also the year that all of the outdoor clubs in the district set up an indoor section to be known as the Bexhill Indoor Bowling Association.

During the 50 s, 60 s and 70 s it had one of the most successful Easter Tournaments in the South of England with players coming from all over the country to play in the tournament.  A Rose Bowl Trophy donated to the club by the Beach Family in 1939 was the prize the winners received and it is still being played for up to this very day.

egerton park old2

 

On the 18th of January 1967 the Club became incorporated as Egerton Park Indoor Bowls Club Ltd and continued to have success as a Bowling Club. In the following years the Bexhill Bowling Club as it was still known flourished as an Indoor Bowls venue with all four rinks in regular use.

egerton Park 1970b
Main Entrance 1970

Major improvements were made to the club in 1975 with new toilets, improved changing rooms and the widening of the rinks, this all managed to extend the life of the old building, but bricks and mortar do not last forever.

During the middle to late eighties the structure of the building became more and more run down. The members did all they could to stop the decay and even bowled around bucket’s which were placed strategically to catch rain water.

The writing was on the wall for the building it was getting beyond economical repair. Many a draughty penny was spent in its cold toilet area and it was with much relief for most of the members that the decision was made not to buy new buckets for the rinks but to build a new pavilion.

paper clip

The members raised monies through fund raising and interest free loans and the Directors secured loans from the local council and other sources to enable the club to build a purpose built Six Rink Indoor Bowls Centre on the original site of the Egerton Park Pavilion.

egerton Park First Bowler
After lots of hard work, endless sleepless nights, and much patience the Pavilion was ready for play and was officially opened by the then Minister for sport Robert Atkins M.P. on the 15th of January 1992. ( Although play did start in the November previous to this )

There are many people who worked hard and made sacrifices way above the call of duty to make the club what it is today, without them the Centre would not have been built. Some are still with us and some have left, some have passed away but one thing is sure today’s Membership owe them thanks for the way
Egerton Park is today.

egerton park new building signingb
Chairman – Cliff Todd – Buildings Supervisor – Tom Fountain & Secretary Peter Lister sign the New Building Documents.

Hours of work with no pay to do the various duties needed to keep the Centre running smoothly are things that used to be taken for granted for members to do but rightly or wrongly this has all changed.

A paid management was put in place to run the Centre, and the hope is that the club can go forward into the future and repay those people in a small way by keeping Egerton Park as “Second to none on the South Coast”

Egerton Park New Building

98 years after the first mention of Indoor Bowls on this site the Board of Directors,
The Bowls Sections, and Staff are still working hard to maintain and improve the Centre so it still has facilities second to none for the use of all of the members.

Compiled by Terry Hodd from earlier publications including the Bexhill Men’s Bowling Club Centenary Book and the archives of the Bexhill Museum.