A Brief History of Meldreth Bowls Club

Believe it or not 2017 marked the 85th anniversary of the club growing, as it has, from very humble beginnings. It was in 1932 that Fred Farnham (Head Gardener at The Gables) returned from a holiday in Great Yarmouth, where he was taught to play bowls, and persuaded his employer Mrs Dyne-Elin to use her tennis courts as a bowling green. Such was the local interest in this that several men in the village got together to form Meldreth Bowls Club.

In 1937 the tennis courts were reinstated and a new, two rink green (with no banks or ditches), was laid on the main lawn at The Gables. Games on these rinks followed what we now know as Cambridge and District rules.

A change of ownership in 1948 saw the use of these rinks curtailed on a year’s notice. Fortunately, in 1949, Miss Bowen came to the rescue with an offer to lease a corner of her meadow in North End for use as a bowls green, at the peppercorn rent of one penny per annum payable on demand. A new five rink green was laid during the winter of 1949/50. It was to be 1951 before play could take place in earnest on the new rinks.

The first ‘pavilion’ was constructed in the early 1950’s from salvaged materials and was sited in the corner where the mower shed is today. At this time after match refreshments were provided at The British Queen. However, as the village grew this became too crowded and it was suggested that the club might like to build their own pavilion and have a licenced bar.

The money was raised by a ‘Hundred Club with funds being boosted by a generous donation from Miss Mau Bowen. The top prize of £500 was won by Fred Gibbons who promptly donated this to go towards the building of the bar. The footings were put in and in the spring of 1969 the prefabricated building arrived and was erected by volunteers from the club membership. Although not complete, the pavilion was put into immediate use albeit that there was no electricity connected (candles were used) and the lack of a bar licence called for some imagination as beer was ferried from the British Queen in gallon containers!

The original green was only five rinks which prevented play in both directions. At the 1971 AGM it was agreed that a sixth rink should be added. A combination of a grant from The Sports Council and the issue of interest free bonds to members saw the raising of the £2011 required for the works although ‘joining’ the extra rink to the five existing rinks was not without its problems.

As mentioned earlier Miss Bowen leased the land to the club however in 1972 she called together senior members of the club and asked them to stake out how much land the club required. She then generously donated this for the Trustees of the club to be the freeholders of the land.

It was in the 1970’s that club ties and blazer badges were designed and purchased, and players were ‘encouraged’ to play in greys with white tops. It was about this time that the club installed the first irrigation system. This comprised of a ring main and 12 sprinklers which had to be placed on the green every time irrigation was needed; functional but not very effective!

In 1981 the pavilion was outgrown and a 10’ extension was added to the rear of the building, funds for which were raised by another ‘Hundred’ Club.

In 1986 the ladies reported that we had outgrown the existing kitchen and that this was impacting upon catering for matches. Accordingly, the club started its second pavilion extension, adding a new kitchen, changing rooms and toilets to the eastern end of the building.

In 1992 the club celebrated its Diamond Jubilee and several special matches were played at the club to mark the occasion. These included visiting teams from the Presidents of the English Bowling Association, the Eastern Counties Bowling Association and Cambridgeshire Bowling Association.

In 1991, five years after the kitchen extension, plans were drawn up to have a lounge attached to the side of the pavilion. The brewery, Green King, agreed to lend the necessary finance and so the winter work started all over again!

In 2009 the club was successful in obtaining Lottery Funding which enabled it to purchase and then assemble a prefabricated building in the spring of 2010. This is now home to mowers and other greens equipment and materials.

In terms of upkeep and maintenance nothing changes, and the club is still reliant upon the dedication of its members in turning their hand to whatever needs doing, be it green cutting, edge and bank maintenance or building repairs.

Over the years the club has enjoyed many successes on the green and these are all recorded on the numerous ‘honours’ boards displayed in the pavilion. Notable amongst these was wining the C G Gilbert Cup (County Club Competition) in 2011; the Ken Gilbert Cup (Mixed Top Club Competition) in 2066 and 2009. The Dyne- Elin Cup is fought for in the Meldreth and District League. Fittingly, Mrs Dyne-Elin was the first President of this league and the club has won the cup on thirteen occasions since its inauguration in 1938. The Kenzie Cup is a local competition and the club has won the cup on eight occasions and is indeed the current holder, having won in both the 2016 and 2017 competitions. A hat trick in 2018 perhaps!

Dedication to the game of bowls has seen a number of our members holding honorary positions at County level. Meldreth Bowls Club has in the past, provided Presidents for both the Cambridgeshire County Bowls Association and the Cambridgeshire County Women’s Bowling Association.

So, over 85 years ago now, a holiday in Great Yarmouth lead to the formation of Meldreth Bowls club. Here’s to the next 85 years.

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