You may have wondered what was behind that hedge along the Lower Hampton Rd – well its a bowling green!The club was founded in the 1960’s when Sunbury Cricket Club was looking to increase its portfolio of sports under the Sunbury Sports Association banner and hence we are called the Sunbury Sports Bowls Club.The clubs most illustrious member was Mavis Steele who represented England for 40 years, was England Ladies Outdoor champion three times and was awarded an MBE for her services to bowls.As a member you can play bowls at all levels by entering national and county and club competitions, playing in team leagues and friendlies against local clubs and coming along to informal weekly roll-ups and socials. You can also watch cricket and enjoy the clubhouse facilities. There is free coaching so why not meet new friends and keep fit at the same time – all ages welcome.
The official history of the cricket club, written by Bill Kincaid for their half century in 1988, records that in 1958 the cricket club, having been previously located at the Cedars Recreation Ground and London Irish in the Avenue, decided to buy Kenton Court Meadow. It then came to an agreement with the Hampton Hockey Club to form a Sunbury Sports Club – soon changed to the Sunbury Sports Association. It had also become clear by the 1960’s that the ground bought in 1958 and that leased from Spelthorne Council (car park and paddock and the now bowls green) needed extra revenue and activities within the association to support their ongoing maintenance.
By 1960 a bowls green existed and according to Bill Kincaid’s history, a Sunbury Bowls Club was formed but collapsed within 12 months as bowlers went elsewhere to a council run green where the fees were lower. I believe this was Hampton Bowls Club founded in 1928 in Carlisle Park. This left a well-constructed bowls green with no members. Kincaid says a Trustee (Dickie White) scoured the area for new players. My own investigations via Dolly Head suggests that Geoff Kaye, the driving force in establishing the cricket club, was also involved through his friend Winston Ryder who persuaded some bowlers he met at Hampton – Sid and Peggy Yorath and Jimmy and Ella Darbin to form a new club – the Sunbury Sports Bowls Club by 1964. The club according to Middlesex Bowling Association records was not affiliated until 1968, foundation and affiliation having different dates being common among bowls clubs. Our Women’s section (called ‘Ladies’) was also created in 1968 and at its first meeting decided to affiliate to Middlesex County. By 1969 they had at least 18 mesdames (as the minutes used to call called them) and two members attended the men’s committee meetings and could ask questions, but not vote. The women however went on to make their mark in Middlesex competitions.
The Middlesex County Bowls Association was founded in 1911 and their centenary in 2011 was marked by the publication of a MCBA Centenary Publication compiled by Michael Rosenthal (available via their website.) It confirms the Sunbury Sports Bowls Club was affiliated in 1968. It should also be noted that until recently there was a Middlesex County Bowling Association and a Middlesex County Women’s Bowling Association who only merged after the English Bowling Association and the English Women’s Bowling Association merged in 2008. Sunbury became a mixed club in 2010. The men have provided Middlesex with two presidents – Alan Syrett in 1988 and David Todd in 2012 who has also been Middx Treasurer since 2007and is due to become president again in 2021. On the women’s side Miriam Macdonald was Women’s President in 2001 and Treasurer 2002-2014 and Mavis Steele MBE was Women’s President in 1971 and 1992 as well as Treasurer from 1977 to 1998. Mavis was an England international player from 1959 through to 1998 who came to Sunbury from Wealdstone Bowls Club to play with Lucy Brownlie, a Sunbury player. You will find some history of our involvement in Middlesex competitions on one of our honour’s boards.
Someone also asked me the other day why we are still Middlesex. Well it’s something like this. While there was an administrative County of London from 1889 to 1965 (the LCC) that operated many things including my education, sports only recognised the old county boundaries. Middx and Essex encompassed London from the North and Kent and Surrey from the South up to their respective banks of the Thames. The creation of the GLC in 1965 took parts of Kent, Surrey and Essex and virtually all Middx the rump going to Surrey and Hertfordshire. Further changes in 1974 saw the old administrative counties replaced by Metropolitan and Non-Metropolitan Counties. The Middx Federation website, however, says it was only the administrative bodies that were abolished and not the historic counties like Middx. The English Bowling Association as was did propose a new Greater London Bowling Association that would have taken clubs out of their old counties, but the scheme was eventually dropped.
Middx survived as a sporting county -perhaps Lords and cricket saved them or did Ken Livingston at the GLC have more pressing things on his agenda. The GLC itself was eventually abolished by Mrs. Thatcher in 1986 for, among other things, displaying disparaging posters on the face of County Hall concerning government policy. Even when Spelthorne became part of Surrey it was never able (some clubs tried) to escape from the old county boundary and that is why Staines BC is a long way from Poplar BC both affiliated to Middlesex but then Staines would have been a long way from Redhill in Surrey. Just to demonstrate our Anglo-Saxon pragmatism we received funding from a Surrey County Bowling Association initiative for recruitment (Walton BC in Surrey didn’t) and the Cricket club play in the Surrey League; no wonder the EU negotiators don’t get it about the UK. I can also report that the Sunbury Sports Bowls Club suffered a second desertion of members unhappy with conditions and a lack of independence in the mid 1970’s. They went off and set up a mixed club in Shepperton called Bishop Duppas in Middx (just).
We hope to make one source of our history more accessible i.e. our old honours boards containing names – and names recall stories. Minutes of our AGM’s and Executive Committee meetings go back only as far as 2003 for the main club but there are written records for the Women’s Section back to 1968 until we became a mixed club in 2010.
There is a collection of photographs (mainly the women) scattered about and a set of photos of past presidents (mainly men) parked in a locker and in need of preservation and reproduction perhaps as a composite photo. See me if you are interested in helping with a solution. Your Executive Committee will in any case need to address the ongoing issue of honours boards and records very soon so perhaps this has been an opportune moment to at least raise the issue of heritage, but not to the exclusion of what is more important – our future.
David Chatterton (Honorary Secretary)