Although only formed for the 2017 season, Stoke Park Bowling Club has a long history stretching back over 130 years.
Bowls has been played in Guildford at Stoke Park since 1942 when Guildford Bowling Club (est.1885) moved their home ground to a vacant croquet lawn in a wooded copse known as Peacock Wood. There Guildford continued to play until 2016 when the club amalgamated with Astolat Bowling Club.
History of Guildford Bowling Club
Guildford Bowling Club was formed in 1885.
Guildford’s Bowling Club’s first green was at the end of Margaret Road in Guildford in 1885, where the Police station now stands. The rent for this green was £15 and the water rate was 14/6d per year (pre-decimal for those old enough to remember).
In 1917, Guildford Bowling Club moved to a new green on the other side of Woodbridge Road, this green being owned by the proprietor of The Prince of Wales Hotel behind which the green was situated. The first match on this new green was played on 17th May 1917.
When Guildford Bowling Club moved to Woodbridge Road, the rent rose to £25, subscriptions also rose with the move, and in April 1918, full membership went from 10/6d to £1 1/- d and an entrance fee was imposed for new members of 5/- d Country members (those who lived outside a radius of 2 miles from the Town Hall) had subscriptions increased to 10/6d and an entrance fee of 2/6d. In return for this increase, members were given the luxury of a full time green keeper, who was employed at 10/6d per week, also the green was to open for play on Sundays after 3pm, but the bar was to remain closed.
The period immediately following the end of World War 1 brought many changes to fixtures amongst local clubs, Guildford Bowling Club joined with others and formed the Guildford, Bagshot, Farnham and Farnborough Bowling league and new fixtures were arranged with Dorking, Shere, Epsom, Hook and Southboro, Brighton (Preston Park) and Worthing.
In October 1920 Guildford Bowling Club was given the opportunity to purchase some ground at Woodbridge House, in Woodbridge Road for its permanent home. It was agreed to form a public company, which members could buy shares at a cost of £1 each, to purchase the land and lay out a bowling green and build a pavilion at a cost of £2,500. The new company was registered as Guildford Bowling Club Ltd, with Guildford Bowling Club as its tenants.
To celebrate the opening of the Woodbridge House green on 13th July 1921, invitations were sent to Castle Green, Caxton and the Constitutional Bowling Clubs and the Surrey County Association to play in a match against Guildford. With a view to adding something extra to the club a croquet lawn was prepared at the back of the green and a ladies croquet club was founded in 1923.
In 1933, following several years of difficult playing conditions the green was almost unplayable and experts were called in and the green was relayed at a cost of £450, in time for 1935, the clubs Golden Jubilee, also for the jubilee electric lighting was installed in the pavilion. A cup was presented to the club, known as “The Jennings Golden Jubilee Cup” and was competed for as a two wood singles competition. This was later changed with Mr Jennings approval to a 3 three wood singles competition which is still played for within the club today.
On the 5th March 1942 a special committee meeting was called due to the poor state of the green, it was agreed that in order for the club to continue, it should rent one of the croquet lawns in Stoke Park from Guildford Croquet Club at a cost of £50 per year. The tenancy with Woodbridge House was terminated and Guildford Bowling Club moved for the third time to a wooded copse known as Peacock Wood. This established Guildford Bowling Club in Stoke Park, where it remains today.
In 1944 the Croquet club was wound up due to lack of support, Guildford Corporation who owned the lawns, offered Guildford Bowling Club use of all four greens for an inclusive rental of £115 per annum.
Until now the teas and entertainment at the club were held in a marquee, but in 1951 the borough council built a new pavilion which remained until 1984, when the present pavilion was built, over the years, due to rising costs and a decrease in membership some of the four greens have been relinquished.
Following a special general meeting on 7th March 1956, the Ladies section was established, the men’s locker room was cleaned and alterations made then handed over to the ladies for changing rooms.
Around 1959, a friendly relationship was set up between Guildford Bowling Club, England and Guildford Bowling Club, Sydney, Australia. In 1967 a silver gong was received from the Sydney Club, which is still in the club today.
In 1985, for the clubs centenary, a new club badge was commissioned.
A recent and very welcome addition to the club is the Visually Impaired Bowling section. This offers coaching and games to those of impaired or blind players.
Over the years, Guildford Bowling Club has been fortunate and is proud to have produced several County and International players.
In the 2015 Season we are pleased to say that we were happy to celebrate our 130th year as a bowling club. Extending our proud title of “Guildford’s Oldest Bowling Club”