The Chelmsford Bowling Club was formed in 1906 at a meeting of interested people held in the Charity School, Church Street, Chelmsford on Thursday 22 March 1906.
It is as a result of the efforts of these few people that over the last 100 years many members have been able to participate in and enjoy the game of bowls at the Chelmsford Bowling Club.
Probably the most influential person in proposing the formation of the Club was the Borough Surveyor Cuthbert Brown who was reported to come from the north of England. Cuthbert Brown had introduced the idea of a bowling green to the Borough Council and was instrumental in having this constructed in the new Recreation Ground which we know today as Central Park. The Recreation Ground consisting of 27 acres of fields was first opened in 1894 to provide a public open space for the growing town. The Mayor of Chelmsford at that time was Alderman Frank Whitmore who in 1906 became the first President of the Club. The total cost of purchasing and laying out this area was £6,076. Public subscription had found over £2000 of this cost. Development of the Recreation Ground included the provision of riverside walkways, a lake formed from excavations made to construct the railway embankment, tennis courts, pavilion and bandstand. The first bowling green was probably ready for play in 1905 being located behind the Drill Hall at the bottom of Park Road. A report in the Essex County Chronicle of the 23 February 1906 under the heading ‘Improving the Recreation Ground’ states, “The bank on the south side of the bowling green has been transformed into a pretty ornamental rockery, surmounted by shrubs and plants. Another bowling green (second) has also been prepared. The Borough Surveyor Mr Cuthbert Brown organised the work which has been well carried out by Mr A J Clark the Caretaker”. With a new Club formed in 1906 consisting of63 members the Chelmsford Bowling Club started to organise and enjoy bowls at The Recreation Ground its first home in the Borough.
The Clubs first Minute Book was handwritten by Frank Clist The Master of the Victoria Public Elementary School for Boys (Charity School). He was the first Secretary, and meticulously recorded in copper plate writing the decisions taken at the fomation meeting on Thursday 22 March 1906. Recorded in the minutes as being present were the following people, Frank C list, Cuthbert Brown, Walter Debnam, W J Dyke, Jesse Gowers, H Mabson, John Miller, C Richell, J Shepherd, G A Coulson. Sadly, there is no attendance list available but it is recorded that 25 people were present at the meeting. 15 other people therefore cannot be identified by name.
Alderman Frank Whitmore was proposed as President of the Club he being responsible during his time as Mayor in 1894 for establishing the Recreation Ground and was most probably the Chairman of the Recreation Ground Committee at the time of this first meeting. Cuthbert Brown as Borough Surveyor was appointed the Chairman of the meeting and he, together with others, was the driving force in getting the Club established. The Minute Book records the following:-
- Meeting of players was held in the Charity School on Thursday evening March 22nd 1906 at 8.30pm for the purpose of forming a Bowling Club.
- 25 were present.
Mr Cuthbert Brown at the request of the meeting presided. He pointed out that some organisation was needed to arrange matches and it was at once unanimously decided to form a club. The following Committee was elected Messrs Cuthbert Brown, C W Choat, W Debnam, W J Dyke, J Gowers, H Mabson, John Miller, C Richell and J Shepherd with Mr F Clist as Hon Sec and Ivfr G A Coulson as Assistant Hon Sec & Hon Treasurer.
The following Roles were adopted:
- Rules of the Club and Rules of Competitions. (These are filly detailed as Appendix A)
- Mr Shepherd proposed & Mr Richell seconded that Mr F Whitmore be asked to be the first President of the Club. It was carried unanimously.
- The number and names of Vice Presidents (Honorary) were left to the discretion of the Committee.
- It was agreed that the teams for matches be selected by the Committee with the Officers.
- It was decided to have the rules printed on a card which shall be given free of charge to each member of the Club at the time of paying his subscription.
Signed as a true record by Henry G Lake, Chairman. March 5 1907.
The first Rules of the Club and Competitions were adopted at the Formation Meeting on 22 March 1906 and were later superseded by the adoption of the English Bowling Association Playing Rules.
A list of the Clubs original members is recorded in the first minute book as ‘List of members 1906’ (See Appendix B).
Total membership is recorded as 63 members which means that considerable recruitment must have taken place prior to and after the Formation Meeting on 22 March 1906. However there is evidence from the minutes of the Witham BC that bowls was being played in Chelmsford and probably at the Recreation Ground prior to this date. Matches are recorded as Chelmsford against Witham BC in 1905.
First Friendly Matches
The minutes of the Witham Bowls Club show that a match took place between Witham BC and a Chelmsford team in 1905. On Saturday 29 July 1905 the first ever friendly match for Witham resulted in them winning by 80 points to Chelmsford’s 18. Witham visited Chelmsford on 2 September 1905 for a return match which they again won 65 —37 across two rinks. As the Chelmsford BC was not formed until 1906 these matches cannot be classed as official matches under the banner of the Chelmsford BC but they clearly assisted in establishing the Club on an organised basis.
Arrangements for the Clubs first match is recorded in the minutes of Tuesday 15 May 1 906. ‘The following members were selected to play in a match Members y Non Members on Wednesday May 16 – Messrs W Debnam, W J Dyke, A Macfarlane, W Seals, W H Hine, G F Orams, H S Bausor, F C Frye with J Shepherd, J Gowers and H Mabson as reserves’. No subsequent mention is made of this match or a result recorded so we cannot be sure if this was the first ever competitive match.
At a Committee Meeting on 12 June 1906 the first ever competitive friendly match was arranged between Chelmsford BC and Romford BC. This was subsequently played at Chelmsford BC, The Recreation Ground on Saturday 16 June 1906 on four rinks with Chelmsford winning this match by 36 points. The Chelmsford team of four rinks on this occasion was selected by the Chairman Cuthbert Brown and the Secretary Frank Clist.
Being an important match the Committee of The Recreation Ground were invited to attend with all players and visitors having tea. The ‘good’ tea was provided by Mr C Richell a member who was the Proprietor of the Victoria Restaurant, 3 New London Road and of the Rosebury Temperance Hotel in Springfield Road.
The 1906 Minute Book records nine friendly matches being played during this first season four of these were won and five lost. The details of these matches are fully described in Appendix C.