Worthing Bowling Club Founded 1907
Worthing Bowling Club was proud to
celebrate its Centenary Year in 2007 and this brief history of the
club which was compiled during that Centenary Season has now been
Bowls is an ancient game and Worthing made a belated and tentative
entry to the sport but subsequently made up for the initial lack of
enthusiasm. It has hosted three World Bowls events and
the EBA National Championships since 1974 and is widely considered
to be the “Bowls Capital of England”.
The first reference that can be found to bowls in Worthing is an
appeal by Mr E Lake of East Chichester on the 18th August
1897 when his letter was published in the Worthing Gazette.
He referred to the lovely greens and stated that there was no
bowling club in the town. He was a member of Chichester
Club which had 90 members at the time and said the game was indulged
by “gentlemen who were past playing lawn tennis, cricket etc”.
What a change from the current position!
In 1904 Mr W. George and ten other Worthing residents wrote to the
council requesting that a small portion of the “People’s Park”,
later known as Homefield Park, “be prepared and set apart for the
playing of bowls as a way of attracting visitors to the town”.
This was agreed and the cost to the council, who levied a charge to
players of three old pence an hour or ten shillings and sixpence
(52½p) for the season, was £85. Worthing had a rudimentary bowling
green but not a club. Due to the length of time required
for greens to grow, they were not available until 1905.
A local report described the facility as follows; “the green was 47
1/2 yards square accommodating 7 links” (the name used at that time
for rinks). There was a small trench some five inches
deep all around the green to serve the dual aim of draining the
green and catching the bowls. Seats were provided around
the green for the convenience of spectators.
The first recorded bowling match for the club was in 1906 against
Chichester Bowling Club in Priory Park, Chichester, played by men
who were interested in the game of bowls. This match is
commemorated each year between the two clubs towards the end of the
season with, a 5 rink triples match in Priory Park.
There are no records to show who won the original match but Worthing
won the Centenary game played in 2006 by 19 shots.
The club was formed in 1907, following a meeting held in The Nelson
Hotel in South Street, on Wednesday 17th April. Records
show that The Nelson Inn was built in 1785. It was a
coaching inn until 1842 and it closed in 1961. “The
Officers Club” shop is now on the site. The Mayor,
Alderman F.C. Linfield JP, supported by two councillors Mr Gray; Mr
Arthur, as well as the landlord of The Nelson Inn, W H Ellsworth and
Mr Barnwell made the proposals to start the club. On the
30th April 1907 the first full committee meeting was held
to agree the new club rules. It was agreed that
the annual subscription was to be 10/6d.
The following officers were appointed:-
President Mayor, Alderman F C Linfield JP
Vice President Cllr E W Morecroft
Secretary Cllr T Gray
Captain G V Bell
Vice Captain H Barnwell
Committee H W Sandell
W H Ellsworth
E H King
Worthing won the first recorded club match on the municipal green
against Littlehampton on 29th May 1907, which Worthing
won. However we lost the return match on the 12th
June 1907 by 19 shots.
The Worthing Gazette contains numerous reports of early matches such
“Exciting Game in Homefield Park – An interesting bowling match was
witnessed in Homefield Park on Wednesday 11th September
1907. The opposing teams were drawn from Homefield Park and the
Worthing Club and ended in a tie.” Homefield was not a club at the
time; but they formed the club in 1927.
“Worthing BC’s first dinner was held in December 1907 and a profit
of £1-12s-6d was made.”
“On the opening day of the 1908 bowling season, it was observed that
the erratic course occasionally pursued by the bowls appeared to
suggest some slight and almost imperceptible depressions in the
For the next two years the club managed without a clubhouse, and it
seems that changing rooms were not required as players took to the
green in their everyday clothes. The first club room came about
when, on 4th September 1909, the Worthing Club played the
Town Councillors. Tea was provided for both teams by the
Mayor but rain stopped play, and the players were sent home hungry
and thirsty without having tea. The players took the
opportunity to try and persuade the Mayor and the Council to provide
a clubhouse which would cost £32 to erect. The Council,
however, decided that the Club should erect the pavilion and pay a
ground rent to the Council of one guinea. The new
pavilion was first used in 1910. At this time the Club had more than
The green would hardly be recognised by present day bowlers as there
were no ditches or banks around the green. No mats were
used and the dress code was normal everyday wear.
Beach House Park was originally part of the grounds of Beach House,
which still stands to the south of the park, across Brighton Road.
It was purchased by the town in 1922. The first two
greens were opened in 1924 at a cost of £1,929. In 1925 the pavilion
(now the main pavilion and offices in the park) was constructed at a
cost of £3,039. In the same year the Club transferred to Beach House
Park and the pavilion it had erected in Homefield Park at its own
expense was left for use by the Council. The third
green was laid in 1929 at a cost of £425; the fourth green was laid
in 1934. In 1935 when Beach Park Ladies BC was
formed the council erected the West Pavilion to which our Club was
transferred. At this time the Town Council BC and
West Sussex Police BC also made Beach Park their headquarters.
A great deal of work was carried out immediately after the war to
repair the two northern greens that were badly damaged by enemy
bombs. The local residents at this time were unhappy that cricket
pitches in the town were turned into allotments but the bowling
greens were reinstated. The fifth green was laid
During its history, Worthing BC has had close associations with
professional and business families in the town, including former
Club Presidents F C Linfield JP, our first President
(confectioners), Alderman J.G. Denton (who gave the town Denton
Gardens), W.G. Tree (builder) and Arthur Stubbs (Chartered
Accountant with Stubbs and Spofforth which is still in existence as
Spofforths). House and hotel furnishers H.G. (George)
Scadgell and his son G.H. (John) were synonymous with bowls in
Worthing as were shopkeepers, father and son Knowling (Arthur snr.
and jnr.) before them.
The late Jock Munro was the green keeper who, over a long period,
made the greens in Beach House Park the best in the country.
With backing from the Borough Council, the Men’s National
Championships were attracted to our seaside town because of the
Jock (later elected a life member) was a leading player and was Club
Champion in 1966, 70, 73, 74, 77, lifting numerous Sussex titles,
including the Singles in 1970 and 1978. In 1975 along
with his pair’s partner, the 1955 Chelsea F.C. Championship winning
team member, Eric Parsons, he won the County Pairs title.
Eric was also County Singles champion in 1974.
The first ever National Title was won by Worthing BC members in
1934. This was in the Fours when A. Cole, W.T. Bevan,
S.C. Griffin and R. Whiteside won the title. The Pairs
title was won on two occasions by father and son Arthur Knowling snr.
and jnr. in 1937 and 38. Arthur Knowling jnr. was the Singles
Runner-up in 1936.
In 1947 Peter Mercer won the National Singles title having been a
semi-finalist in 1946. The National Triples title was
won in 1947 by the father and son pair of Arthur Knowling snr. and
jnr. together with Gordon Sparks.
The 1950’s and 60’s saw many National titles won by Worthing BC:
Pairs in 1955 by Harry
Ward and John Scadgell
Pairs in 1957 by Gordon
Sparks and Arthur Knowling jnr.
Fours in 1961 by the
four members above who went on to win the British Isles title the
Pairs in 1966 John
Scadgell and Rex Glover-Phillips.
Other successes were:
Singles runner-up in
1964; John Scadgell
· Pair’s runners-up in
1965; John Scadgell and Rex Glover-Phillips, losing to David Bryant
and David Rhys-Jones (both of whom will be our guests during the
John Scadgell (skip) represented England in the Empire Games along
with Norman King (who later became a member of Worthing BC) in 1958
and they were Gold Medallists in the Fours. He made
International appearances 1956 – 60 and won 16 County titles: as
follows - Singles 4 times; Pairs 5 times; Triple 3 times and the
Fours 4 times. In addition he was Club Champion 9 times.
Arthur Knowling jnr. made nine International appearances (1937-39,
1947-48, 1958-61) and was Club Champion in 1934.
Our other Internationals were Gordon
Sparks (1958-59), his father Fred Sparks (1946) and Peter Mercer
(1947-48). Peter held the Club title three times and was Sussex
Singles Champion twice.
During the 80’s and 90’s the Club won several County titles:
1981 Pairs - John Dicker, Gerry Bridger,
1983 Triples - John Sheehan, Steve Dyson, Gerry Bridger;
1986 Triples - Gordon Jones, Gerry Bridger, Peter Caswall
1998 Singles - Ted Hayward.
Worthing BC has been Abergavenny Cup (Sussex double rink) champions
Worthing Corporation built a second pavilion in Beach House Park for
the 1972 World Championships in which England won the fours and
Norman King and Ted Hayward were in that winning rink.
Both later retired to Worthing and joined Worthing BC.
Norman King was lead in the 1972 World Championship Fours winning
team and Ted Hayward was No. 3. King was an England
International 12 times and National Singles Champion in 1957.
Hayward had seven England appearances, and was singles champion
twice in Middlesex and once in Sussex in 1998. Ted
reached the final of the National Over 55 Pairs with Wally Hayward
in 1993. Wally was known to bowlers from all over the
country as an excellent exponent of the game and someone who
willingly passed on his vast knowledge. Latterly Wally
was the instigated the provision of teas and coffees from the club
house during the National Championships.
The Women’s World Bowls Championship was held in Beach House Park in
1977 and again our club facilities were used by the organisers.
The pavilion built for the 1972 Championships by the Council
provided our Club with new premises. In recent
years the clubhouse and bar have proved very popular, particularly
during the EBA Championship fortnight. The licence for
the bar, which was due to be in the west pavilion, was granted for
commencement on 4th July 1991. However, the
plans were put on hold until after the 1992 World Championships as
the EBA required the use of the pavilion for these Championships.
During this holding period, the Club decided that the refurbishment
of the west pavilion to incorporate the bar would be too expensive.
It was suggested that the bar would go into the changing room of the
current pavilion and that the changing room would be housed in the
west pavilion. The Council agreed to this change of plan
for the new bar and its surrounding facilities came on stream at the
start of the 1993 season. The fitting and work required
for the bar and surrounding area were carried out entirely by
members of the club, including Norman Lewington (Building), George
Osborne (Plumbing), Ernie Edge (Electrics), Peter Norman (Honours
Boards) and Graham Page (Carpets).
Many of our members have represented Sussex at all levels over the
years including the Middleton Cup and Home Counties League.
In 1956 when Sussex had its only success in winning the Middleton
Cup, John Scadgell (skip) and Harry Ward (lead), both members of
Worthing BC, were in the same rink in the final.
Over the last few years, the club has had three Middleton Cup team
managers amongst its ranks: Gerry Bridger who was an Indoor and
Outdoor International Trialist, Chris Young and Ted Hayward.
In 1930, the Club was instrumental in introducing the Stracey Shield
which is a local league for Clubs in the Worthing area.
Worthing Bowling Club has won the Shield 29 times which is many more
than any other club in the competition. The Brodie Tray
for the “B” team competition was presented in 1994.
During the previous season the Worthing Club was offered the tray by
the nephew of the original recipient (Mr E R Brodie) who had been a
long-time member and had received the tray for services rendered to
the Club. The Worthing Club committee agreed it be
offered for the Stracey “B” Competition, which was accepted.
The tray remains the property of the Club to this day.
Club records show that in 1959 there were 220 members which is the
largest number of recorded members in our history.
It was in this year that Domenico Perilli, grandfather of one of our
current day members, Russell Hallett, joined the Club aged 68.
An entry in the cash book for that year shows he paid 18 shillings
for the dinner held on the 10th November at “Mitchell’s
Arcade Café” (now the Nationwide Building Society on the corner of
Montague St. and Royal Arcade). 96 members
attended the dinner and, with receipts totalling £86-8-0d and
expenditure £92-14-6d, the Club made a loss of £6-6-6d.
The 1974/5 season saw the one and only English Indoor President from
our Club – Rex Glover-Phillips, who was also a National Selector
indoors, and out. In addition, he was also Sussex County outdoor
President in 1970 and County Indoor President 1980-81.
The Club competitions in 1978 produced the youngest winner and this
record still stands. Fifteen year old Steve Potten
played ninety year old George Mockridge in the Club Wheeler Cup and
Steve’s father Ray was the Centenary Year Captain.
He joined the club in 1952 Club and is the longest serving Club
member. He played Middleton cup for Sussex in 1964 and
is a well known journalist for local newspapers, being the press
officer for the Sussex C.B.A. for many years. He has also the
S.C.I.B.A. press officer since 1963.
One of the club’s past members Roy Downing was acclaimed as
Britain’s first professional bowls coach. His weekly
courses encouraged numerous new players over the years and assisted
the Club in many ways. He also owned Worthing Bowls Shop
for several years. One of his pupils was Geoff Godden
who has helped greatly in the preparation of this publication.
At this point the Club wishes to acknowledge our appreciation for
the help Geoff has given with background information in the
production of this history of our Club. Geoff has
written many articles and books on bowls, Worthing and its history.
These included his 1988 book The Beginners Guide to Bowls
which brought Worthing and the Club to the attention of new bowlers
across the country and overseas.
Further major achievements occurred in 2006 when Matt Ives qualified
to represent Sussex as under 25 Singles Champion at the National
Championships in Worthing. Matt narrowly lost in
the semi-final to the eventual winner. Ted Hayward and
Ken Woodcock with respective wives Peggy and Yvonne (Beach Park
Ladies Bowling Club), qualified for the Mixed Fours in the National
Championships in 2006; they also lost in the semi-final to the
eventual winners. This is the second time Peggy and Ted
reached the National semi-final in the Mixed Fours, the first time
being in 1990 with Betty Potten (wife of the centenary years captain
Ray) and Ken Andrews.
When the English Bowling Association built its office in the corner
of Beach House Park some of its officers became members of the club
including Chief Executive: George Shaw; Treasurer, Bob Jack MBE,
Deputy Chief Executive Fred Inch (Club President 1991-3, 1997,
2001-2) and Acting Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive Ken
Woodcock, one of our Past Presidents.
Over the decades the Worthing Bowling Club has been blessed with
stalwart volunteer officers, including Mick Ford, Secretary for the
16 years and Geoffrey Taylor, Treasurer for 17 years. They were ably
supported by a team of enthusiastic club members.
Throughout the 100 years there has been a close affinity between the
Town’s administrators and the Club. The town in general
and Worthing Borough Council in particular are deserving of our
grateful thanks for the help and support we have received over the
years. We should also thank the many ground staff who
over the years have prepared the greens to ensure we play at the
“Mecca” of men’s bowls in England. Without them there
would be no bowls and no Club.
Worthing Bowling Club may now be well over 100 years old year but it
is a vibrant and forward looking club and its members wish those who
read these notes good health and good
bowling in the future.
The largest recorded membership was in 1959, when the club boasted
today the membership figure is around 70.
Compiled by K.J. Woodcock and club
members 2007 - updated slightly in 2014.