Thame Bowls Club History
Thame Bowls Club was born as a dream in the minds of a few enthusiastic bowlers in 1921. A small group of local gentlemen, who played bowls on the lawns in the large gardens at the back of Mr. Lightfoot's and Mr. Watts' houses held their first official meeting in a large room in the back of the nearby Four Horseshoes on the 2nd December 1921. In this meeting Mr. Edward L. Lightfoot was appointed the first President of the newly formed Bowls Club.
In addition a Committee was elected as follows:
Captain - A. S. Watts, Vice-captain - R. Potter, Treasurer - W. Newman, Collector - G. Briars and Secretary - C. Parker. Other members also elected to the committee were Messrs J. Robinson, W. Duff, Geo. Walker and E. M. Potter. The following were also present at that historic meeting: Messrs Bayliss, Brazell, Gaunt, Jackson, Lemmings, Pecover, Steward and Woolford.
Subscription fee for the year of 1922 was fixed at 21/- (twenty one shillings). It was agreed that the new bowling season should start on Good Friday. The meeting closed with a vote of thanks to Mr. Lightfoot and Mr. Watts for the use of their lawns during the past year (1921).
On the 5th April 1922, it was agreed that the club should be known as the Thame Crofters Bowling Club and that players should use shoes with rubber soles when playing.
In a meeting which took place on 26th October 1922 it was decided to meet with the Tennis Club and propose to form a General Sports Club and together invest in a piece of land in Queens Road. In November 1922 the two clubs examined quotations to lay down a bowling green and tennis courts. Seven members of the committee promised a sum of £375 towards the scheme. In January 1923 full approval was acquired by members of both the Tennis Club and the Thame Crofters Bowling Club to amalgamate and purchase the land in Queens Road.
During 1923 the Club continued to play bowls on the two lawns in Croft Road.
In the beginning of 1924 the Club became affiliated to the Oxfordshire Bowling Association and sent out challenges to the clubs in High Wycombe, Chilton, Winslow, Hazel Watson & Viney (Aylesbury) and North Oxford.
In the beginning of 1924, Thame Crofters Bowling Club came to an end, only to be reborn a few months later as the Bowls Section of the Thame Sports Club.
The Bowls Section of the Thame Sports Club held their first committee meeting on 24th April 1924. The members present were:
W. Bayliss (Chairman)
Their first business was to adopt a new set of rules, including 'Rule 5: No members or visitors shall throw matches or any refuse on the green.'
Messrs W. Duff, R. Potter and E. Lightfoot were appointed skips for the year (1924). The new green in Queens Road was officially opened on 29th May 1924 and the first ever match played was against High Wycombe.
Membership increased fast to 34 in 1925 and 50 in 1926.
The Taylor cup was introduced in 1925, the first winner being Mr. Howlett who received a gold medal. A gold medal was also awarded to the runner up of that competition. Yes, a real gold medal...
A second cup was introduced to mark the Coronation of King George VI, known as the Coronation Challenge Cup. At the end of that season in 1937, both the Taylor and Coronation Cups were won by Mr. J. W. Baldwin.
From 1939 to 1945, during the war, things slowed down dramatically for the Bowls Club. Only a few matches were played at this time.
After the war, in 1946, the Chairman, Mr. E. M. Potter presented the Bowls Club with two cups to mark his year of office as Oxfordshire Bowling Association President. The larger of the two was to be called the Victory Cup for a pairs competition and the other one for a two-wood handicap.
In 1946 a Ladies Section were established when it was agreed that the ladies be allowed the use of two rinks on any open day except on match days. No mixed play was allowed.
In April 1947, the men were joined by Mrs. Hubbard and Mrs. Pomeroy to serve on the Bowls Committee. Later it was proposed, rather quaintly, that the Ladies Section be approached with a view to 'having a joint affair.'
In that year the membership rose to fifty six. Mr. Arthur Eades was acclaimed 'Bowler of the Year'.
In 1948, the 'joint affair' was realised and the Bowls Club received news that the Thame green may be 'starred' for County Competitions.
The Bowls Club turned twenty five years old and celebrated their Silver Jubilee playing against an Oxfordshire Bowling Association team. Before the committee meeting in April of the Jubilee year the secretary referred to the sad loss of their Chairman Mr. E. M. Potter who had recently died. He had been Chairman of the Bowls Section continually from 1935 up until his death. His was the only name which appeared on all four of the Clubs' trophies, as he had won the Taylor Cup, Coronation Cup, Potter Cup and Victory Cup. Those present at the meeting paid respect to his memory as they stood for a few moments in silence.
In 1950 the Club pavilion was supplied with electricity for lights and heating and the newly purchased Jubilee Cup went on display in October of that year.
In 1952 the Purser Cup was donated by Mr and Mrs Purser for a married pair’s competition. In October 1958 a challenge cup was presented by the widow and daughter of the late Mr H. W. Walker, a past President of the Club. This was to be known as the Herbert Walker Cup.
Mr Geo Holland won the Jubilee Cup at the ripe old age of eighty four!
The year 1959 was a time of outstanding success for Norman Benham who became the first member of an Oxfordshire 'country' club for thirty seven years to win the County Singles Championship.
In the early Sixties uniform dress for bowlers were introduced - grey trousers, white shirts and blazers. Shortly after, playing in whites was introduced.
In 1964 a bar had been included in the pavilion. This was to boost the social side of the club but was short lived by the introduction of indoor bowling during winter evenings.
The Josey Cup was introduced for a married pair’s competition (unattached ladies to find a partner).
In 1967, Norman Banbury collapsed and died on the green towards the end of play in the Potter Cup. Play was abandoned and it was agreed that the cup be awarded to Mr Banbury with Aubrey Carter, who had the highest score at that point, as runner up. In 1971, Aubrey Carter was elected 'bowler of the year' and awarded a new acquisition, the Bill Dodd’s Cup.
Preparations were underway to celebrate the Clubs' Golden Jubilee. A visit from an English Bowling Association representative team on 2nd July 1974 marked this occasion. Peter Scribbins compiled a book of memorabilia in which every match of the Golden Jubilee Year is recorded with the names of every player together with press cuttings and photographs.
John Gibbard, in 1978, became the third member of the club to be elected to office as President of the Oxfordshire Bowling Association. During his year of office he brought a President's team to play a match against Thame, and in the next year he skipped a successful four, including Gerry Holdstock, Roger Lewis and John Timms, to win the Hastings Cup for the Club. An achievement the same team repeated in 1982.
(To be continued...)
A bit about our historic town of Thame:
The last century has seen Thame grow from a population of 3,000 in 1901 to 11,000+ today. This has meant that Thame has, over the last 40 years, ceased to become a predominantly agricultural town, although Pearce’s, a wool staplers since at least the fifteenth century, remains.
There is a large industrial estate on the outskirts with factories and offices. The weekly Tuesday market is still held in the Upper High Street car park. The cattle market though, was moved to North Street in 1951 and is now held on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The War Memorial in the Upper High Street is a reminder of the two world wars. Next to the war memorial are the Pearce (local wool staplers) Memorial Gardens with a fountain and a statue of a boy. The original statue was erected in 1926 by Ernest Pearce of Australia as a monument to the memory of his parents Philip Henry Pearce and his wife Elizabeth. The bronze fountain statue was stolen in September 1985 and was never recovered. In the summer of 1992, a replica of the original statue was commissioned by the Town Council.
Thame lost its railway station in 1964, but the Haddenham and Thame Parkway was re-established in 1987 just over the Buckinghamshire border, as a passenger only station. This suggests that Thame is no longer agricultural but is a centre needing rail as well as road links.
Every autumn, the town still stages the largest one day agricultural show in the country on the third Thursday of September and a three day fair is held in the High Street and Upper High Street. A smaller two-day charter fair is held in mid-October and these, together with the weekly Tuesday market, maintain continuity with the town's history and together form a link between the past and present.