A brief history of County Bowling Club
(written by Past-President Bob Kirton in 1995, and edited by R. W. Nesbitt)
The County Club was founded in 1889, the year of birth of Adolf Hitler and about the time of the invention of the motor car. Ath the time Southampton was officially titled "The City of Southampton in The County of Southampton". The founders included Mr John Clark and a group of colleagues from The Old Green, (including Edwin Jones) where bowling is reputed to have been played continuously from before 1299. At the time, the Town Green had only four rinks, and with so much usage the playing surface was not in good condition. So the County Bowling Club was born and its six rinks green was the first in the area. The declared ambition by the first and only ever Master of the Green, John Clark, was to have the finest playing surface in the south of England.
The club had a close relationship with The Hampshire County Cricket Club from whom the land was leased and subsequently purchased in 1906 for £1,000. There still existed in 1999 an unlocked gate for access "Only to members who are also member of the County Cricket Club". There was also a connection with The Southampton Football Club through members who were also directors of "The Saints", who before moving to the Dell, played football in close proximity to the green.
We are proud to have been one of only twelve founder members of The London & Southern Counties Bowling Association in 1895, The English Bowling Association in 1903, as well as Hampshire County and Southampton & District Bowling Associations. One of our founders, John Clark, a former Knight of the Old Green, became the first ever singles champion of The London & Southern Counties, describing himself as "Champion Bowler of the South of England".
The original clubhouse was built in 1889, parts of which are still in use, and it is considered to be the finest example of its kind. The reputation and the facilities attracted the attention of the City Fathers and by 1905, membership had swollen to 150. With a long waiting list, and excessive use of the facilities some members felt that a second greeen was required.
An unsuccessful attempt was made to acquire the adjoining courts of The South Hants Lawn Tennis Club when the club was offered the right to purchase the freehold of the existing land. This presented a dilemma, to remain with limited facilities or accept an invitation to purchase land on the other side of Northlands Road which was being sold by the Banister Estate.
Under the leadership of John Clark, Master of The Green, several members were in favour of moving and in 1906, they opted to leave County in order to form Banister Park Club.
During the 1914-1918 "Great War" wounded soldiers were entertained at the green and provided with food and new boots. During the 1939-1945 World War the clubhouse sufferend from German bomb damage in the disastrous Southampton Blitz. The only relic of this event is the clock, which was damaged and subsequently repaired, and now hangs in the clubhouse.
There are five volumes of historic photographs originally presented to member William Bulputt, J.P. to mark his achievement of 46 years in the post of Honorary Secretary. These together with many other historic records, arguably some of the best in this part of the country, are preserved in the archives available for reference, (no housed in the City archives).
Ladies, although always much in evidence at the Club, first played in 1959, and were accorded the right of full membership in 1993. They enjoy fine new facilities , opened in 1998, with hold of a grant from The National Lottery.
The Club enjoys a busy programme of friendly matches, some of which have been regular fixtures since the late 19th century before the invention of the first automobile. In the early days, travelling to away matches was either by train or by horse drawn carriage and it is recorded that on the occasion of a competition in London, the green keeper travelled on the train with the team to carry the bowls.