The History of Grosvenor Bowling Club
(Abridged extracts taken from 'The Grosvenor Bowling Club Centenary 1912-2012' booklet,
researched and written by Lionel Hanmore.)
With over 100 years of bowling behind us, it is not easy to tell the story of Grosvenor.
"I think that the most important ingredient of the Grosvenor club are the members, past and present. The Grosvenor is not a private club, and it has never had any grand pavilion or even the best of greens, and so in this story I have concentrated on the characters of the club and their achievements."
Lionel Hanmore, life member
It was in 1911 that there was first mention of a bowling green in the Grosvenor Recreation Ground, and in the local newspaper at that time it was mentioned that there was a possibility for the working men of the East Ward of Tunbridge Wells to 'practise the grand old game'. At the main Tunbridge Wells Club situated in the St John's Recreation Ground there were rumours of some of the members being unhappy and were looking for another club to join. A petition was received by the Railway & Parks Committee of the Council in 1911, asking this committee to provide a bowling green. It was agreed to go ahead with the project and the cost not to exceed £100 (it eventually cost £160-170). It was at a specially called meeting in December 1911 that the East Ward residents formed the bowling club. Some of the initial critics of the bowling green had now changed their minds and joined the club!
The green was opened in May 1912 by the Deputy Mayor, Mr R V Gower, and there was a picture of the opening in the local newspaper. A match was played between the Corporation owning the land and the Club, which the latter won by 20 shots. Afterwards, in a speech, Mr Gower hoped as many of the working class as possible would join in the healthy recreation of bowls. The initial fee was fixed at four shillings (20p) a season and membership of the Grosvenor Club was 90 men. In the first season, the Grosvenor won seven and lost six matches, and with a membership of over a hundred, only twenty of them had played bowls before.
In the season of 1917, members won the first Kent County title for the club when a team won the county fours competition.
At the annual meeting in January 1922, it was proposed that the club admit lady members, but this was a very contentious issue and ladies were finally to be admitted as associate members in 1930. At the annual meeting in 1930 it was stated that the ladies section had been a success. 1936 saw the first county success for the Grosvenor Ladies when their team beat a team from Hilly Fields in the Kent triples final. This result was even more remarkable because it was the first time these ladies had entered that competition.
In 1937, the Grosvenor Club celebrated their Silver Jubilee, with Sir Robert Gower as President as he had been for the entire 25 years of the club's existence. Many county honours were being won at this time, and various members were being awarded their county badges. The Grosvenor were certainly a force to be reckoned with, and success did not necessarily endear them to other clubs in the area!
The early 1950s saw the emergence of another batch of very good bowlers, and additionally, the accidental formation of 'The Grosvenor Juniors'. Some youngsters who played in the Grosvenor Recreation Ground became interested in the playing of bowls. They initially played on a patch of grass between the bowling green and the gardener's hut. Once they became a bit proficient and noisy, they were frowned upon by the 'proper' Grosvenor members. However, these cheeky youngsters wrote a letter to the club, challenging the Grosvenor to a two rink 'match', which the club only won by one or two shots. This must have impressed the senior bowlers as the 'juniors' were then allowed to use the club pavilion and eventually join the Grosvenor Bowling Club! Amongst these young ones were David Jenner, Derek Cole, Gerald Baldock, Lionel Hanmore, Alan Still and others. Most of these went on to a very successful bowling career, eventually winning their county badges, and with David Jenner and Derek Cole even having England trials.
In August 1955, the Grosvenor's Derek Cole and David Jenner caused a sensation in the Tunbridge Wells Bowling Tournament (which is still running) when they won the pairs competition. Quite a few older bowlers took exception to this, so that the following year the age limit was raised to stop the very young bowlers from entering the tournament.
The golden years
The 1960s saw the beginning of the golden years for the Grosvenor Club with not only local but county achievements. It was during this time that a very large percentage of the members were county badge holders, and it was probable that there was not another club in Kent with such a high percentage of badged players. Membership was good and fixtures took the club as far afield as Littlehampton, Hove, Newhaven, Hastings, Seaford, Bromley and Margate. Most of these away six rink fixtures (even the one at Sevenoaks) involved a coach trip as very few members had cars in those days!
Bowlers at the club went on to distinguish themselves and, in 1966, Club President Ernest Croucher became President of the Kent County Bowling Association (KCBA). Sid Sargeant, a stalwart at the club, had the honour of becoming President of the Tunbridge Wells Bowling Tournament in 1970.
Two Grosvenor bowlers achieved a county double, two Kent titles in a single year: Derek Cole (pairs and fours, 1964) and David Jenner (singles and fours, 1973). David Jenner was probably the most successful bowler in the Grosvenor's history, winning more titles than anyone else.
In January 1972 Grosvenor celebrated their 50 year anniversary and at their dinner, the guest of honour was Bert Cox, Secretary of the KCBA. Later in the year, the new bowls pavilion was opened by the Mayor, Clr J W Lawrence, and this was followed by a match against the Kent executive.
At the AGM in 1973, concern was expressed at the poor state of the bowling green, and probably since that date has been very much criticised by bowlers from other clubs in the area.
1976 was the year of the famous drought and Tunbridge Wells Council decided to close all the four council greens, and because of this, the Tunbridge Wells Bowling Tournament was cancelled. The green was attacked by vandals in 1979, causing over £500 worth of damage.
More recent times
In the late 1970s more youngsters started to make their mark playing bowls for the Grosvenor.
The first of these was young John Dunn, whose father, also called John but nicknamed 'Dukie', was a member of the club. In June 1978 there was doubt expressed by other Kent clubs as to whether 14 year old John should be allowed to play in county competitions, as the Kent yearbook stated that the age limit was 16. After Grosvenor contacted the English Bowling Association with the argument that EBA regulations had the age limit of 14 (county competitions being the early rounds of EBA competitions), the EBA supported Grosvenor's position and young John Dunn went on to become the youngest ever player to reach a Kent semi-final. Young John Dunn also achieved great success in indoor bowls and became the youngest ever bowler to be National singles champion when he won in 1981.
Duncan Hanmore followed in young John Dunn's footsteps, winning outdoor county titles and also achieving plenty of indoor success. He reached the Indoor World Bowls Championships held at Potters for several years, though not reaching the final stages featured on television. Having won the English Indoor Pairs title with partner Wayne Cheeseman, the pair represented England and won the British Isles Bowls Championships, held in Perth, Scotland.
Other youngsters joining the club and having success were Chris Dann and his brother Steve, with Chris soon obtaining his county badge.
In 1987, Grosvenor Bowling Club celebrated their 75th anniversary.
It was the late 1990s that saw a decline in membership of bowling clubs in England, both outdoors and indoors, and Grosvenor Bowling club was no exception. It was through the efforts of a few that kept the club going on a very small membership, and one of those 'few' was Tim Hanford, who was the captain for several years in the early 2000s, and in recent years Norman Barton who was club Secretary and Captain. The club now has a good core of members who support the club in the extensive fixture list.
In 2012, Grosvenor Bowling Club celebrated their centenary year, commissioning life member and former local journalist Lionel Hanmore to write a booklet on the history and achievements of the club. During the year, Grosvenor travelled to Windsor to play against the Royal Household Bowling Club and welcomed a Kent executive team to the Grosvenor green for a match. At the 2011 AGM, Grosvenor elected their first female Captain, Jo Cartwright, who captained through the club's hundredth year.
KENT SINGLES WINNER
D W Jenner (1973)
KENT SINGLES RUNNER-UP
J Dunn (2000)
KENT PAIRS WINNERS
A G Hymas & C W Colebrooke (1926)
G Philcox & W E Wood (1952)
L G Hanmore & D Cole (1964)
D Hanmore & J Dunn (1995)
KENT PAIRS RUNNERS-UP
F L Saunders & H Cole (1917)
KENT TRIPLES WINNERS
G Philcox, A Ticehurst & W E Wood (1953)
R Winchester, K W Bridges & D W Jenner (1978)
KENT FOURS WINNERS
C Goddard, A Bowen, F Guest & N Sands (1917)
H G Mercer, C Harris, F H Broome & R Mercer (1938)
L G Edwards, G Baldock, D Cole & D W Jenner (1964)
R G Winchester, T Marshall, K W Bridges & D W Jenner (1973)
KENT FOURS RUNNERS-UP
KENT GILL CUP WINNERS
(BERT COX MEMORIAL CUP)
Grosvenor runners-up (1980)
Grosvenor runners-up (1999)
KENT LADIES TWO-WOOD SINGLES RUNNER-UP
J Cartwright (2017)
KENT LADIES UNBADGED SINGLES RUNNER-UP
J Cartwright (2014)
KENT LADIES TRIPLES WINNERS
Mrs Robertson, Mrs Ticehurst & Mrs Nye (1936)
KENT LADIES TWO-WOOD SINGLES WINNER
J Cartwright (2019)
KENT LADIES MAUDE WOODS UNBADGES SINGLES WINNER
N Burnaby-Davies (2023)
TUNBRIDGE WELLS TOURNAMENT SUCCESSES
D W Jenner (1960)
D Cole (1963)
L G Hanmore (1968)
L G Hanmore (1972)
K W Bridges (1973)
D W Jenner (1978)
D W Jenner (1979)
C Dann (1986)
C Dann (1990)
J Dunn (1992)
D J Hanmore (1993)
D J Hanmore (1994)
G Bridges (2013)
G Bridges (2018)
J Cartwright (2023)
G Philcox & W E Wood (1950)
G Philcox & W E Wood (1953)
D Cole & D W Jenner (1955)
L G Edwards & J Richardson (1957)
W King & W Jenner (1959)
G Baldock & D W Jenner (1962)
G Baldock & D W Jenner (1964)
L G Hanmore & D Cole (1967)
K W Bridges & D W Jenner (1970)
K W Bridges & D W Jenner (1973)
K H Miller & J A Dunn (1975)
K H Miller & J A Dunn (1977)
J A Dunn & J Dunn (1990)
G Bridges & D J Hanmore (1994)
G Bridges & D J Hanmore (1995)
G Bridges & D J Hanmore (1998)
G Bridges & D J Hanmore (1999)
G Bridges & A Wallis (2001)
P Eldridge & G Bridges (2008)
G Bridges & S Moaby (2012)
G Bridges & S Moaby (2013)
G Bridges & S Moaby (2023)
L G Edwards with G Philcox (Grove) & S W Burborough (Buckhurst) (1958)
W Brackstone, D Cole & D W Jenner (1960)
G Baldock, D Cole & D W Jenner (1963)
L G Hanmore, G Baldock & D Cole (1965)
R G Winchester, K W Bridges & D W Jenner (1971)
R G Winchester, K W Bridges & D W Jenner (1974)
R G Winchester, K W Bridges & D W Jenner (1975)
R Ellis, W Drury & D W Jenner (1982)
K H Miller, K Davis & J Dunn (1991)
K H Miller, K Davis & J Dunn (1992)
D J Hanmore with G Thornley & R Thornley (The Grove) (1999)
D J Hanmore with G Thornley & R Thornley (The Grove) (2000)
K Davis, G Bridges & A Wallis (2002)
S Moaby, S Jenner & G Bridges (2016)
M Smithers, S Jenner & G Bridges (2018)
S Moaby, S Jenner & G Bridges (2023)