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Bowdon Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club History

Bowdon in the 19th Century

In the early part of the century Bowdon had been a small village, near to the park of its manorial lord, the Earl of Stamford. The Downs were covered with fields, extending down to the river Bollin. The number of houses was small and there were a number of small farms. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants were engaged in agriculture. The roads had old rural names such as Sandy Lane, Sparrow Lane and Shepherd's Lane. The centuries old church, the centre of a huge parish, was said in 1853 to look 'primitive'.

Change came as Manchester prospered in the early nineteenth century, but the steam-powered cotton factories, the source of the prosperity, made the town increasingly unpleasant and unhealthy to live in. The Bridgewater Canal had made limited commuting possible, the horse omnibuses more so, but from 1849 the railway carried commuters between Altrincham and Bowdon and Manchester much more speedily. Bowdon famous for its position on the Downs and its good air, was a favourite residential area, as the growth of the township's population shows. It rose from 549 in 1841 to 1164 in 1851 and had reached 2262 in 1871.

Because two of Bowdon's three landowners were, for different reasons, willing to sell land for building, development took off from the 1840's. There were terraces in Stamford Road, semi-detached houses on The Firs, and by the 1860's and 1870's large detached houses for Manchester's 'merchant princes' in Green Walk. Kelly's Directory of 1878 described Bowdon as "studded with handsome villas and mansions" and looking "more like a flourishing town". By 1864, of the 168 private residents listed in Morris's Directory, 96 had businesses in Manchester. The roads, old and new, took on names derived from the Earl of Stamford's family, aristocratic connections and estates.

Bowdon had become that very Victorian creation, a suburb, with a network of institutions and organisations. It was noted for its provision of schools, both day and boarding. Churches were spiritual and social centres. Bowdon Downs Congregational Church, built in a fine Gothic style in 1848 had a large carriage sweep before its entrance. The Parish Church was rebuilt on grander lines than before in 1858-1860, and in 1874 the foundation stone of the imposing domed Methodist Church was laid. In 1864 a new vicarage, to replace the late eighteenth century one set among the vicar's fields near the Bollin, was built up the hill to be among the new houses on Shepherd's Lane, soon to be Park Road. In 1864 too, a new form of local government, the Local Board of Health, undertook responsibilities for road making and sewerage. By 1864, or possibly earlier, the North Cheshire Water Company, formed in 1857 to supply mains water to Altrincham, was supplying Bowdon too. The Altrincham Gas Company was providing it with gas and in 1865 gas street lighting came to Bowdon.

The new Bowdon, mostly on the top and the slopes of the Downs, was also becoming a community, whose members joined together in groups and associations for entertainment and activities. To begin with, these were of a size to happen in private houses or gardens. Small literary and discussion groups, like the Roundabout Club, founded in the 1860's by Alexander Ireland (newspaper man and man of letters, and father of the composer John) met in its member's houses. Larger groups met in the late sixties to hear lectures held at Bowdon Downs Church, where a lecture room was added in 1882. Concerts took place in drawing rooms. Members of Mr Halle's orchestra performed at a house in Green Walk in the 1860's. Games such as croquet in the sixties and lawn tennis later would be played in gardens. The Cricket Club was founded as early as 1856.


The Formation of the Company

On the 28th April 1873 the Bowdon Bowling and Croquet Club Limited was registered as No.3898 under the Companies Acts, 1862 & 1867.

The Memorandum of Association stated that the objects of the Company were:

“ to adopt and carry into offer an agreement with the Earl of Stamford and Warrington for the purchase or rental of a suitable piece of ground in Bowdon to form the site of a Bowling Green and Croquet ground. To procure such site to be made into a Bowling Green and Croquet ground and also to erect thereon a suitable building or buildings to be used for the purposes of the Club.

To let such ground and building or buildings for any term and at any rent and on any special conditions as shall be thought expedient and for such purpose to provide all necessary fittings furniture articles and effects as may be necessary or requisite.

And the doing all such other things as are incidental or conducive to the above object.”

The Capital of the Company was 1200, divided into 200 shares of 6 each.


Buying the Land

Bowls may have been played for many years in Bowdon before the formation of the Company.

The Tithe map of 1838 shows two fields, numbers 17 and 19, at the top of the north side of Stamford Road, with the name "Bowling Green Field". They appear to be very near to the site of the present Bowling Club.

It was not until 1875 that the land for the original site was bought from the Earl of Stamford.

This consists of 6820 square yards between Stamford Road and the corner of Winton Road, and is the site of the present bowling green, the clubhouse and two tennis courts.

The land was leased for 999 years at a yearly rent of 30.0.0 which is still being paid to this day, although the land has now passed to the National Trust. Recently the Company was offered the option of buying out the freehold but this was not considered to be worthwhile because of the high legal charges involved.


The Early Years

The Company minutes record the struggle in the early years to obtain extra land for the development of the tennis section. They also record the many minor matters which arise in the running of the Club.

05 Feb 1886It was agreed that two new tennis courts be made at once.
07 Jun 1890Match played at Bowdon against Stretford - Bowdon 155 pts. Stretford 111 pts.
09 Oct 1891Resolved that a billiard table be fixed in the pavilion.
02 Mar 1892Resolved that the billiard table be removed.
21 Sep 1892Decided to interview Mr C Holt to see if he is willing to sell the land on the eastern side of the Club.
30 Sep 1892Mr Holt declined to sell his land on any terms whatsoever.
07 Oct 1892Interview with Stamford Estate Agents as to land for tennis courts. Land offered on a 99 year lease at a penny a yard.
13 Oct 1892Committee cannot see the way to purchase the land.
21 Feb 1893The President interviewed the Stamford Estate Agent resulting in the land for the tennis courts being retained for another year at the same rent as the land and field, but the Club to give up possession of the field.
23 Jun 1900Several complaints had been made by young ladies, that no attention had been paid to them by other members and they had ceased to come to the Club.
08 Nov 1901Decided that free membership be accorded to Clergy and Ministers resident in Bowdon
25 Oct 1902The grounds man, Sant, was told to engage a woman to remove weeds from the tennis courts.
12 Jan 1903EGM Resolved that the capital of the Company be 1200 divided into 1200 shares of l each.
06 Feb 1904Reported that a new cinder court would cost 11
06 Dec 1907Letter from Stamford Estates saying that the land to the north 'of the pavilion, which contains three tennis courts, is to be cut up for roads and buildings.
09 Jan 1908Deputation waited upon Mr Bullock to arrange to alter proposed line of new road 20 feet to the north, and to acquire fresh plot of land for three new courts.
05 Oct 1908Mr Bullock agrees to accept 15 per annum for the land with a 14 year lease.
01 Apr 1909EGM It was resolved that the name of the Company be altered to "The Bowdon Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club Limited".
27 Jul 1910The Ladies Bowling Day and Garden Party was held on 16th July. 124 members and guests were present. A band played all afternoon. The 1st prize, a nice umbrella, was won by Miss N Jackson. The President provided all the teas at his own expense.
17 Jun 1911Another Ladies Bowling Day with 150 people present.
12 Jul 1912Mr A Albrectsen presented a Silver Challenge Cup to the Club to celebrate the 21st anniversary of his residence in the Manchester district.

The First World War

10 Apr 1916Resolution passed allowing members to bring wounded soldiers to the Club on week days.
8 Jul 1916Fete Day held for soldiers. The band of the 2nd East Lanes Royal Field Artillery, (Manchester Artillery) of 32 players, played on this occasion. They had offered their services free of charge, but it was decided to pay them 5 and railway fares. The members of the committee each contributed 10/- to meet these expenses. A copy of the photograph of this occasion is shown on the opposite page. The original is currently hanging in the Clubhouse.
9 Oct 1916The grounds man, Dutton, who had been with the Club during the past few years, was called up for Military Service, and was posted to Plumley Munition Works.
25 Nov 1916It was reported that in addition to the Fete Day, 694 wounded soldiers had been entertained during the year to tea and games, the cost being met by private subscriptions. It was decided to continue entertaining during the winter months, mainly by whist drives in the local hospitals.
1 Jul 1918On the 27th June 283 wounded soldiers from local hospitals were entertained and this was a very successful event.
A vote of thanks was passed to Mr Louden for kindly presenting to the Club a new Union Jack, and it was resolved that this be hoisted on Saturdays and Fete Days

Between the Wars

Many social activities were recorded during this period. Improvements to the clubhouse and grounds resulted in the usual strain on finances.

17 Jun 1919A whist drive was held for about 100 people, and dancing followed to about 1.30 am.
26 Nov 1920AGM Accounts showed a deficit of 74.18.9d for the year. Overdraft stood at 60.16.4d. It was decided to double the subscriptions for the coming year.
25 Jun 1921Ladies Bowling Day with 168 members and friends present, showed a loss of 14.18.6d.
21 Feb 1922Stamford Road palings: Ormson & Co.were given the contract for this work at 32.10.0 using oak palings.
03 Apr 1922Agreed that the green could be used for the Cheshire County Individual Merit finals.
27 Oct 1922Permission given to use the pavilion for bridge one night a week in the winter months.
01 Mar 1923Plans for pavilion alterations and extensions were approved at a cost of approximately 300, to be paid for by voluntary subscriptions. The President started the list with a promise of 50 which was greeted with great applause. The President announced that the members present had promised a sum of 130 and that other members would be circularised.
07 Sep 1923Pavilion completed at a final cost of 342.9.0d and a further sum of 33 had been spent in furnishings etc. making a grand total of 375.
22 Jun 1928EGM Resolution passed that any profits earned by the Company shall not be available for distribution among the shareholders by way of dividend or otherwise.
07 Sep 1928Letter from HMI of Taxes stating that in view of the clause in the Articles prohibiting dividends, no claim would be made in future under Case 1.
31 May 1929Reported that Sunday play had started. Attendances were small and no complaints were received.

Miss Bickham's Gift

18 Mar 1938The President stated that a person, whose name was not disclosed, had purchased the land abutting on St. Mary's Road from the Earl of Stamford, and had presented it to the Club.
09 Sep 1938Donor of land announced as Miss Bickham.

Conveyance of Land

Clause 9."so long as the said land is used for the purpose or playing of bowls, tennis or croquet or as a private garden the Purchasers will not be required to make or continue the existing part of Winton Road."
Schedule 1."The Purchasers shall at all times at their own cost keep the land fenced off from St. Mary's Road."
Schedule 4."The Vendor shall be at liberty to make up any road street passageway sewers drains gas water electricity and the Purchasers shall from time to time on demand repay to the Vendor a proper proportion of the costs according to the extent of the frontage. To hold the same unto the Purchasers to the rights of any local authority who may have taken over any sewers drains etc."
Schedule 8."no dwelling house other than two detached dwelling houses with the usual offices outbuildings and garages to be approved by the Vendor's Agent.
Clear yearly letting value of sixty pounds.
No coloured glass or stained glass shall be inserted in the windows or doors of any dwelling house or other building which shall be erected on the said plot of land."

The Post-War Years

The war put developments on hold for a time but afterwards changes soon took place.

19 Dec 1940Arranged that Pavilion be loaned to the W.V.S. to provide a recreation centre for H.M. forces stationed in the district.
05 Oct 1942Miss Bickham made a gift of 500 to provide cost of making up St. Mary's Road and York Road.
29 Mar 1946A scheme for the independent conduct of the Tennis section to operate within the structure of the Company had been worked out The Tennis section to receive their own member's subscriptions, and pay to the Company a rental and an agreed portion of all expenses.
18 Mar 1949EGM approved the new Articles of Association prepared to conform with the Companies Act 1948.
12 Dec 1952Due to deteriorating finances of the Club it was resolved that ladies be admitted as bowling members under limited conditions at a subscription of 2.2.0 p. a.
30 Apr 1961The Committee agreed to sign a protest against the possible making up of St. Mary's Road, together with other householders in that road.
27 Jul 1965Thanks expressed to Mr Ashworth for providing a shelter alongside the green.
20 Mar 1966Decided that a house committee be elected to be responsible for the cleanliness and general good order of Pavilion and amenities.

125 Years Later - 1998

The Company continues to thrive to the present day. It is financially sound although there is never enough money for all the facilities the members would like.

The Bowling section numbers about 130 - both ladies and gentlemen. League and friendly matches are played. The green is still in reasonable condition which shows it must have been well laid 125 years ago.

The Tennis section has about 270 members with a thriving junior section. There are 7 courts made up of 1 Astroturf, 1 all-weather, 2 grass and 3 shale. Regular matches and tournaments are played.

A Bridge section meets weekly in the winter time at the local Jubilee Rooms.

Our situation within a conservation area requires us to maintain the trees and surrounds to the requirements of the Trafford Council.

The Pavilion is feeling its age but maintenance work this year, both inside and outside, has improved the general appearance.

The future success of the Company will depend upon the present and coming members giving it the same time and effort as their predecessors.


Thanks are due to Marjorie Cox of the Bowdon History Society for the information on Bowdon in the Nineteenth Century.
Also to Edna Wilkie for the use of her selections from the minutes