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History of the Club

The logos of the original clubs The logos of the original clubs

1928-1938 Remembered – 2018 and The Future

We can only imagine what life was like when the bowling green was opened by the Lord Mayor in 1938. We have no idea whether the 77 ladies of Shirley Ladies Bowling Club and the 54 men of Spring Park Bowls Club, with the outbreak of war soon thereafter, could have envisaged what it would be like in Shirley 80 years later.

      The Mayor of Croydon Bowled the first bowl in 1938

It is believed that the Council dictated, at the time, that there be two clubs sharing the facilities and playing on the green, which is why there were separate men’s and ladies’ clubs and this has continued until 2018. In 2018, there were pressures from Croydon, Bowls Surrey and Bowls England controlling bodies to have a single amalgamated club and steps were taken to produce a new constitution and joint management arrangements.  

Background History from 1928

The records and archives of both clubs include some photographs and other memorabilia. According to the details of one of the oldest items, it is recorded that “Thanks to the generosity of Mrs Anita Wall in defraying some of the cost, the area which is formally known as, Shirley Church Road Recreation Ground was purchased in 1928 jointly by Croydon Corporation”. At the time it is understood that there were plans to drive a new road through the woods to facilitate an extensive new development around St John’s Church. This was objected to and prevented by local residents including a Mr Givan who lived at Shirley Court, the vicar of St John’s Church and Mrs Wall who provided the legacy. The Bowling Green which opened in 1938, was an important part of the recreational facilities to be provided on the acquired land. It may well be that history will repeat itself, because it appears that the current Council may not have done all it should have done to protect our very valuable green space and its mature trees, which were fought and paid for in 1928, and which are still enjoyed by hundreds of local residents every day.


Celebrating with a Dinner Dance in 1938

Shirley Ladies BC celebrated the success of their first year with a Gala Dinner Dance at “The Shirley Poppy” in Wickham Road.  In 1938 Shirley Ladies outnumbered the men of Spring Park by almost 50 per cent and were clearly more competent at organising a local function. It is hoped that some of our readers may recognise their parents or grandparents in the photographs (see gallery below).

In contrast the men of Spring Park BC celebrated at “The Greyhound” in Croydon with a “Supper Evening” where the main course was “Boiled Mutton and Vegetables”. There were also a series of toasts from members and replies from their guests. They were also entertained by “a soloist” with no indication of what was sung. In 2018 at the Celebration Dinner, one of the members and his friends entertained with a very professional Karaoke session.


Celebrating with a Supper Evening in November 1938  

During this 80th celebration year the Spring Park Shirley clubs enjoyed the excellent summer weather and a host of special events including a Celebration Dinner and Prizegiving at Le Chateau in Coombe Road. The First Sunday of the Month Open Days were very popular and attended by dozens of people each month. Several new members were enrolled, and this is essential to ensure the viability of Lawn Bowls in our area.

The Fun Day, which is an annual event of rather unorthodox bowling competitions using skittles and targets on the green, was very special in 2018. Many of the club members, dressed in a 2018 version of 1938 fashion.


Celebrating the Fun Day

Fancy dress on the Fun Day 2018

Halfway through every afternoon of bowling there is always a need for not just a cup of tea but a biscuit or a piece of cake. Bowling is not the only activity which takes place at the bowling green!

The Special Fun Day cake

The Fun Day 2018 was no different to any other annual Fun Day except that there were a lot more cakes to eat! There was a lot of discussion on the day as to the identity of the bowler on the cake, the haircut gave the game away.

Concern for the Future of our Park and our local Bowling Green

As result of the failure of the local Council to confirm the protection previously applied to many of our green spaces, there is genuine concern that some of our local park could be used for building developments and that the bowling green may be forced to close.

Local residents are unlikely to be aware that Croydon Council recently published a Draft Playing Pitch Strategy document suggesting that some of the local Bowling Greens could be subject to “decommissioning”, despite the considerable benefits the facilities provide for the wellbeing, health, enjoyment and social interaction of the local community. The authors of the document failed to communicate with all the local clubs and were not even aware of the presence of Shirley Ladies BC. The status of the Draft Strategy is not known. Nevertheless, the perceived threat of closure has to be taken seriously.

Croydon Council currently maintains seven bowling greens, having previously closed several in 2011. Since then the Council have clearly reduced their expenditure and effort to maintain the properties in our park, closed the toilets and ceased to employ a park keeper. In contrast to this it is understood that the Council have also proposed that they would concentrate new investment in sports facilities, structures for toilets, external gyms and cafes at six of the larger parks, excluding ours. The Spring Park Shirley Bowls Clubs, with more than 50 members, have financed and carried out an increasing amount of improvement, decoration and maintenance work on the Clubhouse and the Gardens. The Gardens, with seats and benches in the sun or in the shade, and the Green itself, are open to and enjoyed by local people from April until September. With some changes the Clubhouse, which is unfortunately unheated, could in future be made available to other community organisations all year round.

Visitors will again always be welcome at the bowling green come the spring, and new members are essential for the continuation of this valuable legacy which was handed down to us and which has been enjoyed for generations.