Avon Bowls Club – Celebrating 100 Years!
Centenary celebrations are always an exciting time for bowls clubs and their members, and this year Avon will be the latest Wiltshire addition to the 100 club. It is a fantastic achievement to recognise, and all at Avon are looking forward to a busy calendar of events to allow them to celebrate accordingly. Additionally, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the forming of the Ladies section of the club.
A brief history of Avon Bowls Club
In 1920, the house and grounds were purchased by the Avon Rubber Company for use as the Sports and Social Centre for the ‘social welfare of their employees’. It was to include indoor activities such as snooker, skittles and darts. In the grounds outside, there was enough room for tennis, cricket and bowls. The original founding of Avon Bowls Club could well have been earlier than 1922, if it hadn’t have been for an unfortunate fire significantly damaging Melksham House at the end of 1920. Work was ongoing on the rebuild throughout the entirety of 1921, and into early 1922. In July 1922, the formal reopening finally took place, with the celebrations including a cricket match against Devizes, a tennis tournament, and a bowls match against Melksham Town, which much to their delight up against one of the oldest and strongest clubs in Wiltshire, the Avon members won.
The initial bowling green consisted of 3 rinks and was crafted from an area of lawn adjacent to the house. 7 years later, this was extended to 4 rinks before eventually expanding further to a 6 rink green in the 1950’s. Initially, only a Men’s section was established, however with the popularity of Bowls growing, more and more women began to play the game and therefore in 1972, a Ladies section was formed which eventually amalgamated with the Men’s section in 2009.
In 1997 US Based Cooper Tyre and Rubber Company took over the Avon Tyres site. The bowls club became ‘Cooper Avon’. However, it became apparent over time that the new company were showing little interest in Melksham House and in 2011 it was sold to Wiltshire Council. In 2012 the club reverted to being just ‘Avon’ again and in 2014 it became Independent, with no links to the rubber company or the County Council. In 2018 it obtained a 5 year lease with a fifty year lease pending.
Plans for the Centenary Season
Captains John Crowder and Dawn Edwards, supported ably by the management committee, despite facing various challenges due to the ongoing work on the new campus and a renovation of Melksham House, have created a fantastic programme of events for the season, worthy of such a wonderful milestone. For any club, this level of activity can be costly, but a mix of membership subscriptions and innovative club fundraisers over winter months and during covid lockdowns have helped to ease the financial burden. In addition to this, Avon are being kindly supported by Poolman Patios, MDP Ltd South West Contractors, Leekes, Avon Trophies, Farmhouse Inn Southwick, Co-Op, W J Bevans, SS Carpenters and Bradford Ltd and Pelican.
The club got the bowls rolling on Saturday 16th of April, with club captains Crowder and Edwards hoisting the club flag, followed by a 6 rink opening match amongst members. The photo shows club members proudly displaying the new design club anniversary shirts. Avon now look forward to a very busy year, with additional Centenary Home Games already arranged during the season as follows:
Sunday 1st May – Pontypridd
Sunday 8th May – Holt
Sunday 5th June – Barbarians B.A
Saturday 11th June – Chippenham Park
Sunday 12th June – Bowls Wiltshire Mixed
Tuesday 14th June – Bowls England
Sunday 10th July – Swindon and District B.A
Sunday 17th July – Friends of Bowls England
Sunday 14th August – Pewsey Vale
Saturday 20th August – Blue Circle
Sunday 21st August – Supermarine
Congratulations to Avon Bowls Club on a fantastic milestone and all at Bowls Wiltshire wish them the very best with their ongoing celebrations!