125 years of playing bowls in park

Alexandra Bowls Club celebrates its 125th anniversary this year.

Tuesday, 12th June 2018, 11:48 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 4:39 pm
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They have three notable matches lined up to mark the occasion.

The first is being played on Saturday June 16, with members of other Hastings clubs.

The other two celebratory matches are on Saturday 23rd June against Bowls England and on Wednesday 12th September against a Sussex County side.

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It all started during the mid to late 19th century when bowls became a popular game being played locally on farmers’ meadows and lawns including those in Alexandra Park (previously known as St Andrews Gardens) which had good open spaces on which to play.

Inevitably challenges and matches were organised between the players and in 1893 this led to the formation of the Alexandra Bowls Club. The club’s first Chairman was Sidney Joseph Fielder, an organist and Professor of music who lived with his family in Southwater Road.

There was at this time no actual defined bowls green in the park and this did not come about until 1907 when a six rink green was laid by Hastings Council with the turfs taken form an adjacent grass bank.

The opening match in May of that year was between two teams drawn from the club’s sixty members. Although there was no pavilion one was erected the following year by the local Council at a cost of £34.10s.0d. (£34.50p) which the club repaid. Over the subsequent years the pavilion underwent a couple of extensions but was completely rebuilt in 1988 after suffering considerable damage due vandalism.

Alexandra Bowls Club was not only instrumental in organising the outdoor game in Hastings because in 1908 the Club realised that it would be of great benefit if it could be played all year round and to play ‘winter bowls’ in an indoor setting. The initial idea was to build in the park, a glass ‘greenhouse styled’ building 120ft [36.5m] x 40ft [12.2m] to be used for playing bowls, holding concerts, shows and other similar events but the idea was never taken any further. In November 1909 the club got together with other recently formed bowls clubs, the outcome of which was the creation of the ‘Winter Bowls and Social Club’, playing indoor bowls on a carpet laid on the floor of the gymnasium in White Rock Baths. How long ‘winter bowls’ was played at the White Rock Baths is unclear but by 1930 the game was being played on matting rolled out on the dance floor in the Falaise Hall.

One hundred and twenty five years after originally playing on lawns in Alexandra Park the club still continues to play all its home matches there on what is arguably one of most picturesque bowls greens in the area.

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