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The First 75 years (1936 to 2011)


The English Bowling Association (EBA) code of bowls was first played in Norfolk in June 1922 at the Norfolk Bowling Club, Unthank Road, Norwich when a Norfolk Bowling Club rink comprising W. Edwards, R.J Burton, Dr. C.H. Andrews and W.C. Webster played four gentlemen from the English Bowling Association and drew 14 shots each. From the Club’s minute book there seems no doubt that the prime mover for the EBA game was Mr. W. C. Webster and through his efforts Norfolk Bowling Club affiliated to Essex EBA as the County of Norfolk was not allowed to affiliate in its own right because it did not have the statutory 6 clubs with EBA greens as required by the rules of the EBA.


In the years following 1922, which appears to be the year when Norfolk Bowling Club came into existence, it seems the EBA and the ‘Norfolk Code of Bowls’ continued to be played there and Norfolk Bowlers entered their county competitions through the Essex County Bowling Association. It was not until 1936 that Norfolk affiliated to the parent body, the English Bowling Association.


On 6th November 1936, at a meeting held in the Royal Hotel Norwich, it was agreed by seventeen gentlemen representing eight Clubs in Norfolk that the necessary application for membership of the English Bowling Association should be made. Sir Henry Holmes JP was elected President, the Vice-President was Mr. G. A. Bales, the Honorary Secretary Mr. Alec Page and the Honorary Treasurer, Mr. W. C. Webster.


The eight founding clubs were Norfolk Bowling Club, Hunstanton Cliff Parade, Great Yarmouth, Wymondham Dell, Sheringham Morley, The Gladstone Club (Norwich), Harleston Magpie and Heacham Social. The first five clubs are still members of the Association, the Gladstone Club and Harleston Magpie are now defunct and Heacham Social are no longer in the Association. Cromer successfully applied for membership on 11th December 1936.

The affiliation fee for Clubs was agreed as an entrance fee of 5 shillings and an annual subscription of 1 guinea


The application for membership was successful and the Rules adopted 50 years ago have changed little with the passage of time, a tribute indeed to the wisdom of our early administrators.


From the original eight founding clubs the number of EBA Clubs in Norfolk has now risen to seventy one.


Much of the work in running the County’s affairs has fallen upon the shoulders of hard working Secretaries and these gentlemen who have held this post over the years are:-


The late Alec Page                     1936 -1964

The late Phil Segger                   1964 – 1967

The late Peter Paul                     1967 – 1975

The late R(onnie) Browne          1975 – 1977

The late George Taylor               1977 – 1983

Peter Beckham                           1983 – 1984

N John Fox                                   1984 – 1991

Alan Rowsell                                1992

Don Faulkner                               1993 – 1996

Graham Hobart                           1996 – 2005

Peter Bird                                    2005 -


The sterling work begun by the late W. C. Webster was continued by the late Alec Page who became President of the International Bowling Board in 1961, having served as County President in 1947, 1948 and 1961.


The first County match under EBA rules was played at Norfolk Bowling Club in 1937 appropriately against Essex and it was then that the County colours were adopted with the County badge being the Norfolk Coat of Arms on a dark blue background.


The County Championships were inaugurated in 1937 with the Singles, Pairs and Fours Championships. The honour of being the first County Singles Champion fell to Charles Revell of Wymondham Dell with the Pairs being won by J. Brouch and C. Ayres of Great Yarmouth and the Fours by J.Bryan, John Bakewell, G.Brighton & Jimmy Batterbee of Norfolk Bowling Club.


It was not until after the Second World War that a Triples Championship was introduced and the first winners in 1945 were R.Farman, C.Gedge & W.Taylor of Norfolk Bowling Club.


In 1938 Norfolk played their first Middleton Cup game and beat Cambridgeshire by 140-89. Success in the Middleton Cup eluded the county for several years but Norfolk finally won the Middleton Cup for the first time in 1966 with a thrilling victory over Hampshire in the final. After several near misses in the 1970’s and 1980’s the County changed its selection process by appointing a Team Manager, the first being Basil Last of Wymondham Dell in 1991. This change bore fruit and Norfolk was again successful in lifting this coveted title in 1992, 1997 and 2006 with wins in the final against Cornwall, Lancashire and Cumbria respectively.


After the first appointment of Basil Last, the post of Middleton Cup Team Manager has been held by Alec Farrow, Denis Grint, Arthur Jermy, David Betts, Chris Ward and Brian Taylor.


In 1938, the Association’s Deputy President G.A Bales of Great Yarmouth donated a trophy for a Club Championship and hence the Bales Cup was borne. Norfolk Bowling Club were the first winners and this prestigious championship  continues to be played to this day. The championship has been won by 19 different clubs over the years with Wymondham Dell having won the Championship on most occasions (12).


It was also in 1938 that the Norfolk Benevolent Fund, whose purpose is to provide financial assistance to Norfolk bowlers in need, was started. It was also in this year that the inaugural County Tour took place and was based in Kent.


In 1955 a double fours championship for the Lord Fermoy Cup was started and won by Gorleston EBA. Again this competition continues to the present day.


With mixed bowling on the increase an inter club mixed fours championship for the Jermy Cup was started in 1995 being won by one of the founder clubs, Sheringham Morley.


Bowls has been saddled with being a game for older people but it continues to be popular with a younger age group and to reflect this an Under 25 Championship was introduced in 1987 and was won by Robert Hadingham of Wortwell. Robert and many of the other winners of this competition have gone on to represent the County at Middleton Cup and International level.


As the popularity of bowls increased during the 1960’s a County wide League was introduced in 1966 and this continues to be popular with currently over 90 teams participating involving over 1000 players. The league has developed over the years and now consists of a Premier Division, which started in 1982 plus 12 regional zones and is one the largest county wide leagues in the country.


The County League title is the most hard fought team title in the County and has been won by a wide variety of teams over it’s 40+ year history, with Wymondham Dell having won the title the most times (15).


In the 1990’s the County secured it’s first sponsorship from CPS Gas and the legacy of this continues to this day with the CPS Gas Cup being played as part of the County League end of season play offs.


In 2004, the County secured the sponsorship of Hansell’s Solicitors and this has proved highly successful to both parties and continues to this day. The sponsorship covers the operation of the County Association including the County League which bears the name of Hansell’s. The Hansells Cup is played for annually by the winners of the regional zone winners of the County League.


The honour of becoming the first Norfolk player to receive International honours fell to John Bakewell of Norfolk Bowling Club (1950 and 1951) who at the time was giving unstinting service as the County’s Honorary Treasurer. He held this office during the years 1938 to1955 and 1960 to1969, a total of 26 years. For the next 17 years Bob Savage held the post followed by Brian Pratt from1989 to1993 and Peter Reeks 1993 to1997. Since 1997 the County finances have been in the safe hands of Stan Allcock.


Since John Bakewell became our first International player, eight other Norfolk bowlers have been awarded International badges these being

·        R G (Reggie) Taylor  - Norfolk Bowling Club (1953)

·        Micky Long – Wymondham Dell (1966 -1967)

·        John Youngs – Swaffham Town (1971)

·        Chris Ward - Cromer (1978-1979, 1981 & 1983)

·        David Ward – Cromer (1982-1997)

·        John Ottaway – Wymondham Dell (1985-2009)

·        Mervyn King – Hunstanton EBA (1990, 1995, 1997-2010)

·        Darren Rowsell – Acle St Edmund (2004 & 2009)

·        Jamie Chestney – Hunstanton (2008-2010)


In 1990 a British Isles Junior International Series was introduced and again Norfolk has produced several Junior Internationals namely:-

·        Steve Utting – Freethorpe (1990 & 1995)

·        George Tubby – Acle St Edmund (1998–2001)

·        Neil Moulton – Norfolk BC (2002, 2004-2005)

·        Tim Stone – Acle St Edmund (2001-2004)

·        Jamie Chestney – Hunstanton (2004-2010)

·        Steffan Adcock – Wymondham Dell (2004-2006)

·        Wayne Willgress – Norfolk BC (2010)


It is testimony to strength of the game in Norfolk that so many of its bowlers have achieved the honour of representing their country.


Success in lifting National titles eluded Norfolk bowlers for many years and it was not until 1975 that the county achieved its first National title when the Cromer (EBA) rink of  Arthur Rix, Cecil Whitwood, George Ward and Chris Ward won the fours Championship. Since then Norfolk’s bowlers have taken many National titles including titles in all the four major Championships.


The blue riband Singles has been won five times, by Chris Ward with two successes and by John Ottaway with three. Both Chris and John went on to become British Isles Singles Champion.


The Pairs was won by Eddie Bell and Malcolm Wade (Wymondham Dell) in 1979, by John Ottaway and Roger Guy (Wymondham Dell) in 1990 and then by Ian Wynter and Jamie Chestney (Downham Market) in 2004


The Triples was won by Charles West, Chris Willgress and Wayne Willgress (Norfolk BC) in 2007.


As mentioned earlier the Fours was won by Arthur Rix, Cecil Whitwood, George Ward and Chris Ward (Cromer) in 1975 and Chris took the title again in1980 partnered by Graham Pease, his father, George and Reggie Baker.


The Junior Singles was won by Ian Grady (Gaywood Park) in 1982, Ian Daines (Wymondham Dell) in 1990 and Jamie Chestney (Hunstanton EBA) in 2009.


At Club level Wymondham Dell won the National Club Two Fours title in 1985 and North Walsham (EBA) won the National Top Club in 2004.


Mixed bowling has become a feature since the 1980’s and Christine Webb, Jayne Roylance, Trevor Webb and David Ward won the National Mixed Fours title in 1998.


These successes and the County’s record in the Middleton Cup make Norfolk feared opponents across the country.


The winners of the National Singles, Pairs, Triples, Fours and Junior Singles represent England in the British Isles Championships and beyond these Championships, Norfolk bowlers have represented England with distinction in numerous overseas events including World Championships and Commonwealth Games.


Chris Ward represented England in the Commonwealth Games in 1978 in Edmonton (Canada) and 1986.  His brother David joined him in the 1986 Edinburgh Games securing a Bronze medal in the Pairs.


John Ottaway represented England in the 1988, 1992 and 2000 World Championships in Auckland, Worthing and Johannesburg and the 1990, 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games held in Auckland, Kuala Lumpur and Manchester winning Team Gold and Triples and Fours Bronze medals in the 1988 World Championships and the Fours Gold medal in the 2002 Commonwealth Games


Mervyn King took the Singles berth in 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games and lead in the Triples in the 2006 Melbourne Games. Playing the Pairs in the 2010 Delhi Games Mervyn won the Silver Medal. Mervyn has also represented England in the World Championships winning Bronze and Silver Medals in the 2004 Ayr (Scotland)  Championships.


The ultimate administrative honour is to become President of your National Association and the honour of President of the English Bowling Association was afforded to the late Dennis Grint (Freethorpe) in 1991 who subsequently went on to become a Director of World Bowls. In 2009 Dennis Cousins (Suffield Park) was elected President of Bowls England, the newly merged body of the English Bowling Association and English Women’s Bowling Association.


In 1967 six counties, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Norfolk combined to form the Eastern Counties Bowling Association. They have since been joined by Huntingdonshire. The seven counties participate in the Eastern Counties League which provides valuable competitive experience for those bowlers on the verge of Middleton Cup selection and enables the Middleton Cup Manager to assess the ability of those bowlers. Norfolk were the first winners on the League in 1968 and have been champions another 13 times. In 1990 an Under 30’s League was introduced and again the County have been successful, winning the championship on three occasions. In addition the County have had numerous successes in the individual Eastern Counties Championships.


R.G. (Reggie) Taylor, County President in 1954 and 1956 served as President of the Eastern Counties Bowling Association in 1973, as did Dickie Moore in 1979, Ray Reeve in 1986, John Fox in 1993, John Taylor in 2000 and Don Whyatt in 2007.


The bowlers of Norfolk are indeed indebted to the efforts of the late W. C. Webster and Alec Page and all the able administrators who have succeeded them.


The strength of bowls lies with its administration side and with the strength in depth and ability of its bowlers and on both counts Norfolk is well placed for future years.