St Martins Bowling Club was opened on May 24th 1924 after an agreement had been signed with Mitchell & Butler`s Brewery & the green had been laid out by Mr Dick Sheperd, the Cathedral School groundsman. The green was located at the Greyhound Dog pub which was situated adjacent to where the entrance to the Asda development is now. It was a welcome addition to the community living south of the Wye who had very few leisure facilities.
The period between the wars saw bowling take off and breweries saw the investment in a bowling green as a good way to generate income. They would have a bowls team just as they would for darts or quoits etc. The club was largely patronised by local businessmen so matches took place in the evenings or on a Thursday afternoon which was recognised as 'half day closing' in Hereford for many years. A small bowls league was formed in Hereford in 1925 featuring St Martins, Castle Green, Widemarsh, Hereford and Liberal Club bowling teams.
Key figures in the development of the bowling club were the Quinsey family, initially Harry Quinsey senior and later Harry Quinsey junior, in 1927 Quinsey senior actually helped to relay the green, problems with the green were to be a recurring theme, not a problem with the current green thankfully. Towards the end of the 1930's it had to be re-laid again. It is also note that the membership dropped throughout the late 20's and into the 30's, possibly as a result of the depression.
1939-45 The 1940's were of course dominated by the war. Fixtures were limited to those opponents who played in the city or immediate surrounding areas. More problems with the green arose in 1944 when it had to be returfed. That same year was significant because lady relatives of the members were allowed into the club for the first time.
The years after the war saw a steady rise in membership once again. The 1950's saw a good developing relationship between club and the M&B brewery that were prepared to provide almost everything that the club needed. They still saw it as an investment, the return being increased beer sales! In 1951 the green was re-laid again. The area was prone to flooding which left a layer of loam on the green which helped it. As a result despite the other problems it was considered good enough by the Herefordshire County side to use it to play the Australians in the mid 50's.
In 1958 the ladies section was formed and they had use of the green on Tuesday and Thursday. They brought a domestic element to the club and purchased a number of kitchen items from their own funds. The ladies were warmly accepted by the majority of the members but inevitably some less enlightened members left for other clubs. In 1959 the brewery provided a clubhouse which was located at a club in Bourneville and they paid for its relocation.
The 1960's again saw problems with the green. Now, however, due to changes at the top at the brewery there was diminishing sympathy towards the bowling club. On a brighter note the ladies section grew and their allowed use of the green was expanded. In 1970 the club won the prestigious 'Hereford Times Cup' for the first time. The pub became less friendly towards the bowlers so in 1972, on the instigation of the then President Jack Wakleyn, a small extension was built which meant that they were less dependant on the pub facilities.
1977 saw the inaugural playing for the' Anning Trophy'. This is a competition for junior bowlers aged up to 19, it was instigated by club stalwart Frank Harwood & the then President George Barrs As the 80's began a decade of uncertainty followed, the relationship between bowlers and the new landlord reached a new low as a result of a demand for a rent of £12,000 per year. At one point the green was actually barricaded to stop bowlers having access but the problem was soon resolved after the landlord's dog bit the then President Frank Harwood & a sensible amount was agreed for the rent, but relations with the landlord were never quite the same.
Towards the end of the 80's membership began to climb. The contribution of the ladies section with fundraising is noted at this time and they contributed towards important equipment.The idea of of "Nest Egg" fund was developed so that if & when possible we could upgrade or replace the Club house & green. The aforementioned ladies were prominent in fundraising, & the Club Committee had the foresight to secure a clause in the Local Development Plan that a bowling green had to be provided by any developer on or near the existing site.
From the early nineties the Club operated in a period of great uncertainty. The green was set in a re-development area but no development plan was yet agreed & unlikely to be for some time. The Herefordshire Council awaited a report on the site with particular reference to the problems of flooding & road access which " might be insurmountable" While we waited our facilities became degraded our beneficial interest as secure tenants was lessened through vandalism, planning inertia, & the closure of the pub, the "Greyhound Dog".
Lack of other than essential maintenance & stop gap repairs to premises & equipment led to difficulties & , not least, a loss of levels to the green. We were in "limbo" & needed to stay in business & move on, so it was decided on a "75th anniversary & Millennium Project" & in late 1999 made a successful bid for Lottery funding, with which we brought W.C. facilities to a better standard, improved the tiny kitchen, levelled the green & restored the banks. This work encouraged the members, & despite the hurling of bricks on to the green during play, we settled into an encouraging period although it was to be a few years before the site was purchased by ASDA & the prospect of new facilities became a reality.
In the mid "noughties" after much discussion & argument we achieved a new purpose built green & new Clubhouse courtesy of ASDA which /with the help of our nest egg fund, assistance from Hereford & Herefordshire Council ,& another lottery award, we equipped & fitted out, including an automatic watering system & permanent floodlighting. We registered as a CASC, & developed the facility to include bowling for people with disabilities. Ramped access is available to the green & Club House, there are suitable W.C. facilities for people with disabilities. Thanks to many local Charities we raised a lot of money to purchase four specially designed wheelchairs " Bradshaw Buggies".
GRANT FROM SPORT ENGLAND
In February 2014 David Tolson went to a meeting in Worcester and learnt about the possibility of obtaining a grant from Sport England, after a lot of hard work and one unsuccessful bid we were given a substantial grant that would allow us to extend our Clubhouse and purchase some necessary new equipment. Over the Winter of 2015/2016 this work was completed and we had a grand reopening on the 21st May 2016 that was well attended by Local Dignitaries, Representatives from other Bowling Clubs and also from local Community Support Groups. A major benefit of these works was the ability for us to have two Shortmat mats laid in the clubroom which enables us to play competitive bowls all year round and we now have two teams in the Herefordshire Shortmat League. It was also a commitment agreed as part of the Grant to further our involvement within the Community with younger bowlers and for people with learning and physical disabilities, we do this on a regular basis by taking New Age Bowls to visits with local schools and Support Centres and we also welcome Groups to our Clubhouse.
We have a wonderful green, laid by Avonmore Associates, of which we are very proud & enjoy the very favourable comments from all who come to bowl with us.
Compiled by Paul Kennett, Kim Wooden & Frank Harwood