Banbury Central Bowling Club History

The Banbury Central Bowling Club was formed in the Spring of 1901 by Mr. AJ Kilby, the landlord of the Unicorn Hotel in Market Place. The Banbury Guardian of 9th May 1901 reported the event as follows:
  • “Mr. AJ Kilby of the Unicorn Hotel has procured the excellent bowling green at the rear of Mr. AW Johnson’s house in North Bar. A club has been formed, and from all we hear it is likely to be a grand success. It is certainly an attractive and convenient spot”.
This green was probably the original old Banbury green known as the ‘bottom’ or ‘lower’ green. The exact age is something of a mystery. The Raigne Deere Tavern, is situated between North Bar Gate and the castle entrance in Persones Lane, is thought to have been there since 1564, 24 years before Sir Francis Drake played his historic game on Plymouth Hoe. The green may have been there long before that, and was probably part of the castle grounds. During that period only castles and large estates were allowed to have bowling greens.
It has been reported that this green had a pronounced bump at the steps end of the green which would not have been unusual in those days, for then the game was similar to the Crown Green game of today. In 1847 a horticultural show, attended by 800 people, was held on the green and this became an annual event. It would be interesting to whether this “bump” was improved by the Horticultural Show! We know that there was a bowling green and a skittle alley at the Reindeer Inn in 1795, as they formed part of the sale of the Inn in October of that year.
The oldest record of our Club which exists is in a “Day Book” ledger used by Mr. Arthur Pargeter of 58 Parsons Street, and Treasurer to the Banbury Central Bowling Club. This has a clear entry dated 23rd March 1893, but for some strange reason it has been overwritten with the date 1903.
Shortly after the formation of the Central Club, Kilby moved to the Flying Horse Inn at 44, Parsons Street where he laid down another green. This was built by Messrs. Swan and overseen by Mr. White the foreman. The latter was also the grounds man for the Banbury Chestnuts at this time. The old green eventually became a tennis court.
In 1901, the Banbury Guardian recorded the formal opening of the newly formed club on Tuesday 2nd July. The initial entry list recorded 63 members. Fees for playing members were half a guinea (52p) and for non-playing members 5 shillings (25p).
Among the membership of 1904 was not only Lord Howard, Fourth Earl of Effingham but also the Lord Child-Villiers, Seventh Earl of Jersey. The arms of the Lords of Effingham appear on the Banbury Central Bowling Club badge, which is doubly appropriate, as the second Baron was Commander-in-Chief of the fleet which destroyed the Spanish Armada in 1588. Lord Child-Villiers became a President of the Imperial Bowling Association, the forerunner of the English Bowling Association.
In 1929 the Club was unable to agree a fixed tenure with the landlord of the Flying Horse and was obliged to disband. With the arrival of a new landlord in 1931, an agreement was reached with the brewery and as a result the decision was taken on 12th October to reform the Banbury Central Bowling Club. Tuesday April 19th 1932 saw the official re-opening of the club.
In the mid 1950’s Central became a mixed club and the first in Banbury where ladies could not only enjoy competitive bowling, but could also do so in the company of their husbands. It is difficult for us to appreciate, in this day and age just what a radical step this was in that almost exclusively male world of bowling.
So began the long tradition of ladies’ bowling at Central, and the Club is proud of the strong County presence of its members ever since. 2008 saw the Ladies triple of Carole Galletly, Caroline Campion and Stella Amos win the coveted National Triples Championship, represent England in the British Isles Championships and both Carole and Caroline going on to represent England at International level.
The re-development of Banbury Town centre in the early 70’s brought about the clubs move to the present location on the old Alcan sports ground at Horton View in 1973.
At Horton View, it was back to square one in many ways. Apart from the green there were very few facilities. The only changing room was a hut made from Alcan wooden packing cases. The development of the club started with the purchase of two concrete garages to create new changing rooms.
During the season of 1981 there were 72 playing members, 48 men and 28 ladies. This was an increase of 10 on the previous season. By 1990 the club was thriving and membership had risen to 110.
1991 was a significant year. It was at this time that it was decided to add the words “Established in 1901” to the Club badge. The bar area was completely renovated and the lounge added. Cherwell District Council finally agreed to remove the sheds alongside the green which were an eyesore, and plans were made to lay a patio as a replacement.
In March 1991 problems were experienced with a leaking roof in the Ladies dressing room, and this led to the decision to build the current superb facilities we now enjoy.
By the end of 1992 the playing strength had risen to 129, and in March 1993 the possibility of restricting membership numbers was first considered together with creating seven rinks. Membership at the end of 1993 had risen to 139, 96 men and 43 ladies.
May 19th saw the official opening of the new changing rooms prior to a County Match between Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire.
Membership had been constant at around 130 for most of the 90’s but 1997 saw it fall to 97.
Following on from his County Presidency in 1996, John Austin was elected Junior Vice President of the English Bowling Association.
March 1998 saw members pack their sun lotion and head off to Fuengirola for Banbury Central's first overseas tour. Freddie Austin became President of the Oxfordshire Women’s Bowling Association.
To mark the Millennium a Wednesday afternoon Summer Triples League was inaugurated, open to players from clubs in North Oxfordshire. Though the Millennium is long gone the league is still thriving.
2000 also saw the raising of the banks to comply with the National and County rules. It was also the start of Banbury Central’s 12 year hosting of the home Middleton Cup games, the only club to do so outside the City of Oxford.
So far in the 21st Century three of the club's male bowlers have had the honour of being President of Oxfordshire Bowling Association. Allan Hunt led the County in 2004 and the following year became the County Treasurer. Ian Whelpton took up the County reins in 2009 having started his county duties in 2000 as the County Competition Secretary. They are both
currently still in their posts. Michael Andrew continued the five year sequence when he became County President in 2014.
Not to be outdone, Brenda Havard 2002, Stella Amos 2008 and Pauline Wilson 2013 held the Oxfordshire Ladies Presidency.

The 20th Century saw seven Banbury Central ladies hold this prestigious office.

In the period 2008 to­ 2015, the clubs women bowlers have recorded 1 National title, 3 National Finals and 4 National Semi-Finals, details in the Archive section.

2016 sees the clubs livery change to a younger fashionable style.
  • Website Updated: 25.10.2021.