The history of the club has been an enjoyable project for myself (Don Harrison) and in obtaining all the relevant information from down the years I would like to thank Paul Richards, Phil Moyse, Liz and Ray Jones, Bernard Purslow, Charlie Edwards and John Rowlinson whose father was a founder member of the club. I spent two enjoyable evenings, the first one talking to John Rowlinson about the early days of the club that he remembers from his childhood and also reminiscing with Charlie Edwards.
I found through my enquiries that there were different opinions on who the original ground belonged to. John Rowlinson was led to believe that it belonged to the church and was donated to the club by a Mr Atherton. From the early years the club could not function on a Sunday or any religious days, so this does give some indication that the Church was originally involved with owning the ground. Charlie Edwards informed me that we have the club because the land became available when the by-pass was built and the builder could not complete Meole Rise due to drainage/sewage problems and if one notes at the club entrance No 16 is on the left and No 38 is on the right. The builder was Tudor and Derek Bevan's father.
The club started with one green and the only entrance was via the gate in the corner of No 1 green and the area of No 2 green was allotments. Membership was restricted to men living within a radius of 1.5 miles (including Bayston Hill). Maximum 150 members. Places on the committee were hotly contested with as many as 15 applicants. (Note today's apathy). There was only one team, no lights and no bowling in wet weather (or along the edges).
The first picture is dated 1937 which shows the original club house which was no bigger than 40ft x 20ft and was situated where the lounge and toilets are today with the kitchen being the bar. Conditions were pretty primitive, the first 'bar' being fitted over beer cases, and beer 'straight from the wood' drawn through the spigot and served in the jug. Just after the war the club purchased an old army hut and this was assembled on the side of the club house making the whole structure into an L-shaped building. This addition to the club was for a snooker room and two snooker tables were acquired (about 30 shillings each).
The club was heated by 2/3 anthracite stoves which were lit in October and kept alight continually until April by Maurice Davenport. Old tip-up cinema seats were down the sides. The dart board was always in use with everyone involved playing games such as 'murder' and 'cricket' etc., and there were always solo whist schools. George Sirrell ran his football sweep to pay for the annual outing to Llandudno. John Rowlinson well remembers a very large picture hanging over the bar which contained hundreds of ships of all shapes and sizes of the Royal Navy. He wonders what ever happened to that picture and all the others that hung around the club house.
Possible site for a Club
The idea of a club at Meole Brace was first mooted in the summer of 1931, when residents complained about the lackof outdoor recreational facilities, and it was thought that a bowling club might be a social asset to the community
After various conversations and inquiries a meeting was held in the Meole Brace School on July 8 when the vicar, the Rev. J C Barlett, presided.
Among the founder members at that meeting were Messrs F.E. Thornhill, S. Hughes, R.S. Chambers, H.W. Butt, J Rowlinson, J A. Bray , S. L. Breeze, J Evans, A. D. Blizard, A.J. Wynn and H.E. Roberts. At that meeting it was announced that a possible site had been found adjacent to the railway and on the town side of the A5 by-pass - and that's where the club stands today.
Mr J A Bray was appointed secretary and the treasurer was J H. Pilley who died in 1932 and was succeeded by Mr A D. Blizard.
By June 1932 the future club members had raised £100, and Mr H. G. Salt acting as legal adviser, was able to negotiate the purchase from Salop County Council of the present site, and by the following year the first green had been completed.
Negotiations were also intiated for the purchase of a further piece of land for a second green, and the following year (1934) the club pavilion, was opened. This had been built by Henry Price & Sons of Shrewsbury and officially opened by the then president Mr D. D. Macpherson of Radbrook Hall, a county magistrate.
The following year there was a further lease of land in order to build a ring fence round the club's holding. Most of it today is taken up with car park which is often used to capacity.
In 1935 the club applied for and were admitted to the Shrewsbury and District Amateur Bowling League.
The standard crown green had now been nursed to perfection and generally accepted in the League, and in 1938 the Club became champions of the second division and repeated the success again in 1939.
Second bowling green
The second bowling green was opened in 1940 and the following year the club was reported entirely free of debt and because of gradual improvement and extension to the premises it was possible to raise the membership to180. Four trustees were appointed for the club, these being Messrs J. Davies, F.E. Thornhill, R.S. Chambers and A.D. Blizard.
In 1942 club members emphasised the importance of their sporting abiliity by becoming champions of the First Division of the Bowling League. In the same year machinery was set in action for the whole area occupied by the club to be scheduled as an open space for all time, and this schedule was eventually confirmed.
Meole Brace saw many of its young members go into the sevices, did its best for them when on leave, and weathered the storm. After the war attention was paid to improving the club building in every possible direction, and there are few bowling clubs in the country which can offer the facilities or the comfort provided at Meole Brace.
In 1967 the new Club house was built, it was agreed that members should be able to bring along their wives and they were present in considerable numbers at the various special events held during the year. Nowadays the club has many lady members and two well supported ladies teams. The President at his time was Mr S. T. Davies. The original floodlights were obtained by Charlie Edwards.
It is noteworthy that today's membership includes many descendants of past members of the club, notably: A.D Blizard the father of Doug Blizard and grandfather of Martin Blizard; W.E. Butt father of Frank Butt; Charlie Parry father of Mike Parry; Carl Davies father of John and Paul Davies; Arthur Evans grandfather of Chris Game and C. Edwards father of Charlie Edwards.
Here are just a few names that have been passed on to me, many characters in the club from the early days: Herby Jarvis, Charlie Thomas, Charlie Parry, Percy Wynne, George Jones, Reb Astell, Alf Blizard, Ernie Oliver, Charlie Edwards, Billy Butt, Bill Williams, Carl Davies, Reg Davies, Bernard Purslow, Ray Gale, Don Morris. Don Morris held the office of Honoraray Treasurer for 25 years from 1957 up to his death in1982. He was succeeded as Treasurer by A.D. (Tony) Williams who has held this office since 1st. January 1983 .
Open bowls competition
In 1980 Meole Brace decided to hold an open bowls competition which attracted players from all parts of the country, the competition is for the Doug Marrs Trophy, in memory of a member who died suddenly and today is backed with prize money of nearly £3000 including a £1000 first prize and lasts three weekends. The event is sponsored by Coors and organised and run by Barry Jennings who took over from Derrick Parry who had run it for many years.
Another compeition is for the Sherlock Cup, although not strictly a club competition, is the well known locally, sponsored by Tudor and Val Bevan in memory of their son Richard. This is a fabulous competition where many top bowlers and friends of Richard turn up to play.
Success of Meole Brace Bowling Club
The factors in the success of Meole Brace Bowling Club is the steady progress and dedication to efficient administration. Every year has seen the growth of its reputation until today it must be acknowledged as the most flourishing club inthe county and gaining a national reputation.
The success of the club is undoubtedly due to a succession of conscientious officials and committee.
The club trustees today are Dennis Haughton-Jones, Doug Blizard, Reg Chambers: President of the club, Peter Holloway; Captain Mrs Liz Jones, Secretary, Don Harrison; Treasurer for approx. 22 years Tony Williams; Chairman Mark Hinks, Committee Members, Mark Thomas, Ron Whittall, John Trow, Bernard Purslow, Chris Game, Peter Hamer, Clive Fisher, Peter Morgan Jones, Paul Richards, Jill Bishop, Maureen Edwards. Also making notable contribution to the club's pleasant life is the club steward, Mel Griffiths and his assisant Derek Brown, and not forgetting our past steward,Harry Richardson who did a lot of work for charities
Since its inception almost 70 years ago the club has grown, grown and grown some more, now counting some 20 bowls teams, competing in a number of Shropshire leagues. But it's not all about bowling there are nine snoooker teams also competing in leauges.
Members even do their bit in collecting almost £3000 a year for charity, this year the Club Charity is Hope House.
Building of Care Hub
Last year the old Resource Centre next door to the Club was demolished to make room for a 'Care Hub' to take day care patients and to be used as a base for care workers who visit the infirm in their own homes. The building is to be named Louise House after Louise Cooper who died suddenly aged 36 in 2004 and did much of the legal work for Shropshire County Council to set up the Centre. Louise was the youngest daughter of Ray and Liz Jones who are both members at Meole.
Compiled by Don Harrison and updated by Ray Jones.