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274 Years of Hurst Bowls Club 1747-2021

The Hurst Bowls Club is reputed to have the second oldest bowling green in England. It is certainly the oldest in Berkshire, designated an ancient green.

Veronica (Ronnie) Ashley writes:  1747, (274 years ago) is the earliest documented date showing how far back in time the history of our green goes. The green was noted in the diary of one Mr. Belchin who was visiting Hurst. He visited the bowling green and the Church House after attending morning service in 1747.  Legend has it that the bowling green was laid for Charles I who stayed at the Castle Inn when hunting in the forest of Windsor.  During the English Civil War, Hurst was on the side of the King and some wealthy residents lost most of their wealth supporting Charles 1. 

Hurst Bowling Club members are committed to keeping the sport of bowls alive. They see this historic site as part of our local heritage, tradition and sporting history. We will endeavour to keep these alive for future generations as the ancestors have kept them alive for us to enjoy, and new members are always welcome!

Towards the end of the 18th century Church House was renamed the “Bunch of Grapes”, hence the origin of the bowling club’s emblem. Our logo remains a bunch of grapes, thus maintaining our historic link with the pub, now The Castle Inn.

A water colour painting of the bowling green, circa 1790, was executed by Michael Angelo Rooker (1743-1801). The painting was purchased and taken to America. It became part of the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art. A copy hangs in the clubhouse.

The Bowls Club began their Community Project in 2012. This is done in collaboration with Link, a befriending organisation in Wokingham. Lonely and isolated, mostly elderly, residents in the area are entertained by us. Those who can play enjoy an afternoon of bowls. Those too infirm to play enjoy conversation, reminiscing, affection and laughter. They also enjoy homemade cakes and tea.

The 2020 season of bowls was suspended due to the pandemic, Corvid 19. The Sports Minister, in consultation with various sports Governing Bodies, gave dispensation to green keepers providing they observed the two-metre distancing rule. Our green keepers have been vigilant. They have ensured for us that when the pandemic is over, we have a decent bowling green for us to play on. The historical outcome of this pandemic and how it affects us is yet to be written.   

The wooden club house was being used in 1901. It was considered “falling to bits” then. In spite of representations to various authorities, no one wished to replace the building. Members of the club have had to admit it is beyond repair and thus a new clubhouse is necessary. Fundraising, due to the pandemic, has been difficult. We cannot use the clubhouse and the smell of decay pervades everything in it. Members have fundraised £65,000.  Sport England has granted us £50,000. Our shortfall is £87,000. Planning permission has been granted and conservation issues addressed. Our lease runs to 2140. If interested, please contribute to our building fund.

The Club promises that all donors will be added to the Benefactors Honours Board in perpetuity; a reminder of how we came together in 2020/21 as we did in 1666 after the bubonic plague. Or contact Ronnie Ashley (Fund Raising Coordinator) T. 01344 310119.   

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Hurst Bowls Club History: About Us
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