West Hoathly Bowls Club History


A little bit of history

 The idea of forming a bowls club in West Hoathly was formulated in the Autumn of 1910 by Mr N. A. Block who at that time owned the Manor House in the centre of the village. The Club did not have its own green at first but it was able to use the grass tennis courts at the Manor House by the kind permission of Mr Block.

The Manor House

The first recorded game took place on 16th September 1911 when West Hoathly entertained East Grinstead. The match was reported by the local East Grinstead newspaper as follows:

West Hoathly vs East Grinstead

The East Grinstead team visited West Hoathly to play the newly formed club there on Saturday at the invitation of Mr. Block. The game was played on the tennis courts at the Manor House, and the visitors won by 33 points. Both teams were kindly entertained to tea by Mr. Block and a most enjoyable afternoon was spent.


 This started what was soon to become something of a tradition as East Grinstead kept winning home and away for a period of more than 20 years!

It is interesting to note that nearly all fixtures had one thing in common and that was access to one of the then the two railway lines that intersected at East Grinstead giving both North : South and East : West routes that could be used from West Hoathly Station. Thus, in addition to East Grinstead, we played at Newick, Barcombe, Lewes, Newhaven, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Groombridge, Crawley, Horsham, etc. Anywhere else & you had to go on your bike! It probably explains why there has never been a green at Ardingly - no station & too many hills.

In the dark days of the Great War, the Parish of West Hoathly lost many fine young men. One of these was Charles Victor Cole
who lived in Melchbourne Villas next to the the Village Hall. Mr Cole was the Secretary of the Bowls Club before enlisting. His name is recorded on the Roll of Honour website details of which are reproduced below by kind permission. This website preserves the memory of the millions of of UK personnel killed in the Great War of

 For more information on other victims of the Great War from West Hoathly and throughout Sussex please visit 


Private G.41291, 22nd Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers, 2nd Division. Killed in action near Loos on 29th April 1917. Aged 38. Son of Herbert George & Mary Cole, husband of Minnie Mary Cole of 3 Melchbourne Villas, West Hoathly. Chorister at the Parish Church, and Hon. Secretary of West Hoathly Bowls Club. Born in Hove and enlisted in East Grinstead. Buried Orchard Dump Cemetery, Arleaux en Gohelle F.777

The Manor House provided the venue for most home matches for the next twenty years but it came to an end when Mr Block wanted the tennis court for his children to play tennis.

Fortunately, help was at hand and a plot of land was generously donated by the Clarke family from nearby Highbrook.

The new green was opened on 1st June, 1935 with the first jack being bowled ceremoniously by a Mr. W H Shelford. The original jack that was used is on display at the Club today. The new green was a sporting 4 rinker that continued to be used for nearly 50 years except for a period in World War II when there were insufficient players to keep the green open. When the green reopened after the War, it was reported that the grass was more than 3 feet (1 metre) high!

Not long after acquiring the green, a suitable building was acquired to be used as a pavilion. The old green hut continued to be used until the early 1980s with few changes other than the addition of a bar in the 1970s. The bar soon increased the income of the Club and significant investment started to be made in the Club's facilities.


 One unusual feature of the Club's membership in the 1970s & 80s was the preponderance of young bowlers many of whom were members of the highly successful West Hoathly Football Club. Another feature of the Club's membership was a distinct bias towards people from the building industry. This combination of youth and practical skills led to two ambitious project being started in 1981/82  

Waiting to Play!


History continued


The first of these projects was to build a new brick pavilion with changing rooms, a fitted kitchen and a new bar (inevitably). At the same time, it was decided to increase the size of the bowling green from four to six rinks. All of this work was undertaken by members with little outside help. Money was the major problem but this was helped by a "pound for pound" grant from West Hoathly Parish Council. The materials were begged, borrowed but probably not stolen from Ibstocks brickyard in the village and from  other local suppliers.

It was decided to retain the original pavilion and to build around it before demolishing it from within. There were many sound reasons for this approach one of which was that the bar could remain open to slake the thirst of the working members and continue to generate income for the Club! Thus it was that the members paid for the privilege of working for nothing - even slaves in the bad old days did not have to pay to work!

During this period, the Club enjoyed considerable success in County and local competitions. This "fame" coupled with the outstanding facilities the Club now had attracted many new members taking the Club from being a small enthusiastic village club into a much bigger club attracting members from throughout Mid Sussex.

 The success of the Club soon generated a desire to further improve the facilities and in 1992 yet another major project was undertaken. The pavilion was extended by about 25% and at the same time the freehold interest was purchased from Mid Sussex District Council. Pride of place in the newly extended pavilion was a a repositioned and extended bar built from oak beams and stone.

 The Club continued to prosper throughout the 1980s & 1990s but concern was growing that the Green was deteriorating and needed significant work doing to it. Most of it had been laid in the early 1930s and any drainage had long since collapsed. The Green was built on good Sussex clay - ideal for making bricks in the village but not a very good base for a bowls green.

 In 2001, just before the September 11th disaster, the decision was made to replace the entire green - surface, sub-surface, foundations and all. At the same time, further improvements were to be made to the pavilion and surrounds to make all parts of the Club including the Green accessible for the physically disabled.

  This combined project was estimated to cost over £40,000 excluding labour costs. The Club had funds of under half of this sum and a concerted appeal was made to members for loans & donations. Just over £12,000 was raised in 10 days by members and, based on this and the commitment by the same members to do the work themselves, the project was given the go-ahead. Running in parallel with the physical
was a determined effort to bridge the financial "gap" and after a little arm twisting grants totalling £15,500 were received from West Hoathly Parish Council, Mid Sussex District Council, the UK National Lottery "Awards for All", the Mid Sussex Bowls League and Radio Mercury FM.


Team Photo 1950

The old green was dug up and replaced by new drains, graded stone, shingle and sand before the final application of new sterile loam. It was decided to seed the green rather than to turf it - a decision that was viewed with considerable scepticism outside of the Club - and the seed was sprayed on in early November less than 10 weeks from the start of the project.

The Green was played on for the first time in June 2002
and it has now settled down to
become once again one of the best greens in Sussex.

 At first sight, there is nothing left to do at the Club now but it is certain that new projects will be found to keep West Hoathly in its place as the Club setting the standards on and off the Green. Despite the growth in size, the Club has managed to retain its very friendly and laid-back atmosphere. We do not have a rule on playing ability for new members but what is required is a good sense of humour with the absolute necessity of being able to "catch" as well as "throw".

1920 Photo possibly at the Manor House

Thanks must go to Trevor Swainson along with Dai Howick 
for this history of the club.