It was in 1912 that a small pocket of land at Drill Hall Road was secured to establish Dorking Bowling Club. Agreement was reached for a 14 year lease from Col. Henry Cubitt (later Lord Ashcombe) by three representatives of the club, ironmonger Walter Stone, auctioneer Frederick Arnold and watchmaker Ernest Hubbard at an annual rent of £2 2s 0d. Access to the bowling club had to be agreed with the Surrey Territorial Association who used the Drill Hall.
The area of land was two roods and 31 perches with an agreement not to build anything more than a pavilion, tool shed and urinal and not to dig up anything other than part of the ground for the purpose of levelling and laying a bowling green. The cost of laying and levelling the ground was £110, pavilion £60, fencing round the ground £16 and laying on water £12. With the cost of the roller and other items, expenditure totalled £220. They did such a good job of green, that it was said to be the best in the county. The green was officially opened by Col. Cubitt on 30th April 1912 who agreed to be the club’s first president, a post he held until 1943.
Subscription charges for the first year was 10 Shillings and 6 pence, which in relative terms was close to one week’s wages for the average person working and living in Dorking.
In 1913 the club adopted the Dorking Cockerel as their emblem and started playing against other neighbouring clubs. In the early days, meetings were held at the Red Lion hotel.
In 1917 a proposal was put forward to allow ladies to be admitted to the club, but despite playing a crucial role helping with teas and cleaning, the proposition was turned down by a casting vote from the club chairman. There was a considerable debate and one member declared it impossible for ladies to play a ‘sporty’ game. Another said he could imagine what would happen if he delivered a fast wood which scattered the ladies’ bowls. It would be declared as ‘ungentlemanly conduct’.
Another vote held in 1920 had the same result and it was not until 1964 ladies were eventually admitted.
Col Cubitt decided to sell the bowling green land and the plot of building land adjoining and fronting Westcott Road in 1921 and before the end of the lease agreement. The Club decided to purchase both plots for £450 through member’s share subscriptions – later selling the building plot for £300 subject to the class of buildings being erected was in no way detrimental to the bowling green.
During the 1920’s and 30’s the club was well known in the region for its charitable deeds. For years they collected tin foil, at first sending it to Moorfields Hospital and later to Dorking Cottage Hospital. The club was itself rather prudent, with members urged to place ‘a few coppers’ in the box in return for mint they may gather out of the club’s nursery garden. The club’s charitable deeds continue to this day with collections for a different nominated charity each year.
Although the club activities continued throughout the second world war, membership declined due to National Service obligations. After the war, membership failed to increase and by the late 1950's there were only 37 playing and 15 non playing members. When eventually ladies were admitted to the club in 1964 they increased the membership by 13.
In the early 1960's the club was honoured by the appointment of Mr W J Robins a local business man and life time member of the club, as President of The Surrey Bowling Association.
The club had use of the Drill Hall and in 1968, when it was sold to Surrey County Council for use as a book store by the county library, it was decided to increase the accommodation of the club by adding a cedar wood extension for changing rooms now used by the visiting team.
By the 1970's for the first time the club had over 100 members, which still applies today, and work started to extend the main changing rooms and pavilion. Maintanence and construction being carried out by members volunteering their skills.
Over the years the club has achieved a long list of successes at County level including County level Singles, Triples Championships and Surrey Fours.
2012 was a special year for Dorking Bowling Club
It was the centenary of the club at their headquarters at Drill Hall Road. Throughout the season special events were arranged both on the green and off it. The club was bedecked in special centenary club colours admired by everyone that visited.
In June the club held a week of celebratory events that included a visit by the Surrey Bowling Association. There were number of memorable events including a river trip at Guildford and a centenary dinner dance at Wotton House.
During the season every member was presented with a gift bag to commemorate the club’s landmark and a history of the club was published in the local paper. The clubroom itself was given a dramatic make-over to bring it thoroughly up to date and even more inviting for members. All work was done voluntarily by members themselves and proves what can be achieved.
From small beginnings in 1912, club membership has increased dramatically over the years as the sport has become increasingly popular. As the club prepares for the next season it continues to grow from strength to strength with a strong bond amongst its many members.
The next Chapter: 2012-2022
Over the last decade the club has continued to flourish both on and off the green. While major changes have taken place it remains a friendly club caring and catering for all members.
Saddened to witness the demise of several fellow clubs, it was decided that to meet the challenges of an ever demanding world and secure our future, changes had to be introduced. Following the outbreak of COVID, it was felt that the club would benefit from the amalgamation of the men’s section and the ladies section. Once the combined club was approved by members, a fitting new constitution was put in place.
At the same time the latest technology was introduced by a group of savvy members ensuring the club had a higher profile. The use of social media over the past 10 years has seen the club grow beyond all recognition since it’s inauguration 110 years ago.
Whilst much has been achieved off the field of play, a decision was also made regarding the upkeep of the green. The club’s valued voluntary ground force, who work tirelessly on the green, were provided with the services of a Consultant to advise and oversee its maintenance. This quickly paid off with a much improved playing surface. Not only did League results improve dramatically but a record number of newcomers joined the club as news spread. Members of all abilities have benefitted.
The healthy state of the club is highlighted by the growth in membership to now over 100 combined full, junior, life and social members.
New coloured playing shirts and jackets have been designed and introduced to reflect the club’s combined membership.
Recent achievements has seen the men reach the final of the East Surrey League Top 11 knockout competition against Old Coulsdon and promotion gained to Division 1 of the men’s weekend East Surrey League with a another squad winning the New Surrey Triples League.
A new venture for 2023 is joining the Men’s Tuesday Guildford Triples League which means the club will travel in a more westerly direction.
Whilst the men are busy in their various leagues, the ladies share the fixtures with their counterparts in the North Downs Mixed League. And apart from playing in the Surrey Advertiser League, the ladies also play a number of friendly matches.
Some Members of 2022
And so the history of the club continues and faces the future with confidence…