The following account was written around 2005 by the late Don Docherty, a much revered founder member of our club, and who along with his lovely wife Deirdre, contributed a massive amount of time and effort in making our club the success it became.
This is a short history of the Club as far as my memory will permit.
I do not accept responsibility for any inaccuracies as I have tried to put as much as possible into the content before it is lost forever and as I’m only too willing to concede, one’s memory is not what it used to be. I have tried to avoid names where possible as I would be sure to unintentionally cause offence by failing to mention someone. However, I am sure some of you will recognise characters or incidents as described
(Please note that the photo's referenced below are shown in the Club History Pictures page
In the early summer of 1979 what had been an old cricket pavilion was seen to be having a major refurbishment. The pavilion sat on the edge of an overgrown playing field that also contained an overgrown bowling green. Major work was also taking place to recover the playing field, bowling green and tennis courts.
As the work continued it transpired that everything had been purchased by a company called Supreme Sports and Leisure and that their intention was to open a private sports club with a golf driving range. The club was to be called the Pavilion.
Towards the end of the summer the private club duly opened with a grand opening night and seeking members. Eventually it got off the ground and a committee was formed to look after the every-day entertainment etc.
Membership steadily rose to about one hundred men and ladies and the main attraction at the club was the golf driving range. This consisted of a number of booths and the balls were driven towards the river. A converted mini with a basket on the front was used to collect the balls.
At that time the grounds were not fenced-in apart from the fence that runs the length of the field behind the present bowling club and the one that runs along the footpath from Woodies to the bowling green. What is now the car park were two hard court tennis courts.
The bowling green had been left to go fallow ever since Berrylands B.C. ceased to use it in 1976 as a result of a severe drought. Although bowling greens are one of the last facilities to lose their watering rights during a hose pipe ban the local residents took exception the green being watered while their gardens were being neglected. Consequently the green was not watered and subsequently lost.
In the winter of 1979 a general meeting was held at the Pavilion to form a new bowling club and was attended by approximately thirty men (The ladies section was not formed until later). This resulted in twenty of those present joining the bowling club and becoming founder members. The club was called Supreme Bowling Club after the name of the then owners of the property, Supreme Sports and Leisure. It is interesting to note that to date there are only three of these originals still active within the club and two of these are currently Honorary Members.
In the winter of 1980 it was decided we ought to have a club badge. A competition was held amongst the members of the private sports club to see who could produce a masterpiece. The winner was the designer of the present badge and he received a bottle of whiskey for his efforts.
The heraldry on the badge is taken from the Old Malden coat of arms. The centre of the shield means absolutely nothing but it had to be filled with something. The colours were adopted from the colours on the badge and also used in the formation of the club tie.
The club flag was presented in 1984 by the then president of the club just before a match with Mitcham B.C. (see photo HP6).
Once the ladies had formed their section they were allocated three rinks to play on as were the men.
In those days the green consisted of six rinks and some feel that it bowled better as a result. I can well remember having a roll-up one afternoon with another founder member. There was not another soul in sight and we were stripped to the waist with a pint of beer at each end of the rink (we did have good summers then). Suddenly this lady appeared and threw us both off the green informing us that we were on a ladies rink and that it would be dealt with by the Committee. That was my first introduction to the only lady founder member that still visits the green occasionally along with her husband who is still an active founder member.
Under the care of Supreme Sports and Leisure the bowling green was reclaimed from nature. It consisted of six rinks and soon became one of the best surfaces in Surrey and the envy of surrounding clubs. Surrounding the green were odd clumps of privet hedge about ten feet apart and about a foot high.
At the end of rink five when the green is running from the club house to Woodies was a silver birch tree right on the top of the bank. This stayed in situ for about four years.
The clubhouse was where the patio is now and comprised a small wooden shed about twelve feet by eight feet (see photo HP10). It had a door in the front at each end but the one on the left was always bolted and the one on the right was used as the main entrance. There were no lighting, running water, or toilet facilities. There was a cupboard-type lean-to at the rear of this with an entrance from within the shed. This cupboard was originally used to store the green equipment, one lawn mower!
Also to the rear of the shed and at the foot of the oak tree was another lean-to. This housed a bucket that served as the men’s toilet. Later a china urinal was attached to the wall but it still drained into the bucket. Some time later a soak away was dug and this had to be sprinkled with lime once or twice a week depending on the weather.
I cannot remember exactly when the ladies section was formed but I think it must have been towards the end of the summer of 1980. They became affiliated in 1982. The shed that served as the clubhouse had to be transformed to accommodate the two sections. The left-hand door was opened up and this became the men’s entrance. A curtain was placed along the centre of the building and the right-hand side of it became the ladies changing room. Initially the ladies had to wander across the field to the main pavilion to use the toilet. This in itself was quite a feat but when the main building was closed it meant they had to knock-up the manager who lived in the house next to Woodies. At that time there was no all-day opening of licensed premises. Then luxury; what had been the cupboard leading off the main shed that had been used to store the green equipment was converted into a ladies toilet. Actually, that might be too grand a description. Running water was introduced to a hand basin and toilet but this toilet also discharged into the same soak away as the men’s. This now meant larger quantities of lime. There was a notice in the ladies toilet banning the use of toilet paper.
The directors of Supreme Sports and Leisure were all small businessmen from the East End of London. One of them was a builder and one day mentioned that he had an old dismantled shed in his yard that we could have for free if we collected it.
One of our members who was friendly with a vegetable and fish merchant in New Malden borrowed his lorry and off we set for the builders yard in Ilford. The only highlight of this trip was the bacon sandwiches in a greasy spoon café in Ilford. The alleged dismantled shed was no more than some old pieces of timber. However, we loaded it up and set off for Supreme. The lorry in front followed by a carload of labourers. All went well until we arrived at the Wandsworth roundabout when excessive speed around it caused the lorry to shed its load narrowly missing the following car.
Around this time Supreme Sports and Leisure were starting to have problems. The private club was not attracting customers so the golf driving-range and the tennis courts were closed down and the Pavilion started to operate as a public house. I am not sure but I don’t think they had even applied for a full licence. The driving-range became two football pitches and for a short time our rather inadequate shed doubled up as the footballers dressing room.
We were forever returning the football that was coming from the pitch nearest the green and many a fine head of bowls it destroyed. If there was nobody on the green the footballers retrieved the ball themselves leaving stud marks from their boots all over the green.
This particular football pitch had its goals about twenty yards from the hedge that runs alongside the green from Woodies to the present clubhouse.
Eventually we built a ten feet high mesh fence between the hedge and the football pitch which stopped most of the balls from arriving on the green (see photo HP9).
Then the manager of the Pavilion and his wife disappeared overnight taking all the furniture etc. from the house along with them. The place then had a succession of managers, the most notable of whom was the son of a local magistrate. It was not long before Supreme Sports and Leisure sold-out to the then proprietor of the Dog and Fox in Wimbledon and was a big name in the cricket world.
When the golf driving range closed down we were allowed to have the timber etc. which had been used to form the driving booths. We used the picket fencing that had been round the driving range to build a fence between Woodies and the green (see photo HP11) and with the remainder together with the timber we had brought from Ilford we decided to build a larger dressing room. The existing building was left standing and the new much larger building was about twelve feet from it across the front of the green. It stood approximately where the present day lounge is (see photo HP4). Still no proper toilets but we were very pleased with the result.
The building of this was supervised by one of our members who was a builder. Unfortunately, although being a founder member he decided to leave us for Malden B.C. (Lime Grove) but not before donating a cup in his name. This cup was originally for first round losers of singles competitions but now has a special competition day all to itself. I was assured it was not a transfer situation but in place of our member lost to Malden B.C. we gained one of their members who had done a lot of work at their club and continued to do for us for many years. The first job he did was to install calor gas lighting in our new building. Up until then we had used gas camping lamps. Then followed the construction of a small food preparation building between the two sheds and joining them up (see photo HP7).
Having very little money in the club it was necessary to run a number of social and fund raising events just to keep the club going and to implement a few improvements. One of the first events was a children’s funfair on the playing field. This included a mini roundabout that had to be turned by hand. The children loved this but not so much those that had to turn that handle all day. There were also fun runs round the playing field. These were open to all and on at least one occasion it was won by one of our lady members who is still a member of the club.
About this time a manageress was installed in the Pavilion which was renamed Woodies. This name is not derived from bowls but more likely from the oak trees surrounding the playing field. We were left to run the bowling green at our own expense but soon afterwards the conditions started.
The first thing the proprietor of Woodies did was to apply for a full alcohol license. This was strongly opposed by the local residents and the main opponent was a resident of Oxford Crescent. I must state that this person was not and has never been a member of our bowls club.
The license was initially refused but eventually granted on appeal. In the meantime the grass on the playing field had been left uncut and was now about four feet high. In fact it was so high that we had to hack a path through it to reach the bowling green. Unfortunately, this tall grass went to seed and the seeds were blown onto the bowling green and then germinated. Up until then the green had consisted of fine Cumberland turf. Our greenkeepers have been slowly removing this coarse grass ever since.
Once the alcohol license was granted the playing field grass between Woodies and the bowling green got cut occasionally but the damage to the bowling green had been done.
Then the manageress of Woodies suddenly informed us that if the playing field grass was not cut by us within the next twenty-four hours we would be thrown off the green. I have never seen so many members turn up with such an array of grass cutting implements. Anyway, the job was done and we kept our bowling club. The next thing was that in return for having the bowling green we were to be responsible for the cutting of the grass on the whole of the playing field.
In the South-West corner of the playing field was a large brick building, which housed a tractor and very inefficient gang mower. Many-a-day the writer has spent cutting this field and I now consider myself quite proficient with a tractor and inefficient gang mower.
In the North-West corner of the playing field was a small disused concrete dressing room which had been allowed to become derelict. It had become a haven for underage smokers and solvent snuffers among other things. This was the target of the next task allocated to the bowling club - dismantle it!
Fortunately, one of our members was able to convince his rugby playing son that it could be beneficial to him and his team if they could do the job for us. What a magnificent job they did.
All we had to do was keep them supplied with beer while they were working. We later sold the prefabricated building to a local bowling club and thus recouped the outlay on the beer.
It would be wrong if I have given the impression that Woodies was against the bowling club. In fact the manageress was very supportive of the club and did do a lot for us. She ran a very tight ship and you could guarantee that there would never be any trouble in her public house. One of the things she introduced in the pub was evening meals. This went down a treat with the bowlers while it lasted but unfortunately there was insufficient support for it.
It was only a matter of time before Woodies proprietor submitted a planning application to build houses on the present playing fields and bowling green. As it was then Metropolitan open land the application was mercifully refused.
Before I go any further I must mention our early matches. As now, catering was a problem. Bear in mind that we had very little accommodation and therefore it was not feasible to eat in the clubhouse. When the pavilion was owned by Supreme Sports and Leisure they opened up in the afternoons just for our tea half way through a match and they provided the food but no alcohol due to the licensing hours. All day drinking had not yet been introduced. Then they decided this was too taxing on their staff so they allowed us to use the kitchen to prepare the food and to lock-up after we had had our meal. Under these rules some of our lady members turned up before a match and provided the meals for us. This became quite a task and eventually the job was done by the ladies and men’s captains who just happened to be husband and wife. We then decided to pay a local lady to come in and do the job for us. This worked quite well till she cut her finger on a rather sharp knife and decided to sue us and Supreme Sports and Leisure. For some reason or other she never went ahead with the action. This catering situation continued even after the place was taken over by Woodies but then it was decided that there was quite a security risk and the arrangement was disbanded.
Our first home match was against Colliers Wood. The result is immaterial but the one thing that sticks in my mind was the then Colliers Wood Captain referring in his speech to us being a new club and presenting us with a £10 note to help us on our way. That generous man now bowls at Rose Hill B.C.
In 1984 it was decided that we ought to have a club flag and this was duly presented by the outgoing-president to the incoming-president just before a match with Mitcham B.C. (see photo HP6). There is also a photograph displayed on the wall in the present clubhouse outside the ladies dressing room of the Supreme team on that day.
Our Club Night has always been on a Wednesday night. Wednesday night was chosen because at that time it was half-day closing in Kingston. In the early days before the club became as competitive as it is now Club Night was great fun. Afterwards the whole club would go over to Woodies and of course this pleased the management of Woodies as there were times when they used to complain that the bowlers were using their car park but not their premises.
At that time our green watering system consisted of a long pipe the length of the green, on wheels with water jets protruding from along its length. This system is considered by most to be the most efficient but also the most laborious. One thing about it though was due to its labour intensity the green was never over-watered! On Club Nights the members would be enjoying their drink when a Committee member, usually the club captain, would request two volunteers to move the sprinkler. This consisted of grabbing each end of it and dragging it a few feet to a new position. This carried on all evening till the whole green was watered. To my recollection there was never any complaint about being asked to go and move the sprinkler. Even the ladies would volunteer to do their share. Many a member came back to Woodies after moving it soaked to the skin!
Eventually Woodies proprietor decided to sell the playing fields and the new owners became Kings College, part of London University. They said at the time that the bowling club would be there as long as they owned the field. That was the only security of tenure that we had at that time and for some years afterwards.
The first thing Kings College did was to fence off the playing field as it is now. Till then the public had been using it for so long that they thought it as something that belonged to them and had been taken away from them. Consequently, they cut holes in the fence to effect their entry to the field. This still continues today but to a much lesser extent.
The next thing was that Kings College installed a new water main to the bowling club. This was very welcome as the pressure had previously been almost non-existent. However there was a small price to pay. With the new water main came a water meter. I am not in a position to know how this affects the club but soon after the water main was installed the club invested in an automatic water sprinkling system which has made life easier for everyone.
Not long after Kings College acquired the grounds Woodies was sold to its present owners who continue to have a great relationship with the Supreme and are very supportive of us.
It was then decided that we ought to look towards having a proper clubhouse. We were unable to obtain a lottery grant as we did not own or lease the premises but we did get a small grant from the Foundation for Sports and Arts. The rest of the money was raised by various loans and several fund raising events organised by the members. One of these was a car boot sale at Kingston Hospital car park. It appeared as if the whole club had cleared-out their garages and lofts (see photo HP8). Another event was a twenty-four hour bowl the proceeds of which were shared with the Royal Marsden Hospital and was held at Sutton Indoor Bowling Club. It consisted of a team of six men and two ladies who bowled continuously for twenty-four hours. They also had a very strong backup team of club members and supporters (see photo HP4). The actual marathon was shown briefly on cable television.
A clubhouse building committee was set up under the chairmanship of the writer and eventually work started (see photo’s HP12 & HP13) which included draughtsman and engineer club members. Kings College were very helpful in allowing us to construct the new building and were very much involved in its exact location. The main reason why it is not in the centre of the bank is due to the oak tree behind. This tree is protected and it is forbidden to put anything within a certain distance of it. The shell of the new building and outside cladding was purchased from and erected by contractors. All the rest of the work has been done by our own members and is still being added to.
The day the building components arrived on a very large lorry it just got through the gates at Woodies and then sunk to its back axle in mud. It was then necessary to transport every part of the building by hand over to the construction site. The generous assistance given by Kings College by allowing the use of their tractor on a pouring wet day helped to make a very difficult and tiring job much easier. A major problem with the construction of the new building was the drainage. It took weeks to find the main sewage pipe that runs under the footpath from the A3 to Windsor Avenue. The reason it took so long to find is that it is fifteen feet down. Many members have done much excellent work on the building and its surrounds and it is great credit to it members that it started from virtually nothing other than a solitary overgrown green and one decrepit little shed.
From its inception the club has had separate men’s and ladies committees. Then in 1994/95 an additional executive committee was formed and this remains the management system we still have.
Our youngest member ever would have been a founder member but at that time was more interested in climbing the trees surrounding the playing fields. The joining age for juniors at that time was fourteen so this young lad was allowed to tend the gardens at the club and in return he was allowed to have the odd supervised roll-up and was indeed quite proficient by the time he reached the joining age proper. Unfortunately, for reasons best known to him he left us in 1986 for two years and joined Malden B.C. There he was taken under the wing of a very experienced bowler that resulted in him playing in the England under twenty five team and also winning the under twenty one singles. He subsequently rejoined us and we are proud of the fact that he learned the basics of bowls at Supreme.
The most junior members the club has had at one time is four and they all went on to become senior members. However the club has embarked on a scheme to recruit more juniors and the results this season are starting to bear fruit.
Apart from our annual celebrations such as Ladies v. Men, Presidents Day, Ramsey Cup Day and Richard Spencer Trophy Day, the only other big celebrations we have had has been our Tenth Anniversary (see photo’s HP1, HP2, & HP3- recognise anybody ?), the opening of our new clubhouse, and in 2005 our 25th Anniversary (photo’s RP1, RP2, RP3, & RP4).
Those who know our club will remember that in earlier days we were not restricted by fences surrounding the playing field. One year the weather was glorious on finals day but we were unable to do anything about the fast fading light. The last final of the day which happened to be the family pairs was being played in absolute darkness until we had the brilliant idea of bringing our cars over the field to shine the headlights on the green. Can you guess who was involved? No prizes!
This is the end of what I consider to be some of the more important memories of Supreme Bowling Club. No doubt other members have their own memories and I apologise if I have not included them. We have had tours both in the U.K. and abroad but to touch on these would create a whole new book. Nevertheless, they have all been enjoyable and an integral part of our
Supreme Bowling Club History.
Written by Don Docherty