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ABC History



Alton Bowling Club was officially founded in 1884, but as early as 1790 reference was made in a property document to a bowling green on a piece of pasture north west of the Market Hotel (then called the Butchers Arms).  A Reading Mercury newspaper report on 30 May 1885 reads “The members of this recently formed club had a successful opening match at their new grounds on Wednesday week”.  In 1887 the Alton Gazette reported a meeting of the Bowling Club at the “Market Hotel at which place the bowling green is situate”.

Around 1900 the bowls club moved to a new green behind the Swan Hotel.  This picture was taken there around 1912. 

This was not the only bowling club in Alton during the early 1900s.  Local directories listed greens also at the Constitutional Club and the Liberal Club. 

During these early years the activities of Alton Bowling Club were regularly reported in the press, both local and nationwide.                                

The club’s greens had almost always been on licensed premises and because of this many people objected to playing or watching. At a dinner in 1950 a guest representative from Alton Urban Council responded to the club’s stated wish for a ‘town’ bowling green by agreeing that there was a need, and to the members’ delight in 1954 a new green and pavilion was opened in the Public Gardens.

The local press reported that “The public green is not for men alone, for we believe a women’s section is being promoted”, however things did not always run smoothly as in 1974 the ladies complained to the Council that the men “had passed a resolution preventing the ladies from playing on the green after 6pm each evening, except for competition purposes”, this probably did not last very long!  In 1995 the men’s and women’s sections merged and have since then bowled together in mixed games.

Alton BC’s bowlers have enjoyed much success over the years, achieving county level wins and providing four County Presidents.  The club celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2009 and continues today to thrive, with a membership of around 60 people who enjoy activities both sporting and social throughout the summer season.

Linda Habberfield

February 2019