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Time For Bowls

The bowls’ season is with us once more, affording us another opportunity to look at the unique cross sport links that exist in our club.

Many cricketers and rugby players followed up years out on the main Ashbrooke field with a move to the bowling green in the ground’s south west corner. In addition both Durham County CC and Sunderland CC have used the bowls pavilion as a backdrop for photographs. This means that some of the very greats of the game of cricket (including both Sir Learie Constantine and his father) have graced the grounds of the bowling club.

 In addition the bowling club itself is recognised as one of the finest in the land – a recognition confirmed by references to it in two major sporting history publications.

In 2010 English Heritage produced a volume in its ‘Played In’ series entitled ‘Played in Tyne and Wear.’ In praising our bowls pavilion, its author noted;

‘With its wonderfully atmospheric wood panelled interior and a delightful elevation facing the green, it is the second oldest surviving bowls clubhouse in Tyne and Wear, and the sixth oldest sports related building of any type in the region. It is also, assuredly, one of the most handsome.’

  The paragraph was accompanied by pictures of the pavilion both outside and inside.

Five years later Hugh Hornby published a history of the greens of England and via word and picture noted the historical importance of our club;

‘Ashbrooke is a rare example of a surviving Victorian multi-sport club where six different sports are still played. The bowling green was opened in 1889, two years after the main grounds, with the bowls pavilion following in 1906.’

He also referenced the survival of links to cricket;

‘Victorian and Edwardian bowling greens were often next to cricket grounds  - now only a few remain such as at Ashbrooke (Sunderland) and Aigburth (Liverpool).’ 

And he was keen to spend time on describing our ever popular Tuesday and Thursday members’ competition. Not unique in format, it may be in name!

‘At Sunderland the term used is jumbles. Whichever team wins on the day has a card with their names on put into the jumbles box - At the end of the season the player whose name appears most often on the winning team, and it could as well be a novice as an old hand, wins the jumbles trophy.’

And the final feather in the Ashbrooke cap was;

‘After visiting nearly 1,000 bowls clubs around Britain, the team considers the following pavilions to be worthy of consideration for listing ( either on national lists or local lists – Blackburn Subscription, Fulwood Conservative Club, Sunderland BC (1906) and Victoria B C Norwich.’

As my grandad used to say – ‘nuff said’! Tucked away in its own ‘small corner’ Sunderland Bowling Club may have missed the attention of some ‘main clubbers’. If that is the case a trip across the field when there are bowlers around should ensure a warm welcome.

The photograph is of the teams taking part in the 1912 cricket match between Durham County and Australia. Our bowls’ club house is instantly recognisable.


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