KNIGHTON VICTORIA BOWLS CLUB – 125 year anniversary
ALD. W. KEMPSON
About our first president:
Born in 1805 at Kingston-on-Sour, William Kempson was a partner in a firm manufacturing boots and shoes in Rutland Street. He was a founder member of the Club and its president until his death in 1893, aged 88. Much of the Club’s initial success came from his dedication, guidance and generosity in its formative years. William Kempson was Leicester’s Mayor in 1873 and again in 1890, and laid the foundation stone of the Town Hall.
The following abridged history of the Club has been taken from the minutes of the past 125 years.
1887 – Formation of Club
At a meeting held on 24 August 1887 it was resolved that the Club be named Victoria Park Bowling Club. Twenty gentlemen constituted the Club, with power to add to their number. Subscriptions were 10s 6d per annum. Officers elected were the President Ald. W. Kempson; Vice Presidents Ald. Anderson, Aldred Paget; Secretary G Thompson; Treasurer C. Brierley.
The first social game was played on Thursday afternoon, 29 September at 3pm. “Sets” were chosen on the ground by two persons selected. Meat teas were provided after game.
1888 – First fixtures
Challenges were sent to Nottingham and Kettering for matches and a match was played against Bedford on 7 June. Four “Drivers” (skips) were appointed to select and place the 8 players named (must have played triples in those days).
It was resolved at a Committee meeting on 2 June 1888 that (1) Refreshments to be provided for the players and (2) Railway fares to be paid by the Club, but members were to pay their own personal expenses.
The first dinner was held at the Royal Hotel where 22 members and guests attended and the first AGM was held at Sunday School Music Hall on 28 March. The first Trophy to be played for cost 1/- to enter and if it was won three times it became the property of the winner.
The membership had grown to 35, and the profit for the year was £1 1s.11d.
1889 – Use of two greens
The Club had to guarantee 50 season tickets or 25 guineas yearly to Leicester Corporation for the use of two greens. Subscriptions were raised to £1 1s 0d. As the membership was less than 50 the Club had to pay the Corporation 4½ guineas under this guarantee. The Club made a deficit for the year of £1 7s 0d due to the expense of hiring marquees, travelling expenses, entertaining guests and members not dining at the Club!
Triples were played regularly – 5 sets of three. Five “Drivers” for matches were picked at Committee meetings. Marquees were provided on the home green for Kettering, Bedford and Northampton matches. The Club asked Leicester Corporation to provide a wooden hut and outbuildings for accommodation.
1891 – New fixtures
Matches were played against Bedford, Kettering, Coventry, Abbey Park, Ashby and Boston. One condition of Boston fixture was for the scores of two games to be added together and the losers of the combined games to give the winners a ‘jack’ (which appears in the accounts at 18s.). However the Committee wondered if it was wise to play further matches under these conditions as the construction of the Boston green rendered it impossible for any visitors to win there!
A Pavilion with toilets was provided by Leicester Corporation.
Ald. W. Kempson passed away on 11 October 1893 and left a legacy of £10 to the Club to purchase a shield to be called The Kempson Prize, to be the property of the Club permanently and to replace the former Trophy as the chief prize for competitions. The original trophy to be held each year by the runner up.
1894 – Formation of Midland Counties Bowling Association
Ezra Pickard, a playing member and officer of the Club called together a number of Clubs in the Midlands to form a Midland Counties’ Bowling Association. The Association was formed in February 1895 making it the first Counties’ Association in England. Ezra was elected as the first President and he remained in office for 21 years. He also served as President of the English Bowling Association in 1907.
1895 – Sir Francis Drake
The Annual Dinner became notable for a very special reason. On display were the bowls said to have been used by Sir Francis Drake in the celebrated game, which he refused to interrupt for the approach of the Spanish Armada. Mr Pickard (Vice President) borrowed these from the Plymouth Corporation for the occasion.
Fixtures with Spinney Hill and Long Eaton were arranged. The decision was taken to open the Green on Good Friday each year and the usual summer Annual Day picnic was arranged to Buxton.
“Drivers” (skips) were appointed for the season and they, with the Committee selected players and placed them.
1899 – Midland Counties Association Cup winners
In 1899 the Club won the Midland Counties Association Cup. The same year saw the first printed fixture card.
1900 – Pavilion enlarged
On Thursday, 23 August the first match was played with Northampton County Ground Club. Refreshments and a meat tea was provided free of charge. This was reciprocated at the return match on 6 September with meat tea at the Grand Hotel for 2s. per head!
During the year the Pavilion was enlarged. Club matches were still played in triples.
1901 – Midland Counties v Australians
Bowls were to be tested by Lawries (Glasgow), and no less than No 3 bias was allowed (competitions only).
Australians played a match on VPBC green, the Club provided 4 players to form a rink for the match. Result: Midland Counties 97, Australians 91.
1906 – Midlands Counties Association Cup won for the third time
The membership of the Club was 103 which was the highest number of members to date.
The Club won the Midlands Counties Association Cup by a majority of 52 points – 124 to 72. This was the third time the Club had won it.
1907 – New pavilion
A new pavilion was erected by the Corporation for bowlers use. The original plans provided for the erection of the building on the level ground but the Committee contributed Ten Pounds towards the additional expense of raising the foundation. Various gifts were made towards the furnishing of the New Pavilion including the Presidents Chair. The Club now had 90 subscribing members and 10 honorary members.
There was a revision of rules reported at the AGM, to include “……that the Club be managed by two Vice-Presidents, the Officers and Committee retire annually but be eligible for re-election, the Treasurer’s Accounts be audited by two members of the Club to be appointed at the AGM, the Committee to appoint Players for all matches with other Clubs” and “that all players on the green must only wear boots or shoes without studs”!
At a further Committee meting held on 12 April 1907 it was reported that a notice was to be put up in the Pavilion to request members to use rubber shoes!
The Annual Tournament for Members and Lady friends was held on 18 July.
During the AGM questions were asked about the supply of spirits when entertaining teams but this matter was dropped. However the proposal to supply tea to visiting teams was adopted.
1908 – Opening of New Pavilion
1908 saw the opening of the new Pavilion.
Notices were printed and fixed in the Pavilion stating that members playing in Club Competitions should not compete with Bowls under 2 bias.
During the 1908 season the Ladies looked after the Catering Department who “by their gracious presence have greatly added to the comforts of the members”!
Due to the additional expenditure in furnishing the Pavilion the Committee opened a “Pavilion Account” at the Annual Dinner and asked for members to subscribe to that account.
1909 – Furnishing the new Pavilion
Messrs Tarr and Chadwick were appointed as representatives to the English and Midland Counties’ Bowling Association.
An entrance fee of 5s was to be charged to new members owing to the expense of furnishing the new Pavilion.
1910 – Dogs not allowed on the Green!
A notice was printed and put up saying that dogs are not allowed on the Green unless on a leash by order of the Committee.
The Annual Dinner was held on 25 November at the Bell Hotel at a price of 2s 6d.
1911 – Best season
It was agreed at a Special Committee meeting that the Victoria Park BC were willing to play under the EBA rules provided the games were played in rinks of threes or fours. It was curious to note that during the season some matches were played under Midland Counties rules and some under EBA rules.
This was the most successful season of any bowling club in the country winning 29 out of 33 matches. Points for 3,400, against 2,700. Club rinks were also successful in Oxfordshire and Southern Counties’ competitions.
Twenty tons of “Rhyl”, otherwise sea washed sand from Rhyl ordered for Greens.
1912 – Club colours adopted
During the season the Club colours of Royal Blue for players was adopted and the design of the badge was also decided..
At the AGM there were long discussions regarding amendments to the Club however the only change was for the Club Handicap to be abandoned and the winners and runners-up in the Championship to hold the Kempson Shield and Trophy respectively and the game to consist of 21 ends.
1913 – Two Greens merged into one
The Pavilion was insured for £250.
A W Brook (Member) won Midlands Counties singles championship and Mr Brook and Mr H F Wigfield won the Midlands Counties pairs championship, a record in the Midlands.. Mr Brook had also been elected a member of the English Bowling Association.
During the winter months the Corporation levelled two Greens merging them into one of 42 sq yds thus complying with the Laws of the English Bowling Association.
The Club had 70 playing members and 9 honorary members.
1914 – Formation of bowling league turned down
The new Green was officially opened on 2 May when a match was played between the President’s and Vice President’s team.
Handicaps were to be played to “21 up”.
A meeting of representatives of the seven Leicester Clubs was held on 28 July 1914 at St Stephen’s Manse, De Montfort Square, Leicester at which it was unanimously decided to maintain a “Leicester Bowler’s Cot” in the Children’s Hospital at the Royal Infirmary at a cost of £30 per annum. It was decided to have a Rink Competition to be held on 17 and 19 September at a charge of 1/- entrance fee and 6d for tea which would devoted to the “Bowlers’ Cot Fund”. However the Competition was cancelled due to the War.
The match against Market Harborough to be held on 3 September was also cancelled due to the inability to bring a Team as several of their members had gone on active service.
At a Committee meeting held on 14 September it was decided that the Annual Dinner not take place on account of the War and that £10 be given from the funds of the Club to the Prince of Wales War Fund.
During the AGM a letter was read from Mr J E Walker from Belgrave Club asking if VPBC would form a Bowling League “in order that the champion Leicester team be found by the most reliable test” but this was turned down.
1915 – Bank account opened
The decision was taken and the Treasurer instructed to open a banking account at the London City and Midland Bank on behalf of the Club and that he have the power to sign cheques. The Secretary was also instructed to obtain a Leather Case to hold the Minute Book.
A Ladies Tea Committee was set up with the wife of one of the Committee’s members being the Secretary to arrange teas for the members and visitors.
Rink competitions were introduced amongst the members. The Secretary was asked to arrange fixtures with Nottingham Forest and two fixtures with Bournemouth Clubs for Whit week.
The Annual Dinner again did not take place on account of the War.
Membership of the Club declined owing to the War.
1916 – Entertaining wounded soldiers
The price of the teas was fixed at 7d. A fixture with Bournemouth Argyle was arranged for Tuesday, 13 June. The tour to Bournemouth became an annual event right through to the 1930’s.
A prominent feature of the season was entertaining six wounded soldiers from Base Hospital who were invited to tea each Saturday and Thursday when matches were not away. Members were asked to subscribe 1/- each towards the expense of “tea and smokes”. They were also allowed to play on the Green for free.
A team from VPBC won the Midland Counties Bowling Association Rink Cup.
The Club membership showed a slight increase from 63 to 71.
1917 – Bowlers’ Cot Fund still supported
The MCBA Rink Cup did not take place this season. Eight wounded soldiers were entertained during1917, however they were only invited when there were sufficient food supplies.
The Bowlers’ Cot fund was still being supported and in addition a donation was given to the Red Cross Working Party Fund.
1918 – New Pairs Competition introduced
It was decided that this season would see a new “Pairs Competition” for an entrance fee of 1/- each, consisting of 18 ends and played with 4 woods each.
1919 – Concern over condition of Green
The condition of the green caused much concern during the season. Over the past few years worms had been a problem and treatment had not been successful. Representations were made to the Estate Committee as to the relaying and draining of the Green but to no avail due to the cost. Many members threatened to resign and discontentment prevailed. After much discussion it was decided that the Club take over the maintenance of the Green and members were asked to invest £5 or less according to the cost of relaying with Scotch Turf and proper draining with cinders . The President invested £20.
The number of members was limited to 100.
The Club won the Midland Counties Cup.
1920 – Formation of “New Club”
The Club membership had almost reached its limit and the admission of new members was a record.
Following on from the successful annual Ladies Day, it was decided that Ladies would be allowed to play on the Green on Tuesday afternoons for which they would pay a ground fee.
The condition of the Green was still an issue. The options available were to lease a new Green and Pavilion from the Corporation and convert it to a Scotch Green at a cost of £25 for a 10 year lease or to excavate the present Green, filling it up with clinkers, ashes and sand and covering with Cumberland Turf at a cost of £1,000. The members voted to enquire from the Town Clerk the possibility of leasing the Green to the Club without any obligation to relay with Cumberland Turf.
The present Club as it existed was dissolved, and out of it emerged a new body, full of ideas as to the future. Shares of £10 each in the New Club were offered to members in the form of a repayable loan and interest at a rate not exceeding 5% would be paid if funds permitted payment. The new Club was named The Victoria Park Bowling Club. Five Trustees were appointed. The officers of the New Club consisted of the President, 4 Vice-Presidents, Honorary Treasurer and Secretary together with 9 members of the Committee all elected by ballot.
The annual subscription was set at £2.2.0 payable in advance and if not paid by 31 May the members were not allowed any privileges of the Club until payment had been received.
Members were requested to wear rubber or leather soled shoes on the Green without heels and galoshes were allowed to be worn over boots.
The Midlands Counties Cup was won for the second year in succession.
1921 – New Green opened
The Green had been re-laid with Cumberland Turf, eventually making it one of the finest in the Midland Counties. The opening ceremony took place on Saturday, 7 May. Attending were representatives from LBA and Presidents and Secretaries from most local Clubs. 31 new members joined the Club and 2 Honorary members making a total of 99.
A groundsman was also appointed at a wage of £2.10.0. per week.
VPBC became members of the Leicestershire County Bowling Association.
The Club had been invited to select 2 players in the match between Leicestershire County and a team from New Zealand who were touring the British Isles to be played on the Leicester Club Green on 11 May. Leicestershire won by 133 points to 88.
The Club colours of Royal Blue with a Badge were adopted by the new Club.
The Ladies were allowed to practice on the Green 2 afternoons each week up to 14 July from 3pm to 5pm except Thursdays and Saturdays.
For the third year running the Club won the Midland Counties cup creating a record for Midland Counties Association.
Mr H B Bruce, president for the past 15 years retired and he was presented with a silver tray and umbrella. He had been a member for 34 years having joined the Club in 1889. He passed away in 1923.
1922 – Deterioration in condition of Green
Owing to the dry weather the condition of the green had deteriorated and Ladies were not granted permission to play.
10 new members had joined the Club making a total of 104.
1923 – Entered Greenwood Cup for the first time
The Club entered for the Greenwood Cup for the first time. Ladies were once again allowed to practice each afternoon except Thursdays and Saturdays.
Plans were started for an extension to the Pavilion to take it to the boundary on the east side and extend the veranda for the whole length to include a ladies committee room, a ladies room and to extend the men’s room and kitchen. The estimated cost was £700 and part of the funding came by changing the rules to increase the membership from 100 to 120. However the final costings made the project unfeasible.
Double breasted blazers were adopted in the Club colour of royal blue with a shield badge with monogram in gold.
A telephone was installed in the Pavilion for the use of members at a charge of 2d per call. Gas was also laid on to the Pavilion.
1924 – Won Greenwood Cup
The extension to the Pavilion was discussed with the City Surveyors Office with a view to the Corporation providing half the funding ie £450. The balance for the extension and furnishings were to be borrowed from members in loans of not less than £10 and 6% interest was paid yearly. The subscriptions were also increased by 8/- to £2.10.0. 31 members promised to lend the Club £10.
For the first time in the history of the Club ladies were invited to the Annual Dinner.
There were 99 members. The Club won the Greenwood Cup.
1925 – Won Greenwood Cup and Midland Counties BA Cup
The Greenwood Cup was won for the second time in succession and the Midland Counties BA Cup three times in succession and six times in all.
A two rink match took place between the ladies of Victoria Park and the ladies of Western Park Bowling Club at Western Park. The VPBC ladies lost by 8 shots.
During the AGM a new scheme for Club matches was proposed and carried to enable more members to play in matches due to the increase in Clubs being played. The Clubs were to be divided into two divisions ie A and B and two selection committees of five members each were set up for each division. Each selection committee adopted the method of first choosing the skips, then the leaders and third positions and filling the second place last of all.
1926 – Morley Pairs Competition started
Mr J L Morley presented the Club with 2 cups to be competed for in a pairs competition with an entrance fee of 2/6 each player and the proceeds went to the Bowlers Cot Fund.
The Club continued to trade with the Lichfield Brewery Co Ltd and goods were continued to be supplied for the Canteen from Simpkin & James Ltd.
The Midland Red Bus Co Ltd provided a “Chara” to run members from the City to play out of town matches.
The ladies from Western Park Bowls Club were invited by the VPBC ladies for a return match.
The Greenwood Cup was won for the third year in succession.
The Club was approached by a member of Coalville Club to send any children’s boots and shoes the members had discarded for children who were shoeless through the coal strike. Two committee members were appointed to see if any members of the Club were shoe manufacturers and could help and a £2 donation from the Club accounts was also sent..
A discussion took place of changing the tennis courts into a bowling green for Ladies.
At the Annual Dinner each lady was presented with a ½lb box of chocolates at a cost not exceeding 1/9 and a bon-bon to everyone costing 4/- per doz.
1927 – Appointment of Life Governor of LRI
During the year the Leicester County Bowling Association was undergoing certain reforms including the decision that players in county matches were not eligible to have and wear the County badge until they had played in 3 inter county matches.
A total of £13.10.6 was donated for the Bowlers Cot Fund which resulted in two appointments of Life Governor of the Leicester Royal Infirmary and as Victoria Park Bowling Club were first of the list they were asked for a nominee which was Mr W France of Holmfield Road.
1928 – England v Scotland on VPBC Green
A new Club competition was introduced called the “Veteran’s Competition” whereby only members of the age of 65 and above could enter.
On 20 September a match between England and Scotland was played on the Victoria Park green, the President and Secretary of the EBA attended..
1929 – EBA finals played on VPBC Green
The semi and finals of the EBA competitions were played on the Victoria Park Bowling Green for one week in August.
There was an additional Rule of the Club to allow members to introduce Lady family members to the Ladies Room of the Club. However this privilege could be suspended by the Committee on Special Occasions.
1930 – Mixed rink competition started
It was proposed and carried that the Committee consist of nine members to be elected for three years with three retiring each year and not eligible for re-election for two years. The three members with the highest number of votes would serve for three years, the three next highest for two and the next for one.
In August a Mixed Rink Competition was held between members and ladies and this became an annual event.
The loans received from members were paid back over the next few years.
1932 – Wives and daughters allowed to use Green
Wives and daughters of members were allowed to use the green between 3pm to 5pm on Tuesday afternoons.
1933 – “Inspection of members shoes”
Private cars were used to get players to away games but there were difficulties relying on transport and after discussion it was decided to hire a motor coach for all away matches and members using their own cars should each pay their share towards the cost of the coach.
The question was also raised about having a reserve for each rink when players were selected however this suggestion was not considered workable. It was left up to skips of each rink being responsible for seeing his men turn up and in the event of any one dropping out then to fill the vacancy.
Damage had been caused on the green by members wearing shoes with cracked soles or faulty heels. The green ranger was empowered to inspect members shoes before the season started. A new process of treatment for the Green had been discovered and 2cwts of the preparation which consisted of a container of moisture had been ordered. However the edges of the Green were in need of repair and the wooden surrounds required renewing. A supply of 510 feet of creosoted red deal @ 9/- per 100 ft was ordered.
After various quotation from Simpkin & James, Challis & Allen’s, Brittain & Co and The Lichfield Brewery it was decided to obtain beers spirits and minerals from Simpkin & James. A quantity of Mitchells & Butlers Allbright Ale was purchased and sold for 9d per bottle.
Teas continued to be supplied by the members wives under the responsibility of the President’s wife who arranged for the ladies to work in sections ie 2 ladies to work alternate weeks..
After the Pavilion was officially closed at the end of the season permission was given for its use by members in the mornings only for the game of Deck Quoits. It was hoped that during November and December the Pavilion be opened on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings from 6pm to 10pm at a charge of 2/6 for the season which included the use of playing cards. Further games were purchased ie Devil among the Tailors (a form of table skittles), Part Board and a set of dominoes. However this contravened the terms of the lease when checked and after requesting permission for these games to continue the Parks Committee refused to grant the request however this did not cover card playing which continued as previously.
A Special Meeting was held in October to discuss the President’s proposal that a dinner be held at the Grand Hotel to wind up the season. After much discussion it was decided that the dinner should be entirely self supporting. Invitees would include six Presidents of other Clubs and these expenses would be borne by the Club funds. However due to the additional expenses borne by the President in connection with the Dinner he could not provide replica cups for the winners of the Pairs Competition as previously therefore they were provided from Club funds.
It was customary for Clubs to volunteer to provide toys for inmates of the Bowlers Cots and to present them on Christmas Day morning and this privilege was accorded to VPBC for 1933.
1934 – Harry Clarke Memorial Cup donated
Family members of Mr H A Clarke, who had been the secretary from 1927 to 1929, presented the Club with a Harry Clarke Memorial Cup for a Knock Out Competition. The entrance fee less expenses were donated to the Bowlers Cot Fund.
The continuing drought during the year had taken its toll on the green and the Corporation Water Department were asked for permission to use 1,000 gallons per week to water the green.
The Faire Cup Competition had been held in abeyance for two years and it was felt it was time to revive this. The rules of the Competition limited entrants to players connected with the Boot & Shoe and allied trades.
Members were also reminded to appear in proper uniform when playing matches.
1935 – Hunt Cup introduced
Difficulties had been encountered in the previous year in filling two teams for matches. Once teams had been selected a notice was put up in the Pavilion and members were requested to tick their names off 3 days prior to the date of the match. If they did not tick off a substitute was picked to play.
A new flag was presented to the Club with a white and blue ground and borders with the letter VPBC in the centre.
Silver spoons were awarded as prizes for Rink Competitions and were ordered from Walker & Hall design no 2H603.
A Mixed Game was held on the Thursday in August Bank Holiday week. This was now becoming an annual event.
During the previous year 1,600 teas had been served and it was found necessary to form a Ladies Committee with its own Secretary and Treasurer to manage the teas, with the wife of the President as the Lady President of the Committee. A Committee of 12 was formed.
The membership of the Club had fallen to 86. The subscriptions were not covering the cost of the expenses of the Groundsman with an added problem that the water and general rates had increased.
A Novices Competition was introduced for those members who were below scratch on their handicap. Mr Bert Hunt offered to present a Cup for this Competition.
1936 – winners of County Pairs Competition
The Pavilion was in great need of repair and repainting. The City Council was approached to bear the cost but they refused. The cost of materials came to £4 and the Groundsman was instructed to do the painting.
The method of team selection previously adopted caused problems with players transferring their names from one list to another. Going forward a list of 16 names in alphabetical order was posted on the notice board plus 2 reserves. Members ticked off their names and the selection for each team was selected the night before the match.
Two members of the Club won the County Pairs competition (E Brittain and P R Aldridge). A photograph of the winners with the Cup was hung in the Pavilion.
Club membership had increased to 91 plus 6 honorary members.
1937 – Club Jubilee
Due to the unsatisfactory procedures of the selection of teams in the previous year it was resolved to form two selection committees one for Thursdays and evening matches and one for Saturday matches. Each committee to consist of 4 members.
An amount not exceeding £5 was provided to decorate the Pavilion for Coronation Day. Six shields with flags, 50 yards of streamers and garlands were purchased.
Special spoons were to be ordered for Rink and other Competitions to celebrate the Clubs Jubilee 1887 – 1937 from Toye & Co in Red Lion Square. These were engraved with VPBC 1887/1937 at a cost of 5/9 each if 6 dozen were ordered.
The Club was broken into on the night of 31 May 1937 with spirits, cigars and cigarettes being stolen. A night duty constable was requested to include the premises in his rounds but as he could not get access to the Pavilion this was not possible.
Mr A W Brook presented the Club with a Cup for a competition between members of Leicester and Victoria Park Clubs.
The County Singles Championship was won F J Reynolds.
1938 – introduction of Presidents Badge
One incident during the year involved a Mrs Smith who having arrived too late to take part in the game on the Ladies Green was asked by her husband to join a rink on the men’s green. The Groundsman objected to this and in consequence a ruling was taken to the effect that this was not to be allowed.
The Club membership had dropped again and this was thought to be down to the subscriptions being too high.
The balance in hand at the end of the year was £105 after repaying 16% of the share capital from the members. £50 of the balance was invested in a £50 paid up share in the Permanent Building Society bringing in 3% in 12 months.
The President thought that a Club of the standing of the Victoria Park should not be behind other Clubs and should possess a Presidents Badge for use during the term of office. The cost was to be no more than £6.
1939 – Annual Dinner cancelled due to outbreak of war
Charas were still being used for out of town matches although members with private cars took players to City matches. However, it was suggested that players, with the exception of the car owner, pay 1/- per head towards the funds of the Club. Apparently this caused strong feelings of dissatisfaction and this resolution was therefore rescinded.
It was decided that nominations for the office of Trustee be confined to past Presidents only.
The membership was down yet again to 87.
The Annual Dinner was cancelled due to the outbreak of the War.
1940 – Provision of teas becoming a problem
The provision of teas was becoming a problem due to rationing. There was also a need for a better black out of the Pavilion and plywood sheets were purchased for the windows and a curtain for the doorway.
As from 1 May to the close of the playing season the Groundsman was awarded a War Bonus of 5/- a week.
Ladies Day was cancelled due to the “critical national situation”. However a mixed game was played instead for the benefit of the Dunstans Society for blinded Soldiers. Entrance fees for competitions were given to the War Charities Effort. A total of £41 was collected and 35 Guineas were allocated as follows: 20 Guineas to the Red Cross, 6 Guineas to the Railway Station Canteen Fund and 9 Guineas to be disposed of at the discretion of the Executive Committee of the Fund.
1941 – HM Forces allowed to join Club
The Groundsman had accepted a post of Fire Watcher with hours from 7pm to 7am however he continued to carry on his duties at the Club.
Members of HM Forces were allowed to join the Club however the number was limited to 12 and the fee was £2 2s 0d.
A total of £60 18s 0d was donated to the War Charities Fund. In connection with the War Efforts Fund the Club had acted as hosts for one week at the refreshment room for Service men and women at the LM & S Station
1942 – Winners of Knock Out Competition
A letter had been received from the Regional Officer of the Ministry of Health relating to the use of the Pavilion for the accommodation of homeless persons in the event of serious air raids on Leicester. The Committee Room was used for storage by the British Red Cross Society for a quantity of beds, bedding and other supplies for use in case of emergency.
Instead of flowers being grown round the Green, the Groundsman had planted tomatoes and lettuce for the benefit of the Club.
Leicester Corporation held a public sporting event during the first two weeks in August. A knock out competition was also being held and each bowls club was asked to enter 4 rinks. The games were played on public park greens. The competition was won by the Club who beat the Leicester Club in the final, having previously beaten Spinney Hill Park, Aylestone Park and Belgrave.
A Bring and Buy Auction was held on behalf of the War Efforts Fund. In total £50 had been raised during the year.
Attendance at Committee meeting had not been good due to members being on civil defence and other duties.
1943 – Use of outside caterers for teas
Teas for matches were now being supplied by outside caterers who charged 1/- per head up to a maximum of 40 but the menu did not include green salad. The teas were available for match players and the ladies at a charge of 1s 3d per head. Members not taking part in matches were allowed to bring their own eatables and pay 3d for the service.
Alcoholic drinks were not allowed to be consumed outside the Pavilion door including the veranda and any ladies wishing to have an alcoholic drink were to be served in the Committee room when it was not being used for meetings. The Pavilion remained open however this was dependent on the level of supplies.
Due to the condition of the green the turn on all four sides had been taken up and new turf laid costing £82.
Membership increased to 98.
1944 – Evening matches abandoned
Providing teas for matches was still an ongoing problem. Owing to the tightening up of supplies and lack of transport the caterer could not undertake to cater throughout the season. Enquiries were made at the Food Office regarding the possibility of obtaining a Catering Licence which was granted and the ladies continued to supply the teas.
The state of the Green was still of concern especially as the water supply was from a 2” hydrant costing £16 per quarter in water charges when a ½ inch hydrant was more than sufficient. However a ¾ inch meter was finally settled on at a rent of £2 5s 0d for 25,000 gallons during each quarter.
The tables in the Pavilion needed recovering in green baize at a price of 8/6d per table for 12 tables. However this also required 42 coupons so it was decided to leave the matter until after the War.
Evening matches were abandoned during the season.
A total of £200 was raised for the War Efforts Fund together with £20 for the Bowlers Cot Fund.
1945 – “Playing of mouth organs and singing”
Weekly tickets were available to admit bowlers as members of the Club at a fee of 5/- per week. Such members were entitled to all the amenities of the Club but were not allowed to vote or have a voice in the management.
The Pavilion and Green were insured against accident liability with Yorkshire Insurance Co for £111s 6d per annum.
Messrs Hubbard, Pickering and Brittain donated 3 cups for a Triples Competition.
During the Committee meeting held on 29 May the Secretary suggested that the history of the Club be written by a member from the minute books dating from the foundation of the Club to 1945.
The Red Cross and Prisoners of War Fund was closed so any funds raised were put to the Bowlers Cot Fund.
One Saturday match held on the home Green was regarded as not being in the interest of the Club’s reputation and future as after the game “the playing of mouth organs and the singing of unsuitable songs” was objected to.
Petrol rationing had eased towards the end of the season and it was possible to hire transport for out of town matches.
1946 – Pavilion fire
On 9 April 1946, two weeks before opening day, a fire seriously damaged the inside of the Pavilion and its contents however the Green was not affected. Home matches were postponed for a time and visiting teams were advised. In spite of this misfortune which, though bad, might have been worse, members and visiting Clubs rallied round. Practically all engagements were completed in spite of the general discomfort and lack of light, heat and shelter and our inability to offer teas to visitors. The damage was satisfactorily covered by insurance.
Food and other rationing continued and was expected to do so for some time.
1947 – Pavilion fully renovated
The year was marked by the fact that the Club enjoyed the full use of a renovated and much improved Pavilion following the disastrous fire which occurred just prior to the opening date of the previous season.
An innovation was introduced by holding Club Competitions during August Bank Holiday week, one being a 2-wood Singles Competition and remainder Rink Contests, prizes being awarded to the winners by generous donors within the Clubs membership.
1948 – Second fire
The second fire on 16 June 1948 was much more serious than the previous one in 1946. The whole of the Pavilion and all its contents were totally destroyed. Irreplaceable losses, such as the Honours Board and photographic records of Presidents over the past 30 years or more were particularly regretted. Members’ woods and clothing were destroyed.
Insurance cover was adequate and £2,763 was paid out, of which a new pavilion was built and members were reimbursed for loss of apparel and woods.
To keep the Club going woods were offered by most bowling Clubs in the area. Victoria Ladies’ BC offered the use of their pavilion for tea and entertainment.
A match was held against he Victoria Ladies Club with tea afterwards. All players were to turn up in cream flannels in honour to the Ladies who it was thought would turn out in their official bowling rig.
1949 – Restoration of Pavilion
The Pavilion was restored. In order for members who had lost clothing in the fire they had to apply for extra clothing coupons to enable their lost items to be replaced.
1956 – discussion of new lease
It was proposed that a score board should be used for all competitions where possible, particularly for County Competitions, it being felt that it was desirable that the progress of competitions should be readily communicated to the spectators.
Talks were held regarding the possibility of a renewal of the lease. It appeared that the whole thing boiled down as to when the University College would require further building extensions.
A deputation from VPBC was received by the University Registrar to enquire about forthcoming developments of the University in so far as it affected the land on the east side of Mayor’s Walk. It was learnt that building would commence on the existing tennis courts in 1957. A further building would be commenced, it was hoped in 1958, which would particularly affect the existing car park. By 1959 it was hoped to start a building between the car park and the park boundary, and in 1960, to start a building which would go across the two bowling greens. The only thing the University could do would be to extend the lease from year to year.
1957 – the hunt for new sites
In view of the petrol shortage as a result of the Suez crisis it was felt that members would not be able to offer their cars for transport to away matches. However, prior to the start of the season, it was announced that petrol would soon be de-rationed.
It now seemed certain that the club would have to move after the 1959 season and it was therefore decided to look for alternative likely sites. It was estimated that the total cost of land, pavilion and laying of the green was likely to be in the region of £4,300. A sub-committee was set up to advertise for suitable land in the Welford Road, Knighton and Stoneygate areas and a list of probable sites was obtained from the City Surveyor’s office which included two sites in Craighill Road, a site in Southernhay Road, one in Carisbrooke Road, and land in Church Lane, Knighton.
It was reported that Scott’s land in Church Lane was for sale at £1,200, and that the Leicester Corporation were prepared to pay £450 for the land left to them after allowing the club 5,000 sq. yds. at the end nearest to the town. It was decided to accept a contract in respect of this land on behalf of the club.
1958 – Last year at Victoria Park
During discussions with the University College architect with a view of ascertaining and securing the right of a new access to the Pavilion and Green, owing to building operations which had been recently commenced on the present approach, the architect “dropped a complete bomb shell” by saying that 1958 would be the last year of tenure of the present site as the University Building Plan was taking part of VPBC’s green for building purposes early in January 1959. The Plan also showed trial holes to be made in the green during 1958.
Bearing in mind that the Club, many years ago, had laid and paid for the present turf, consideration was given to taking up the Green and moving it to the new site but in view of the age of the turf and the labour costs involved it was suggested that it would be more economical and satisfactory in the long run to lay a new Green consisting of new sea wash turf.
However there were difficulties in the purchase of the land as it was originally designated as an Old People’s Rest Garden and in order to sell that part of the land the Club required the project had to be taken out of the Town Planning Act and the alteration put before the Houses of Parliament. A petition was raised objecting to the land being used as a Bowling Green, however there were insufficient votes to carry it through.
Mr Goffrey, a member, was to take over the architects work and members helped to clear the site. Unfortunately largely owing to the actions of the City Planning Committee, the original estimate had risen to £8/9,000. The original plans had to be amended several times, firstly as the pavilion had to have fire-proof materials incorporated in the structure, alteration of the slope of the roof etc. This was due to the site being adjacent to a public road and in a good class area. As a result, although it had originally been envisaged that the building would be of brick construction the lowest tender had to be accepted which was to be mainly of wood. However owing to by-laws at the time permission was only granted for this type of building for 5 years and provided it was kept in good repair a renewal could be applied for. At the time it was thought that this type of building would last for at least 40 years with proper maintenance.
To help pay for this a grand prize draw was held with the first prize being a TV; a Bring and Buy sale, which became an annual event; subscriptions were increased to £5 5s. 0d; a loan from the Playing Fields’ Association £100; loans from members amounting to £3,060 and various subscriptions of £2,120. An entrance fee of £10 10s. 0d. was introduced for new members,
Letters were received from Humberstone Park, Narborough, Goodwood, West Bridgford in Nottingham, Oadby, Abbey Park, Kettering Lodge and Blaby Bowling Clubs offering the loan of their Greens for the 1959 season until the new green was ready. The President of the Victoria Park Ladies’ Club also offered the loan of 2-3 rinks on their green.
At the end of the season the Pavilion was cleared and all items put into storage.
1959 – New site and new name
The members of the Club rallied round in getting the new Green up and running …..
“…..time spent by Mr L A Rodwell and Mr A Law in taking down most of the derelict greenhouses on the new green.
…..through the generosity of Mr S A Clarke, a strong wire mesh fence was erected at his expense at the south end of the green, also the hedges on both sides of the green had been layered, also the ditch piped and filled in and put in proper order by Mr Clarke’s son at a reduced cost.
…..the President, Mr S A Clarke promised the complete electrical installation of the pavillion and Mr G H Moore promised a gas boiler.
…..Messrs W Everards & CoLtd were prepared to put in the bar a small machine for the purpose of utilising draft bitter beer and the first nine gallons would be free.
…..Mr S W Goodson offered to supply the necessary paint for the inside painting of the pavilion.
…..the Hon. Secretary, Mr C W Attenborough, was prepared to hand to the club a new score board. His gift was duly accepted.
….Mr S W Goodson felt he would like the new club to start the season with new bowling jacks and he was quite prepared to stand the expense of eight of these.”
After much hard work and several delays Opening Day was Wednesday, 3 June 1959. The new name of the Club was Knighton Victoria Bowls Club.
Again it was necessary to ask for loans from members which would be repaid in 3 years. The Clubs Football Sweep was started in order to raise much needed funds.
Early season fixtures were played on away greens wherever possible or otherwise cancelled. The Club competitions were restricted to the Championship, Hunt Cup and Morley Pairs.
After the installation of warm air heating winter activities were commenced starting with a New Year’s Eve party in 1960. It was agreed that the Pavilion would also be open on Monday and Thursday evenings during the closed season.
1960 – Ladies not allowed in main room
The General Committee of the University Council agreed to our request to allow an area of land on the south side of Knighton Hall Estate to enable the club to make an adequate car park for its members, the club to erect and maintain an adequate fence around the area and to pay an annual acknowledgement fee of 10/-. (This fee is still paid today – just 50p per annum)
During the playing season ladies were not allowed in the main room and a special room set aside for their convenience.
The Club introduced a competitive element to Saturday matches by setting up a good “A” team and as good as possible “B” team. The aim was for a player to gain experience in a “B” team position before being given a place in the “A” team.
The Green was in poor condition and 6 tons of sterilised soil was ordered however in some places the green was 2” lower than at the highest peak of the green. Play ceased earlier than the official closing day to enable the green to be improved which involved taking up approximately 1/3 of the green and relaying.
It was agreed that photographs of the Presidents be hung round the walls of the main Club house following the same idea as the old Club and in standard frames.
1962 – St Johns Trophy Competition resumed
The annual competition known as the St Johns Trophy Competition with Leicester Bowling Club was resumed. The competition had not been played due to the condition of the Green.
There were a number of burglaries at the Club which meant that bar windows and shutter had to be installed.
It was proposed and seconded that members wives be admitted in the main pavilion on Thursdays and Saturdays during the playing season but only after 8pm.
1979 – Bowls stickers introduced for matches
Bowls stickers in Club colours were introduced for matches.
The Club failed by one shot from becoming County Club Champions and instead of the Atkins Shield were presented with the Biesheuvel Cup.
The Club rules were changed to allow only 40 non playing members and those members would have no interest in the assets of the Club but were allowed to have full voting rights and also may be elected as Officers.
1980 – Knighton Ladies Tea Club
A Ladies Committee was formed which was known as the “Knighton Ladies Tea Club”.
1981 – Reduction in number of members
The number of members was reduced from 120 to 105 in the Rules.
1983 – Plans to extend Club House
Plans were in hand for extending the Club House at the side of the Green. The Club finances were in decline and the decision was taken to consider applications for the hire of the Club House for functions during the playing season on Saturday evenings after 8pm.
1984 – Appointment of Promotion Manager for Centenary
A Promotion Manager was appointed for a period of 3 years to promote the Centenary year of the Club in 1987.
1985 – proposal for indoor bowling green
Each member was asked for a donation of £5 each towards the cost of the Centenary year.
A proposal was put forward by a club member to build a 6 rink Indoor green on stilts over the Car Park and over the Clubhouse itself and eventually demolish the existing premises and rebuild in a more modern manner. A businessman had been contacted who was interested in putting up the money to build and share in the project as a business venture. A feasibility study was set up to consider the proposals.
The majority of the Committee were against the decimation of the Club etc and it was agreed that the Committee should consult their solicitor who attended a Committee meeting and said as the club were approaching its centenary and with much tradition behind it, no way should this be sold off as a business venture so that the K V B C as such lost its identity. The Committee was unanimous in accepting this advice.
It was decided to approach the Brewery and Bank for a loan to build the original idea of a 4 rink green. The Brewery pointed out that they were in the business of selling beer and not making loans therefore the project was shelved.
1987 – Centenary Year
For the Centenary Year Six special matches had been arranged some of which had been sponsored. A new dress tie and a new flag were purchased.
The cost of the Centenary on special events and promotional gifts came to £2,410.33 and after sponsorships and donations of £844.46 and other special collections make an overall loss of £420 which came out of Club funds.
An active social and playing programme for the membership of around 150 (of which over 100 are playing members) makes Knighton Victoria a Club with a proud past and a positive future.
1990 – Installation of new watering system
One of the best summers ever enjoyed by bowlers so far due to the hours of sunshine but this also brought problems of keeping the Green in good condition. A new watering system was installed.
A new Club tie was introduced which would become “The Club Tie” and which “must be worn on all occasion when members are representing KVBC”.
Again KVBC were runners-up in the Atkin Shield losing against Leicester BC and although the Club maintained it’s position in Division 1 of the Leicester and District league the triples team were relegated to Division 3 of the South Leicestershire triples league for the 1991 season.
1997- Ladies allowed in Club on Monday nights
The President put forward a suggestion that Ladies should be allowed in the Club on a Monday night during the winter season, however this was received with much opposition mainly because KVBC was a time honoured men’s club and it was only time that the men had the Club to themselves! It was also felt that some members would cease to attend which would be a financial loss for the Club. It was also suggested that “if you look for sexism try joining the Townswomen’s Guild or the Women’s Institute”. The men at KVBC wanted to retain the custom and tradition of a men’s only Club.
1998 – Junior Internationalist
Dean Harrison won the tournament at Eastbourne and the under 25’s National Two Fours Competition at Worthing with Steve Wade. Dean also gained International recognition in the Junior International series held in Belfast.
The Triples team who played in the ‘E’ Division gained promotion to the Leicester & District team and became runners up in the 1st Division.
Sunday lunches were organised for the first Sunday of each month and Quiz nights were started to be held.
1999 – Financial discrepancies
A disastrous year for the Club with a deficit of £4,000. Unfortunately due to financial discrepancies security measures had to be taken and locks were changes on the bar and strong room, a new cash till was purchased and new procedures were put into place for booking money and for stocktaking.
On a more positive note Dean Harrison was selected for the England under 25s International Series in Scotland and National under 25s. Andy Irons won the Champion of Champions and the Club had a rink in the County Fours at Worthing, quarter finalists in the 2x24s Nationals and Atkins Shield. Knighton also won the Division 2 League and the A Division Triples.
2000 – Introduction of coloured shirts
An electric fence was purchased and installed to stop a fox which had been causing problems on the green.
Yellow shirts had been ordered for the season however one member in particular disagreed with the introduction of coloured shirts and a letter was received from Leicestershire Bowls Association covering several recommendations on the wearing of coloured shirts. It was required that for all daytime and other designated matches players should arrive in white shirt, club tie and blazer, then change into the coloured shirt and back again after the match. However for League matches, triples and Atkin Shield players may arrive in coloured shirts and not change after the game. However the Committee received a letter from members of the Red Saturday team expressing the preference of the majority of that team to revert to white shirts for the rest of the season. The Committee granted this request.
The Bill Johnson Trophy was awarded to the Club by his family for the sponsoring of a competition. The Trophy consisted of a silver salver and glassware.
2001- Ladies Section started
There was concern regarding falling membership numbers not only in KVBC but also other Leicestershire clubs. The introduction of lady members was discussed and an EGM was held on this issue. The Club wanted to apply for a Lottery Grant and a grant from the Leicester County Council however these grants would not be available to an “all male club”. In addition the LBA were in favour of mixed bowling. One concern regarding the introduction of lady members was that they would “freeze the men out”!
A vote was taken with the motion being carried and a ladies section was introduced. Due to the lack of facilities, limited access and no team bowling, prospective lady members subscriptions were £20 to encourage ladies who were members of other clubs to move to KVBC. Ladies were allowed to play in friendly matches providing men were not available, they did not make up a complete rink and the opposing Club agreed.
2002 – Affiliation to the EWBA
White shirts were once again resumed for Saturday and Thursday teams. However the Club colours were on the collar and sleeves and the Club badge on the breast.
The members of the Ladies Section exceeded 12 and could apply to be affiliated to the EWBA which was granted.
2003- Brian Smith elected LBA President
Brian Smith was elected LBA President.
The ladies membership had increased to 21 and the Bert Yardley Cup was introduced for the ladies championship competition.
2009 – Club House extenstion
An extension to the Club House was completed which consisted of new toilets for the ladies, a disabled toilet and a new lounge.
2012 – 125th Anniversary
Special matches were arranged against the EBA, LBA and Midland Counties but the highlight of the season was visit to the Royal Household.