The Club plays on a six rink grass outdoor bowling green which is maintained by club members. Men's and Ladies' Changing Rooms are provided together with associated facilities and on-site the club has access to comfortable dining & function rooms and a licensed bar. The playing season runs from April through to October and the Club enjoys a full and comprehensive programme of fixtures, for both men and ladies. These range from friendly matches to the more serious National Club, County League and Luton & District League Matches.
In addition, members may participate, both individually and collectively, in the County Tournaments (Singles, Pairs, Triples and Fours). The Champions and Runners Up in these Competitions go on to represent Bedfordshire in the 'Bowls England' National Championships at Leamington Spa.
Luton Town Bowling Club's record of achievement is unparalleled in the world of Bedfordshire County bowling. The Club has won the County's inter-club championship, known as the Harmsworth Cup 27 times, most recently in 2015 and in recent times the Club has dominated the County League Division 1 in emphatic style.
The most spectacular year of success came in 2003 when the Club secured the U25's and senior Singles Titles, the Pairs and Triples. Added to which Tom Cawdell went on to win the National U25 Singles Title at Worthing later in the year.
We can boast:
01… National Fours Champions (1928)
01… English National U25 Champion (2003)
01… Eastern Counties Singles Champion (2007)
01… Eastern Counties Triples Champions (2007)
01… Eastern Counties Fours Champions (1993)
26… County Singles Champions 4 woods (most recently in 2012)
02… County Singles Champions 2 woods (most recently in 2013)
17… County Pairs Champions (most recently in 2016)
12… County Triples Champions (most recently in 2016)
19… County Fours Champions (most recently in 2008)
16… London & Southern Counties Championships (most recently in 1999)
Luton Town Bowling Club was formed at a meeting held in the Mayor’s Parlour of the Town Hall, Luton on the 23rd October 1906. The purpose of the meeting was to elect a Committee to administer the affairs of the newly formed Luton Bowling Club for the season 1907. The elected Committee comprised:
- President: His Worship, The Mayor of Luton, Edwin Oakley, (The custom of the Mayor of Luton being elected as Club President was to continue until 1920)
- Vice President: Hugh Cumberland
- Chairman: Alderman Wilkinson
- Secretary: Mr E Inwards
- Treasurer: Henry Shane
- Captain: Arthur Staddon
- Vice Captain: Mr J Prior
This august group of gentlemen were the Borough of Luton’s 'movers and shakers' of the day. The Club’s HQ for the time being was the Temperance Hotel in Bute Street (Click image to magnify and restore), although from May 1912 the Committee venue transferred to the Liberal Club where they remained for a good number of years. The first task of the new Committee was to make an Application to the Borough of Luton Park’s Committee to share the public bowling green in Wardown Park.
The Application was favourably received and the ground rent agreed at £5 per season. The Club wasted no time in gaining affiliation to the English and London and Southern Counties Bowling Associations.
The second task was the purchase of one dozen jacks, one dozen tapes and ‘six pairs of bowls of third quality’. The bowls were made available to Club members on the production of their membership card, provided always that they were cleaned after use with ‘oil and cloth’!
The first match, a practise game, took place on the 27th April 1907 when the Club played against the Vice President’s Team. The first fixture was away to Russell Park, Bedford on the 16th May 1907. To bide the time between Club fixtures, the Club organised a singles tournament, which ran from 13th July culminating with the Final on the 13th September 1907. The winner received the Captain’s Trophy which in later years was renamed ‘The Staddon Trophy’.
The finalists received medals engraved on the front with the Club’s initials and the winner had his name engraved on the back. The entrance fee for the tournament was 6d (2.5p).
All ties were played to ’21 points’ and bowls further than 6 ft ( 1.8 m ) from the jack did not count. This was later to be reduced to 3ft (0.9m), tough or what! A member of the Committee was designated to attend all ties to ensure fair play and to ‘act as referee’. The winner of the tournament in it’s inaugural year was Mr E A Stokes, one of 49 competitors.
To round the first season off the Club organised it’s first supper on the 12th November 1907 at the Luton Baths to be followed by a ‘smoker and whist drive’. The price per head was 1s 6d (7.5p). This event was described in the Club minutes of the day as a ‘smoking concert’! I doubt such a description would find favour today! In later years the venue was to alternate between the George Hotel and the Red Lion in George Street.
The Club’s first AGM was held on the 4th February 1908, when subscriptions were set for the forthcoming season at 2s 6d (12.5p) with an additional 2s 6d payable on application for membership. The Club had a membership of 56 and finished its first season with a modest profit of 6s 7d (33p), played 15, won 9, lost 5 and drawn 1.
In 1909 the Club considered a move to ground in Studley Road on a 7 year Lease but this was rejected, since the asking rent of £25 per annum was considered to be excessive. In 1910 a new green and pavilion was opened on the 30th April in Wardown Park. To commemorate the occasion the Mayor of Luton presented a silver jack stand in the name of Luton Bowling Club to the Captain’s wife, Mrs Staddon. Notwithstanding the benefit of the new green, the Committee continued to search for an alternative location remote from Wardown Park.
This search culminated with the purchase of land off Old Bedford Road from Mr H Impey in December 1911 which is where the Club has remained to this day. To facilitate the acquisition a company was formed, ‘Bowling Greens Limited’, which was later to be renamed ‘Luton Town Bowling Club Limited’. The founding directors of this company were:
- Henry Shane (Chairman)
- Mr G R Worboys (Company Secretary)
- Mr E Gudgeon (Director)
- Mr T Keens (Company Auditor)
The money to build the pavilion and lay a new green was funded through the issue of debentures and shares and the facilities rented back to the Bowling Club at a rent of £12 12s 0d (£12.60p) per annum.
A Green Sub-Committee was set up to obtain Tenders for levelling and laying a new green and for the management of the Green thereafter. This Sub-Committee comprised of three members, Messrs Neil, Shane and Robinson. The matter of water supply for the Green was discussed in earnest but, owing to the extraordinary price the water company were asking to connect up a supply (no surprise there), it was resolved to obtain a pump and engine to enable water to be extracted from a well on the site.
The next step was to advertise for the position of Groundsman in the Luton News. This led to the first appointee on the 15th March 1912, Mr S Wiseman, who was employed on a wage of 10s 6d (52 p) for ‘three whole days or six half days as the Committee request’. The new Green was officially opened on the 4th May 1912 by the Club President, Mr H O Williams. Local dignitaries were invited and tea was taken on The Green.
It seemed appropriate therefore that the Club should win the Harmsworth Cup in the same year, the first time the cup had been played for. At the AGM on 6th December 1912 the Club adopted the colours of emerald green and old gold, a matter which was deemed to be sufficiently important to publicise in the ‘Luton News’.
The Club went from strength to strength at it’s new home and the fixture list expanded, including fixtures against St Albans Liberals, Finsbury Park, Wellingborough, Wood Green, North Clapton and Bracknell in addition to those closer to home. Such was the pressure on the Club’s resources that at the AGM in December 1913 membership was limited to 100. Subscriptions for existing members was set at £1 5s 0d (£1.25), a tenfold increase in five years and for new members inclusive of joining fee at £2 2s 0d. (£2.10).
At the end of the 1913 season the Green was taken up and re-laid with Cumberland Turf for the princely sum of £245. The Committee deemed that this called for an official re-opening of the Green which subsequently took place on 2nd May 1914. The Guest of Honour was none other than Mr C B Harmsworth MP.
The opening was attended by representatives from all clubs across the County and the County President of the day. It would be fair to say that the Club was now entering the Golden Years. From 1913 to 1939 the Club enjoyed unprecedented success. There were in fact only two years during this period when the Club did not get on the County Honours Board in one form or another.
In the late 1920s the Club expanded its horizons with the creation of a tennis section and thriving social club, to be complemented and extended still further in the 1930’s by the addition of a table tennis section.
From 1940 to 1943 the buildings on the site were requisitioned by the War Department but for what purpose heaven only knows! When the buildings were returned to the Club in mid 1943 a number of improvements and modifications were necessary, including the introduction of mains electricity for lighting and power which was laid to the premises from Wardown Crescent.
Slowly but surely life assumed a greater sense of normality post war, both on and off the Green.
For the Club it was business as usual and the honours continued to flow throughout the 40s and 50s.
This period saw the emergence of Luton Town Bowling Club’s favourite son, Stan Jackson, without doubt the finest bowler the County has ever produced and one of the top bowlers of his generation in the Country.
Stanley Albert Jackson represented England sixteen times between 1947 and 1958.
Arguably the pinnacle of his bowling career came in 1951 when he was runner up in the Singles of the All England Championships narrowly losing in the final to A Pikesley of St Albans.
Born at Ramsgate in Kent, Stan was a member of Luton Town Bowling Club for many years. He was Bedfordshire’s Singles Champion in 1938, 1946, 1952 and 1953, won the pairs in 1958 and 1960, the Triples in 1952 and 1955 and the Fours in 1953.
He enjoyed further success in the London and Southern Counties Tournaments winning the Gold Badge in successive years in 1957 and 1958 and the Lonsdale Trophy in 1953.
He spent much of his working life in the retail furniture trade, primarily in a management role, eventually becoming a Partner in a carpet and furniture business in Harpenden. Stan passed away in December 1992 aged 87. His contribution to the development and reputation of Luton Town Bowling Club is immeasurable.
The only glitch during this period was the fire in 1952 which consumed the clubhouse and with it the club's post war records. But all was not lost!
In 1956 Ena Cawdell founded the Ladies Section. It seems, therefore, entirely appropriate that her daughter, Wendy MacLaughlan is Ladies Captain in the club’s centenary year.
From the mid 1960s the Club entered a difficult period, both on and off the Green. It wasn’t only the bowlers who were suffering but the tennis section also, who were experiencing falling membership and declining revenue. Successes on the Green between 1965 and 1972 were few and far between.
The situation reached breaking point in 1972 when the shareholders of Luton Town Bowling Club Limited, despite their best endeavours, ended up selling the freehold of the site to the Luton Conservative Club on a sale and lease back basis despite having had better offers for the site from builders and developers.
The tennis section had by now already ceased to function, so Luton Town Bowling Club were granted a new Lease exclusively.
The Club enjoyed a mini renaissance on the Green from 1974 through to 1984, after which time results fell away again and the Club managed only two County Championships, the Triples in 1987 and the Fours in 1993, the latter of whom went on to win the Eastern Counties Championship in the same year, the only Luton Town Bowling Club players ever to win an Eastern Counties Title.The four comprised (left–right)… Trevor James, Mick Battams (Sub. for Steve Peck), John Pinnock and Rollie Cawdell.
Not only was the Club starved of success during this period, but the Luton Conservative Club were also struggling to make ends meet culminating in a Planning Application to the Local Authority in 1995 to redevelop the site for residential use. Included in the application was a proposal to relocate the Bowling Club to a remote site on the edge of town.
At this time morale was low and membership had dropped to an all time low, below 50 for the first time.
The Planning Application for redevelopment of the site was subsequently turned down by the Luton Borough Council and as a consequence the Conservative Club were left with little option other than to sell out to The Luton Masonic Hall Company Limited who acquired the site in 1996.
It was the commitment of Dick Billington (President), Jack King (Trustee), George Chesters (Treasurer) Roger Manning and Rollie Cawdell that secured the future of the Club during this very difficult transitionary period. Sadly George and Jack are no longer with us but their legacy remains.
The Club had been thrown a lifeline and under their new Landlords the Committee set about the reorganisation of the Club, both on and off the Green. Coloured shirts were adopted for the first time in the Club’s history and the team sheets hinted at a more youthful outlook with the introduction of 2nd and 3rd generation sons and daughters of established bowlers coming on stream. The image change was complete with the introduction of the Club Website. Slowly the tide turned.
In 1999 Roger Manning won the London & Southern Counties Lonsdale Trophy (Singles) last won by Stan Jackson in 1953, the County Fours was won in 2000 and the year after in 2001 Peter Burt won the County Tompkins Cup (Singles), the only Luton Town Club official ever to win this Trophy.
Then followed a spectacular year of success in 2003 with the Club bringing home the County Singles, Pairs, Triples and U25 Singles Championships and additionally winning Division II of the County League and finishing Runners Up in the Harmsworth Cup.
The icing on the cake was Tom Cawdell’s success in going on to win the EBA Under 25 National Single’s title at Worthing. Tom is one of only two National Champions that the Club has ever produced, the first being the Fours in 1928 comprising Messrs Tomlin, Hawkins, Ploughman and Tibbett.
In 2004 the Club won the Fours County Championship, the only Championship to elude us the previous year, and also the County League Division I title for the first time since the league began in 1978. This success was later to be repeated in 2006. To round the year off the Club reached the quarter-finals of the National Top Club Competition only to be narrowly defeated 3-2 by the eventual winners of the Trophy, North Walsham.
The missing piece in the jigsaw was the Harmsworth Cup which the Club eventually won again in 2005 thus ending a 30 year wait.
Membership levels are now restored and the Club is thriving once again. Could this be the beginning of another golden period in the Club’s history? Is there another Stan Jackson in our midst? Only time will tell.