Llandrindod Wells Bowling Club History
Llandrindod Wells Bowling Club celebrated its centenary in 2012. Set in beautiful surroundings with panoramic views of the Welsh countryside, the club has an illustrious history and been host to many national and international events over its 100 years.
The last turf on the first green in the Rock Park was laid on the 9th May 1912 by Tom Norton, Chairman of Llandrindod Wells Springs Company, lessees of the Rock Park. The Radnor County Bowling Club was formed and Capt J M Gibson Watt, Squire of the Rock Park, was invited to be President.
Tom Norton donated a solid silver Cup (the Norton Cup) for a club singles championship.
The following year, a tournament singles competition began for the Gibson Watt Cup for Visitors which grew into one of the biggest open bowling tournaments in the British Isles in the 1920s and 30s. During the First World War, tournaments were organised for the hundreds of wounded soldiers recuperating in the town’s hotels and boarding houses. In 1921 the club was renamed Llandrindod Wells Bowling Club and Tom Norton became the first President. A second green was opened that year to accommodate the increasing numbers of bowlers taking part in the annual tournaments (one week and three week events) which rose to over 300 entries from all over Great Britain, together with the hundreds of spectators who came to see the great players of the day – including the Welsh greats A.J. Stacey , Jimmy Swarbrick, John Pollock and Stanley Weaver and the Scots- George Goldie, Harry Smith, James Haddow, G. Adamson.
In 1925, Lord Ormathwaite, Master of Ceremonies to King Edward VII and King George V accepted the Presidency. The same year, the club staged the Mens Home Internationals when Wales won on home soil for the first time. In 1928, the greens were host to the first visit to the UK by a New Zealand touring team; the match commenced with a performance of the “haka” which was recorded by Pathe News.
In 1926 the two greens at the Rock Park joined the town’s Recreation green under municipal ownership
The WBA National Championships were first held at the club in 1933 and the need to accommodate large events led to the building of a new pavilion and a third green, which was opened in 1935. A ladies club was formed in 1933 and by 1934 several Llandrindod ladies had won international caps – the first of a long line of successful ladies from the club which continues today. Five years later, Llandrindod hosted its first Ladies Home Internationals.
After brief cessation in 1940 at the outset of war, club competitions and the Llandrindod Wells Bowling Tournaments continued. In 1946 Lewis Williams became the first man from the club to be selected to play for Wales. The post war decline in the use of public facilities led to the formation of the Llandrindod Wells Municipal Bowls League as part of a campaign to save the greens from closure. Instigated by Cliff Jones Snr, greenkeeper at the recreation ground, the league proved to be very popular and continues to be the mainstay of the sport in the town to this day.
In 1955 Tom Norton, long-serving President and founder member of Llandrindod Wells Bowling Club died, and his son Tom Norton Jnr succeeded him as President.
The club celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1962, which saw the rise of young bowling talent, Brian Maund. Brian became the youngest man to gain a Welsh cap in 1961 and played in the first World Championships held in Adelaide in 1966.
The ladies club declined in the late 1950s but was revived in 1971 by an enthusiastic Betty Morgan, along with experienced bowlers Joan Probert and Enid Bufton. Betty won her first Welsh cap in 1976, which was to be the start of a long and remarkable international bowling career. During the 1980s and 1990s many of Llandrindod’s ladies achieved national and international success. To date, five lady members – Betty Morgan, Mary Davies, Joanna Weale, Shirley King and Wendy Price – have competed in Commonwealth Games.
The municipal league continued to flourish and by 1981 it was the main driving force for bowling in the town involving 3 divisions and 33 teams with a membership of around 300. In 1982 Llandrindod Wells Bowling Club Mens and ladies clubs joined forces with the town’s Municipal League to form one combined club. This heralded a new era.
In 1985 Tom Norton jnr retired as President of Llandrindod Wells Bowling Club after 30 years. Colin Perrier was elected to succeed Tom Norton as President.
The newly formed club went from strength to strength; On the 18th April 1992 a new clubhouse was opened providing spacious accommodation, and in 1997 Llandrindod was chosen to host the 3rd Atlantic Rim Games. This was the biggest bowling event ever held in Wales with 14 countries competing.
In 1993, Ron Rowlands became the first member to win the WBA National Singles Championship defeating John Price of Aberavon in the final. Ron went on to win the National Singles title in 1998 and to date, is the only bowler to have achieved the double of the National Open Singles and the National Senior Singles titles. In 2003 Betty Morgan created bowling history at Ballymena by winning the British Isles singles, pairs and triples titles, and in 2009 Wendy Price won 3 gold medals at the Atlantic Rim Games in Johannesburg.
The new Millennium brought the return of the Mens Internationals to Llandrindod after an absence of 63 years, as well as the Junior Ladies Internationals. In 2006 The club staged the UK Blind Singles Championships followed by the International Deaf Bowling Championships in 2007.
Still the regular venue for national and international events in Wales, Llandrindod hosted the Ladies British Isles Championships and International series in 2011 and welcomed the Men’s Internationals again in 2012. In centenary year, the club will be also be host to the Fire Service Four Nations Championship and the British Blind Sport Singles Championships.
Llandrindod has seen remarkably few greenkeepers over the century. The international standard of the greens since the 1920s has been down to the skill and dedication of several who remained long in the post. The first resident incumbent at the Rock Park was Fred Adams in 1915. In 1950 Cliff Jones Snr became the greenkeeper at the recreation ground until his death in 1971, and Jim Edwards remained at the Rock Park greens for 26 years. Maintaining the greens to the high standard going into the club’s next century is Steve Smith, who has been Llandrindod’s greenkeeper since 1990. A “master of his craft” Steve is frequently consulted about greens management.
Over the years Llandrindod has been the host venue for many National and International events, click here to see the full list
The unique illustrated history of Llandrindod Wells Bowling club published to mark the centenary is available from the club, price £10 (pub. April 2012, paperback 230 pages.)