In March, 1906, a meeting was held at Franklins Hotel, Northampton, for Northamptonshire Bowling Clubs, and representatives from Northampton West End BC; Kettering Lodge BC; Kingsthorpe BC; County Ground BC and Wellingborough BC attended. These clubs, plus a couple of others that did not have representatives at the meeting, were founded in the late 1800’s, with Kettering Lodge BC being the oldest having formed in 1880.
The Chairman of the meeting, Mr James H C Crockett, a boot and shoe manufacturer, explained that the purpose of the meeting was to form a county bowling association for the purpose of holding an Inter Club competition for a trophy put up by James Manfield, JP, Mayor of Northampton and his brother Harry Manfield MP, also boot and shoe manufacturers, which would be named the ’Manfield Cup’ and it was resolved that the association be called ‘Northamptonshire Bowling Association’. The first winners of the ‘Manfield Cup’ were the players of Northampton County Ground.
The first Annual General Meeting of the Association was held on the 11th June, 1906, and the following officers were elected:
President: James Manfield
Vice-President: James H C Crockett (later Sir James)
Secretary: George Harper Treasurer: F Ellen
The Association agreed in 1912 to adopt and play under the rules of the English Bowling Association.
Bowling Clubs around the County were invited to make application to join the Association and existing clubs did so very quickly, with well over 100 joining over the succeeding years, and at the Centenary of the Association in 2006 the number was 56 Clubs, many of the smaller clubs having by this time either combined with others, or disbanded. At the present time there are 51 affiliated clubs.
The Northamptonshire Bowling Association was for male bowlers for its duration of existence, but in 1936, an association for female bowlers was formed in the County called ‘Northamptonshire Women’s County Bowling Association’ which comprised in its inauguration year of seven clubs in the County, all associated with local authority greens in Northampton, Rushden and Wellingborough. As the women’s association gained strength, many more clubs affiliated to it, with women’s sections of other County clubs being formed.
Following the unification of male and female bowling in England and the consequent formation of ‘Bowls England’ the two County separate gender associations finally unified in 2012, under the name of ‘Bowls Northamptonshire’.
Northamptonshire has enjoyed much success in bowling over its whole lifetime to date, with many players winning National titles, and many others, both male and female, representing England in International events. The County has also supplied many officers to the National bodies over the years, including Alice Ireland, Roma Hanger and E Walters, taking the role of President of the English Women’s Bowling Association in 1965, 1977 and 1985 respectively and Alfred Lewis, George Wright, Cyril Chown, Robert Stapleton and Jack Forster, taking the role of President of the English Bowling Association, and Stuart Lake, President of Bowls England in 2012.
The County has also played a significant role in the Midland Counties Bowling Association, which was formed in 1895, including the provision of the Association Secretary, in Bob Stapleton from 1981-1986 and Ken Shadbolt from 1992 to 1997, plus the provision of 12 Presidents over its many years of existence, and Stuart Lake its Treasurer from 2003-2011.
The link for the Bowls Northamptonshire website is: www.bowlsnorthamptonshire.co.uk