Members were bowled over by club’s success

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RASTRICK Private Subscription Bowling Club was in its infancy as the Edwardian era was dawning in 1902.

The club was floated with a capital sum of £400 – a sum which if based on todays values would be worth just over £23,000.

When the club was formed the game of bowls was not something new in and around Brighouse. A club at Clifton behind the Armytage Arms was formed almost 30 years earlier.

Initially a lease was taken out on what was then called Robinson’s Field and a green measuring 45 yards by 40 yards was constructed and bounded by a three-rail fence. There was a real sense of enthusiasm as the new club was being built, so much so that there was even talk of a tennis court being created as well.

The new club obviously included a pavilion, somewhere the members could relax and watch the matches or seek shelter during the intermittent rain spells and, of course, somewhere to keep their bowls.

Fred Whiteley, a long standing member of the Clifton club proposed a toast at his club’s annual dinner to all the neighbouring clubs, which included a club at Brighouse and one at the Albion, Halifax Road.

This was followed by his punch-line joke – “and of course there are two or three ‘num-yeds’ at Rastrick who would have made a third bowling green if they could have found space on the Toothill Bank hillside”.

For all Fred’s joke about the new club at Rastrick it soon became very successful. One of the club’s early presidents, Alderman Robert Thornton JP, nodded approvingly at the 1910 annual meeting when it was announced the club had made a £10 profit on the year and the membership stood at 179 and rising.

He was also pleased to hear that on average members only spent sixpence per week on drink. This proved that members came to the club primarily to bowl and not just to drink.

With seven clubs in the area, nine greens and a growing membership now standing over 1,000, the borough council recognised this success and gave consideration to having a municipal bowling green on Bramston Street recreation ground. As expected all seven private clubs objected and were successful in stopping the plan.

Meanwhile, at the Albion ladies were welcome. “Just as long as they came to bowl and didn’t bring their knitting,” according to club president Joseph Hall who wouldn’t have got away with that remark today.

The Albion club was, in fact, the first to hold a ladies’ day in 1910.

Rastrick, with a fluctuating membership during the two world wars had, like many other local organisations its ups and downs.

One of the features of the tide of prosperity and changing fortunes for the club was the introduction of fruit machines, bingo and of course the major cultural change that went with it during the 1960s. But it did help to put the club on a more financial even keel. The club was also one of the first to install floodlights which extended the bowls season from late August until well into October, a facility that enhanced its reputation even more.

The introduction of these changes would have brought looks of incredulity from Alderman Thornton.

The photograph above features the committee and officers for the club’s 75th anniversary year in 1977.

Back row, from left, R. Rayner; A. Jessop; L Dyson; S. Armitage; A. Tordoff (Subscription Secretary) and W. Keating.

Front row, from left, H. Follows (Treasurer); R. Frazer (Secretary); J. Womersley (Concert Secretary); D. Whiting (President); B. Hutchinson (Trustee); K. Armitage (Committee Chairman) and S. Harrison (Trustee).

A number of members were not able to be on this photograph and these were K. McBride; P. Green; F. Hepworth (Life Vice-President); B. Robinson and

J. L. Binns.