Rykneld Bowling Club celebrate their centenary year

Rykneld Bowling Club

Rykneld Bowling Club - Credit: Archant

Nigel Powlson meets the members of Rykneld Bowling Club which reaching a major milestone

Barrie, Richard, Mary and Malcolm

Barrie, Richard, Mary and Malcolm - Credit: Archant

THERE is a blanket of snow over the green when Derbyshire Life pays a visit to the Rykneld Bowling Club but despite the freezing temperatures there is still plenty of work to do in this small corner of Derby – not least planning the centenary celebrations.

The club was formed on 26th February 1918, when the First World War was still raging, by a group of disaffected members of the Arboretum Bowling Club – although it took just over a year before the first wood was bowled on the new green in what is now Farley Road.

The names of the founder members are displayed in the clubhouse and they would surely be proud of how it has flourished and survived where others have fallen by the wayside, especially as it is run as a limited company, meaning that it has had to be self-sustaining throughout its history.

Many things have changed over the years, perhaps the most important being a belated move into league bowls bringing the rigours of competition to the club after many years of it being purely social apart from the odd friendly match.

Rykneld Crown Green

Rykneld Crown Green - Credit: Archant

Back in 1918 rather than a building there was only an old railway carriage at the side of the green providing shelter and there was nothing as modern as floodlights (they arrived in the early 1980s). During the mid 1930s the railway carriage was replaced by a purpose-built club house which remains in its place today. In recent years, after a major fundraising exercise, the club house has been refurbished and extended to include disabled access and facilities so that it can be used by other organisations in the community.

But for all the changes, some things still remain the same – Rykneld Bowling Club still provides a place for the community to come together and play a game they have all come to love.

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To escape the winter chill, Derbyshire Life heads into the clubhouse for a much-needed cup of coffee where some key members of the club are eager to explain a little more.

Richard Knowles – a director of the club – said: ‘It’s quite a milestone and the club has come a very long way. For anything to survive 100 years is quite an achievement.

In the clubhouse

In the clubhouse - Credit: Archant

‘It all began when 12 people had a difference of opinion with the Arboretum Bowling Club and chose to leave and establish a new club. We believe it was over a desire to adopt some new rules concerning the use of their green and they felt strongly enough about it to move away. They were quite important business people in the town of Derby at the time – such as hotel proprietors, chemists, merchant tailors, architects, railway officers and commercial travellers.

‘They arranged a bank loan, purchased a piece of land from the Rykneld Estate for £653 and formed Rykneld Bowling Club Ltd of which they all became directors. One hundred years later and we are still a limited company.

‘They built the green, purchased a railway carriage and, on 10th May 1919, had 100 members when they played their first game. It was a surprisingly low-key opening – a demonstration of the game of bowls by the President and Vice President – but that’s when it all started.

‘League bowling started in Derby in 1930 with the founding of the South Derbyshire Bowling League but Rykneld didn’t pay much attention to it. It was only many years later that the club started playing league matches. The men didn’t join until 1970 and the veterans soon after. The ladies though did join their league at the start in 1979.’

In the last decade there has been swifter progress, including equal rights for the ladies.

Richard said: ‘It was quite a process we had to go through to enable the ladies to become full members in 2008, with solicitors involved in re-issuing Memorandum of Association and advising Companies House. But it meant ladies could bowl on Sunday mornings. They can also now vote, become committee members and since 2008 we have had three lady presidents. Now 25 per cent of our members are ladies and they are extremely important to us.’

Other greens and clubs have come and gone over the years but Richard says Rykneld has continued to flourish.

Barrie Ladds is the treasurer and a director and knows that it isn’t always an easy feat: ‘We have a good membership, still well over 100. We keep subscriptions to a sensible level and we work hard to keep our income coming in. We aim to be self-sufficient. It becomes difficult when you get some unexpected expenditure so we rely on competitions to generate the money we need to do things like maintain the clubhouse. It’s a juggling act but so far we have always managed it.’

Just over 10 years ago it was decided that the clubhouse needed refurbishment and improvement. Richard said: ‘The toilets were like a shed down the bottom of the garden where the pipes froze up every winter so we needed an extension to the clubhouse. We raised £10,000 ourselves, applied for grants and eventually we got that done, discovered we needed a new roof and got that done as well. Then we raised the money for a new kitchen. It has been a big team effort and we are very fortunate that we have lots of skills amongst the members of the club.’

Richard joined the club in 1992, when he was thinking about retirement, getting his name down early as he was told there was a 200-plus waiting list. ‘A friend pulled a few strings and I was a member, but earlier than I had wanted!’

Barrie started playing bowls at the age of 20 in 1968. He says: ‘I dropped off a bit when I was working away but came back to it seriously in the late 1990s. It’s like any sport, it can be very enjoyable but when it is not going well for you, very frustrating.’

Mary Moore – honorary secretary and director – joined Rykneld in 2008. ‘Before that I spent eight years at another bowling club but that unfortunately closed. I was attracted by the gorgeous grounds and facilities.

‘We have a high proportion of retired people and we would like some younger members. We are looking to people approaching retirement to get involved and help with recruitment. Many other clubs have teenagers and young people playing to great effect and that’s something we want to work on here.’

Malcolm Holden – committee member – has only been with the club a year and got talked into it as he lives locally. ‘I came to do a bit of gardening and the people are so friendly I stayed. I don’t even play bowls as yet, I have had a couple of games and it’s not that easy! It’s also so competitive and it’s a very tactical game – but I will get there.

‘My interest is linked to my professional career, I have established a club website and over the last 12 months I have been looking at how to maintain, improve and grow the success of the club. That includes organising events in the winter, maintaining the income stream and by supporting local schools and the community.

‘What surprises me is that there are still people who live around here who don’t know we exist, even when they have walked past us. There’s a big opportunity for us to involve more of the community. The problem then might be trying to keep the numbers down!’

It all means that the club is in a good position as it reaches its centenary.

Richard said: ‘There are always new problems that can come up and surprise you but we are in a good position overall. We start off the next 100 years in a good state.’

Rykneld Bowling Club is situated at

39 Farley Road, Derby DE23 6BW


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