OLD NEWTON BOWLS CLUB
THE HISTORY OF
OLD NEWTON BOWLS CLUB
The idea of a bowling club in Old Newton emerged over a pint in The Shoulder of Mutton Public House in 1969. Ray Garnham, Fred James, Doug Montgomery and Peter Markwell then got together at Stonham using bowls borrowed from the Suffolk Iron Foundry and very quickly a few other villagers joined in. In September of that year, a committee was elected and Peter Markwell was elected as Chairman and Ray Thurston as President. Ray remained President until 2013 shortly before he passed away and Peter remained a valued member of the Club until he passed away in 2016.
The newly founded Old Newton Bowls Club applied to join the Stowmarket and District Bowls League. They now had some members, some borrowed bowls and a league to play in but no green of their own on which to play. Fortunately, Haughley Bowls Club came to their rescue and allowed the Old Newton enterprise to use their green and things rapidly started to get underway.
The Committee very quickly began to think about acquiring land for it’s own green. The brewers, Tolly Cobbold were contacted with a view to leasing a small field belonging to the Shoulder of Mutton. After prolonged negotiations an agreement was made, and by the end of May 1972, having secured a grant from the Sports Council, a start was made on the construction of the green.
A bulldozer and other equipment was borrowed and the members of Old Newton Bowls Club bulldozed the field all day. Land drains were laid and 100 tons of sand was rotovated in to improve the drainage. The green was top soiled and seeded by professionals and the members worked tirelessly mowing and removing weeds until the green was playable. The green was officially opened by Patrick Cobbold in July 1974.
The Club flourished and by 1976 membership had risen to 42 playing members. Following the receipt of a grant in 1978 the Club acquired a portacabin which became the pavilion and a shed was acquired to create a changing room. These were in use for many years until 2014.
Fund Raising has always been an important element in the Club’s finances and in 1982 Jim Shave suggested and organised a bowls marathon to raise funds for the club and for The Thomas Wolsey Special School in Ipswich. Eight members of the Club bowled non-stop in four hour shifts for 50 hours and covered 100 miles over the weekend but never left the premises. Floodlights were erected which enabled them to play through the night. The members turned up to watch, provided food and drink and helped to keep their spirits up. Between sessions the players took their four hour breaks and slept in Jim’s caravan which he had parked on site. The event raised £1,200 which was shared equally between the club and the school.
Not content with this, in 1989, a 35 mile cycle ride was organised around all the local bowls clubs and raised another £1,100 to help fund the proposed purchase of the bowling green fromTolly Cobbold. This opportunity finally came in 1990 as part of a deal which enabled Tolly Cobbold to develop some of its land for the Greenacres housing development, with Peter Markwell and Ray Thurston spending long hours agreeing the terms of the freehold.
The Club finally became proud owners of their own property in June 1990 and now had 51 playing members.
By 2005 however membership had fallen drastically and sadly by the end of 2006 it became clear that membership numbers for 2007 could not support league entries and financial resources would not enable the club to continue.
Play stopped, the grass grew and closure became inevitable.
Ray Thurston, the Club President, could not bear to see this happen and sought to start the Club up again. A number of ex-members were contacted and the Club reformed again under the name of Old Newton Bowls Club (2007) with Peter Catchpole as their Chairman. Once again the members took it upon themselves to get the green back into shape. The Club rejoined the Stowmarket and Ipswich Leagues in 2008 and membership began to slowly increase.
By 2013 the old pavilion and changing room were showing their age and although the introduction of a licensed bar in 2012 enhanced the Club’s financial position, there was by no means enough money to cover new buildings. The new Chairman, Derek Green, who was elected at the end of 2013, then made bids and obtained grants from a number of associations in order to construct a new pavilion. The major contributors of the grants were Sport England, Mid Suffolk District Council and Old Newton and Gipping Community Council. Once again the members worked long and tirelessly to complete the new pavilion. The old pavilion was then converted into a changing room incorporating a new disabled toilet. All was completed for the 2016 season. In the meantime a new President, Chris Leeder was elected at the end of 2014.
The new pavilion has given the Club the space to facilitate more bowling events and social functions which can now continue throughout the winter.
In 2015 the members voted to drop the 2007 from the name of the Club and Old Newton Bowls Club is once again thriving.