Bowling Club open day

Members of Bexhill Bowling Club celebrated its 100th anniversary with an open day on Sunday.

The centenary event was held at the club's headquarters in Egerton Park and included lunch accompanied by music as members took the opportunity to think back over past and present successes.

Bexhill Bowling Club currently has 130 members and is going from "strength to strength".

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Dave Wickens is the longest serving member having first come to the club as a child.

Now 70, he said: "I've been down here since I was 10 years old. My mother and father, Bruce and Rosie Wickens, did the catering here from 1946-73.

"When I was a youngster, they would not allow me to join until I was 18. They said it was an old man's game, and they didn't want any youngsters coming along to play - and yet I was down here since I was 10 playing on the side of the green. But now they allow youngsters to play whenever they like - as long as they are over the age of 10.

"In the early days, Bexhill Bowling club was open six days a week, there were no Sunday bowlers down here. Then the Polegrove Bowling Club was formed, and they opened on a Sunday, so the Bexhill club decided to do it as well. There were only three greens then - the bottom green was a tennis court, but I never saw anybody playing tennis down, there believe it or not.

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"Bill Ryder was our finest bowler over the years - he was a singles player, he played for Sussex a number of times and he was a terrific drawing player."

Dave, himself, was an accomplished bowler who thrived on competition.

He said: "I remember when I was 22 and my brother Chris was about 16, we played two England players in the semi-final of the Bexhill tournament, and we beat them. When they came off the green, they said that was the last time they would ever visit Bexhill because they had been beaten by two boys."

In 2003/4 Bexhill Men successfully amalgamated with Bexhill Women and it is generally accepted the club has progressed as a result.

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Dave said: "Since the ladies joined the men, the club has gone from strength to strength. I think the competitiveness has gone out of the bowls, and new bowlers just like playing with their wives, so there is more of a social side now, so I think that has made a lot of difference. It is more of a social occasion."

Jack McGrath is another long-time member, having joined in the early 1950s and he also approves changes in the club.

"We are very happy now that the ladies joined, and we are all one club. I have truly enjoyed my years here."

More than 50 members are going to the Isle of Wight on July 8 to celebrate the 100th birthday with a week's holiday together, coming back to prepare for the ladies tournament at the end of July, followed by the men's annual competition.

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Members dressed in pristine white chatted as they settled down to enjoy their ploughman's lunch away from the rain, while music was provided by Hooe Village Band led by Geoff Lawrence, finishing up with Sussex By The Sea.

Camilla Lake

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