Southwick Park Bowling Club was born in 1986 on the demise of the all male SEGAS Portslade Bowling Club.(SPBC) which followed the unexpected withdrawal of sponsorship from SEGAS (now British Gas). SEGAS had since circa 1930’s provided for their employees a playing field sited at the rear of the Gas Works at Portslade/Fishersgate and history tells us SEGAS sponsored their own cricket team, football team as well as the bowls team. The only access to the playing field would have been via the companies ‘rowing boat’ which made regular trips ferrying the workers and visiting teams across the harbour. to the playing field. SEGAS bowling team had a short spell playing at Fishersgate Park before eventually moving to their current home at Southwick Recreation Park. in the early 1980’s.
Southwick Recreation Ground already had two, six rink greens known as the South and North Greens with two clubs known as Southwick Men and Southwick Ladies Bowling Clubs already in existence since 1910. However SEGAS was allotted the South Green for their use but would have to share the already limited and cramped facilities in the wooden hut outside of the greens perimeter fence which served as a changing room and seated area for match teas..
Soon it was decided the time was right to choose a new name. With their old abbreviated name as S.P.B.C. it was cleverly decided to call itself Southwick Park Bowling Club thus eliminating the need to change their club tie which had the standard logo of two bowling bowls and their initials on. Not long after however a more personalised logo was decided on and the silhouette of a tree which still today stands proudly overlooking the bowling green was chosen. The finished logo of the tree within a circle and the club name inscribed inside was printed on a blue tie and became the very first SPBC club tie. Although the tie has changed the logo remains on all of our club shirts and is widely recognised along with our blue and green club colours as Southwick Park.
Now sharing the premises it was deemed prudent to form an association with all three clubs and a committee was formed and named Southwick Association of Bowls Clubs (S.A.B.C.) to work together for the benefit of all three clubs and their members. Loans were secured and facilities, not before time were improved for the benefit of all. (The toilets were always somewhat of an inconvenience, having to be kept locked at all times which meant if you were playing on the south green and needed the toilets one had to run past the top green, obtain the toilet key from the hook on the gate, run another 30 yards to the maintenance shed, unlock the toilets and use and of course all had to be reversed when one had finished. Needless to say the male members of Southwick Park and their opponents were frequently found to be studying what was round the back of the old tree that once stood proud in the southwest corner of the park. Sorry to record that the old tree died. I wonder why? (not, I am pleased to say the tree from which our logo was taken.)
As mentioned earlier SEGAS and subsequently SPBC was an all men’s club and remained so until the early nineties until a couple of bowlers wives who had faithfully provided match day tea and cakes for many years dared to ask if they could be given full membership!!!! This was discussed at their next committee meeting and the decision was made that SPBC would become, from that day forward a ‘mixed club’
1990 saw a depletion of membership to something like just 20 players. This caused problems fulfilling the league and friendly fixture commitments during the week. Fortunately at that time very few, if any, friendly games were played during the week and the league fixture was played on a Tuesday evening. It was, however, noticed that a new group of “ bowlers ” had arrived on the scene and were using the lower green on a regular basis on a Sunday morning. The main reason for them coming to notice was due a) their attire (non conforming footwear), b) their equipment ( rubber cut square from discarded snooker room flooring ) and c) their etiquette on the green which the ladies were not too happy about. One must give them some credit though, they had conforming jacks and woods.
Enquiries revealed that this group was a newly formed Bowling Society from a local club called Champion House. The group were receiving coaching from Hangleton Bowling Club and were of a good standard. The Park eventually made contact with Champion House and as a result the facilities of the changing room and equipment were made available to the Champion House Bowling Society for their Sunday morning sessions. Subsequently during the 1991-1992 season several of these players took up full membership with Southwick Park.
The intention to build a new bowls pavilion was first announced at the club’s AGM in April 1995. £500 was paid into a Building Fund by all three clubs and planning permission was applied for and granted in in April 1996. Our landlords, Adur District Council, consented to a 21 year lease and fund raising began in earnest. In April 1997 a £25,000 grant was awarded by the Foundation for Sports and Arts and, in February 1998, the Lottery Sports Council awarded us £75,754. Building work started on 17 March 1999 and our AGM was held in the new bowling pavilion in October 1999.
In 2010 we won the Brighton and District Mens League for the first time, a notable achievement for our Club . Looking forward to this coming season we are celebrating our 25th anniversary with a number of special events arranged. Over the winter season our green has undergone some significant maintenance including the upgrading of our ditches and which, all in all, will add to the continuing improvement of the playing surface.
Thanks to the tremendous efforts and hard work of a nucleus of members from all three clubs, we now have a pavilion to be proud of.
On 23rd April 2011 we had a celebratory opening to the new season, our 25th anniversary of the formation of the Club. Several past members and the partners of those members, who sadly had passed away, were invited to a drinks and nibbles get together where we recalled those special memories.
It was good to see many old friends and founder members from the early days who had the drive and ambition to push the Club on from its humble beginnings into a Club that continues to grow in membership, that is renowned as a mixed club for its friendliness, that now has a formidable bowling reputation and that plays at what we believe to be the best clubhouse and bowls venue in the county.
Our friends from the Adur Council, who have been so supportive over the years, were also at the opening. Old photographs of the green and the clubhouse were on show which were very interesting and brought back memories . We even talked our Council guests into bowling a few woods.
Almost all of our current club members managed to get to the opening as can be seen in the following snap. There are also photographs of some of our founder members, our Council friends and the excellent cake made by one of our players.
During our 25th anniversary year we also played the Royal Household at Windsor Castle which was a very special and occasion for us. We finished the year with a Race Night at the Clubhouse. It was a fitting finish to the year.
Celebrations apart, we had a great season on the green as well. We won the Adur League, the Stracey League, Division 5 of the Brighton League and the Edward Rowland Competition. We were also runners up in Division 2 of the Brighton League and our Ladies won the Adur Top Club tournament and our men got through to the last 16 of the National Top Club competition. All in all a very successful season that reflects the growing bowling strength of this Club.
Looking forward to next season, 2013, we are continuing to make improvements to the clubhouse. The suspended ceiling has certainly increased the atmosphere of our winter socials as the heat no longer escapes into the top of the roof. The newly refurbished bar has proved popular and the two new bar shutters have improved security.
The majority of the equipment in the clubhouse store, as well as excess chairs, are to be moved to the second shed at the bottom of the south green. This will leave space for kitchen and cleaning supplies as well as spare bowls and footwear etc.