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40 Years of Croydon Ladies

by Sheron Mitchell

When Croydon Ladies wanted to celebrate 40 years of Outdoor Bowling at Croydon Bowls Club and of their affiliation to Surrey we felt we had to celebrate this event in a special way. We therefore invited the Surrey County Women’s Bowling Association to join us for an afternoon of bowling. We also invited former members of the Club who had won County, National and International events.
Most Croydon members cannot remember the uniform that ladies had to wear 40 years ago – and even as recently as 1995; so we thought it would be a good idea to dress a manikin in the Croydon Club dress of years gone by. White gloves were a necessity and of course the unforgettable hat and the checks on hem-lines!

Archie, our green-keeper’s little boy walked past the manikin and decided that she should be called “Betty”. I know he never knew our formidable lady coach at Croydon. Her name was Betty Burns. I thought it very appropriate and therefore she is so named!

As most of you will know, Croydon Bowling Club was formed in 1749 and is one of the oldest Clubs in the country. For a long time women were not allowed to bowl but could attend social events. Indeed, Surrey Women were refused permission to play a match against Hampshire but the ladies were asked to help with the catering and run the bar for a men’s county match on the same day!

As early as 1958 a suggestion that the Club should form a Ladies Section was rejected because of the expense of providing the necessary facilities! Eventually in 1973 a few ladies were allowed on the Club’s hallowed greens to try their hand at the sport and finally were allowed to play on a regular basis. In 1974 Croydon had enough members to affiliate to the Surrey County Women’s Bowling Association and in 1976 we had our first woman County champion, Thelma Barton, who also became the Club’s first Women’s International.

Croydon Ladies went from strength to strength and in the late eighties and early nineties boasted four women internationals, Joy Adamson, Pam Davis, Eileen Vigor and Pam Ward who was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Ladies’ Section and was the Club’s first lady President. In 1999 she received an award from the Mayor of Croydon in recognition of her long service to sport. Sadly she is no longer with us.
Since Thelma won the Surrey singles in 1976 Croydon Ladies have won the Singles title twice more, the last winner being Carol Ware in 2007. The 2 wood singles has been won four times by Thelma Barton, Pam Ward and Muriel Kelly twice. The Champion of Champions has been won three times by Barbara Alvey, Muriel Kelly and finally by Carol Ware in 2007. The Pairs has been won five times, the Triples has been won six times and the Fours has been won twice in 2008 and 2009. Three National Championships have been won, Triples and Fours in 1987 and Fours in 2008. Croydon were also Finalists in the British Isles Triples Championship in 1988 and the Fours Championship in 2009.Croydon has also managed to reach two Top Club finals at Leamington in 1997 and 2012 when we lost the final in a nail biting finish.

We were delighted to see Doris Stanton, Joy Adamson, Muriel Kelly, Linda Stanley, Carol Templeman, Carol Ware, Ann Warrington and Carole Cuell. Unfortunately some others were unable to attend.Sadly Doreen Prior was taken ill on the day but we were able to thank Jean Capell for everything she has done and is indeed doing as a National Umpire, County and Club Coach.

We do have a trophy in our cabinet known as the Swanton Cup. It was donated to Croydon by two former members, Barrie Swannie and Doris Stanton. The idea was that the ladies should play the gentlemen of Croydon annually for this trophy.

Bowling as a sport has changed over the years, certainly as far as the women’s dress code is concerned. We also have unification and both men and women will be playing their National Finals at Leamington this year.

Surrey has also adopted this modern look with the men’s and ladies’ shirts and jackets being exactly the same. Croydon was, of course, at the forefront of these changes. A Croydon Ladies’ team were the first ever Bowls England National Champions!
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