Salisbury Bowling Club

Club History

See also:

History | 1920s | Archives | Golden Jubilee | Green Opening 1936 | Centenary Year 2012


The Club can be traced back to 1751. In that year there were at least three greens in Salisbury, all of which have now disappeared.

One of these greens, situated at the confluence of the rivers Avon and Nadder, was the forerunner of the present club.

From plans in the city archives it can be seen that the original club was part of a small holding known as ‘Bowling Green Nurseries’ and was 40 yards square. In 1911 the nursery changed hands, the bowlers were banished and the green ploughed under.

The deposed bowlers continued to play on the lawn of a house in Wain-a-Long Road until the City Council laid a three rink green in Victoria Park in 1912.

In 1913 the existing players, with a few enthusiasts, formed the new Salisbury Bowling Club, and in 1941 the club affiliated to the Wiltshire County Bowling Association, which had been formed the year before.

It was eventually decided in 1936 that the club should have their own green and a site was purchased in Devonshire Road, where a green and a pavilion were constructed. Unfortunately it was made-up land, which gradually subsided to give a gentle slope until one end was five inches lower than the other. Lack of funds prevented anything being done until 1957 when the green was re-laid.

Ladies Section

Following many discussions at an Annual General Meeting in 1986 there was a proposition for ladies to become bowlers. At this time there were 2 members against and 1 abstention.

The first Ladies Captain was Di Wood and the Secretary was Pat Beaton. It was not until 1987 that ladies became full Bowling Members. It was in 2005 we had our first Lady President Mrs Anne Cottle.


1986 Mixed Match opening1986 gave us the first time for everything, as the Mayor of Salisbury, Clr. Tom Cowie, and the former Chairman of Salisbury District Council, Clr John Burden, found when they took part in a Bowls Match at the Salisbury Bowls Club.

Although both were social members of the club neither had played bowls before. Forty people took part including three ladies, making it the first mixed match on the green. The final score was 98 shots to 90 in favour of the Mayor’s team.

Thanks to Tim Wood and George Pike for this input and material.


According to George

In late 2015, I spent an hour or two in the company of the wonderful George Pike. We spoke about the history of our Club, because I had had a plan to embellish the history already on our website. I have just come across some notes I made. There is an outside possibility that George’s recall was not always perfectly accurate. Much more likely is that my note-taking was less than perfect.  Anyway here are some items from our history that might interest the reader:

* In the map of Salisbury in 1751, as surveyed by William Naish and printed by Benjamin Collins, there were three bowling greens in the City Centre. No other sports facilities were illustrated in this way.

There was a green in Wyndham Street, off Castle Street, opposite the Rising Sun public house. The green had already fallen into disuse.

A second green was located by the River Avon beside “Bowling Green Nurseries”, now Queen Elizabeth Gardens. The green was closed in 1911 and moved to Victoria Park. Our club (then men only) was founded in 1912 as a consequence.

The third green was in the Close, immediately next to the Cathedral’s Chapter House on the south side. It was for the use of the clergy. A map of 1780, by an unknown cartographer, shows the green still in use, with an illustration of the scene. However an estate map of the Bishop’s Palace grounds in 1827 shows that the green had gone. George Pike told me that the Bishop’s wife had wanted a meadow for her horse.

* The green in Victoria Park, which opened in 1912 was a three rink green. After WW1 it was decided to increase it to a full six-rink green and the land was made available by a supportive Council. Bert Case got busy. He had access to a lorry and went to the Labour Exchange where he picked up a group of unemployed men with the promise of an afternoon’s work. They drove to Dean Hill, near Whiteparish, where they collected the required turf off the hillside and returned to Victoria Park to lay it. In our conversation, George became rather anxious at this point, because he was not sure that Mr Case had had permission to cut the turf and feared that his story might damage Mr Case’s reputation.

Opening 1936
Salisbury’s Mayor, Councillor Scamell has the honour of bowling the first wood.

* In the 1930s Mr Bundy acquired land with a view to developing the housing in Devonshire Road, Somerset Road and Cornwall Road. He was unable to build on a corner plot because of the gradient and offered this land to our Club in return for the contract to build our club house pavilion. Construction of the green required the land to be built up by two metres at the bottom end. They used coke clinker from the nearby gasworks.

Ted Case wanted to open the new green in 1933-4, his year as Mayor. In the event it opened in 1935 but in hindsight even that was too soon because settlement at the bottom end was soon evident. By the early 1950s the drop was nine inches from corner to corner. Members set about levelling the green. The perimeter, which had previously been timber-framed, was now to be framed with concrete blocks. Members were expected, after a “roll-up”, to mix some concrete, fill some moulds and make the blocks which gradually came to frame the green.

* George spoke about another distinguished former member of our Club. James Macklin was a watchmaker, jeweller and cutler in our city. He became Sir James Macklin MP, long-term president of our club and Mayor 1913-19 through the wartime period. He was knighted in 1920 and remained a councillor till 1944. Sir James was also chairman of Salisbury Gas Company. Perhaps he provided the clinker for us in the 1930s and his legacy is beneath our feet when we play at Devonshire Road.

John Hurle
April 2019


Alphas v Omegas – Final Match of the Season (History)

Traditionally, the final match of the season was called “Old’uns v Young’uns”, with a theoretical dividing line at age 65 but in practice nearer 70 to get equal size teams! When the ladies became entitled to take part they usually declined to admit which side they were eligible for, leaving the selectors to randomly allocate them. Inevitably this led to complaints, typically: “She’s older than me, yet she’s in the Young’uns team”.

When Brian Pike took over as Match Secretary he suggested having a less contentious method of dividing the players for this fixture, namely alphabetical order, and since 1999 it has been “alphas v omegas” – in theory those with surnames A – M against those N – Z. Unfortunately it seems to have become beyond the selectors to even manage that and in recent years the teams have been selected randomly.

Incidentally, Brian’s alternative option at that time, which never reached the Bowls Committee, was “Locals v Yokels”, i.e. members who lived in Salisbury itself against those from beyond the City limits.

Thanks to Brian for this update
10 October 2018


Honour: George Pike

George PikeIn 2010 George Pike become one of the first eight bowlers in the country to receive the Bowls England Certificate of Merit for services to bowls. The presentation was made by National President, Chris Smith.

In accepting the award, George commented that he had got a lot out of bowls as a player and had tried to put something back into the sport.

George was a member of Salisbury Bowling Club from 1950 to 2017. He was Club Secretary from 1955 to 1961 and served as Club President in 1965 and 1990.

Elsewhere, George has been Treasurer (1959-1987) and President (1994) of Wiltshire Bowls Association; President (1966) and Secretary (1967) of Salisbury & District Bowling Association; Treasurer of Wiltshire Indoor Bowls Association (1975-1987); and President of Christie Miller Indoor Bowling Club at Melksham (1992/93).

In addition, in 1967 he was elected as Treasurer of the County Bowls Benevolent Fund, a post he still holds after 43 years.

In the past he has been granted Honorary Life Membership of Salisbury B.C., Christie Miller I.B.C; Salisbury & District B.A. and Wiltshire B.A. in recognition of his work.

George Pike    

Sadly George passed away in 2017 but we have been provided with a tribute by Graham Annetts.

George Pike Bowlers Tribute – 13 February 2017.

How do you start to look back on a commitment to bowls in Salisbury and Wiltshire stretching back over 66 years? An amazing record, unlikely to ever be equaled, of service to fellow bowlers which started when George joined the Salisbury club in 1950.  One of the leading members of the Salisbury Club, Bert Case, who was also the county treasurer, took the young George under his wing and it soon became obvious that here was a very good player in the making.

Bert Case had been County Treasurer since 1923, and when he retired in 1959, it was George who was elected to replace him, serving the County in this capacity until 1987.

This meant that two Salisbury members maintained the County finances for over 60 years! Even more remarkably, the same two gentlemen were Treasurer of the County Benevolent fund from its inception in 1932 to 2017 – this role has since been taken over by George’s son Brian Pike, who continues to undertake the role.

George at one time or another held just about every office in the Salisbury club, even having a spell organizing the bar rota and serving behind it. He served continuously on the County Executive Committee in various capacities from 1957 until now and had a successful year as County President in 1994.

On the green, he won the club singles championship at least ten times starting in 1954, the County singles in 1962 & 1973, played over 50 times for Wiltshire in the Middleton cup between 1959 & 1984 and was an England under 35 international in 1961.

To show their appreciation for the work he had done, George was made an Honorary Life member of the County when he retired as Treasurer in 1987, and in 2004 he was awarded the Dennis Uncles Trophy presented annually for services to Wiltshire Bowls. The following year, he was made a life member of the Salisbury Club. In addition, he was also President of Salisbury and District in 1966 and Secretary of that association in 1967 and President of Christie Miller Indoor Bowls Club in the 1992/3 indoor season. Both these organizations later added to George’s collection of Life Memberships.

In 2009, Bowls England introduced the Certificate of Merit to recognise the work of volunteers who support bowls at club and county level, and in 2010, George became the first, and so far the only, recipient from Wiltshire. This award was presented at the County Dinner by the President of Bowls England, and I was sitting opposite George at the dinner. George always used the dinner (he went to more than 50!) to drum up funds for the benevolent fund and during the Bowls England President’s speech he was busy looking round the room for any likely victims he had missed. The president was reading out a citation about George who was paying no attention whatever, and when everyone started applauding he looked across the table and asked me “Who’s he talking about?” It took a wee while to convince him that he had better get up and go to the top table to receive what he later called his “gong” which he was rightly extremely proud of.

George was an enthusiastic supporter of county friendly matches, and often travelled with other Salisbury members to the games. On these journeys George provided us with some entertaining moments in the car. He seldom said much in the car, as he enjoyed watching the scenery go by the window, but we soon learned that there were landmarks on the various routes which would prompt George to tell us about events from his long bowls career. I hope you will enjoy this example. On the road to Devizes there is a pub at West Lavington where George’s car once broke down on the way to a County dinner. We could never go past this pub without hearing the full story of how the good Samaritan landlord gave him a free meal while he waited for the AA to come to his aid, and how the car, with George, had to be taken back to Salisbury as the AA man could not fix it. George was really irritated by this as it broke his long record of attending the county dinner every year, and it just happened that it was the year the county were presenting awards to those players who had played more than 50 times for the Middleton Cup team, but only those who went to the dinner would collect their award. George didn’t make the dinner and consequently never got his award which irked him every time we went through West Lavington! We were well on the way to Devizes by the time he had finished telling us the story!

Whenever George was with us there was a routine which had to be observed. On arrival at our destination, we firstly had to find the green where we were playing and check it over before we could think about lunch! We travelled to South Wales for a game in Porthcawl. We found the green and allowed George to get out of the car and carry out his inspection. Now for lunch! Someone at the club recommended a pub in Porthcawl which was well known for excellent and plentiful fish and chips. George was not a big eater and when the four of us placed our order he asked the waitress for a child’s portion. A different waitress brought out three enormous platefuls of fish and chips and apologetically said “I think there’s been a mistake as I also have a child’s portion”. “No No, that’s what I asked for” said George. “Are you sure” said the waitress as she placed a small plate of three fish fingers, some alphabites and a few baked beans in front of him. “Perfect” said George, and ate the lot!

I feel very honoured to have been asked by Brian to give this tribute to George the bowler, having known him for just over half of his bowling career, and spent many hours in his company, both on the green and in the car on our way to a match or a meeting. I followed him as the Salisbury representative on the County Executive, and also witnessed at first hand his immaculate hand written book keeping when acting as a reviewer of the County Benevolent fund. I am certain that his record of service to the game he loved will stand unparalleled for years to come.

You may have noticed the thread of continuity which runs right through George’s bowling career and his working life. Once he started something he stuck with it – 66 years with one club was equaled by 66 years with the same set of bowls, and 50 years as the treasurer of the benevolent fund are just three examples. He was also a great respecter of traditions. Until both club and county introduced coloured shirts, he would never step onto a green without the correct tie on and he would always arrive for a match in his blazer.

Any proposals for change were always carefully considered and I finish with an example. A couple of years ago, on a wet and miserable evening at Andover, George was finding it particularly difficult to hold his size five brown Henselite bowls in such slippery conditions and was not enjoying the game at all. Trying to be helpful, I suggested that maybe he should try some smaller sized woods to see if it solved the problem. “No thanks” came the reply, “I’ve played with these woods for over sixty years, if I buy some more now, I won’t use them enough to get full value from them!”

Thanks for the memories George from all your bowling friends.

Obituary – February 2017

Tributes have been paid to a well-known bowls player and administrator who has died, aged 89.

George Pike of Harnham who was the longest serving member of the Salisbury Bowling Club in Devonshire Road and held several offices in the County Bowls Association will be remembered for his dedication to the sport for more than 65 years.

Born in Portsmouth, he was evacuated to Salisbury in 1941. He was billeted with Mr and Mrs Oliver who were both keen bowlers and they quickly introduced him to the game which was to play a huge part in his life.

After the war, George remained in Salisbury to finish his education at St Thomas’s School, then start his first job as a grocer’s assistant with the Maypole Dairy.

Called up for National Service, he served in the Middle East and North Africa as a technical assistant in the Royal Artillery.

On leaving the Army, George returned to Salisbury and resumed with the Maypole Dairy as a relief manager. In 1950, he joined Woolley & Wallis Auctioneers as an accounts clerk and he was to remain at the firm for exactly 40 years until taking early retirement. It was at work that he met Margaret and they were married in 1958 at St Thomas’s Church. Margaret sadly died in 2003.

George joined the Salisbury Bowling Club at Devonshire Road in 1950 and remained a member until his death. He won the Club Championship in 1954, the first of many titles, and took the County Singles crown in 1962 and 1973. Between 1959 and 1984 he made 55 appearances in the County Championship side and was selected to play for England at Under-35 level in 1961.

It was in 1955 that he first involved himself in the administrative side of bowls by becoming Secretary of Salisbury BC. Then in 1960 he took on the treasurer’s role with Wiltshire County BA, a position he held for 28 years. In 1967 he was elected treasurer of the County Bowls Benevolent Fund, a job he was still doing at the time of his death. During this period he also became the first treasurer of the Wiltshire Indoor BA, continuing for 13 years.

Among many other offices, George did duty as president of Wiltshire BA, Salisbury & District BA, Christie Miller Indoor BC and Salisbury BC. In 2010 he was honoured by Bowls England with the award of a Certificate of Merit for services to the Sport of Bowls.