Building the new Bowling Green
After the First World War, unemployment in Builth Wells, as in the rest of the UK was very high. The government of the day were giving grants to local councils to set-up schemes for the employment of mainly ex-servicemen who were on the dole at the time. In 1921 the town had a population of 1,776 and was attracting visitors mainly at the weekends from the South Wales valleys, particularly Merthyr Tydfil. The visitors arriving by train were attracted to the health spas and pleasure ground along the bank of the River Wye. The Urban Council were trying to attract more visitors to the town to create jobs and this providing more work for the unemployed of the area.
Four fields at the far end of the Groe came up for auction but with other projects to be considered i.e. purchasing the Strand Hall and a new water supply for the town a vote was made at a meeting of the U.D.C not to bid on the fields. After the U.D.C decision not to purchase the fields, Mr Thomas Lant, owner of the local quarry stepped in and bought the fields, upon completion of the sale Mr Lant offered them as a gift to the town, no doubt to the great pleasure of Cllrs Sayce and Hamer, who had fought hard to persuade the U.D.C meeting to purchase the four fields.
Thomas Lant met with the U.D.C. members soon after he had gifted this land on a Saturday in October 1921 to inspect the newly acquired extension to the Groe. The conditions Mr Lant set down were that he should have right of entrance where he liked and that no unsightly buildings should be erected. He wished that the council would seek expert advice as to the best way of development and he suggested that the new ground was the best place for a bowling green. All of the councillors present gratefully accepted Mr Lant’s terms.
The following week at the U.D.C. meeting that included, by invitation, Mr Lant, it was agreed to look into a scheme to provide a bowling green, tennis courts and a refreshment shelter. At a later meeting the Clerk reported he had received from Messrs J Cheal and Son of Crawley, landscape gardeners, plans drafted for development of the Groe. They included the following estimates, levelling, draining and turfing six tennis courts, £650, materials for the same £50. Levelling and draining bowling green, providing and laying sea washed turf, laying board edging £280, materials for same £530, forming extension of promenade avenue, plantation round tennis courts, new boundary hedge across field £50, materials for same £100, total amount for labour £1180, for materials £900, grand total £2080.
The ratepayers of Builth had their say at a public meeting on the 20th of December 1921 giving the U.D.C. a clear mandate to continue with the Groe scheme. On the agenda at the next U.D.C. meeting was the question of wages for the new employees. The foreman would receive £5 15s per week with the suggestion for labourers to be paid 1s per hour, Cllr Sayce advised the council to offer 9d per hour as they wanted to employ as many men as possible. Mr Sheale, landscape gardener of J. Cheal, Crawley reminded the council that it was a time of year when wet weather was likely and the men would not be paid on wet days. After further discussion Cllr Sayce moved, Cllr E.S. Davies seconded and it was carried that the wages be 9d per hour. It was hoped to employ up to 40 men, Mr Sheal stated he had brought his foreman with him and they would start work the following day. Work started at the very beginning of January 1922 with 38 men employed.
Lord Glenusk`s name was put forward as the best person to perform the opening ceremony. The choice to ask the Glenusk family was because they had been associated with Builth Wells in the past. It was his Lordship’s father who gave the swing bridge to the town. The last Wednesday in July being chosen as the day for the opening function. A free tea would be provided for the people of Builth to mark the occasion.
Opening of the new bowling green
The official opening of the extension to the Groe took place on July 31st 1922, Lord Glenusk (Lord Lieutenant of Breconshire at the time) accompanied by Lady Glenusk arrived at two o’clock to cut the plaited red, white and blue ribbon with a pair of silver scissors presented to them by members of the U.D.C. There were many speeches from the councillors present all thanking Mr Lant for his kind gift to the town and also Lord and Lady Glenusk for attending that afternoon. After the opening ceremony the large crowd that had gathered moved onto the new grounds and Lord and Lady Glenusk, followed by Mr and Mrs Lant, officially opened the bowling green by bowling the first woods. A game of bowls followed between Llandrindod Wells and Merthyr Tydfil with the members of both teams being presented to the gathered dignitaries. Only thirteen ends were played because of the persistent rain that had started, with Llandrindod winning on the very heavy green.
Formation of the club
A public meeting was held on February 15th 1923 called by the U.D.C. to consider forming a bowls club for the town. The Rev. H.J. Church Jones was appointed to the chair, and in opening said the council had an excellent bowling green and it would be a good thing to form a club in connection with it. Capt. R.J. Owen, Mr F. Morris, Mr W.A. Smiles and Mr Gilbert Eadie spoke in favour of the idea and it was unanimously decided to form a club.
Capt. Owen (clerk to the U.D.C.) pointed out that it should be understood the Council would receive members' subscriptions, have control of finance, and be responsible for the provision of a club house. The Chairman remarked that he considered they had had a very satisfactory beginning. The game appealed to him and seemed very interesting, Also they would realise more and more what value the bowling green would be both for their own enjoyment and for attracting visitors to Builth. There was a possibility of the town going ahead in all directions and it was up to them to seize the opportunity which offered itself. Personally he would do all in his power to help on the project. So on that Friday evening Builth Wells bowling club came into being.
Builth Wells Bowling Club 2010