Downton Bowling Club – A Green Of Our Own.
In 2023, Downton Bowling Club celebrates 40 years at its current Wick Lane location. At the 2023 AGM, a founder member, Bob Dymott, spoke about the club’s history. Prior to 1983, people played bowls on part of the Downton Primary School’s playing field. They would meet and set up the boundaries to a ‘green’ using lengths of guttering and bits of string.
Although many participants were not knowledgeable about the sport, one person was – established bowls player and administrator, Ralph Bentley. Ralph had been a previous President of The English Bowling Association and he became Captain of the Club in 1980 and remained there for three seasons. Mr Lunt, of the Downton Tannery, was the President.
Club members did occasionally play on the club green at Alderbury, and under Ralph’s captaincy in 1982/3, an opportunity arose to build a green at what was to become the Brian Whitehead Sports and Social Club in Wick, to the west of Downton. At the same time, Downton Football Club was setting itself up on the same site. Many Bowling Club members helped to erect the original facilities.
When a building was needed, Bob Dymott and Les Cousins moved a redundant village hall from the nearby Broad Chalke area to the new site piece by piece. This construction is what you see as the bar area in the Social Club today. Others helped with the roofing, including Jim and Dave Galpin. Vic Bryant, Don and Ron Moody were also involved, as was Ralph’s son-in-law, Mike Hallam. Ralph organised contractors to produce a bowling Green to the required standard. Stubby Sherwood also devoted a lot of time and resources to this project.
Downton Bowling Club will never forget Ralph Bentley; his portrait hangs in the Clubhouse and an annual competition is played in his honour. He and many others worked hard to establish Club, but unfortunately, he died without actually playing on the new Green. Bob Dymott took over as Club Captain and Vic Bryant was the first Greenkeeper at the new site.