|In 1948 the late George Coe, who was in charge of Patients Monetary Affairs, and worked in the General office at St Francis Hospital, asked Bob Billet, a cook working in the main kitchen, if he thought there would be any interest in forming a Hospital Bowls Section. Bob Billet said, "Yes I'm sure we could find enough staff who would enjoy a roll up"|
|The Hospital Authority agreed to allow a Bowls Section. A suitable piece of land on the Hospital estate, an oblong stretch of lawn beside Linden House, a nurse's home next to the chapel, was chosen as the site. For five years the staff enjoyed a friendly roll up but because the area of play was very limited, the players were unable to compete in matches with other clubs.|
1954 a new site was found to build a proper bowling green, this was at
Beechmont, occupying part of the old
tennis courts. The area allowed for the Bowling Green to be constructed
sloped away to the south, which meant the ground had to be built up 4ft
6ins. The Hospital authorities gave the Bowls Section £25.00 towards
solving the problem, which was
to hire a
digger to build up the southern end of the green. The size of the green
was limited to 4 rinks
because it could only be played
east to west, or west to east.
A small green hut situated on the western end of the green under the trees served as the Bowling Pavilion for several years.
|Doctor William McCarten the Medical Superintendent was President of the Bowls Section presented the section with the McCarten Challenge Cup, a silver cup which was played for and won with pride for several years. In the early sixties a new a Bowls Pavilion replaced the old green Hut, and was situated a few yards past the eastern side of the Beechmont front garden wall, but it was not big enough to accommodate members and guests for tea. This was not a problem as we had an arrangement with the Hospital Authority to use the facilities of Beechmont Kitchen, and dining room.||
Disaster struck the Bowls section, fertilizer put on the green burnt the whole area, and turned it in to a muddy useless piece of ground. The members of the Bowls section were devastated, and those people keen to carry on playing Bowls joined other clubs.
In May Bob Billet, who was Secretary of the Bowls section, wrote an appeal in the St Francis Hospital News as the membership had dropped from 40 down to 10 members, asking staff to contact him to keep the section going. That year there were no fixtures, but they ran a competition for the McCarten Cup, and entered two teams of four in the Stewart Oxley Cup, which was run by the Balcombe Bowls Club. They managed to run practice evenings twice a week.
Having lain fallow for about 10 years the Beechmont bowling green became 50% operational again, thanks to the efforts of Len Hawkins (Horticulturist), and his staff.
|In the early years of the 80's when a final decision was made as to the site of the new Princess Royal Hospital, the fate of the Beechmont Bowling Green was decided. Today the internal road outside of Beechmont House, and the main entrance to the Hospital is where the Bowling Green used to be.|
|Land was provided by the Hospital Authority to build a new six-rink Bowling Green. Work was started on the site in December 1985. The new location which allowed members to enjoy the pleasure of a first class green, playing north to south, or east to west. The high standard of the green was not accomplished over night, and several members devoted a great deal of time and hard work to achieve such a splendid result.|
|While the new green was being made, competitions, and some matches were played on the Public Green at Beechurst and home matches played away where possible.|
Green opened in May 1987,
and the first match was held was held on the 23rd May against Burgess
Also in May the foundations for a new pavilion were laid, and by June it was almost complete, thanks to the work of Charlie Wren, Alan Bilsby and Elsie Wren and was in use for Finals Day that year.
|Disaster struck on 16th October 1987, the new pavilion was ripped off it's foundations during the night of the "hurricaine". The team of Charlie Wren, Alan Bilsby and John Floate set to and move the pavilion back on it's foundations and repaired the damage.|
No history of the Bowls Section would be complete with out mentioning the
Late John Floate, a wonderful man who again sadly died at the early age
of 52. Among the many things that John did for the Bowls Section was to
supervise and help construct the
Toilets in 1991, assisted by Charlie Wren, and others. Prior to the toilets being
constructed, when nature called it meant a walk over to the southeast
corner of St Francis Hospital, in all sorts of weather.
Ian Gooding were runners up in the National Over Fifty-Five Doubles
In 1997 Mike Truran and Ian Gooding were runners up in the National Over Fifty-Five Doubles Championship.
|St Francis won the Millennium Cup which was held at Beechurst. Further building works included a new equipment hut and rubber matting to replace the original gravel in the ditch around the green. Amy Truran won the County Singles Trophy and Beryl & Yvonne Cordwell the National mother and daughter competition.|
|Our Jubilee Year !|
|Mike and Amy Truran won the National Mixed Pairs. Amy Truran reached the National Singles Semi-Finals and won the County Singles. As part of our celebrations the club held a social trip to Lille, France. Building works continued with new fencing of our northern and eastern boundaries, a new concrete ramp was laid from the road and a brick wall was started, when completed this will run for the entire length of the green. The memorial garden was moved to it's current position.|
|One of the original members of the club, Peter Towner stood down from his postion as President. Another original member Charlie Wren died. The annual invitation triples competition was renamed in his memory. Our team won the Mid-Sussex Open 4's competion. A team of three ladies reached the national finals at Leamington Spa. The NHS announced it was going to dispose of the land surrounding the Princess Royal Hospital, part of which being where our green is located. Vandals broke into the pavilion during the closed season, fortunately there was no damage to the green.|
After three years of negotiations, the Social Club owns the land
on which St Francis Bowls Club is located. As all members of the bowls
club are members of the Social Club, we effectively own our own green
and car park. We now have to take over full maintenance and costs of
running the green, buildings and the utilities etc. as the hospital can
no longer support us.
Our first website was launched.
One of the few original members of the club, Peter Towner
sadly died. Maintenance of the green was taken over by Colin Parks
and Tony Bannister and a modernised irrigation system was installed.
In 2011 the old pavilion was replaced with a new one with a larger kitchen area. The project was headed by Dave Hook and Pat Costello.
Bill & Marge Breading and Tony & Julia Jarvis won the Southwick 4's competition. Amy Truran won the Bowls England National Singles Championship.
|Our Diamond Anniversary !|
|A number of special anniversary matches took place including a Sussex County team against St Francis. Colin Morphew became the Sussex County President. Four County matches were held on our green. In September we were visited by a touring team from Bath.|
In spring 2016 the gardens at the western end of the rink, next
to the tennis courts, were revamped, removing the old shrubs and
replacing them with a pleasant grassed area.
For the first time in 50 years the club was unable to elect a captain and vice-captain. A monthly captain system was adopted, with each chosen captain responsible for one month in rotation during the season. This worked well and was adopted for future seasons.
During the 2016/17 winter break, a project was started to replace the existing changing rooms. These have become too small for the number of players using them. Pat Costello, Dave Hook, Ray Jeffries and helpers built an extension to the pavilion roof which covers the existing changing rooms and provides some shelter for spectators sitting outside. At the end of the 2017 season the changing rooms will be demolished and replaced with new enlarged ones.
A new mower was purchased out of club funds, this will give a closer cut and ensures the green will play faster.
Through grants and sponsorship, twelve new pushers and six score units have been purchased replacing the old units which had been in use for several years.