The club was formed in 1867, and is the second oldest bowling club in Surrey. It was originally located to the rear of the Kings Arms and Royal Hotel, which itself dates back to 1639.
Following the creation of the Phillips Memorial Park and gardens in 1914, the present bowling green was constructed by the town council in 1923, at a cost of £170. It has been home to the club since 1924.
The park is named after John George (Jack) Phillips, who, as well as being a resident of Farncombe, was Chief Wireless Telegraphist on the RMS Titanic. He was employed by Marconi and was sending personal messages when the ship struck an iceberg. Jack remained at his post sending out distress messages in Morse code, as the ship sank, on 15 April 1912. The Cloister was built in his honour through public subscription. The garden was designed by Gertrude Jekyll and the cloister by Hugh Thackery Turner.
The Park, which includes the Burys Field, is situated in the central area of Godalming Town and provides the central point for the town’s social activities including Fetes, Youth Football, Band Concerts as well as bowling. In addition to the Bowling Green, the Phillips Memorial Park, with the River Wey running alongside, provides a Bandstand, a children’s play area, a Riverside Walk, Wild Meadow, Library and car park as well a beautiful park area for children to play and families to picnic. And, being so close to the bandstand we get to enjoy ‘Music in the Park’ while we play all through the summer.
Originally there wasn’t a club building; access to the green cost six (old) pennies which was collected by someone sitting in the mower shed. Teas were taken at a local cafe in Church Street. The Farncombe players formed their own club in 1951, but only played away matches until 1953, when they shared the green with Godalming – from Monday to Friday they had three rinks each and the whole green on alternate weekends.
Farncombe built the first club house, located on the wild meadow side of the Green. Godalming originally shared this, eventually building their own on the bandstand side, incorporating the original mower shed. The entrance remains with the Godalming plaque above.
In 2005, the clubs merged to become Godalming and Farncombe Bowling Club. The Club Pavilion now provides a spacious social area and a licensed bar, and a well-equipped kitchen and seating area. The bowling season runs between April and September. We maintain a membership of about fifty with both male and female members aged from 13 to 90. The club is always on the lookout for new members and is pursuing links with local schools, Scout and Guide groups to promote the game. We also have an active social membership.
The Club celebrated its 150th Anniversary in 2017 with home games against Bowls England, Surrey Bowling Association and the Chelsea Pensioners, and a special Celebratory day attended by the Mayors of Waverley and Godalming Town Council. We were fortunate to be invited to play against the Royal Household Bowling Club, in the grounds of Windsor Castle. The following year we were also privileged to play a return game against the Chelsea Pensioners at The Royal Hospital Chelsea, where we had tea in the Great Hall afterwards. We managed to leave a team member behind – we weren’t worried as he seemed very at home there. However, we did return to collect him. There are some photos in our Gallery.
The club has had a great deal of history and many recorded incidents.
One extraordinary incident was published on the 4th August 1923 in the Surrey Advertiser. It reported that during a match between the Godalming & Guildford Councils, when the players were about to begin their game, it was interrupted by a Mr E Siggery. He was under the wrong impression that Godalming Council had not asked permission of the bowling club to play on the green. He “shouted” his protests in the presence of the visitors and continued to do so. He also removed the jacks which the Godalming Council had provided for the game. It was reported that the Mayor of Godalming regarded the incident as a grave affront to himself personally and to the Corporation as a whole. It was felt that even if Mr Siggery had full justification for a protest there were other means open to him of making it, rather making a scene in front of visitors on such an occasion. A cutting from the newspaper is currently on wall in the club house, which is lovingly known as ‘The Shed’.
The game of bowls, as well as providing sporting activity, provides and encourages fitness and social mixing to all in the Community, males/female of all ages.
There are matches from between April and September. Home matches start at 2.30pm. Competitive league matches are usually on Saturdays and friendlies on Saturdays and Sundays. There are also some midweek friendly matches during the season in addition to mens, ladies and mixed league matches. Members take part in club competitions as well as competitions at County and National level.
Coaching on an individual basis always available, and under 18s coaching sessions were run every Friday afternoon at 4pm. Changed, as a trial, during the 2022 season and now Thursdays between 5 and 6pm – just come along. Adult members attend from 6pm onwards when coaching is available.
Casual play is available most afternoons during the week with regular Club nights on Wednesdays, when Club coaches are always in attendance.
The Club provides a good friendly atmosphere, taking in casual bowlers, novices, experienced, young, old, and competitive players as well as places for social members. Nobody is on record as saying they started too young, so do give us a try!
Updated 14/10/2021, 30/8/2022, 17/5/2023 Hon Sec.