Okehampton Simmons Bowls Club have continued their 100th anniversary year with a three-way match involving Tavistock and Barnstaple Bowling Clubs.

The match on the club green in Simmons Park over a recent weekend was a very loose re-enactment of the very first match which came about thanks to Okehampton’s wealthy benefactor Sydney Simmons back in April 1923.

Okehampton Simmons Bowls Club 100th anniversary cake
The centenary cake for Okehampton Simmons Bowls Club (Submitted)

Sydney provided funds to buy and design Simmons Park and to build both the tennis courts and the bowling green on the understanding that the work would  be done by unemployed men of the town.

This was just after the First World War and unemployment was high. When the green was opened on that far-off day, there were great celebrations with the band playing and children’s games taking place in the park. 

Back then Barnstaple Bowling Club played Okehampton, beating them handsomely 51 shots to 18. This might have something to do with the strength of the Barnstaple team, which had at least one international player.  Tavistock Bowling Club then gave an exhibition match. 

The annual subscription was two shillings and six pence – 12½p in new money and the members were made up of men, white-collared workers, shopkeepers and councillors and playing with rinks — the forerunner of woods — were the order of the day.  Games were played in the evenings, Saturdays and Wednesdays, this being half-day closing in the town. 

A motion was put to the council to play on Sundays. This was rejected, with even the president of the bowls club, a councillor, voting against it. Sundays were for religious observance and even the children’s swings in the park were tied up on Sundays. The members had indoor accommodation in a Pavilion in the Park where the bandstand is now situated. It was only  much later that members actually built themselves a clubhouse, which did not open until the 1980s.

 The club members laboured for many months under the guidance of  a local builder, one Mr Lobb, to build the present clubhouse which was opened in 1983.

Now, as the club celebrates its 100th anniversary year, the clubhouse is going to be extended to improve the changing facilities, thanks to the generosity of a long-time member, Stan Cousins. He died several years ago and left money to the bowling club in his will, as well as to other sports clubs in Okehampton. This money is now going to be used to refurbish the changing facilities.

There will also be new players and beginners sessions on the club green in the park on Saturday mornings. The first one is on Saturday, May 13 from 10.30am to 12pm. Participants are asked to wear flat-soled shoes. All equipment will be provided.  For more information or any questions, contact Viv Kirkland at the club on 01837 55842.