AFTER more than 10 years of waiting, members of Alton Social Bowling Club were delighted to witness the official opening of their new bowling green and clubhouse on Chawton Park Road.

The cutting of the ribbon by Alton mayor Matthew Bayliss last Sunday marked the honouring of a planning condition by international brewing giant Molson Coors, which has been granted outline permission to build up to 85 new homes on its former sports ground on Anstey Road, subject to compensation for the loss of sporting provision on the site.

And this has included provision of a new outdoor bowls facility for Alton Social Bowling Club.

Spokesman Sheila Goodwin explained the history of the club.

“Having been associated with brewers and brewing in the town since the early 20th Century, a four-rink facility green was opened on the sports ground site in Anstey Road under the auspices of Courage Brewery in the early 1950s, initially for brewery employees who had previously played friendly and brewery matches on a bowling green behind the High Street,” she said.

“By the 1970s, ladies were admitted, initially spouses or family of brewery employees and, at the end of that decade, both the ladies’ and the men’s sections were affiliated to their respective county associations, offering wider challenges and competition opportunities.

“The 1970s also saw brewery changes in the town from Courage to Harp and then to Bass.”

Sheila continued: “Bass Bowling Club progressed and developed through the 1980s and 1990s. The club affiliated to The Three Counties Fellowship, the North Hampshire Women’s Bowling Association, the Basingstoke and District Bowling Association. It had long held club competitions and now had members entering district, local, county and national competitions. It now has members who have gained their county badges.

“Having previously held the name of the brewery in the town, the year 2000 brought change and the club was not able to continue in the Coors name. It adopted the name Alton Social Bowling Club in line with the social club that was run by members of all the clubs then operating on the site, including cricket, tennis, netball, bowls and football.

“Then came news that the brewery, now Molson Coors, wanted to sell the ground for development and the club was extremely concerned for its future. Thanks to legislation, alternative sporting facilities had to be provided and there followed years of planning applications and discussion until eventually a new site was found in Chawton Park Road.

“Finally, in autumn 2015, the foundations were dug on the new site and over the next few months the developers, in conjunction with Alton Town Council, the club and Molson Coors, worked to complete the magnificent new facility in Chawton Park Road.”

A long-time club member, Mrs Goodwin said of the future: “The outlook is now positive, the future of the club is secured and its location is superb – adjacent to the tennis club and the Mid-Hants Watercress railway, opposite the Treloar Height development, and boasting a large clubhouse with a light, bright interior, changing rooms, kitchen, club room and bar, as well as six rinks.

“Members were busy in early May moving equipment and furniture into the new premises.”

Club president Gary Johnson said: “The club would sincerely like to thank Molson Coors, for providing what will become one of the premier centres for outdoor bowls in Hampshire, and Alton Town Council for providing an appropriately located site near to Alton’s indoor bowling club.

“Alton Social Bowls Club considers itself fortunate to have been provided with this fine facility and we look forward to the start of play next season when the green will be ready after its recent reseeding.”

On opening the new facility, Alton mayor Mr Bayliss said: “It has been a long journey but Alton Social Bowling Club now has an outstanding facility in an excellent new location and will soon become one of Hampshire’s premier bowling clubs. I wish the club every success for the future.”

Commenting on behalf of Whitedown ward, town and district councillor Graham Hill said: “It’s great news that the new bowling club is now open. East Hampshire District Council has worked alongside Alton Town Council, Molson Coors and the bowling club to help secure the replacement of the clubhouse and green.

“The town can be really proud of this new sports facility.”

Alton Town Council leader Peter Hicks added: “The town council is delighted to have been able to assist in the delivery of this fantastic new facility and we wish Alton Social Bowls Club every success for the future in their new home.

“We would like to extend our thanks to David Castle, at Vail Williams, who has led on the delivery of this project on behalf of Molson Coors.”

Alton Social Bowling Club officers and members have expressed their thanks also to Alton and Four Marks Bowling Club for providing playing facilities throughout this season, enabling competitions and match fixtures to take place.

Alton Social Bowling Club is planning a public open day next spring. It has secured a grant from the Bowls Development Alliance that will enable it to introduce the game to anyone interested in taking it up and to offer coaching.

For more details, call secretary Dick Holden on 01420 88383 or e-mail [email protected].

n Ian Urquhart, of I Urquhart Decorations, presented two new wall signs and a club flag to club president Gary Johnson.

Mr Johnson thanked Mr Urquhart for providing the signage, as well as previous club banners and scorecards, and for his continued support for the club. He said the new signage and flag will enhance the outside of the new clubhouse.