Tavistock historians have so many resources to draw on. We have books like Fact & Fantasy and Crossroads In Time, pictures from the Lemp Studio Collection, items in our museum collection, records in our archives collection and articles in our local newspaper, The Tavistock Gazette.
All of these resources come into play when the topic is lawn bowling.
From our museum collection we have two bowling balls, well used, in an equally well-used carrying case. The bowler was Pat Kaufman. The case had different initials. Perhaps this set had a few owners.
Fact & Fantasy has a good overview of the history of lawn bowling. The Tavistock Gazette, now digitized an searchable, provides a richness of detail that brings the overview to life.
According to the Gazette, lawn bowling began in Tavistock in late August of 1902 when anyone interested in forming a club was asked to meet at the bank on Friday evening. Committees were appointed and individuals were charged with enquiring into the cost of renting the vacant lot beside the Post Office. At that time the Post Office was in the building now used by the Chinese Restaurant. The Oxford Hotel, now Public Library/Oxford Manor, had not as yet been built and the possibility of having a lawn bowling green right on the main street was quite exciting. Things looked promising.
Or so we thought. The Gazette October 6, 1910 edition states “A meeting of all who are interested in lawn bowling will be held in the Milling Co. office this Thursday evening at 8 o’clock. The club has been in a somewhat comatose condition for some time now and at this meeting an effort will be made to rouse it from its Rip Van Winkle snooze”.
Something clicked and lawn bowling was soon big-time news. The August 1919 Gazette reported on a one-day tournament held on the local bowling green with rinks attending from Kitchener, Ayr, Stratford, Milverton, Wellesley, New Hamburg and Embro. The day was exciting and the prizes more so ... four ivory mantel clocks, four shaving sets, four pairs of military brushes and four fountain pens. The Gazette reported that “the visitors were all pleased and loud in their praises for the excellent time and good treatment and fellowship of the local club members which they voiced at the conclusion of the tournament by giving three cheers and a tiger for the local club. This was responded to by the local members with three cheers and a tiger for the visitors”.
There are many interesting reports in the old Gazettes. Some are quite revealing. Membership was set at $5 in 1919 and was still $5 in 1952 for new members. In 1921 a membership campaign statement read “This sport is just the right amount of exercise and recreation for the average businessman and they should all become members”. By the late1930’s women and men outside of the “businessman” categorization had infiltrated the ranks. For the last years it was primarily a couples event. The last reference to lawn bowling in the Gazette is 1969.
The searchability feature of the digitized Gazettes has allowed us to pinpoint dates on Lemp Studio Collection pictures related to lawn bowling. A 1921 Gazette talks about replacing the high board fence on the east side of the bowling green located behind the drug store. Now we know for a fact that the picture on page 136 of Crossroads In Time was taken before 1921.
By using all of the resources at our disposal we have the easy ability to compile and illustrate a full and complete account of a club that was big news in Tavistock for over half a century. Might you be interested in compiling the story of the Tavistock Lawn Bowling Club or perhaps some other club in our village?