Yaxley Broadway Bowls Club
(a brief history)
In 1938 a brand spanking new Pub arrived on the Broadway, christened the Hatchet & Bill and built to replace a very ancient pub which was no longer fit for use.
Not only did it have the same name but the same landlord and landlady Joseph and Emma Cluer. The builders employed their two sons Fred & George as bricklayers. The pub was shortly followed by a bowls green, built to augment the facilities available to the customers.
Fred and George, remained at the pub and, and as well as their other duties, they maintained the green. Both were keen bowlers; the pub and the green thrived.
This idyllic arrangement came to an abrupt halt in September 1939 with the start of WW2.
The two brothers promptly volunteered and in 1940 went off to serve their country.
Both joined the Royal Armoured Corp, Fred as a tank gunner and George as a driver, taking supplies to the frontline. They were in the thick of the action and fought down the length of Italy including the battle for Monte Casino which took a terrible toll of the forces involved.
Meanwhile, the bowls green was virtually abandoned, the grass reached 2 feet high! Its only use was as a playground for the local children who, not content with playing in the long grass used the shingled pavilion roof as a slide with a heap of grass to break their fall! They also witnessed some American service personnel who visited the Hatchet during the cold wartime winters, some had never seen snow before, but were soon running round and around on the green in the snow whooping with delight!
With the end of the war in sight, a Mr Roger Hollyoake was employed to sort out the green He had only limited success; from the very onset there had been a major problem with the drainage, one corner flooding regularly. Of course five years is a long time to leave a bowls green to its own devices and possibly a herd of bullocks being moved from the railway station to the Co-Op farm which had run amok had some bearing on it!
In 1945 the two warriors along with many others returned home, Fred took up full time duties in the pub with his mother Emma and George resumed working full time as a “brickie” both the brothers still acted as green-keepers, in their spare time, the green remaining under the control of the landlord.
In 1948, Huntingdon Brewery took the major step of completely sorting the green out. A foot of topsoil was removed and a thick layer of clinker from the brick kilns was laid as drainage, it appears likely from soil samples taken over the years, that most of the original top soil was reused when the green was built back to its original height.
On completion the green was allowed to stand for the whole of 1949.
In 1950 a group, with the blessing of the brewery formed the Yaxley Broadway Bowls Club, with the proviso that a rink always be kept open for pub customers. Importantly, the pavilion, erected in 1938 was still in good order.
Our First Officers and Founder Members.
(An example to us all as to just how much can be achieved in a short space of time, with hard work and enthusiasm).
With members representing every section of the village, the first officers and committee were elected.
William (Bill) Cook. He was the owner of Cook’s elevators and kept the office of Chairman, until 1954 when he handed over to Vic Goodwin. Vic was a builder and many of the houses he built can be found around the village.
Bill Jackson ran the Co-Op farm.
Joseph G Speechley was the local farmer’s agent at the Sugar Beet factory and was instrumental in providing the homes in the village, which are named after him.
Doctor Dan Ashton, a charismatic character who, following in his fathers footsteps ran his practice from the front room of the Mill House, (this now is the front part of the British Legion!). Well liked and an excellent doctor he found time also to be an active supporter of Yaxly school football team; be physiotherapist to Peterborough United; play dominos, cribbage as well as bowls!
Jim Blake combined his captaincy with working as a private investigator on the Railway, ticket collector at Yaxley Station and was also a special constable.
Secretary and Treasurer
George Bessell, combined the two offices, as well as managing the Norman Cross Hotel.
Included Ernie Pywell, who ran the first bus from the village to Peterborough. Named the Bluebird, it was fairly primitive, without interior lighting. It was not unusual for the able bodied among the passengers to have to dismount to lend it a helping hand when ascending Church Street!
The Rev. (Walter) Gywn Hopkin Vicar of St Peters. My research took in a couple he had married in 1950 who informed me that he was a popular and highly respected Vicar.
Police Sergeant Dick Horsford, who had joined the Hunts police in 1927 (PC7) a great all round sportsman, he played many games representing the police federation.
The railway was represented by Wally Barrell and Jack Dales.
The brickworks by Vic Laws and Harry Hancock.
All in all, the club had a remarkable cross section of the community. Things soon started to hum! By the beginning of May, the 29 founder members were able to assemble for a group photo, which still hangs in our pavilion.
Club competitions Singles, Doubles and friendly fixtures were organized; even a club dinner took place, not bad for the first year. Fred Cluer had the distinction of winning the first club Singles competition.
For the next few years, things moved gently along. Friday evening rollups being among the most popular of the clubs activities, and to this day every endeavor is made, even at the busiest times to keep at least one rink free for this purpose. The number of friendlies increased steadily, as the club became more well known.
Various personages donated cups; the Mitcham in 1953, followed in 1954 by the Cook and Goodwin Cups. A Cup was also donated by Holme Bowls Club, (which sadly no longer exists), this cup is now the trophy for our handicap singles competition.
Subscriptions were kept very low, there wasn’t the money about in the 1950’s, this meant that well into the 70’s there was little money for expenditure on the green, other than the odd bag of fertilizer, usually due to the generosity of Martin Black one of our early committee members, and perhaps the odd load of soil that one of the farmers could spare.
Nonetheless, by all accounts it was a very happy period of the clubs existence.
The members, after Joan married Fred in 1954 enjoyed bar service rink side and excellent refreshments in the smoke room after the game and very often songs around the piano, founder member Bill Worral, a retired army captain, was an excellent baritone who had opted to forgo a career as a professional with the Doyle Carte Opera Company. All fell silent when he stood by the piano and sang “Its Now or Never”. Several of the other founder members had fine voices and could hold their own in any company!
Next..... On to the 70’s.
A (Tony ) Casbon Press Officer.