On the morning of Thursday 25th May, a small army of bowlers advanced across the cricket ground towards the NE corner, armed with their wheeled bowls trolley bags. But it wasn’t an invasion of the croquet lawn – just a takeover for the morning…
As part of our Centenary Celebrations, the bowlers of Reigate Priory Bowling Club had been invited to come back to play on the lawn that they used to play on over 100 years ago, as part of the Croquet Club’s Centenary celebration.
The evening before, the Chairman, aided and abetted by Peter, had transformed the croquet lawn into 4 regulation size bowling “rinks” by stretching 3 strings through the locations of hoops 1 & 3, rover, peg & penult, and 4 & 3, respectively. Pegs were also placed denoting centrelines at 2 yard and 25 yard positions, all necessary for a proper game of bowls.
The concept for the day was for mixed teams of bowls and croquet players to play bowls in the morning, and croquet in the afternoon, to replicate the transition from bowling green to croquet court at Reigate Priory a century ago.
Firstly there was a briefing to croquet players on how to play bowls, given by Frank, the bowling club coach. Then it was straight in to playing triples.
The weather was good and everybody was having fun so that the “ends” just bowled until lunchtime. Scoring was rigorously adhered to and marked up on official score boards kindly brought along by the bowling club.
However, after a glass of fizz and a light buffet lunch those scores were completely forgotten, but the pleasure of playing lingered. At lunch the Bowling club very kindly presented the Croquet club with a copy of a photograph that hangs in their clubhouse, which depicts the Bowling Club team of 1898 – it was taken against the back wall of what is now the Vulliamy Terrace.
So before starting the afternoon croquet session it was off to the same wall to take a similar photograph of the today’s bowlers, and another of the day’s combined ensemble.
In the afternoon, with the rink marking strings removed, the court was set out for croquet on half-lawns, in order to play golf croquet doubles.
This time there was no “how-to-play” session; instead each doubles pair was one croquet and one bowls player with mentoring during the games. With 4 games proceeding simultaneously, the lawn was rather crowded, so games took an hour or so to complete.
Then it was time for tea and cake and the friendly chat went on for an hour or so, leaving no time for another game.
With thanks and handshakes all round, the enjoyable Centenary event came to a close; a day originally inspired by that 1898 photo.
The day is best summed up by the remarks of one lady bowler coming off the lawn: “I thought croquet was genteel, I hadn’t realised it could be such a vindictive game”, adding “I really enjoyed it!”.