The club's history
The splendid new Clubhouse - circa 1913, still with north west facing orientation. A tea tent stands in place of the former hayrick although the purpose of providing nourishment remains the same.
In 1891, a group of bowlers rented a section of meadow from farmer Tom Ward of Fitzroy Park farm and founded the North London Bowling Club. The field was levelled and made into a bowling green, and one of the cowsheds was turned into a pavilion. The green was improved over the next decades by the construction of banks and ditches.
In around 1910, the Earl of Mansfield granted the club a lease of the land for only £50 a year. The green was re-laid and a proper pavilion built to replace the old cowshed. It is the clubhouse you see today.
To safeguard the land for the club, the North London Bowling Club Limited was founded in 1924. It successfully acquired the freehold of the land and buildings.
The green was re-laid in 1935 at a cost of £530. It was also extended to 42 yards square, its current size. The funds were raised in a very short time by the issue of bonds carrying 3.5% interest.
Between 1901 and 1956 two greenkeepers tended the green. Mr A Henderson was in charge until 1936 and Mr A C Gunn for the next 20 years. They used scythes and a hand mower. Just before his retirement, Mr Gunn was delighted when a motor mower was bought. Some £100 was raised by 58 members.
The AGM in 1966 voted on a proposal to admit women as members for a trial period of three years. With a vote of 21 - 7 the motion was carried and from that point onwards the ladies did not have to sit in a special area of the clubhouse and could buy their own drinks. To this day, the three years’ trial period was never officially extended.
One of the most famous and colourful members of the club was also a famous sportsman. Les Compton joined the club in 1962. He had played football for Arsenal and England and was a fine wicketkeeper for Middlesex C.C.C. His invitations at the bar to “have another one” accompanied by a friendly slap on the back, which almost knocked you off your stool (he weighed around 20 stone in later years) was seldom refused. In spite of losing his right leg as a result of injuries sustained during his football career, he continued to play bowls with the aid of an artificial limb and remained a formidable force to be reckoned with, right to the end. His picture is on the wall of the clubhouse.
We are proud that the club has continued its healthy bowling life since 1891. In 2016 we celebrated its 125th anniversary we are in excellent shape and with the prospect of many more successful years.
→ Fitzroy Farm - circa 1890s. The approach lane from Fitzroy Park remains clearly recognisable.
→ → The Bowling Green - circa 1900. The indoor accommodation was→ provided by converting one of Tom Ward’s cowsheds into a pavilion. This small structure had a sliding partition across the centre to give privacy for Committee meetings.
↓ Bowlers on the Green - circa 1910.
This photograph has been digitally colourised.
↓ North view from Clubhouse in 1913
Looking towards Hampstead Heath
This photograph has been digitally colourised.
↓ This photograph taken in 1894/95 shows the original Bowling Green. It was a piece of meadow rented from Tom Ward who farmed the land under Lord Mansﬁeld - owner of the Kenwood Estate. It is Tom Ward himself who stands on the left of the photo.
First women president Pearl O'Brien 1997 & 2000
1819 - 1901
Population of London
3,231 ,900 > Inner 4,422,340 > Inner
4,942,100 > Outer 1,143,516 > Outer
8,173,900 > Total 5,565,856 > Total
Population in 2015 8,615,246 (Source)
Bowling memorabilia in our clubhouse
First lntemational Bowling matches. Played at the Crystal Palace 13~15 July 1903.
The England team was captained by the legendary Dr. W. G. Grace who became the first President of the English
Bowling Association in 1903.
A 125 year old bowl on display in the clubhouse.
Bowls: W G scores another 100
Bowls has come a long way since Dr W G Grace founded the English Bowling Association at the South London Bowls Club in Wandsworth. To celebrate their centenary, the English Bowling Association sent a team to where it all started on June 8, 1903.
Not only did Grace, the legendary cricketer, bowl under-arm for England, he was the EBA's first president, and became a pioneer of indoor bowls at Crystal Palace, where he was put in charge of "cricket and other sports".
Grace felt that tennis was "a bit effeminate", and insisted that the tennis courts at Crystal Palace were turned into bowling greens. By Jon Woods 12:01AM BST 03 Jun 2003 (The Telegraph)
Les Compton was succeeded as Middlesex wicketkeeper by John Murray, but he later excelled at bowls. He ran the Prince of Wales pub on Highgate Hill, but his health had deteriorated in recent years, and in 1982 he had to have his right foot amputated. A quiet, reserved, genial man, he was widely respected for his sportsmanship.
Leslie Harry Compton
NLBC president, 1974 and 1976
(Born 12 September 1912 – Died 27 December 1984) was an English sportsman who played football and cricket for Arsenal and Middlesex, respectively. He gained two England caps late in his football career, and remains the oldest outfield player to debut for England (and the oldest post-war debutant in any position). His brother, Denis, was also a footballer and cricketer for Arsenal and Middlesex, though Leslie was more successful in football and Denis in cricket.