There’s little written evidence as to why our green was built in location it is and who the green was used by in the years between the creation of the green in 1554 and the formation of the current bowling club in 1912. Despite the lack of detailed evidence there can be little doubt that the Falcon bowling green is one of the oldest greens still in use.
The first reference to the green was in1554 when the Jerningham family of Northfold (in County of Norfolk,) who were at that time also the Lords of the manor of Painswick laid down a bowling green and cockpit at the rear of The Falcon Inn, which at that time was used as a guest house to serve the Manor. At that time both the Inn and the green were allowed to use the Jerningham family crest – the falcon.
Henry VIII made bowls unlawful in the same year but did allow every nobleman and others having Manors, Lands, Tenements, or other yearly profits for term of life in his own right or in his wife’s right to a yearly value of a hundred pounds might play bowls without penalty within the precinct of his or her house. garden or orchard. Was the Falcon Green within the Garden or Orchard of the Manor House or at least the house occasionally occupied by the Jerningham family. I suspect not.
Another story in the clubs history is that King Charles I played bowls at the Old Lodge Inn in Minchinhampton on his way to the Siege of Gloucester in 1643. Recent research has uncovered evidence of a building on the site in 1617, but the bowling enclosure dates from 1788, so although the King did attend the siege, and send some troops via “Hampton Rode”, it seems much more likely that he would have passed to the east of this area on his journey from Oxford, and if he had time for a game of bowls, to have played in the far older square at the Falcon Inn, Painswick.
What was the relationship between the green, the manor house and the bowlers photographed on the green prior to 1912? How was the green maintained at that time?
Where was the manor or where did the Jerningham family live locally. I believe that an unpublished article in relation to the history of Painswick House and the rococo garden provides the answer.
It is reported that a local property known as Herrings, a farm house built in 1523-24 was owned by the Jerningham family. It was located alongside the Painswick deer park. Very close to where Painswick House now stands. A later owner F A Hyett is reported to have commented upon the fact that there was a bowling green in the garden. He believed that the green had been created before 1820
In early June 1731 The Gloucester Journal reported the intention to hold a cock fight in the cockpit adjacent to the green on 30th June. The Cock match will be fought between the gentleman of Painswick, and the gentlemen of Stroud. T hey are to produce 24 cocks 10 of which they are obliged to fight for two guineas a battle and ten guineas for the odd battle.
The Inn had a flourishing time as the date of the cock match corresponded with the rehanging of the 5 bells in St Mary’s Church after their recasting by Abraham Rudhall. and their ringing for the coronation of King
The manorial rights have changed hands twice since 1800 without the transfer of the estate on either occasion. In 1804 the Jerningham family sold the manorial rights to the Croom family of Cainscross, but they retained the Herrings. Again, in 1929 the manorial rights were sold by the Croom family to Detmar Blow, of Hilles, and the Blow family retain the rights today.
What happened in the years between the laying of the green in 1554 and the formation of the falcon bowling club in 1912. There are some photographs which suggest that bowls was being played on the green before the falcon club was formed. The Falcon documents refer to the men pictured as local players rather than club members
Whilst I believe that there would have been occasions when the green was used by the Jerningham family, the earliest reference I can find to the green being used is in the National Newspaper Archive. The following paragraphs summarise reports which appeared in the Stroud Journal on the dates shown. That still leaves some 300 years with no known activity.
Until 1908 there was a slight slope on the green and it was suggested that the local players were able to exploit it, with the result that the local team seldom lost a match. The green was levelled and squared but great care was taken to retain reuse the original turf. In 1922 there was a slight sinking in the centre of the green and the same great care was taken to preserve the turf whilst repairs were carried out.
James Tidmarsh returned sincere thanks to his numerous friends for the support he had received maintaining the Green and begs to inform them that the bowling green and picnic ground is now open for the season. 20.6.1857 Stroud Journal
The Falcon Hotel will host the Painswick Feast on Monday 24th September 1877. The Sheepscombe Brass Band will play a selection of dance music with dancing taking place on the bowling green from 3 pm. How many clubs would allow such activity on their green, or did the hotel exercise their powers as landlord? 09.09.1877 Stroud Journal
The members of Painswick Bowling Club were met yesterday by their Stroud friends when a highly pleasant afternoon was had. The match was played on the beautiful green at the Falcon Hotel and resulted in a narrow victory for the home team. Stroud News 23.7.1880
Painswick Bowls Club their held Annual Dinner at the Falcon Hotel where F A Hyett (President) gave an interesting speech and proposed success to club. Stroud Journal 20.2.04
The Painswick Bowling Club has now commenced practice on the green at The Falcon Hotel, Painswick. The work of levelling, turfing and (decorating?) has been successfully carried out. Stroud News 19.5.08
It is interesting to note that the club playing at The Falcon at that time was known as Painswick. To differentiate the two clubs, the other local club was known as Painswick Institute.
There are photographs available which show local players on the green at various times before 1912. I have been unable to find the status of those players. But they were probably members of that earlier club which ceased to function prior to the formation of the falcon club. Why a new club was necessary is not clear.
Notes which summarise the minutes of the earliest meeting of the new club show that at a meeting held on April 15 1912.resolved that a new club should be formed. It should be known as the Falcon Bowling Club with membership being limited to men. There is no recorded reference to the former club or why a new club was needed.
A handicap singles competition with up to 56 entries would also be played each year with an invitation extended to members of other clubs.
A meeting on 12th June 1912 established the level of green fees and added that the losers of any match would be required to pay the victors fees as well as their own. It was also reported that 56 men had entered the handicap singles competition. This included 15 scratch players, 7 owed between 2 and 8 shots, whilst 34 received between 2 and 8 shots.
The first Annual General Meeting of the club was held at Falcon hotel on 17th December 1912. At that time it was resolved that the club seek to be affiliated to the England Bowling Association (EBA) the Gloucestershire County Bowling Association (GCBA)
At a later meeting members were told that thirteen matches were arranged for 1913. These included games against teams representing Stonehouse, Vauxhall, Gloucester City, Rodborough, Nailsworth and Wagon Company (works) clubs. Five of these matches were won, 3 lost and 5 were cancelled.
For 1914 Dr Robertson (Club Captain) proposed that two matches be arranged with the Institute club. All matches to be played on a Saturday if possible and the Gloucester Commercial travellers should also be invited to a game.
In 1923 Members considered a request from Stroud Bowling Club and agreed that they could use the Falcon green for the time being
From 1924 all Club meetings were switched from Falcon to “Headquarters” due to a “Masonic connection”. It is not clear as to which side decided to make the break but I suspect that it was likely to have been the club. The first recorded masons ceremony in Gloucestershire was held in the Market Room of the Falcon on the occasion of the funeral of the Reverend John Moseley, a prominent mason in 1704. I am unable to find any reference to subsequent events which were likely to have caused this breakdown in relations. Or even where the “Headquarters” was sited.
In 1926 Members expressed concern that the protection offered by the thatched shelter was inadequate and it was felt that this could only be resolved by providing a replacement structure. It was decided to approach the owners, Stroud Brewery Co, about erecting a small dressing hut. The brewery agreed and a hut was eventually erected in 1934. Lavatory accommodation was added in 1938. The opening of this pavilion was marked with a game between the Presidents team and the Captains team.
On the 3rd July 1929 the club entered into a legal agreement with the tenant landlord of the Falcon, Mrs Minna Goddard. This allowed them free and unrestricted access to the green and the small pavilion subject to a number of clauses:
The club shall be responsible for the proper maintenance of the green
The club shall employ Mrs Goddard’s son Tom to undertake that necessary maintenance
If there is any disagreement between the club and Tom Goddard the clause may be rescinded if the President of the Gloucestershire County Bowling Association certifies in writing that his work has not been carried out to a satisfactory manner.
The club shall allow the same facilities for playing on the green to the visitors to the falcon hotel. This contract ended on 1st May 1930.
As in most clubs there is always people who is willing and able to do a bit more to serve the cause. Certainly, in the early days that man was the Tom Goddard. He is described as an bowler extraordinary, International, County President EBA representative for many years, Club secretary from 1923 to 1967, represented County 225 times.
There is no evidence of any similar earlier agreement, nor of any subsequent one being required. Why was this one it necessary? Was there a dispute between the parties which needed resolving or was it a requirement of the owners of the hotel and green.
The Cotswold Strollers Bowling Club is reputed to be the oldest Bowls touring club in Great Britain and the evidence tends to justify the claim. It enjoys a close affinity with the Falcon Bowling Club Most of the following information is obtained from a brochure produced to mark their Diamond Jubilee of the club in 1972.
After a very pleasant game at the Falcon, Albert Jones persuaded seven other members of the Falcon club that it would be a good idea to form a Touring Club and that was achieved within a few weeks.
The first tour took place that same year, 1912, when a team of 8 players travelled to the Weston Super Mare area. In a trip which lasted a fortnight they hired a horse-drawn carriage and the party used it to travel around the local clubs. This marked the start of a friendship with the Weston clubs which carried on every year for many years.
By 1916 the growing popularity of these tours meant that the party to visit Weston Super Mare had grown to 12 members. The party met at Gloucester and travelled to Bristol by ship and then onto Weston by road transport. Tim Peters captained that tour and submitted a report at its conclusion. Summarised it reads:
It was thought that a trip to Weston, Burnham and Cardiff would afford relaxation and pleasure to those enthusiasts who were willing and able to avail themselves of the opportunity. No difficulty was encountered in arranging fixtures.
Matches were played at Burnham, Ashcombe Park, Clarence Park and Cardiff Mackintosh and resulted in three wins and two loses. Two further matches were subsequently arranged with the Victoria Club, one of which was won and the other lost.
No written records survive covering the next few years but the 1934 the party included wives, ensuring that the party now exceeded the forty mark.
The 1935 Whitsuntide party travelled to Devon and were based at The Royal Hotel, Teignmouth. A total of eight matches were played. The 1936 tour saw a party travel to Bournemouth. It comprised of twenty players and fifteen ladies. Apart from the World War II years The Strollers have been visiting Bournemouth every year until at least 1972. In that period, they have played at twelve different clubs including the Richmond Park Club on no less than 34 occasions.
Two matches were played against the Royal Household at Windsor in 1947 and 1948. The Stollers won both games.
The Strollers have also enjoyed entertaining teams touring Gloucestershire and a number of enjoyable games have been played at the Falcon.
Over the years the members of the Falcon Bowling Club have been pressed to overturn the decision made at the initial meeting that membership be restricted to men only. During those debates it was clear that there were mixed views on the topic.
Although ladies had been invited to the opening of the green in 1928 the first mention of ladies actually using the green came in 1941 during the second world war when Club Captain Fred Smith brought forward the possibility of ladies being allowed to play on the green and it was resolved to leave this to the discretion of the club secretary to allow one rink to be used by them.
Then in 1945 under an item “Ladies and the use of the green” The President brought up the question of where the club now stood. It was agreed that ladies be allowed to play on the green as and when circumstances permit.
But in 1946 a proposal that a limited number of ladies should be allowed to join the club on terms to be decided was considered. During the course of the debate an amendment was submitted requiring that the club stick with the old rule (Men only). That was carried by 16 votes to 2. The next minute of that meeting recorded that congratulations be passed to Mrs F Smith (the captain’s wife) on being elected as President of the Gloucestershire County Women’s Bowling Association.
The mixed views continued on this topic as in 1957, under an item “Future Policy of the Club” was discussed at great length and it was finally decided that a limited Ladies Section would be desirable and a Sub-Committee was appointed to sort out an acceptable scheme.
The sub-committee recommended limited times of use of the green and that the subscription should be 25 shillings. It was also proposed that the Ladies Section should be run as a separate independent body. It was decided to put the proposal to the membership by way of a referendum
In 1958 a report on the voting revealed that 30 members were in favour of admitting ladies and 11 against so at last the club had a ladies section At a subsequent meeting the President read a letter from Mrs Peckham, Chairman of the ladies section newly formed in 1958, expressing appreciation of the facilities afforded to them. She also reported that they now had 18 members and were affiliated to the GCWBA. That information was received by the members with great satisfaction and pleasure.
Matters have progressed since that time in that the Club adopted a fully mixed constitution in 1990. The club now operates on a fully integrated and sharing basis with equal rights for all members
On 14th June 1996 the Falcon club celebrated the opening of their latest pavilion which replaced the one erected in 1934 and 5 timber sheds built in the interim, but which by now were by now in a dilapidated condition. The overall cost was some £128,000
The building was opened by Tony Allcock MBE, World Singles Champion and Club member. Through the club’s history a number of members have represented England in international games, and many more have represented Gloucestershire and served as County Presidents and officers.