Heading north up Ditchling Road, you see on the right a children's playground and some tennis courts. By then, tucked away behind a long hedge, you have passed a sporting facility renowned throughout Sussex over the past ninety years - Hollingbury Park Bowls Club.
It was formed just before the end of the First World War, when thirteen gentlemen of the town met at the Stanmer Park Hotel on 2 February 1918 to propose the establishment of a bowls club on a green in the southwestern corner of Hollingbury Park. Annual subscriptions were to be 2/6d (12 1/2p)!!
During its first season it had attracted forty-five members, but had lost all six matches played against other clubs in the town - Brighton Travellers, Kemp Town and Preston Park.
In 1921, the club gained its first major trophy - Messrs Foster, Parker, Roberts and Stanforth won the Sussex County Fours Championship. Two years later, Hollingbury members were successful in the pairs and fours and competitions at the prestigious Brighton Tournament held in Preston Park. By then the club's subscriptions had doubled to 5/- (25p). It was at this time that the Town Council agreed to install shrubs around the green to protect members from the wind, and laid down a second green of Cumberland Turf, south of the existing one, which was opened by the Mayor, John Lord Thompson, on 8 August 1926.
In 1935, several clubs in the Brighton area agreed to form a league -starting the following year. Hollingbury declined to join at first, but did so in 1937, finishing third. Two years later they were champions, and they repeated their success the following season.
Throughout the Second World War members continued to play, and achieved many successes in county competitions and at the Brighton Tournament. Any money raised by club activities during this period was donated to various wartime funds and charities.
The postwar years saw the club expand its membership, despite only having an old bandstand as its clubhouse. There was no toilet, nor electricity or washing facilities - players had to walk up to the old golf club pavilion by the tennis courts, where tea, served by the ladies, was also taken during the course of a match. But in 1971, the sixty-year-old bandstand was replaced by a new pavilion at a cost of £7,000.
Then, in 1976, a Ladies' Club was formed by supporters and wives of members, and flourished for many years. However, in common with many other clubs locally, it has recently had to amalgamate with the men's section to form a mixed club.
The 1990s saw the greatest period in the history of the club, as a result of an influx of many keen and competitive younger bowlers. Club members won some thirteen county championships over these years, and there were several losing finalists, too. John Pannett, Mick Rapley, Jim Morley and Leigh Prince won the English Bowling Association Fours Championship in 1995 ( pictured above) , and Richard Moses was selected to play for England, along with the legendary Tony Allcock. Over this time the club also won the Brighton League six times and the League (Bill Hawkins) Cup on three occasions.
In 2007, it was agreed that the club would become a mixed one, open to membership for both men and ladies - a bonus for any couples who wish to play! The club always welcomes new members, whether or not they have played bowls before, as tuition and coaching will be given. Throughout the season (May to September), there are friendly games against other local clubs, Brighton League matches, club internal competitions, and a weekly get-together on Monday evenings.
If anyone, or any couple, would be interested in joining a very sociable - but competitive - club, they can get further information from the Club Secretary, John Hayhurst (on 01273 236210). They would be very welcome, but be warned: the annual subscription has risen!