In the first months of 1914 the Rhiwbina Sports Club was granted, by the Rhiwbina Garden Village Society, a lease for 7.6 acres of land ‘for the laying out of playing areas’. A subsequent meeting decided to name the club The Rhiwbina Recreation Club, and a pavilion and playing areas were opened at a ceremony on May 9th, 1914. The Club comprised two grass tennis courts, croquet green and a cricket pitch.
In 1921, after an extended lease was granted, Rhiwbina Bowling Club was formed and a green was constructed, after raising £825 via a debenture scheme, and opened in April 1922. By 1925 the club was fully involved in its various leagues and friendly fixtures.
In 1958, the year of the Empire Games, the green was used for practice by the competitors of visiting countries. In 1968, the Ladies’ green was officially opened. The Club has continued to improve its facilities throughout its history and has been chosen as the host green for many prestigious events, including county matches, British Isles Civil Service tournaments, and in 2019 the Para Bowls Home Nations Internationals.
Rhiwbina Recreation Club was formed in 1913 and comprised two grass tennis courts, a croquet green and a cricket pitch on land leased from the Rhiwbina Garden Village Society.
A year later, in 1914, a pavilion was built by voluntary labour and was handed over, free of debt, at the end of that year. Although there are references in the first RRC minutes books of byelaws of ‘bowls and croquet’, there was only a single category of membership. It was another seven years before thoughts turned to providing a bowling green.
An extended lease was granted, and members decided to explore the possibility of constructing a new Hall, and also a bowling green and extra tennis courts. Although finance was a problem, the money was eventually raised through a debenture scheme, resulting in the sum of £825 in £1 shares from 235 members. The bowling green and tennis courts were completed in the autumn and Rhiwbina Bowling Club was then founded, but the green did not open until the following year.
The bowling green was opened in April and the first Captain, W.H.Tyndall, remained in that office for the next three years; the first RBC Honorary Secretary was W.Watts. The first committee not only fostered the growth of the Club in its formative years but, together with its local businessmen, provided financial support.
Tom and Percy Mann appeared on the scene and were active members for the next thirty and forty years respectively. Tom was ‘Green Ranger’ for many years, whilst Percy was concerned with administration. Both were excellent men to have in these early years.
The ever popular ‘Spoons’ Competition started, and is still going strong years later, although no longer with the prize of a silver spoon, nor on a Friday evening. Even in the early days the Committee demonstrated a public-spirited attitude and became involved in raising funds for charity. Much of this went to the Cardiff Royal Infirmary which, at that time, was very dependent for its survival on such charitable donations.
The Club had its first national winner when H.R. Edwards won the Welsh Bowling Association (WBA) Singles Competition. It was many years before this feat was accomplished again. RRC was asked to cover the costs of maintaining the green for the following year. Members expressed the view that they were contributing too much to the groundsman’s wages.
The Club asked the Welsh Private Greens to reduce green fees.
Finances were again difficult and RRC required an additional sum of £200 from the section. After much debate and under protest the amount was found by ‘special efforts’.
The WBA proposed a National Club Competition known as the Carruthers Shield; many clubs opposed the idea and Rhiwbina asked to be exempted for two years.
The original Captain, W.H.Tyndall died; his widow presented a cup in his memory to the Club, to be awarded to the winners of the Pairs Competition.
Club minutes record our trying to opt out of the Carruthers Shield Competition. Attempts made at persuading other private clubs to do likewise were unsuccessful.
Idris Evans became the first Club member to be awarded an international cap. Tom Mann and H.R.Edwards lost to opponents from Swansea in the final of the WBA Pairs Competition.
Off the green, financial problems predominated again, with anxiety over of the state of RRC finances. The groundsman’s wages of £2 per week became a cause for much concern and RBC’s Committee agreed to contribute. It was clear that, on several occasions, these wages had been paid out of the pockets of committeemen.
On the green, Ingram Evans won the Welsh Private Greens (East) Singles Championship, now known as the Cratchley Bowl.
Another member, T.J. Thomas, was awarded an international cap. Tom Mann and Len Nash were losing finalists in the WBA Pairs Competition, Tom for the second time in three years.
A difficult and traumatic year. The Captain resigned after a confrontation with the selection committee over their opinion that he could not be selected on merit to play for the first team. On a point of principle, the Honorary Secretary resigned also and, following a vote of confidence in the selection committee, the Vice-Captain and Assistant Secretary moved up to take over the duties, which seemed to resolve the problem.
Rundle Bending joined the Club; he served with much distinction for the next four decades. Members clubbed together to purchase a sprinkler for the green.
1939 – 1945
The outbreak of war took precedence over most other things in people’s minds. The groundsman, Harry Phillips, was called up and so his work was taken over by Tom Mann, with the help of three other members. Petrol rationing necessitated the purchase of an electric mower. Despite the efforts of the voluntary groundsmen the green began to deteriorate due to the lack of professional care and the members voiced their concerns. A new petrol mower was purchased with funds raised from whist drives and raffles. Membership had increased to 91, but a great deal of ingenuity and enterprise was still called for in order to keep the Club afloat.
The groundsman returned from military service. The Club enjoyed some success by winning its section of the Carruthers Shield Competition. Despite inclement weather, Club competitions were eventually finished just in time for Finals Day.
Tom Mann was elected President of Welsh Private Greens (East). All opposition to the WBA’s proposal for the Carruthers Shield ceased and the Club celebrated by winning its section for the second year running. The final of the Welsh Private Greens (East) Competition took place on the Club’s green. Financial problems were again to the fore and, despite protests, fees increased to £3-5s-0d with fixture cards charged at 6d.
Success at last for the Club. The ‘A’ Team won Division Two of the Private Greens (East).
G. F. Rees won the Tenby Gold Cup. A new scoreboard was presented to the Club by an anonymous donor.
1950 An exceptional year with the Club winning both the PG1 and PG2 competitions.
Bill Gamlin began a memorable record in the Club Championship, winning his first title. The ‘Spoons’ competition re-commenced after the enforced cessation during the war years; entrants were charged 3d, with a minimum of 32 players needed before play could start.
The Club celebrated winning the PG2 competition again. The final of the PG1 competition was played at the Club. An end of season Club match between ‘Wales’ and ‘England’ was instituted.
The national trials of the WBA were held at the Club. Rhiwbina lost to Bridgend Bowling Club in the PG1 final.
Coronation Year – a special series of events was arranged as part of the celebrations, which included a Club match (entry fee of two shillings) with prizes of Coronation tankards.
Bill Gamlin was awarded an international cap and Rundle Bending was elected President of Welsh Private Greens (East).
Bill Gamlin won the Cratchley Bowl. The PG1 final was played at the Club. Subscriptions increased to £4, much to the consternation of members.
The Cratchley Bowl was again won by Bill Gamlin. Barry Athletic Bowling Club defeated Rhiwbina in the final of the PG2 competition. The Club undertook its first tour, to Bournemouth.
Bill Gamlin won both the Club Championship and the Handicap Singles. Wednesday evening fixtures were introduced. The Club did not hold a liquor licence and the Butchers Arms was used to entertain visiting sides.
C.G.Tombs won the Glamorgan County Bowling Association Two Wood Competition. Success just eluded the ‘A’ Team in the PG2 competition, with Rhiwbina losing in the final to Penarth Bowling Club. Honorary Secretary, Rundle Bending, retired after fourteen years in the office.
The year of the Empire Games and the Rhiwbina green was used for practice by the competitors, many of whom paid compliments as to its quality. Glyn Bosito, a member of the Australian Team, in a book written after the Games said: –
‘…. the best green in Cardiff was in the suburb of Rhiwbina. It was better than the one at Sophia Gardens and, on enquiry, we were informed that the Club did not get a game because it did not have a bar. We all agreed that this should not have influenced the Empire Games Committee as we had come 10,000 miles to play bowls on the best surface, not the worst…..’
Mackintosh Bowling Club was allowed to use the Rhiwbina green while its own was being re-laid. The Welsh Private Greens (East) final was played on the Club’s green.
The Club again came close to winning the Carruthers Shield, losing by one shot to Parc Howard Bowling Club in the final. George Paget was elected President of the Welsh Private Greens (East). Fred Sanders won the R.B.Southall Cup – the singles championship of Welsh Private Greens (East and West). In July 1960 a bar was opened on Club premises at the northern end of the Main Hall.
Jock Thomson, later to become an established international bowler for Wales, joined Rhiwbina from Birchgrove Bowling Club. Herbert Jones was elected President of Welsh Private Greens (East).
Bill Gamlin won the Club Championship for the third year in succession, and a record sixth time. Towyn Roberts was appointed Honorary Treasurer of Welsh Private Greens (East).
Rhiwbina Recreation Club’s Jubilee Year. The bowling celebrations were held on 15 June with RRC presenting a trophy for a singles championship, won by Charles Gage, the Club Captain. The WBA’s finals were played on the Rhiwbina green.
Jock Thomson became Honorary Secretary and Herbert Jones became President of Glamorgan Bowling Association. The ‘A’ Team Captain was allowed to sit on the selection committee for the first time.
This year saw the Club’s finest achievement to date when a rink consisting of Towyn Roberts, Bill Jones, Rundle Bending and Jock Thomson won the British Isles Fours Competition. Jock Thomson also gained the first of his many Welsh international caps.
An extension to the clubhouse was opened in December 1965. Indoor bowls was first played in the Main Hall of the clubhouse, with carpets having to be rolled down and back again at the end of play.
There were complaints that the teams selected for the mid-week matches contained too many ‘Saturday’ players. Towyn Roberts was elected President of Welsh Private Greens (East).
Upon the recommendation of consultants, the Club raised sufficient funds to purchase a scarifier and a mechanical tining machine. The Club hosted a match between a team of U.S. tourists and the WBA President’s team. Another milestone was reached when permission was obtained to lay a new ladies’ green on what was Tom Mann’s allotment.
The Ladies’ Green was officially opened. The financial affairs of the Club became even more of a problem and members were forced to raise funds from other events.
It was agreed that the green would support a maximum of 120 bowling members. Herbert Jones was elected President of the WBA, and Rundle Bending was appointed Honorary Secretary of Welsh Private Greens (East. A request by the Club to be allowed to play Sunday matches was vetoed by the Rhiwbina Garden Village Association. It was agreed, following complaints, that the ‘Spoons Competition’ would not start before 6.30 p.m. so as to accommodate working members. The green was again giving cause for concern and consultants were asked for advice.
The ‘A’ Team won the PG2 competition. A further milestone in the Club’s history was agreement that lady members were allowed to play on the men’s green on Sundays, if accompanied by their husbands or other male members of the Club, in an effort to bring the two sections together. Tom Mann, a stalwart member of the Club, died. Towyn Roberts, the Honorary Treasurer, and Harry Phillips, the Groundsman, retired after many years of meritorious service.
Over the years the Club’s members have achieved many County and International honours. Idris Evans, a local baker, had the honour of becoming the first club member to represent his country. Others followed, such as T.J.Thomas, Jock Thomson and Bill Gamlin. In 1965 a rink consisting of Rundle Bending, Bill Jones, Towyn Roberts and Jock Thomson won the British Isles Fours competition, and Thomson won the first of his Welsh caps. The club won the Carruthers Shield Club Competition in 1973 and in the following year Les Hughes was a Welsh singles winner, before being awarded a first international cap in 1975.
Club bowlers continued to enjoy considerable success in national, county and open competitions during the 1970’s and 1980’s, notably Jock Thomson, Les Hughes, Charles Gregory, Gwyn Arthur, Len Watkins, Peter Evans, George Davies, Gerwyn Morgan, Ted Durrant and John Taylor. In the 1990’s, Ted Durrant and Gerwyn Morgan gained further county titles, and the new millennium began a run of successes for Colin Wood in county singles, and another for Neil Collett.