“It’s hard to build a future if we don’t know about our past…”
The New Kid on the Block (1950-54) Almost, but not quite (1955-64) Success and Recognition (1965-80) The Wilderness Years (1981-89) Fresh hope (1990-93) The Slow Demise of Crown Green…? (1994-99) On the Up! (2000-05)Rocky Road (2006-10)New Generation (2011-17) Full unabridged history of North Midlands Crown Green Association Time line
The New Kid on the Block (1950 – 1954)
County status was granted in 1951 under the title of the North Midlands Counties Crown Green Amateur Bowling Association after canvassing by 65 clubs with W.H. Wagstaff elected as the first President. Soon after the Coventry & North Warwickshire League devolved into the North Midlands C.C.G.A.B.A.
The County Championship debut was against North Wales winning by a nail-biting single shot at home before losing by 47 away. A similar pattern continued in the next three matches against Shropshire, Staffordshire and Warwick & Worcester in the Crown Bowls ‘Southern’ County Championship. In 1953, just a year after our creation, we contested the final of the County Cup, losing to Derbyshire.
In 1954 the County switched to the northern section against Yorkshire, Cheshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire gaining success against the latter but struggling against the other three.
Almost, but not quite (1955 – 1964)
Bill Baldwin and Eric Orton give North Midlands a first smell of success in 1956 by reaching the semi-finals of the B.C.G.A.B.A. Merit (known as the All England Singles). Bill became our first player to reach the final where he lost 21-14, but it was a proud day for our maturing Association.
On the 1st August 1960 the Association staged the finals of the All England at the Alfred Herberts Bowls. Once again we had two player in the semi-final Reg Skidmore and Bill Baldwin. Unfortunately neither could match Bill’s effort in 1956.
Locally the standard of play was steadily improving, and we reached our first County final in 1960, losing to the strong Lancashire side. The same scenerio played out agin in 1961.
Success and Recognition (1965 – 1980)
Nine years after first reaching the final, Bill Baldwin won the All Engalnd in 1965 and become our first player to do so. He was an outstanding player and richly deserved the honour.
Harry Weston (our President from 1953 – 1974) became our first person to become President of the Crown Green governing body in 1968. The Albany club still play for the Harry Weston cup each year to this day. We also reached our third final, this time losing to Yorkshire. The following year the Alfred Herbert Club hosted the All England again with Dick Burdett reaching the semi-finals.
Time and again they failed to impress in the Southern Section of the County Championship. We got some welcome encouragement again at the 1975 All England with three of the last eight being our own. Unfortunately Cliff Bordley was defeated 21-12 in the final. Cliff contested the final again in 1977 and this time had the pain of a 21-20 defeat.
However, later in the season he became the first North Midlands player to win the newly established Champion of Champions at the Waterloo Hotel, Blackpool. More recognition came as Harry Barratt became our second National President. He is regarded as instrumental in setting up the B.C.G.B.A. Coaching Scheme. He wrote the first basic coaching manual. He was a truly great ambassador for our County Association and the game and we should be rightly proud to be associated with him.
In 1976 and 1978 two of our young bowlers finished runner-up in the B.C.G.B.A. Junior Merit but Mark Burdon went one better in 1980.
The Wilderness Years (1981 – 1989)
Crown green bowls was being regularly featured on television through BBC Top Crown and Champion of Champions, but in 1982 we became the first Association to hold a televised competition. Hosted by Alvis, it was shown by Central TV across the Midlands and had a whopping £2500 prize money.
Reg Harris became our third National President in 1987 which co-incided with us holding the All England again, this time at Stockingford AA as Herberts was no longer available.
Fresh hope (1990 – 1993)
Hopes were high that the nineties would bring better times to the County, and this looked to be bourne out as we reached the semi-final of the 1990 County Championship, losing to Derbyshire.
We went one stage furthe in 1991 when, after beating Cheshire, we reached the final of the County Championship for the first time in 23 years. Sadly we went down by 85 shots to Yorkshire in the final.
In 1990 a Junior Section was formed with their own Secretary. They received a tremendous boost in 1992 when Richard Burdett Mnr won the BCGBA Junior Merit.
1993 proved another good year. Bob Gilfillan finished runner-up in the Senior Merit, Jack Robertson won the Champion of Champions and The County team reached the final of the BCGBA County Championship for the second time in three years. It was another defect by Yorkshire (by 44 shots) but this was heady stuff indeed. No-one could have imagined the bleak times ahead, with the very future of our game in the balance.
The Slow Demise of Crown Green? (1994 – 1999)
Crown green is a sport rooted in the factories. Mass closure of closure of factories throughout the 1990 had a damaging effect on the Association with the loss of top class bowling greens; Morris, Alvis and Wickman were early casualties. Large scale redundancies meant clubs were losing players and clubs were struggling financially. Following a lengthy battle the Alfred Herbert Club finally lost their greens in 1993.
The County team were also going through a lean period finding difficulty in even reaching the semi-finals of the County championship.
In 1997 the Coventry & District Saturday League voted to allow ladies to play. This controversial decision at the time has since provided to be entirely correct, saving the league and ensuring it is still running today. Another bright spot happened in The bright spot came in 1998 when Stuart Perry was successful in winning the Senior BCGBA Merit.
On the back of losing so many factory clubs, several greens attached to public houses were lost (like the Toll Bar in Chapelfields), turned into beer gardens and car parks. At the same time some leagues were losing members with little sign of any significant increase in young players coming into the game.
In spite of efforts for many years no one had come forward to take up the position of County Coach. Similarly when BCGBA created a Development Committee, hoping that each County Association would appoint a Development Officer. The post was widely advertised but remained empty.
It seemed that all the new millennium offered was the slow painful demise of Crown Bowls from our County.
On the Up! (2000 – 2005)
In 2001 the County team once again reached the County Championship final against a tough Cheshire side. The chosen home venue for the final raised many eyebrows and, sadly, they were proved right as we lost easily at home by 50 shots, leaving far too much to do in the return leg.
2002 saw the County have the President role and chosen to stage the All England final. Steve Pratt reached the final but could not make the final step. We reached the County championship final again, renewing the battle with Cheshire. This time the home friendly Dunlop green was chosen, and proved to be the correct choice as we won by 31 shots. After a titanic struggle, hearts were broken in a thrilling second leg were Cheshire won by 32 shots, winning the match by a single shot and extending our wait for the crown.
Then in 2005, it happened. The long wait was over, we were Champions!
Rocky Road (2006 – 2010)
After the stunning success in 2005, the good form continued in 2006 with some good away victories. Another good run of eight home games in 2008/9 but away games proved problematic and the heady days of 2000 – 2005 were not reached again, perhaps a symptom of the local Leagues continuing to contract in size.
The New Generation (2011 – 2017)
Over this period, the County Junior team gained in confidence which culminated in the Supplementary Competition on Sunday 9th August 2015. Wins against South Yorkshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester saw our team through to the finals, to meet our arch rivals Warwick and Worcester in the final. I guess this made winning our first ever Junior Competition even sweeter! It was a stunning result by our team and a day to remember for all concerned. It was also a fitting end to Jordan Baddeley’s time with the County Junior team after winning the Junior All England in 2014.
The county gained it’s first Development Officer in 2012 with stated aims of bringing Crown to a wider audience as possible and securing the future. It is a long term vision but it has already reaped dividends, increasing awareness and membership in the County. This, together with the excellent progress of the County Junior team, will surely help us flourish at the top. There still looms danger as perfectly viable clubs continue to be at risk from having their greens tarmacked over.
We continued to punch above our weight in 2017 as Darren Plenderleith become only the second County bowler to win the Senior Merits and our Junior side just missed out on a second Supplemental victory by three shots.
Our Senior County team made it to the 2017 finals of the Crosfield County Cup, and it was as tense as it could be. Good wins at home and good losses away left us well up but Potteries kept chipping away and with just on match left they were in the lead for the first time by 3. Richard Burdett Mnr brilliantly held his nerve and North Midlands became Champions for the second time in the most thrilling of circumstances.
- 1950 – Request for County status turned down
- 1951 – County Status granted
- 1952 – County formally starts operating with election of W.H Wagstaff (President), T.R. Ryder (Hon. Sec.) and M.L. White (Treasurer)
- 1952 – First match; versus North Wales (away)
- 1952 – First win; versus North Wales (home)
- 1953 – Harry Weston becomes President
- 1953 – Reaches first County Championship final
- 1956 – Bill Baldwin becomes first County player to reach All England finals
- 1956 – First away win; versus Derbyshire
- 1960 – County stages All England final for first time
- 1961 – Reaches second County Championship final
- 1963 – Coventry Works League accepts non-works teams
- 1968 – Harry Weston becomes first County B.C G.A.B.A. President
- 1968 – Reaches third County Championship final
- 1969 – Stages All England final for second time
- 1974 – Harry Weston stands down as President after 21 years
- 1975 – Cliff Bordley becomes second player to reach All England Finals
- 1977 – Harry Barratt becomes second County B.C G.A.B.A. President
- 1977 – Stages All England final for third time
- 1977 – Cliff Bordley wins ‘Champions of Champions’ at Waterloo Hotel, Blackpool
- 1979 – Reg Harris becomes third County B.C G.A.B.A. President
- 1980 – Mark Burdon becomes first County player to win the Junior Merit
- 1982 – First County to organise a televised competition
- 1987 – First 11 home game winning streak (started in 1984)
- 1987 – Record three away games winning streak
- 1987 – Stages All England final for fourth time
- 1991 – Reaches fourth County Championship final
- 1992 – Richard Burdett Mnr becomes second County player to win the Junior Merit
- 1993 – Reaches fifth County Championship final
- 1996 – Record 12 home game winning streak (started in 1993)
- 1997 – Ladies permitted to play in Coventry & District Saturday League
- 1998 – Stuart Perry becomes first County player to win the Senior Merit
- 2001 – Reaches sixth County Championship final
- 2002 – Bob Harrigan becomes fourth County B.C G.A.B.A. President
- 2002 – Reaches seventh County Championship final, losing by 1 shot
- 2002 – 50 years since the County was created
- 2005 – Senior team wins County Cup for first time
- 2012 – First Development Officer appointed
- 2014 – Jordan Baddeley becomes third bowler to win Junior All England competition
- 2014 – Reaches 8th Senior’s County Championship final
- 2015 – Junior team wins Supplementary for first time
- 2017 – In County’s 65th year, 9th Senior’s County Championship Final reached
- 2017 – Darren Plenderlieth is second player to win Seniors All Britain Merits
- 2017 – Junior team reach second Supplementary Finals
- 2017 – Senior team beats Potters by 2 shots to win County Cup for second time
- 2019 – Ladies permitted to play in Coventry & District Sunday League