How it all started...
LIKE so many other successful ventures, it all began with a chance remark as Ewhurst outdoor bowlers celebrated their club’s 50th anniversary back in 1986. Guests at their Open Day festivities included friend and local bowler John Squire who described how the new sport of short mat bowls was proving highly popular with his outdoor colleagues at nearby Bookham.
The origins of Short Mat bowling are shrouded in mystery, but the game is rumoured to have been started some years earlier by two South African bowlers working in Wales.
Unhappy with the cold climate (!) they had tried bowling instead on a strip of carpet in a local church hall. The locals enjoyed the novel game, and its popularity gradually spread beyond the village to other parts of Wales and, later, over the sea to Ireland. The first English bowlers to try their hand established a formal association in 1984,
The Ewhurst pioneers liked what they saw and instantly caught the short mat bug. Their own clubhouse was too small and badly in need of repair, so their attention turned to the nearby badminton hall run by Ewhurst Youth and Sports Club where permission was granted to share the premises on Wednesday evenings.
To comply with Parish Council regulations, the players were asked to form themselves into an official club in 1989, and the inaugural Minutes Book of Ewhurst Indoor Bowls Club on August 23 of that year records their initial progress.
In its first formal season, the Bookham link was further strengthened by a reciprocal visit to Ewhurst by a team led by John Squire who, in a show of compassion to the new bowlers, brought along one of Bookham’s own blocks – the lump of wood so hated by all short mat players – to be presented as a consolation prize to the losers.
To their immense chagrin, Bookham returned as losers with their own block, which was later replaced by an inscribed and highly polished version as a unique trophy for the annual friendly played between the two clubs, named ironically the Consolation Block.
Ewhurst Bowling Club applied to the Parish Council for a £13,000 loan to enlarge and renovate their own dilapidated clubhouse.
An approach was also made to the recently launched National Lottery Fund for a grant, with the aim of both the outdoor and short mat clubs sharing the facilities.
In January 1995 a project committee was formed of Nigel Farrington, himself a retired architect and three leading Ewhurst bowlers, EBC chairman and building consultant Gordon Thomas, Derek Mortimore and local builder, David Triggs, who was appointed construction contractor for the proposed project.
In July, the great news came through that their Lottery application had been successful.
On September 1, 1995, barely six weeks later the old clubhouse was reduced to rubble. The Mayor of Waverley formally opened the new Ewhurst Bowls Centre in July, 1996.
Under the newly written Rules of Management, the two clubs would operate independently within the new clubhouse under the overall supervision of a centre manager and management committee and that arrangement survives today.
The Ewhurst club was instantly the envy of every short mat visitor, with the facilities and playing surface among the finest in the South East. It was also the start of one of the most successful periods in the club’s own history. At Surrey county level, its members were stamping their authority as they won not only the Surrey singles, pairs, triples and fours, but also the Woking League and SHAB Cup.
Since then, Ewhurst Short Mat Bowls Club has continued to thrive even further, with membership currently standing at around 120, many of whom joined through its traditional link with the Cranleigh U3A association, for whom the club runs a coaching class during the early weeks of every season. The arrangement also benefits the outdoor club, with many new players going on to take out membership for the summer game.
Over the years, the traditional solitary Wednesday club night has also grown dramatically, with members now enjoying no fewer than nine roll-up sessions every week – thrice daily on Monday, Wednesday and Friday – in addition to a myriad of league and internal competitions.