Hartlepool’s four decades of top-class bowls

Mill House indoor bowls centre.
Mill House indoor bowls centre.

World class bowlers are coming to Hartlepool for a huge competition in April.

Players from the Netherlands, Canada, Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales will be among those taking part in the four-day event to be held at Hartlepool Indoor Bowls Club.

An aerial view of the Indoor Bowls Centre, left, with Mill House Leisure Centre also pictured.

An aerial view of the Indoor Bowls Centre, left, with Mill House Leisure Centre also pictured.

It runs from Tuesday, April 10, to Friday, April 13, and should be a cracker of an occasion.

But it won’t be the first time the venue has played host to top-class bowls, although it is the first time the World Championships have paid a visit.

In fact, the visits of stars of the game have been a regular feature for decades.

Some of bowling’s biggest names were here in 1982 when the Masters Pairs competition was held and it saw stars such as Allcock, Dunwoodie, Gourlay, McQueen, and Watson come to Hartlepool.

At the time, Tony Allcock was the youngest gold medallist in the history of bowling.

But Hartlepool’s rise of the indoor game stretches back even further.

In 1971, the first steps were taken towards the formation of an indoor bowls centre. Three enthusiasts of the outdoor game were Bill Thompson, Eric Simpson and Jim Walton and they were called in to help develop the game indoors.

Eventually, Hartlepool Corporation agreed to finance a site which is where the current centre still stands.

Before long, 40 local clubs had been induced to become shareholders, and it was a move which meant every bowls club in the area was on board with the new development.

More capital was obtained with the help of JW Cameron and Co for bar fitments and other fixtures.

And by the end of 1972, the Hartlepool and District Bowls Centre was opened by the Mayor of Hartlepool, Coun Mrs Sprintall.

It led to a series known as the Masters Pairs Tournament being held at the club with the backing of Cameron in the year of the famous brewery’s centenary.

And among those to grace the scene in those early days were David Bryant, the world champion at the time.

Yet it was local bowlers Kerr Waugh and Bob Main who won the first of the Masters tournaments.

Since then, the centre has been enlarged and plenty of changes had taken place by the time the centre was the subject of a Mail feature in 1982.

But national newspapers were, by that time, describing it as probably the finest indoor bowls centre in Britain.

What are your memories of indoor bowls in Hartlepool through the years and what have been your highlights?

Get in touch and tell us more.

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk and share your recollections.