Saturday, 4 March 2017

That old bowling green and tennis club on Edge Lane and a mystery

The Club house, date unknown
Now here is one of those stories which intrigue me.

This is the Edge Lane Club House which confusingly was actually set back from Alderfield Road just by the boundary with Longford Park.

It was the home of the the Edge Lane Bowling and Tennis Club, which dated back to the 1860s.

Looking out from those big windows the 80 shareholders and 40 subscribers had a grand view of the Bowling Green and tennis courts.

Nor was that all for in 1886 our historian Thomas Ellwood commented that “the club grounds comprise something over two statute acres, and on this land there has been formed a bowling green, gymnasium, children’s playground, croquet and quoiting grounds, and four lawn tennis courts, besides a large and spacious billiard pavilion, and other apartments for club purposes.  

All are well kept, and interest in the various games is stimulated by a system of prizes.  In the past years opportunities have been afforded also for members, their families and friends, to participate in and enjoying garden and other parties, thus giving increased attraction and interest, and tending in no small degree to the welfare and success of the club.”*

It had begun as a modest club, “formed by a number of gentlemen who used to play bowls on the green then adjoining the Horse and Jockey.  For exclusive use of the green was reserved one afternoon in each week, in return for a small annual subscription, and the players generally partook of tea afterwards, and spent the evening together over a friendly game of cards." 

The club grounds in 1893
By the 1880s they were off Edge Lane and in 1924 they converted their grass courts into hard courts.**

This I suspect was in no small measure to the fact that they were according to the Manchester Guardian “one of the strongest in the Manchester district.”**

But something happened to the club and this I have yet to discover.

They are still there on that site a full decade later but by 1950 the club took the decision to wind themselves up.

In the June of that year they had held an Extraordinary General Meeting and decided “that in view of the sale by the Company of the whole Land, Premises and the Contents thereof situe at Kenwood Road, Stretford and as this prevents the Company from carrying on its business as a Club under the terms of its memorandum, it is herby resolved to wind up the Company voluntarily.....”***

Now here is the mystery for back in 1934, the club house, bowling green and courts by Alderfield Road are clearly marked on the OS map for that year, as are a bowling green, tennis courts, and pavilion and at the end of Kenwood Road.

So I am intrigued as to what happened to make the club move from its original site to Kenwood Road and then to decide to sell that site which effectively closed them down.

The story will be there but it will involve a bit of digging for I doubt that there will be many left who can recall the events of 64 years ago.

It maybe that the war and the immediate post war period were lean times.  That OS map shows more bowling greens and tennis courts in Longford Park which must have been a counter attraction.

So perhaps the club just ran into money difficulties relocated to Kenwood Road and sold that site too.

They had met at the old club house on Alderfield Road for their historic decision in 1950, but it maybe that by then the “the club grounds [comprising] something over two statute acres" had already been sold.

All of which leads to an attempt to date the properties that were built on the Kenwood Road grounds.

These could be from the late 1940s or a bit earlier or later and only a search of the street directories will establish a date and a hunt for the archives of the club.

So that is about it, from a club house to a mystery, all in a day’s blogging.

Location; Chorlton-cum=Hardy Manchester

* T. L. Ellwood, Bowling Greens, History of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, number 26, South Manchester Gazette, May 15, 1886

**Manchester Guardian, April 11, 1924

***The London Gazette, July 21 1950

Picture; the Edge Lane Club House, date unknown, courtesy of Bruce Anderson, and detail of the Edge Lane Bowling and Tennis Club, from the OS map of South Lancashire, 1893, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

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