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Club History

A brief history of the region and the Club

EXMOOR covers 267 square miles of the beautiful rolling North Devon and Somerset countryside and stretches well beyond the boundary of the National Park, to include a variety of rural and coastal towns and villages and also the Quantock Hills.

From late spring through to late summer, Exmoor's moorlands are a vibrant sea of purples, lilacs and yellows, alive with the sound of birds and insects. South Molton is known as 'The Gateway to the Moor'.

South Molton

South Molton is a typical small market town with a population of approximately 6,000. Originally trading in sheep and cattle, it gets its name from the river Mole from which the power was generated for the woollen and corn mills.

The Bowling Club

On February 2nd 1896 a meeting was held at the South Molton Constitutional Club and it was decided to form a bowling club. A set of bowls was purchased and a Committee of six was formed. Members subscriptions were fixed at two shillings (10 new pence), and two shillings and sixpence (12½ new pence) for Honorary members.

A piece of land of approximately one third of an acre was secured at the edge of the town and rented at three pounds from April until September. In 1906 the first team selection committee was formed, and in 1913 the first credit balance of eighteen shillings and three pence (about 92 pence) was reported. By 1924 when the first league in North Devon was formed, Membership fees had risen to one pound per member with two pennies payable per game. 

In 1932 the first lady members were accepted. It was not until 1934 that the Town Council gave permission to wear the Borough coat of arms on badges, and this has been retained up to the present time.

The Borough Council made the present ground available to the Club in 1950 and, together with the members, constructed a green of a size capable of having seven rinks in both directions. A major milestone was obtaining a lease for the ground in 1983. The small clubhouse was demolished in 1987 and rebuilt to contain a men's changing room and small bar and lounge. Members paid for the materials and undertook the construction themselves. The improvements continued in 1994 when further extensions were undertaken to extend the floor area from its original 350 sq feet to 3000 sq feet. Again the members did the work.

1992 Mr Gordon Short, a past Club President was elected Mens President of Devon County. 

And so the years roll on, the Club has a good number of County Bowlers and several have reached semi finals at Leamington. Two of our members have represented Devon in the Ladies Johns Trophy Squad, Toni McNeil, one of our lady members, playing in the winning Squad of 2021 when Devon ladies won the Trophy.

2021 Mr Gordon Short celebrated his 100th year and despite falling and breaking his hip he continued visiting clubs around the County throughout the summer, where he played 5 ends; raising over £7,000 for Devon Air Ambulance. In September South Molton hosted his final celebration with players from around the County and Country joining him in a wonderful celebration of his bowling life. It was a great pleasure to welcome the President of Bowls England Paul Robson, and the Junior Vice President Deepak Tanna, friends and guests to share in this unique occasion.

2021 was also the Clubs 125th Anniversary, Bowls England presented the Club with a pennant which now hangs in the Clubhouse.