‘Such a shame we had to close’: Bowls club shuts after more than 80 years

The Earl Stonham Bowls Club celebrated its 80th birthday in 2014 but sadly closed in the summer of 2

The Earl Stonham Bowls Club celebrated its 80th birthday in 2014 but sadly closed in the summer of 2019 Picture: KAREN COPE - Credit: Archant

A historic sports club in Earl Stonham has been forced to close after more than 80 years, with members donating all of its remaining funds to charity.

Earl Stonham Bowls Club chairwoman Dorothy Pryke and president Tony Stiff, middle and middle right,

Earl Stonham Bowls Club chairwoman Dorothy Pryke and president Tony Stiff, middle and middle right, presenting the cheque to EACH which was the last of the club money Picture: KAREN COPE - Credit: Archant

The cheque presentation ceremony was the final outing of the Earl Stonham Bowls Club, which closed Friday, July 26 due to an unfortunate lack of support and interest from players.

Chairwoman Dorothy Pryke and president Tony Stiff presented a cheque for £1,119 to the East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) on Monday, December 16 at Stowmarket Meadlands Recreation Club.

Karen Cope, treasurer and daughter of 80-year-old club president, was a member for many years and has helping to dismantle the club house.

"We had our 80th birthday party in 2014 and had a lovely time.

Past and present members of the Earl Stonham Bowls Club, which had to close its doors in July Pictur

Past and present members of the Earl Stonham Bowls Club, which had to close its doors in July Picture: KAREN COPE - Credit: Archant


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"We did our very best, we really did - but in July we had to close the doors because we just couldn't manage.

"We had no support from the village and that didn't help us at all, so a lot of our players had come from outside of the village and they couldn't help as much.

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"We got down to 16 players and my dad was still trying to play bowls and he's 80 now."

She explained that everyone who played was in their 80s but what the club needed was those in their 40s, 50s and 60s to get involved so that they would still be playing in years to come.

Former Earl Stonham Bowls Club captain Fred Mitson with two other members of the club after winning

Former Earl Stonham Bowls Club captain Fred Mitson with two other members of the club after winning a triples game Picture: KAREN COPE - Credit: Archant

But whilst the club has faced issues recruiting older players, Mrs Cope has watched the rise of other sports becoming more available.

"What I think has been the main cause of all this is that retired people often used to play golf, but it was a very expensive sport, to be a member and have all of the kit and so on," she said.

"So the people who couldn't play golf for whatever reason instead came and played bowls and for years that's how it worked.

"But now the issue is for us that it's more affordable and you don't have to be a member. There are so many more ways to do it.

"More and more people choose to play golf instead of bowls."

When trying to recruit younger players, the club had some success and Stowmarket had a large youth team in previous years. However when it was time for them to go to university or jobs, their interested died down in the face of other commitments.

"We weren't interested in trophy hunting or going for the glory like other clubs," added Mrs Cope.

"We're more family oriented and we had a community. It's just such a shame we had to close."

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