THE FIRST BEXHILL MEN’S OPEN TOURNAMENT
Contrary to general thought and because four years of tournaments were lost during the war years, the first Bexhill Men’s Open Tournament was held on 5 August, 1933.
The Tournament’s first President was the Right Hon. The Earl De La Warr who opened the tournament by bowling the first jack. There were 112 competitors – 88 singles and 59 pairs all played on the Polegrove Greens.
This first tournament attracted entries from around the country including International bowlers W. M. Grace the England Captain and T. C. Hills the Empire Champion. Other Internationals to take part included G. Jackson, A. Burt and H. Stubbs. A notable entrant was G. E. Turner of Darlington who, despite having lost his right arm and having to bowl with his left hand, won the Teeside Memorial Trophy defeating another International, F. N. Johnson.
We note from the Tournament Programme (a copy is in the Bexhill Museum) which cost six old pence, that the Tournament was played under the laws of the International Bowling Board. Time for the Singles was 13/4 hours of 21 shots and 3 hours allowed for the Pairs of 21 ends. One of the conditions of play reads – Flat rubber soled heelless boots or shoes to be worn – not white.
The Singles competition was won by T. C. Hills 21-13 over H. Stubbs who received the Mary Stampton Cup together with vouchers to the value of ten Guineas donated by Bexhill Traders. A silver replica of the Mary Stampton Cup was presented by Lord De La Warr.
The final of the Pairs was a most exciting game going to the last bowl of the last end and decided by the umpire’s measure of on sixteenth of an inch. The winners were G. Jackson and M. G. Chegwidden 21-20 who received the Bexhill Traders Cup and five Guineas in the form of vouchers.
The weather at the start of the tournament as reported in the Bexhill Observer was “not too propitious” but the week ended sunny and warm. That time-worn but sill readable 1933 Bexhill Observer records that the fine weather went on to produce a heat wave with temperatures reaching 90 degrees.
Lord De La Warr in his Presidential address congratulated the competitors on their excellent bowling and thanked A. G. Rowlett and G. Nunn, joint secretaries for a very well run tournament and added – the tournament has attracted a most desirable class of visitor to Bexhill.
A full programme of events was organised for the Tournament Week starting on the Saturday before with a Bexhill v Visitors bowls match – result not recorded. Other events included a motor drive to Bodiam Castle – 3 shillings. A Flannel Dance at the Dorchester Hotel, Bexhill 2s 6d single and 4 shillings double with a note – Double to be lady and gent! A performance of the Radio Revels was held at the Egerton Park Theatre, later to become the Old Egerton Park Indoor Bowls Club. The week ended with Lord De La Warr presenting the prizes at a ceremony held at the Colonnade.
That first Tournament set a high standard that has been progressively followed by first class bowlers and dedicated Tournament Committees. Long may it continue.