In the 1950’s, Charles Hunt, Proprietor of the “Inn Within” High Street, Banbury on returning from a bowls tour of South Africa, resolved to build an indoor bowls rink on land adjoining the pub: “for his own pleasure”. His daughter, entrepreneur Mrs Ethel Usher, had already looked into the feasibility of using the site for an all-purpose leisure and entertainment centre and as a result the Banbury Winter Gardens came into being.
In the 1950s and ‘60s the venue was an unqualified success, appealing to all tastes; drawing in people from far and wide to enjoy the top quality entertainment and sporting facilities provided – among them delighted local bowls enthusiasts who subsequently inaugurated: “Banbury Cross Indoor Bowls Club”. It’s hard to imagine the logistics of transforming the building to accommodate roller skaters in the morning that later that same day became a dance hall or, on other occasions, a wrestling stadium; and another time by laying out carpets, an indoor bowls arena would be created to the delight of members of the newly-formed B.C.B.C.
With the demise of The Wintergardens (nowadays a car park in Calthorpe Street), Banbury bowlers lost their opportunity to play indoors during the winter months – unless they were prepared to travel some distance from the town. However, in the early 1990s discussions took place between Cherwell District Council officers and officials from local bowls clubs to discuss the feasibility of constructing a bowls hall between the outdoor swimming pool and the existing all-purpose hall at Woodgreen. The question was posed: would such a venue get support from their members? Needless to say the offer was taken up and Banbury Cross Indoor Bowls Club was reborn. On the strength of this show of enthusiasm, six rinks and other facilities were provided. The rest, as they say, is history.
In spite of many threats to its existence over the years, I think it’s fair to say that thanks to the enthusiasm and determination of the succession of dedicated chairpersons, captains, treasurers and secretaries, and many other willing hands, the club has not only survived but has thrived. One look at the honours board and a peep in the trophy cabinet, will confirm Banbury Cross BC’s past successes at local, county and national levels.
New members to the club are always welcome and can be assured that its members endorse the belief that there will be many more hours of happy bowling taking place at Woodgreen Leisure Centre. Join us. Find out for yourself – you won’t regret it!
Thanks to John Neville for this information.