Our History

This article was written in 1990 by Philip Overend (centre in picture) who was one of the small group of villagers who had the vision, skill and determination to create the bowls green which has been the club's home for over 25 years. Today the green has room for four rinks and a project is in hand to further widen and re-lay the playing surface.

On the Village Hall field there used to be a grass tennis court which had been laid out by Alec Dixon of Hall Farm in 1925. It was used for about 25 years and finally abandoned in the late fifties.During the summer of 1987, some of the older village residents thought it would be a good idea to convert the old grass court, the area of which was still clearly visible, into a bowling green because at that time there was no recreational facility in existence in the village offering exercise for the senior residents of Houghton.

The surface looked reasonably flat and measured 93ft x 52ft falling away at the end towards St Catharine’s Way, so it was considered to be suitable for a 3 lane green. Notices were sent out of a meeting to be held in the Village Hall field on Saturday 14th November 1987 open to any villagers interested in the possibility of forming a bowling club. 21 people turned up and the enthusiasm was such that the ad-hoc steering committee was officially sanctioned and augmented to include: Edgar Treliving (Chairman), Jennifer Watson (Secretary), Jean Tyler (Treasurer), Bob Hayes, Derrick Watson, Ray Davis, and Philip Overend. Approval for use of the land as a bowling green was sought from and given by the Village Hall Committee at their 26th November 1987 meeting with only one objector from the 14 members present.

Mr Tony Roe, Secretary of the Leicestershire Playing Fields Association was invited to look at the site and to discuss the availability of grants. He indicated that although this was a distinct possibility it would take some time and before grants could be made we would have to raise 25%of the total financial requirements. Another restriction was that no work must be done before approval to the grant had been given. It was therefore decided, possibly wrongly in hindsight, to press on without grants and to do it all ourselves with the intention of starting to play on the green in May 1988. During 1988 funds were obtained by donations, loans, end various events which allowed some equipment and sand to be obtained and the ground to be worked on although very little bowling took place.

By the end of summer 1988 it was obvious that a viable club was being formed, that the Steering Committee had carried out its aims and that it was time to elect a formal committee so that a constitution and rules could be drawn up, membership fees established, enrolment commenced, etc. An open meeting was again called end held in the Village Hall on 15th November 1988 at which Edgar Treliving was elected President, Ron Clough (Chairman), Philip Overend (Vice Chairman), Jennifer Watson, (Secretary), Jean Tyler(Treasurer), with Derrick Watson and Frank Taylor on the committee.

During the winter a rustic fence was erected around the boundary which measures 134ft 7in x 65ft 9in and by Spring 1989 the green was ready for the official opening carried out by Dave Kirkwood of BBC Radio Leicester on Saturday 22nd April 1989. The summer of 1989 saw the club membership grow to 35 and a great deal of pleasure was obtained by them on the two rinks available. A county coach, Mr Terry Hibbert was engaged to give professional coaching sessions during June and July 1989.

We knew that the third rink sloped towards the main street, was shaded by the branches of the trees and had a patchy grass surface. Also the run of the bowls proved that the other two rinks were not absolutely flat, so the committee decided that the whole green should be levelled, extended in length, and re-sown.

As soon as the playing season ended in September 1989 work was commenced by a seven strong working party, most of whom were pensioners; Ron Clough, Ben Holyland, Norman Cooper, Douglas Ward, Peter Beaumont, Derrick Watson, and Philip Overend. The first task was to lop all the overhanging branches and to lay the quick-thorn hedge to give room for a path along the side. The area was surveyed by two of the working party who established that there was a fall from one end to the other of 13½-in. So calculations were made to determine the amount of soil to be removed from the high ground and which, together with 60 tons of top soil purchased, would fill in the low spots. A Bobcat excavator and rotavators were hired and all operated by the working party to roughly level the area end break up the soil. Pegs were driven into the ground at intervals of 12ft to a peg top accuracy of ± 1mm and each peg marked to give a final soil level 9½ in. below the tops. Then began the mammoth task of accurately levelling the whole area by hand. Two 12ft long boards were laid on edge along opposite sides of the 12ft squares such that their top edges were exactly level with the peg tops. From these was suspended a sliding grading board, the bottom edge of which was exactly 9½ in. below the datum level. The soil within these enclosed squares was broken up and raked to a fine tilth, adding more top soil where required, and then the grading board was dragged across, pulling the soil with it to leave a perfectly flat surface. Work on the 60 squares continued daily during the first three weeks in October. During March 1990 a large quantity of treated timber, stakes, damp proofing felt and screws were purchased. These were used to provide an edging to the long sides of the green and a ditch at each end. In April a water supply was laid and a sprinkler purchased for watering the green.

All three rinks were in full use throughout the summer of 1990 but, although the grass grew well there were indications that the surface had settled slightly in the areas which previously had been low and had needed a lot of soil in-fill. The committee therefore decided to re-level and re-seed the whole area. To this end 20 tonnes of sterilised top dressing was purchased which was sufficient to raise the existing ground level about ½ in. and fill the low spots in as it was spread. A different method of grading was employed this time to avoid driving levelling pegs into the ground. A number of sighting T boards were made and fastened to the ditch boards at each end of the green with the top of all the boards at the same level. Another mobile T board was made, the bottom of which, when the top was lined up by sighting between any two fixed T boards, was ½ in. above the existing ground level datum. A quantity of ½ in. thick laths were purchased and laid in 4ft wide rows using the T board to get them absolutely level, packing them or lowering them as necessary. The top dressing was then spread in between the rows and levelled by using a grading board resting on the lathes and pulling the soil along with it. Each 4ft strip was seeded before starting on the next row.

During the summer we had entered our project in the Leicestershire Village Venture Competition. Preliminary and final judging took place on site and at the presentation ceremony in November at the Leicestershire Rural Community Council we were awarded second prize out of 23 entries, receiving a framed photograph, a certificate and a handsome cheque for £250.

As this is being written the grass is just starting to show through and we have now a perfectly level three rink green measuring 122ft x 60ft which will be ready for bowling on in Spring 1991 for the benefit of all the present villagers and hopefully many more future generations.

Philip Overend

November 1990