In 1923, the newly formed committee – with their fertile minds – were not idle whilst the bowling green was being built. They were hatching a competition worthy of the rapidly growing interest in the relatively newly organised sport of lawn green bowling in Wales, and the first green to be laid in Pembrokeshire. They settled on a singles trophy tournament par excellence. First announced on 23 August 1923, is was what is now known as the “Tenby Challenge Gold Cup” – a brilliant concept, made of solid 18 carat gold with the equivalent of 100 guineas, and ordered through committee member and local jeweller Mr. W Howells.
Being Tenby businessmen, the committee rightly thought felt that this new attraction would draw a different type of tourist, and as the fairly short “high season” was already saturated, plumped for early June. The aim was to lengthen the season and increase trade in Tenby, whilst hotels could better cater for the expected influx of bowlers and their families. The problem of paying for this very costly enterprise was solved by starting a Subscription Fund, open to all generous-minded locals and visitors, who all gave freely for what they conceived to be a great step forward in the affairs of Tenby town. Word soon got round of their ambitious plans, especially among the ever-growing Welsh bowling fraternity. This was greatly helped when members of the “Limited Company” joined the stars of the bowling world at the popular bowls centre of Llandrindod Wells during their high season in 1923. They received an enthusiastic welcome as the “new kids on the block”, and left with many promises from the talented bowlers that they would be entering this exciting new venture in Tenby in 1924. The most telling publicity boost was the weighing-in ceremony at the National Provincial Bank in Tenby in late January 1924, when, in the presence of responsible members of the town and club, the newly made cup was weighed on the scales against 105 sovereigns and approved. This superb publicity coup was highlighted in all of the nation’s newspapers, including the widely read Western Mail, the best possible launch for any enterprise.
Joining the original members of the Limited Company were the following original shareholders: Miss H O Beard, Mr. George M Chiles, Mr Williams H Carew, Mr. Edward G Evans, Mr. George Lord, Mr. George Meyrick Price, Mr. George L Stokes, Mr. William A Wood, Mr. Graham Ace, Mr. H M Allen, Mr. John A Bancroft, Mr. William Davies, Mr. John B Diment, Mr. Joseph H Hodge, Mrs. Charlotte A Palmer, Mr. A F Roblin and Mr. Sydney W Thomas. The Limited Company Board was responsible for the upkeep of the whole of the Club’s property and equipment up until the 1960’s.
The first Open tournament started on Monday 2 June, 1924, and ran for two weeks. It consisted of the singles “Gold Cup” tournament, which was completed in the first week, accompanied by a pairs competition. There were several “ring” competitions, (better known as target bowls these days) during the tournament, particularly for members and visiting bowlers who were unable to enter the main competition. Every effort was made to entertain the bowlers and their friends. There were special motor-car trips, motorboat excursions, bridge drives, plus a carnival and concert on the Castle Hill, followed by a dance. All competitors were made honorary members of the Tenby Golf Cup. The first winner, in 1924, was Mr. Josh Rees of Penarth, who repeated the feat in 1925. The first Tenby bowler to win this very desirable prize was Mr. F Walker, in 1927.
It was common practice for many years for the winner of the Gold Cup to take the trophy away after the presentation, and display it in their own club until the following tournament. Tenby members were shocked to hear that one winner had the cup on display amongst the produce in the window of the local greengrocer’s shop. The last winner who was allowed to take the cup away after presentation was Mr. Cedric Brown of Hull in 1981. He solved the knotty problem of getting the trophy valued officially for insurance purposes. The committee were suitably amazed to find it was valued at £10,000 (scrap value £2,500). It was never to leave the Tenby club again. Now, after the obligatory photo-call at the trophy presentation ceremony it disappears into the bank vaults, residing in its purpose-built coffin until the next tournament.
The original conditions covering the “Gold Cup” were couched in such a way as to tempt bowlers to enter by announcing that the cup could be won outright if won in three consecutive years or over four years in total. The impossible nearly happened. The Rev. Howells, of London, won the Gold Cup in 1946 and 1947. He also entered the tournament in 1948 with the stated intention of claiming the cup as his own if he was successful with his third attempt. Naturally, the whole town was on tenterhooks watching his progress that week. Fortunately, he was knocked out by local fruit merchant-cum- church organist, Mr. Albert E Bevan, one of Tenby’s more casual bowlers, who enjoyed a “roll-up” with the boys most evenings. With considerable relief, the management committee swiftly altered the rules, making the Gold Cup trophy the property of the Tenby Bowling Club in perpetuity.
Subsequent committees moved the “Open Week” initially to the first week in July 1928, and then, in 1950, to the main holiday period, the first week in August. It was reduced to one week, running from Saturday to Saturday. The entrants were by then playing for the “Gold Cup”, the secondary “Silver Bowl” and the new consolation trophy, the “Five Arches Bowl”. The “Silver Bowl” was presented to the club by one of the founder members William Howells, the Jeweller, and his family in 1936. It was to be known as the “Percy Howells Silver Bowl”, and is played for in a parallel tournament, dovetailed in with the Gold Cup, and equally sought-after. The first winner, in 1936, was Mr. S J Jenkins of Pembroke Dock. The “Five Arches Bowl” was introduced in 1950 as a singles tournament, open to all entrants of the main trophies. If they fell out of both of the main events by the Wednesday of the Open Week, they were eligible to enter the “Five Arches”, which extended their active participation to the end of the week. The first winner of the newest trophy was Mr. C Canton of Treorchy. Many epic struggles in the “Five Arches” finals over the years have more than matched the high-class bowling in the Gold and Silver finals.
In 1961, a Tenby member entered his wife in the Open tournament. Gwyneth James, a regular bowler when they lived in the Midlands, caused quite a stir around the green when the competitors realised that a lady had entered this strictly all male affair. Fortunately, she did not progress very far before elimination saving the organisers from having to make any awkward decisions. At the following annual general meeting, Mr. James apologised profusely but put forward a very strong case for allowing ladies to become bowling members. After a lengthy discussion, it was agreed that ladies could, for the first time, play officially on Tenby’s hallowed turf.
In the 1980’s the Open Week was changed again to its current format: Sunday to Saturday inclusive, as near to the first week in August as possible.With the advent of the decimalisation of sterling in the early 1970’s prizemoney for the Open Tournament were rounded up to the nearest pound:
Gold Cup winner - £13, runner up £6
Silver Bowl winner £8, runner up £4
Tenby’s Open Week has always been an excellent platform for bowlers of all ages to show their mettle and the encouragement of the younger element in the 1980’s enabled us to witness some truly astounding achievements on the green. Simon Evans, a 23 years-old from the Saundersfoot club fired everyone’s imagination in 1985 by winning both the Gold Cup and the Silver Bowl. Simon won the Silver Bowl again in 1987 and the Gold Cup for the second time in 1991 and impressively, having joined the Tenby club en route, he did the double once again in 1994. One might be entitled to wonder if such excellence could be repeated? Well, in 1995, Lee Williamson, then of the Tenby club, proved that nothing was impossible when he emerged from a wonderful week of high-class bowling clutching both trophies, and to prove, like Simon, that it was not luck, Lee won the Gold Cup for the second time in 1996 and completed the hat-trick in 2008.
1997 saw the emergence of one of the greatest players to grace our Open Week – David Kingdon of the Parc y Dre club in Llanelli. David opened his account buy winning the Gold Cup in 1997, repeated the win in 1998 and now proudly boasts being a FIVE times winner. It is a good job that the Gold Cup is the club’s property in perpetuity. Tenby’s own Paul Diment, a proven Welsh international, joined the exclusive band of class bowlers by winning the Gold Cup for the second time in 2007, and the trophy was won by Ystradfechan’s Chris Price in 2009.