Club History

Portland is a private bowling club which was established in May 1874 with a membership of 45 being recorded. At that time all the land at Portland Park was owned by the Cemetery Company under the jurisdiction of the Parks Committee and in 1877 the Portland Bowling Club obtained a lease. A club house was built at a cost of £17 of which the Lessees guaranteed £12.

Two years later when the 3 rink green was proving inadequate the Lessees were approached with a view to laying a new one 40yards by 40yards at an estimated cost of £200. The request was not granted, but by the start of the 1882 season another rink was added and the Annual Rental was increased to £50. This sum, however, included the Gardiner but the Club was responsible for supplying their own ball boys.

Ball boys during that era were an essential part of a Bowling Club and their function was to set out the rinks and to hand the 'woods' to the Players. According to the records Portland acquired the Boys from an Industrial School for the sum of 3/- per week payable direct to the School. During this period games between members were restricted to 11 ends and the losers paid 2d towards the Club funds.

The first recorded match was played against the Bath Lane Bowling Green Club on the 19th August 1878, a 3-a-side game of 21 ends on 3 rinks. The supply of liquor ordered for 50 people to celebrate the gala occasion was:- Four Gallons of Whisky, 2 Dozen Claret, 1 Dozen Sherry, 2 Bottles Brandy, 2 Dozen Pints of Ale, and a 9 Gallon Cask of Ale. The cost of the Whisky 18/-, and the 2 Dozen Claret 18/-. There is no mention in the Minutes who won this match but one would assume it was the survival of the fittest.

By 1882 Portland also had fixtures with Berwick, Alnwick, and Newcastle West End. (The former Summerhill Club was formed out of Newcastle West End circa 1916). Five years later Sunderland was added to the fixtures and although Berwick and the Border Clubs were affiliated to the Scottish Bowling Association, Portland retained the traditional fixtures with Berwick from those early days as we were also members of the Scottish Bowling Association prior to the formation of the English Bowling Association.

The first Annual Dinner of the Club was held in the Central Station Hotel on the 3rd November 1884 at a charge of 6/- per head for an 8 Course Dinner and the profit on this Dinner was the handsome sum of 7/- ....(Happy Days).

During the Victorian era most of the Private Bowling Clubs were closely allied to Tennis Clubs and in 1889 the Portland Park Tennis Club and the Bowling Club agreed to a ten year lease. It was on the expiration of this lease that the Portland Bowling Club became a Limited Company. It is recorded that by 1890 the Club for the first time reached their full Membership of 100.

The new green which was laid in 1889 has given wonderful service and is still considered to be one of the best in the County and frequently used for County Semi-Finals and Finals.

In 1892 the Club President Mr John Goolden presented a Cup to the Club for the Champion to hold and this handsome trophy is still in existence today and held by the current Club Champion.

One of the notable events promoted by the Portland Club is the Championship of the Northumberland Private Clubs which include as well as Gosforth, Alnwick, Ponteland, Hexham Elvaston, St Georges, Rothbury, and Alnmouth, the Border Clubs of Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal although they are not Members of the Northumberland County Bowling Association but affiliated to the Scottish Bowling Association. The trophy for this Championship was donated in 1906 by the late Alfred Bell, one of the outstanding personalities of the Club and who was President in 1901. However, it was 61years before Portland had their first success in this competition in 1967. Portland has since had further success in this competition winning three times in the 90's (1993, 1994,and 1996) before three outstanding successive victories in 2008, 2009, and 2010, with a further more recent win in 2014.

Another notable figure in the Clubs history was John Matthew Oubridge an International in 1907 and who donated the present Oubridge Cups for both Private and Public Park Clubs for competition between the Champions of the various Clubs in the County. The first cup being contested in 1910. The competition is played on a knockout basis over one day (usually a Sunday near the end of the season) with each of the competing Private Clubs taking its turn to host the venue. Regrettably the Portland Club Champions have had limited success in this competition winning on only the following occasions:-

W A T Purves: 1953
W N Kennedy: 1956
G H Shaw: 1973
C W Boyle: 2013
G Richardson: 2017