Talks had taken place in 1914 regarding the formation of the Cumbria Bowling Association but there is no record of that meeting.

In all probability, the plans were put to one side with the outbreak of the First World War.

The Cumbria Bowling Association finally came into being on May 5, 1919, at a meeting held at Carlisle Subscription Bowling Club. The founder members of the association were Carlisle Subscription, Courtfield, Edenside, Holme Head, Penrith Friars, Stanwix and Wigton Throstle Nest.

William Johnston, of Subscription, was elected as the first president, T Grundy of Holme Head the vice-president, JJ Johnson of Stanwix took on the office of secretary/treasurer. At a further meeting held on May 27, 1919, both Port Carlisle and West End were accepted as members of the new Association. Bowls in Cumbria was up and running.

I touched on the Middleton Cup last week and, in 1927, Cumbria made its first final appearance but went down by 16 shots against favourites Surrey.

In that year, Cumbria had beaten Northumberland in the first round, Durham in the second and Oxfordshire in the semi-final before losing to Surrey 116-110, despite scoring 44 shots to Surrey’s 16 in the last five ends. Great comebacks were to feature on a number of occasions much later in Cumbria’s Middleton history.

The only down side to this great effort was that Cumbria bowlers turned up in tweed suits for the final while Surrey played in blazers and white flannels. Cumbrians residing in London were apparently ashamed!

At a special meeting in Carlisle shortly after the final, county president R Bernard, of West End, urged the county to ensure, in future, Cumbria players were properly attired and his words appear to have been noted for when the county side turned out for the match against a visiting New Zealand side in 1928, they were indeed properly dressed.

Cumbria continued to hold its own in the Middleton Cup in the next few years and, in 1931, 1932, 1934 and 1936, they again reached the semi-finals only to find the strong Surrey team just too good on the first three occasions and then lost out to Gloucestershire on the last. Surrey were very strong at the time and made it to the final on no less than six occasions in the first 13 years.

No further Middleton Cup progress was made over the next few years, though, there were successes in the individual nationals. Rather surprisingly, Siddick Bowling Club represented by A Miller, H Stevens, G Roden and J Kilgour lost in the national fours final in 1938 while, in the pairs, the Edenside duo of Isaac Benson and Joe Grisdale were beaten in the national pairs final in 1949.

The fact Siddick reached the national final is surprising in that it indicates the club was affiliated to the County Association which was rather unusual for a West Cumberland Club in the 1930s.

One notable development at this time was the number of public houses which now had bowling greens. Horse and Farrier in 1929, Rose & Crown in 1930, Magpie in 1933, Redfern in 1940, Harraby Inn in 1949 and The Wheatsheef at Abbeytown. At the time, they did not contribute to the County Association but, over the next two or three decades, most did affiliate at some point and they were often used as a first stepping stone into the game of bowls. A similar comment also applies to the four Municipal greens in the Carlisle.

At last in 1958, Cumbria won the national fours again, 50 years on from Edenside’s first success in 1908. The Morton quartet of Alec Wilson, Harry Heap, Gordon Sewell and the diminutive Jimmy Bell lifting the trophy at Mortlake after beating Livesy Memorial of Kent in the final.

Morton’s success in the national fours seemed to provide something of a boost for bowls in Cumbria for the 1960s were a period of continued success for Cumbria bowlers at all levels, including international recognition. More on that next week.

In my club reviews, I'm today looking at Carlisle Subscription and Courtfield which were two of the founder members.

Carlisle Subscription had been actively engaged with the English Bowling Association well before the formation of the Cumbria Bowling Association, indeed Subscription member William Johnson was president of the National Association in 1908 and went on to be the first president of the new County Association in 1919.

The club itself was formed in 1865, making it the oldest club in Carlisle and was set-up mainly by merchants and businessmen in the city. Its green, which was officially opened in June 1866, was originally located in an area behind Lonsdale Street and Spencer Street where it remained until 1879 when a coach building company took up the lease of the land. 

The club then had to move to a new site which was behind Myddleton Street, its home today. Initially, there was no bower but the Swiss-style building which is there today was opened in 1897. It has been improved on several occasions, the latest major renovations having taken place in 2014.

The area which is now the car park was originally another green/allotments and the main green itself was extended in the eighties to meet the requirements for county matches.

Subscription hosted the International Series in 1919 and four of its members were included in the international side. The club has also provided five county presidents, four secretaries and seven treasurers.
National Titles won, Fours 1905,1979,2007: Pairs 1929. Over-55 singles, one.

Interesting to note that Subscription was the first and last winner of the EBA Fours, the EBA becoming Bowls England in 2008.

Courtfield was formed in 1900 when it had a small tin shed as a bower. The new bower, which has been elongated on more than one occasion, provides one of the best views for spectators in the county today. 

In its early days, Courtfield was one of just six clubs in Carlisle which were affiliated to the English Bowling Association. The club was one of the first to introduce a full weeks' tournament which ran in Carlisle Race Week and in its early days was one of the best tournaments in the county. There were 32 fours on Monday which was followed by 64 pairs on Tuesday/ Wednesday finishing with singles on Thursday/Friday.

The tournament was staged on the Courtfield and Fusehill greens, the final stages being at Courtfield. 

The first singles winner was Charlie Graham, of Edenside, who defeated Stan Bunting of Courtfield 21-15 in the final which was marked by international Joe Hodgson, both players and the marker wore whites. Both finals were played before good crowds. 

The Race Week tournament became increasingly popular and many greens in the city were used for the early rounds as demand increased. Like many other tournaments, however, it has declined in recent years.

The first tournament in 1965 was opened on the Monday morning by the Mayor of Carlisle, Jim Smith, who delivered two bowls, the second of which finished a toucher. The Mayor later had a street named after him and appropriately, in view of his bowling that morning, it was “Jay Smith Close”.

The club was also one of the first to hold Sunday Fours Tournaments. Courtfield, with Dalston, jointly hosted the first Junior International series in 1992 and has provided one secretary, one treasurer and seven county presidents including this year’s president Anthony Little.