The land on which our Club stands was generously donated in 1946, after the Second World War, by the Chamberlain sisters of The Bury, Odiham, whose brother was Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister at the outbreak of World War II. In providing this land for the Parish, their wishes were that it be used for recreational purposes. Shortly after, the community of Odiham made an unsuccessful attempt to provide a "complex", to be known as The Odiham Victory Sports Centre. This was to provide three tennis courts, a swimming pool, a garden play area and a bowling green.
Succeeding years saw the land used variously as a hockey pitch, a general play area and what became known as Chamberlain Gardens. These gardens, some 200 metres from our pavilion, were primarily laid-out for mothers and young children and provided a sandpit and simple play features. Unfortunately, the hockey club ceased, Chamberlain Gardens became neglected and the whole area became a rough grass area used mainly for "dog walking".
In 1983, Odiham Parish Council decided that better use should be made of what has become known then as the "old hockey field". Resident and Parish Councillor Ron Day had been keen to see a bowling green in Odiham and successfully persuaded the Parish Council to explore this option on part of the land. In 1984 the Council asked Len Catford (our first Chairman and President) to undertake a pilot project to ascertain if a green was viable.
Research showed that there was considerable interest and after some months, on 18 May 1985, an inaugural meeting, open to all, was held at the Odiham Cricket Club pavilion. Over 100 people joined the newly formed Club that evening, paying just £1 to acknowledge their interest in the concept, development and fund-raising proposals presented. In addition, the first steering committee came into being, with the key positions being appointed.
During the early years, with no green to play on, we were fortunate to have good friends in Crondall and Ropley Bowling Clubs, who regularly organised matches for us on their greens. Our teams being led by our first Captain, David Poulter, who organised the matches and the teams that played against Crondall and Ropley in those early days and formed a skeleton of the first proficient bowlers in the club.
Of equal friendship to our Club was that shown by the Odiham Cricket Club which provided us our home for 5 years.
The ensuing 4 years entailed a massive fund-raising programme, including raffles at monthly get-togethers at the Cricket Club, dances and race evenings and a major annual event - the Bowling Club Garden Fete, the first two taking place on the area adjacent to our current bowling green and pavilion. This continuous battle to raise funds combined with successful grant and loan applications eventually enabled the Club to proceed with the construction of the green itself in 1989.
There were a number of serious setbacks with regard to planning permission, primarily connected with access and car parking. Co-operation between several local authorities and the Parish Council providing a "land-swap" (part of the old hockey field for the car parking area in Buryfields itself) enabled the construction of the car park, primarily for parents of school children but with special use by the Bowling Club and the Scouts.
The green construction method chosen by the Committee for the green was the Cumberland Turf system employed by the well-known specialist, John Roberts of Sussex. The green was laid on a base of special ash clinker applied on top of the chalk soil of the area. Sand then covers this ash base and to this was added the sea-washed Cumberland turf, cut from the River Kent estuary in Cumbria. Michael Knight became our first Cub Captain on our home green.
Having achieved our first goal, the green, the Club was then faced with providing itself with a "roof over its head". The then Chairman, Fred Brailey, and the committee decided on a "do-it-yoursef" approach. So the shell and the roof were built by professionals (in fact, by two Club members Dave and Mick Poulter) with the complete fitting out of the interior carried out by volunteer members, many with special skills, working long hours. The continual fund-raising had been pursued on every occasion and the results, added to generous grants and loans, many from members themselves, and some personal guarantees, enabled the pavilion to be built, furnished and opened in May 1991.
So after 7 years, Odiham & North Warnborough Bowling Club had succeeded in what many thought to be impossible, the reader and successful generations may benefit from the thought that this was achieved by drive, determination, and above all - TEAM WORK.
The bowling club developed over the next few years, friendly fixtures being played every weekend during the outdoor season. The club also joined the Aldershot & District League, Farnham & District League and the Stan Hardman Senior Afternoon League. Lady members are also active in local "ladies only" leagues.
In the mid-1990s Short Mat bowling was introduced to the club, played during the winter months. This proved to be very successful and as a result, the club membership decided to extend the pavilion to provide additional space for mats, a new changing room, and equipment store and a bar store. Grants from Hart District Council, a generous donation from a club member and the balance from club funds met the cost. The finishing was once again carried out by Club members, and in April 2001, Hart District Chairman, Charles Lynch, officially opened the pavilion extension.
The Odiham & North Warnborough Bowling Club has a reputation for the quality of its green and Club facilities. However, it is the willingness of its membership to contribute to the successful running of the club that is its greatest strength.