Located just a stone’s throw from Old Trafford’s internationally renowned cricket and football grounds, Old Trafford Bowling Club has been largely forgotten in recent decades, despite having been the largest amateur sporting pavilion in the country when built.
Completed in 1877, the grand and unusually ornate black and white timbered clubhouse remains remarkably unaltered today, with numerous original historic and architectural features still intact despite being in continuous active use for nearly 150 years.
Of particular interest is the splendid billiards room at first-floor level, complete with its original billiards tables, padded wall seating, ornate plasterwork, elaborate scoreboard, and highly unusual 19th century billiards cues, which still hang on the wall.
Despite an active membership of 200 bowlers today, historic clearance of buildings in the surrounding area along Talbot Road has left the clubhouse and green standing rather isolated and now at risk from possible redevelopment, with the entire Trafford area set for largescale regeneration.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “The Old Trafford Bowling Club is a remarkable survivor. In continuous use since it opened in 1877, it is complete with bowling green, billiards room and even 19th century billiards cues. It’s a clear candidate for celebration, protection and national recognition with listed building status.”
Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “This is a gloriously unexpected gem of English architecture, an almost miraculously intact survival that continues to flourish. It is a national treasure which deserves to be a listed building.”
Ben Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “Our listing application seeks to recognise Old Trafford Bowling Club as one of the country’s oldest, most ornate and best-preserved sporting pavilions and a key component of the nation’s architectural and historic sporting heritage. Historic England must now recognise the club’s survival and integral contribution to Britain’s enduring international sporting legacy.”
SAVE’s listing application has the blessing of the current club owners and has also gained support from historian and leading authority on sporting heritage Simon Inglis, author and editor of Historic England’s 2004 ‘Played in Britain’ series of books, including Played in Manchester: the architectural heritage of a city at play.
In his letter of support for the listing, Simon Inglis states that: “In terms of its architectural detail, the Old Trafford Bowling Club clubhouse is unusually ornate. Moreover, Bowden’s Tudorbethan styling, while in itself not unusual for vernacular buildings in the north west at this time, lends a presence and a sense of permanence that few new bowling clubs of the period, or of any period could have aspired to or afforded.”
“This relative grandeur, allied to the fact that so few alterations have taken place since 1877 – itself also extremely unusual in this sector – is perhaps the building’s greatest strength. It is therefore the belief of myself and other Played in Britain contributors that the clubhouse of the Old Trafford Bowling Club is a strong candidate for listing.”
Image: Old Trafford Bowling Club (Credit: Simon Inglis)