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History of Hutton Poplars Bowling Club

by Bob Scott

 Founder member and former President of Hutton Poplars Bowling Club

Hutton Poplars Bowling Club was formed in 1991, however the history of the site goes back much further.

The bowling green is situated on part of the site of the Residential Children’s Home which was opened in 1907 by the Board of Guardians operating in the London Borough of Poplar.  At the time, the Board had a number of small homes dotted around the borough.  

As all of these were considerably overcrowded, the chairman, George Lansbury, father of actress, Angela, decided to relocate the children in Hutton.  In 1906 the Board completed a self-contained community with its own stores, school, swimming-pool, dining hall and an array of ancillary buildings together with accommodation for staff and children.  The buildings were of a very high standard and the Board was heavily criticised in parliament for unnecessary public expenditure.  The scheme was also bitterly opposed by local residents but eventually became accepted.

The administration of the home eventually passed to the London County Council and, when the Greater London Council was formed, control was passed to Hackney Borough Council.  The home closed in 1982 when the site passed to Essex County Council and was sold for redevelopment.  Most of the buildings were demolished leaving only the school (now used as Bishops Hill Adult Community Learning Centre), the Dining Hall and the Porter’s  Lodge.

The green was constructed by the builders of the new housing estate and provided for a main bowling club but with a public rink which other community groups were encouraged to use.  In 1990 Selo Bowling Club were the first to occupy the green but, after only one season, the club was dissolved.  Members of the ‘Over 50’s’ sports classes held in the nearby Bishops Hill Centre were asked to form their own club and, in 1991, Hutton Poplars Bowling Club was inaugurated with an initial membership of 130.  A committee was elected to run the club, an onerous task as some of the members had bowling experience but none had previous involvement in managing a bowls club.  However, with considerable help from the local bowling world and a lot of hard work, Hutton Poplars Bowling Club was able to participate in the local leagues and friendly matches.  No purpose-built club room was provided but a room was made available in part of the old porter’s lodge with changing facilities on the first floor.  This room was only at our disposal during the summer and had to be vacated at the end of the season.  

The playing surface of the green was created by sowing  grass seed on a foundation which had inadequate drainage and proved to be unsuitable especially in periods of wet weather.  The club considered the only solution to improve the green was to replace the grass with turf but the council was not willing to fund the whole project.  The club members agreed to make a contribution. Approximately £3000 was raised and , eventually, the green was re-turfed.

The accommodation, also, soon proved to be inadequate and approaches were made to the council for permission to build our own clubhouse.  This was refused but agreement was reached for a demountable structure to be erected by the green at the club’s expense.  Eventually a grant was secured from the Sport Council and, with added funds from the members, a suitable building was obtained for changing and storage facilities.

The club is now well established and provides an activity that many can enjoy and, hopefully, will do so for many years to come.

Bob Scott (March 2015)

Image 1 - Dining Room Interior,   

Image 2 - George Lansbury,     

Image 3 - Dining Room Exterior,

Image 4 - Porter’s Lodge