AMONG Christchurch’s many sites and attractions, including the Priory and Highcliffe Castle, is the Christchurch Bowling Green

Nestled in the shadows of Christchurch Castle and the old 12th century Norman House ruin, the green has gone through many changes since its introduction in the 18th century.

However, recently, residents have complained about the lack of access to the site and the unkept appearance of the green during the most recent lockdown.

We took a look into the green’s history, what’s happened since the green was taken over by the Kings Arms and what plans they have for the green for the future.

Bowling Club

Believed to have been on the site since 1784, the green was used recreationally by locals for both bowls and croquet.

In 1925, Christchurch Bowling Club was formed and used the green to host its home games, with the pavilion used as the team’s clubhouse.

Bournemouth Echo:

The land was leased to the then named Christchurch Town Council and then sublet to the club, but the council struggled to support the continued maintenance of the green.

However, The Kings Arms hotel, located opposite the green, took over the ownership of the pavilion in 2009, who used it as a wedding venue because of its idyllic situation.

Following a number of issues, including the increased cost of the license from Christchurch council, the gradually deteriorating green and the lack of convenient parking, after the King’s built 19 new houses in its former car park, the number of members decreased, leaving the club in a precarious position.

Ward councillor Peter Hall campaigned to save Christchurch Bowling Club, and, with it, the green.

Bournemouth Echo:

He said: “In 2009, I was very concerned that the Christchurch Bowling would be lost and closed down.

“The Bowling Club was a local asset and locals and tourists enjoyed seeing it being used for this purpose.

"It was an attraction in the Town Centre, which was set in such a special location, with the Priory and the Constable’s House as a fantastic backdrop."

However, following effort by residents and councillors, the bowling club was disbanded in 2016, and the ownership of the green was passed onto the hotel.

Bournemouth Echo:

Alex Aitken, Chef Patron at the King’s Arms Hotel for the past 10 years, said: “When we came here, we very much embraced the bowling club.

"When we moved in, the pictures that were actually on the walls were of bowling club members using the green. 

“It is so quintessential and so typically British and something we wanted to support, but the problem, was that they just didn’t have the members to keep it going.

“We did everything possible to help keep the club going but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Change of ownership

Although the green was used by The King’s Arms Hotel, the space was still left open for public use, with the maintenance of the area still carried out the then Christchurch Town Council and, following the merge of the three local councils in 2019, BCP Council.

However, six months ago, the council’s lease of the land terminated.

A BCP Council spokesperson said: “BCP Council maintained the pleasure gardens, which included the Bowling Green at the Kings Hotel in Christchurch until October 2020 when the council’s lease expired, and the owners decided to take back possession of the land.”

During the current lockdown, a lack of maintenance due to Covid restrictions has meant that the the green became discoloured and unkept.

However, Christchurch Mayor Cllr Lesley Dedman believes that the green should be highlighted as one of the town’s major assets.

Bournemouth Echo:

She added: "In my own view, and a project I have been working on since becoming Mayor three years ago, we should instead work to promote the green, the castle and the Constables house – which are all hugely important historically.

“They should be the focus of a heritage trail, and I would use that whole area, fell the trees which block the view of the castle and the Priory, landscape the castle and the keep, put up historical boards, use the green for plays and reenactments, floodlight the buildings for evening activities, and generally promote what is the real heritage of Christchurch.

“I tried to at least get the trees felled some years ago, but residents objected. However, I have not given up on the idea, am still working to promote Christchurch’s rich heritage, and am hopeful that we can get at least some of my ideas off the ground.”

Wedding Venue

Since taking on the site as part of its offerings for its wedding services, the King’s Arms Hotel have said that the green and pavilion has been “very popular” with its guests.

Bournemouth Echo:

As part of their wedding package, The Kings Arms offer discounted venue hire of the pavilion and former bowling green for wedding ceremonies and drinks receptions.

With the ongoing pandemic causing a backlog of services, the hotel say they are willing to help couples as much as possible in order to provide a high-quality location for weddings this year and in the years to come.

Chef Patron, Alex Aitken said: “We are having to deal with these couples who have had their lives put on hold.

"The green is a lovely wedding venue, in the shadow of the old Norman House.

"We do have a backlog of enquiries which we are working through, but we have been really considerate and tried to help in the best way that we can."

However, during the period in which the hotel has been closed and not been able to host weddings, community groups have continued to use the space provided, with choir groups using the pavilion for performances, and outdoor art exhibitions being held on the green.