THE 100-year anniversary of a bowling club was celebrated with a wholesome visit from the Chelsea Pensioners.

A parade of Chelsea pensioners, led by a piper and the Mayor of Whitchurch, Cllr Tracy Woodruff, commenced the 100-year anniversary celebrations at Whitchurch Bowling Club.

Among the attendees was the club's longest-serving bowler, Ian Hayward, 77.

Mr Hayward, who has lived in Whitchurch his whole life, has been involved with the club since 1967, and has been bowling alongside his wife, Linda Hayward, 71, since before they were a couple.

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Ian and Linda HaywardIan and Linda Hayward (Image: Newsquest)

He told the Advertiser: "Today has been great, everybody's mucked in, my wife has worked like a trojan along with the ladies from Whitchurch in Bloom to give us a lot of flowers here.

"The Chelsea pensioners had their photos taken out on the green, and we are all going to have a friendly game this afternoon."

Reminiscing about his time with the club, Ian said: "A lot has changed over the years, the current ground used to be the football pavilion, and it has been built up since we moved here.

"I used to be quite a competitive player, I played in county and national competitions, but when you get past 50 you won't get any better.

Chelsea Pensioners attend the centenaryChelsea Pensioners attend the centenary (Image: Cllr Tracy Woodruff)

"Over the years we've had a British Isles singles champion here, and at least one England player. For a small club, we have had some really successful periods."

Ian spoke of the importance of the club to the community, explaining that it is a social hub for many local residents.

"The social side of it is great, especially for people as they get older, as they lose partners and spouses because they have still got a group of people to enjoy the company of.

"It's great fun. Today especially, we have a lot of our old members who no longer play, they've come down to visit, and it's looking good."

Whitchurch Bowling Club president, Dave Reynold, has been at the helm for four months. Speaking about the centenary celebrations, he explained how there is still, more to come.

He said: "Today has been great with the Chelsea Pensioners here. We've had a number of events happening for the Centenary, we went to the Royal household in Windsor two weeks ago and gave them a game, and we've also got Whitchurch of Cardiff - it's their centenary as well - and they are coming here so that will be quite interesting."

Chelsea Pensioner Mike SimmondsChelsea Pensioner Mike Simmonds (Image: Newsquest)

Also in attendance was Mike Simmonds, the president of the Chelsea Pensioners' bowling team.

He told the Advertiser: "I've been looking forward to coming, and it was nice to see everybody with a smile on their face."

The bowling club currently has 40 members. It merged with another club in Laverstoke in 2010, after it folded. Mr Reynold explained how at the time, he along with many other members of Laverstoke's bowling club came "en masse" to Whitchurch.

Established in 1924, the bowling club began when informal games were played on the Vicarage Lawn. In 1932, the club purchased and made the bowling green in Beel Street before moving to its current location in 1955.

Mayor of Whitchurch, Cllr Tracy Woodruff bowls a ballMayor of Whitchurch, Cllr Tracy Woodruff bowls a ball (Image: Newsquest)

A pleasant day of celebrations culminated with a toast to the king, and a friendly match between Whitchurch and the Chelsea Pensioners.

The event was attended by the Mayor of Whitchurch, Cllr Tracy Woodruff, who gave a speech before the friendly match.

She spoke of her own personal memories with the bowling club, including her grandparents' 25th wedding anniversary which was held there.