The Reading Bowling Club was founded in 1803. The first green was behind and belonged to the Crown hotel, a posting house in Crown Street, with land extending to the stables of the Red Cow public house. In 1892, the site of the Crown was sold (eventually to Huntley Bourne & Stevens; the metal box maker for the famous Huntley & Palmers). Although we were given to the opportunity to by it at £1.00 per foot frontage, we declined and began to seek other sites.
Several were explored but we settled on our present site, which had become available as a result of the Highgrove estate, previously owned by the Blandy family, being acquired by Mr Robert Toomer who was a coal, coke and salt merchant of the town. We negotiated a six month lease for £15.00, with an option to purchase within three months for £675.00. The site was conveyed on 26th November 1892 with the granting of a mortgage of £500.00.
Leading up to this decision a number of meetings had been held to explore possibilities. A meeting held on 5th April 1892 resolved that "this meeting is of the opinion that the Highgrove site offered us in every way calculated to make a most desirable green but the apathy displayed on the part of some members, added to other difficulties in acquiring and preparing the ground under the scheme too impractical to be entertained". However three weeks later it was agreed to acquire this site and a General meeting held on 9th May 1892 at the Upper Ship hotel resolved "that play should begin at 3pm on Monday 16th May, when a subscription of one guinea with eighteen guarantors being liable (if necessary) for another half-guinea". Twelve members had also guaranteed £10.00 each. In 1895 additional land was purchased for £130.00 to include the site of the gatehouse and adjacent frontage.
The first captain of the new green was Mr WH Simmonds and the President was Mr J Miller. A groundsman, Mr S Clemenson, was engaged at seven shilling and six pence (37.5p) per week. The secretary, Mr H Wright, received an annual honorarium of three guineas. In 1897 the green was re-laid at a cost of £35.
In 1906 it was decided to lay a new green of Cumberland turf at a cost of £320. On the 2nd of May in the same year WG Grace brought a team of London County bowlers for a match to celebrate the opening of the new green. Reading won the match by just two shots (54-52).
The Conference of Bowling Clubs, summoned by the Hon. Secretaries of Bounds Green and Brownswood Bowling Clubs, in accordance with the instructions of a meeting of 31st July 1895, was ultimately held at Winchester House, Old Bond Street, London on the 17th October 1895. The proposed title "London and Home Counties Bowling Association" was rejected in favour of "London and Southern Counties Bowling Association". Reading BC was a founder member of this new association and was represented at the meeting by its Secretary, J Suddaby, Captain T Mackriff and HF Lindars. These three gentlemen undertook the return trip to London by pony and trap. A rumour exists that they visited many hostelries on route!
Reading Bowling Club also became a founder member of the Berkshire Bowling Association later to become The Royal County of Berkshire Bowling Association.
In 1958 a building was erected for the use of the ladies and four years later the ladies were admitted to the bar for the first time. In 1964 the ladies held their first meeting and the Women's section was formed and in 1965 became affiliated to the Berkshire County Women's Bowling Association.
The men and Ladies sections of the club combined when our double centenary was celebrated in 2003.