Bowls club refuses to lift ban on women

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Ladies at the Bowling Club, New Beetwell Street, Chesterfield, c 1900Image copyright
Image caption Chesterfield Bowling Club used to have an annual day where women could play, according to records seen by a former member

A bowling club said to be the world’s oldest has been accused of being “stuck in its ways” after refusing to lift its ban on female members.

Chesterfield Bowling Club in Derbyshire is believed to date back to 1294.

But a former member said the club was losing money because of its ageing and dwindling membership, and warned it would close without female members.

The club denied being “chauvinistic” or in financial difficulty, adding it has traditionally been male-only.

The former club member contacted the Derbyshire Times after leaving in frustration.

He said the members were “traditionalists” rather than being “sexist”.

Updates on this story and more from the East Midlands

Image copyright
Image caption Bowls is said to have been played on the same site, next to New Beetwell Street, since 1294

“Some of the members are old school and they have been there for 20 or 30 or 40 years and don’t want to change traditions,” he said.

“Some were frightened to death that I wanted to introduce ladies.

“I’m 66 and I was one of the youngest. Most are in their 70s and 80s and there are even a couple of 90-year-olds.”

In a statement the club said it was “a small and ancient private members club which has traditionally been single gender”.

“The reported chauvinistic attitudes are denied,” it added.

Image copyright
Image caption Chesterfield Bowling Club, pictured here around 1910, said it “has traditionally been single gender”

Chesterfield Bowling Club has since taken a vote on the matter and decided to stay as it is but said it could allow women to join in future.

“The possibility of admitting female members has been the subject of committee discussion after being raised by an active member of the club,” it said.

“As a result the opinion of the present membership was recently canvassed. The subject is not closed and is set for review.”

The former member has since joined a club that admits females.

“They are very good players,” he said. “They beat me every time, which I don’t mind at all.”

Image copyright Google
Image caption The land around the bowling green (in centre at bottom of image) used to be more open but Chesterfield has developed around it

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