Penylan Club

Hidden away in the back lanes off Marlborough Road is the Penylan Club, or to give it it’s official name ‘The Penylan Bowling and Cardiff Bridge Club’. 

We’ve kindly been given permission to reproduce the booklet ‘The Penylan Club Centenary Year 2009‘ which contains the fascinating history of the club itself and an interesting insight into the social history of the era.  The article below uses some extracts from that booklet, supplemented with press cuttings and photos:- 

The most important date in the history of our Club was Tuesday 3rd December 1907.  For it was on this date that an eminent local resident, Mr Thomas Mackenzie of 77, Connaught Road, circulated an invitation which read as follows:

“Proposed New Bowling Green For Roath”

Dear Sir, 

You are invited to attend a meeting in connection with the above in the Hall, Wesleyan Church, Albany Road on Thursday December 5th at 8.00pm.  As business of importance will be transacted you are particularly requested to attend. 

Yours Truly


A further meeting was held at ‘The Creamery’, Wellfield Road on Dec 31st 1907.  A site for a bowling green had been offered by the Estate Agent acting on behalf of The Right Honourable The Lord Tredegar VC.  The original site offered was deemed to be too expensive to develop.  Further discussions with the Tredegar Estate were sought . The next meeting held at ‘The Creamery’ on Jan 8th 1908 considered an alternative site which had been offered and terms agreed.

At the first General Meeting of the Club in 1908 a vote on the naming of the club took place.  “The Marlborough Bowling Club” and “The Sandringham Bowling Club” were defeated.  The name “The Penylan Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club” was adopted.

The Penylan Club was opened on May 1st 1909 by Lord Tredegar. His speech was hailed as humorous by the Western Mail:

Their first President was Lord Tredegar, the man who owned most of the land in Pen-y-lan and had survived the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

An early picture of the Penylan Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club with Lord Tredegar sat in the centre.

In 1912 the Western Mail reported a Penylan defeat by St Fagans, who were “helped” by the efforts of the Rt Hon The Earl of Plymouth and Lord Windsor (The St Fagans selectors were clearly not overawed by rank as both their Lordships played at third.)

These Penylan bowlers had the week before been hailed as heroes when the Western Mail of the 15th May 1912 reported:

“Some bowlers playing on the Penylan green on Tuesday evening observed flames in the neighbourhood of the Roath Laundry (on the other side of Blenheim Road to Marlborough Road school).  They stopped play immediately and ran to the fire.  Climbing a wall, they discovered that a big pile of clothes hampers were alight against the wall, and at once toppled them over. Police Constable Harold Breese arrived, and the flames were put out soon after the appearance of the tender from central station’.

1912. Less than two years after the Penylan Club opened they were already hosting international fixtures.

In 1913 Club fees were increased to £1. 5s. 0d for Gents for Bowls and Tennis and £1.5s. 0d for Ladies for Tennis.

The War cast heavy shadow over the club and for the 1917 season all membership fees were waived  ‘in view of the endurance of the war’.  All revenues from Whist Drives etc, were donated to the local Military Hospitals.  The club purchased packets of cigarettes which were sent to members serving in the forces.  Bath chairs were purchased and distributed to all local Military Hospitals.  Proposals to relay the green and the painting of the premises were deferred.   On the brighter side bowling teas were to be introduced.  These could be provided under the food regulations at a charge of 6d per head.

In June 1918 the Penylan members took ownership of the club, albeit on a leasehold basis, the lease being held by the Tredegar Estate.  The Croquet lawn was voted out of existence but the bowls and tennis sections of the club had a waiting list.

1921 – The Penylan Bowlers were reported a bit taken aback by the New Zealanders

In May 1926 the old clubhouse was broken into and, Mr H.Hayes, the son of a member, was badly mauled and had his personal effects damaged, in trying to arrest the intruder.  The Club compensated Mr Hayes in the sum of 5 Guineas and paid his medical bills.  The behaviour of the Police in not having Mr Hayes medically treated was reported to the Club President, Alderman A. J. Howell who would take the matter up with the Watch Committee (Police Authority).

A map from the first half of the 20th Century (exact date unknown). Note the smaller size of the pavilion then. The Penylan Laundry is marked to the west.

The lease was purchased from the Tredegar Estate and this enabled plans to go ahead for the building of a new larger pavilion.  The Official Opening of the new Club House took place on 30th Jun 1936 and was carried out by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Alderman G. Fred Evans. 

In Oct 1936, 20 members of the Tennis Section forced the calling of a Special General Meeting on the proposal that “The courts be opened for Sunday play”.  The meeting accepted the proposal by 44 votes to 28.  At the following Management Meeting seven resignations, including that of the Lord Mayor, were received on account of the decision to allow Sunday tennis. [These resignations were subsequently withdrawn, but clearly what was seen as a breaking of the fourth commandment brought about a furious reaction.]

The years leading up to 1939 were uneventful and it is only then that the “National Crisis” which became the second World War enters the records of minutes.  The ladies tennis room was requisitioned by the Government for use as an Air Raid Wardens room and despite the new “black-out” regulations it was decided the Winter social activities should continue.

The heating of the Club would be affected by the introduction of coke rationing with the Club requesting extra rations because of the Air Raid Wardens use of the premises.

For the 1940 season all members serving in His Majesty’s forces would be granted free membership.

The Special General Meeting of 05 Oct  resulted in agreement that all members subscribe to a “War Levy” to replace loss of income from Whist Drives etc, which could no longer be held.  The levy, payable before Dec 1940 amounted to Bowlers £1.1s.0d; Social £1.1s.0d; Tennis (men) 10s 6d and Tennis (ladies) 5s.0d.

It was at this meeting that the gentlemen’s dress code on the green was emphasised – no member be allowed to play without blazer and waistcoat.

In 1942 the Lord Mayor, writing on behalf of the Anglo-Soviet Friendship Council asking for donations to raise £1500.0s.0d for an X-Ray machine for Russia. Those present at the Committee meeting immediately contributed £8.8s.0d and a fund was opened.  A month later the fund stood at £27.10s.7d.

During annual tournament week in 1950 an occasional License for the sale of alcohol was applied for.  The refreshments to be served from a marquee erected at one end of tennis court number 3.  Discussion began on the suitability of the Club obtaining a full License.  It was agreed that Wm Hancock & Co., Ltd., would operate the occasional License with the Club receiving 6% of the bar profits during tournament week.

On 8 Nov 1950 a Special General Meeting with 124 Members in attendance voted by 78 to 34 votes that the Club should obtain a full License for the sale of beer, wine and spirits.

Disaster struck in 1962 when the Groundsman treated the green with weed killer instead of fertiliser.  Most of the Private Clubs in South Wales offered the use of their greens during the recovery period.

September 1962

The sum of £105. 0s.0d. was dropped in the lane by the person doing the Club’s banking.  The money was found by three small boys from Tremorfa who returned it and received £15. 0s.0d. for their honesty.

Gaming machines had been installed and were bringing in additional income. After the annual License fee of £75 had been paid a large surplus was being accumulated from the fruit machines.

The next major improvement occurred in 1973 when the Trustees authorised expenditure of up to £4,000 which would allow the Management Committee to pursue plans for a major extension of the Club lounge.  This would entail including the outside veranda area into the lounge area.  Initial plans were drawn up.

In Sep 1989 initial discussions were began with one of Wales’ premier Bridge Clubs with a view to amalgamation.  At a Special General Meeting held on 20 Dec 1989 it was decided that the long standing Badminton section would in future play at a venue away from the Club.   A motion that “Cardiff Bridge Club be incorporated into the Club and become a new section of the Club” was carried.

In 1995 a Ladies Bowling Section was formed and has since prospered.

View from the air when the tennis courts were still in place.

The August 1998 Minutes record that at this mid Season point the Tennis Section Membership numbered 13 full Members and 13 Junior Members.  Grave concern was being expressed about the viable future of the Section.  By the following Season the Tennis Section which had played a large and important role in the life of Penylan had ceased to exist.

A new category of Membership was devised and there was a large response from local residents who joined as non-voting Associate Members.

Scenes from the 2009 Centenary celebrations

The Monkstone Pétanque Club joined the Penylan Club family about ten years ago and now lease and area of land within the premises.

Monkstone Petanque Club

The Penylan Club see themselves as a community asset and currently has a membership of 442.  New members are always welcome to apply for membership and the necessary forms are available from the club bar.

And to finish with here’s a story from the Western Mail in 1926 reporting the elected captain heading for Australia. It looks like the typesetter on the Western Mail nightshift was being a bit mischievous!


The Penylan Club has now been added to our webpage looking at the history of pubs and clubs in the area.

1 thought on “Penylan Club

  1. I remember that fruit machine, though not the theft – I would have been 14 in 1962. I learnt to play badminton at the club, and their bar was the first I ever visited, going in there for orange squash afterwards. I used the fruit machine a few times, one sixpence on each occasion. It taught me it was a mug’s game. I played tennis there with John Owen as well, and we also learned to play snooker: the billiard room was in the corner of the site to right, backing onto Grenville Rd. It was cold, draughty and had a gas wall-heater that covered the balls in condensation when in use on a cold day.

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