A brief history of The Cheltenham Skittles League

The Cheltenham and District Skittle League was formed in 1906, starting with The Crown, The Vine Tree, The Bee Hive and possibly Wellington Bar and the Fountain Inn. The founders were Charles Baker who became the Hon Treasurer and Mr William T Leonard who became the League Secretary.

By 1912-13 season the League had nineteen clubs, as described on 27th August 1913 in a Gloucestershire Echo article about the season's AGM, but World War I curtailed progress beyond 1915/16.

Read more about the early years, including news clippings, pictures and league tables.

The Cheltenham Skittles League was formed in August 1938 when a group including J. Gardner (league secretary 1938-40) who had played in the early 1900's league, assembled in the Sydney Arms in Pittville Street. They started with just 12 teams: Sydney Arms, Brown Jug, New Inn at Charlton Kings, London Inn, Greyhound Inn, Adam and Eve, White Horse, Old Anchor, Beehive Inn at Prestbury, Royal Hotel at Charlton Kings, Midlands Inn and the Malvern Inn at Leckhampton. 

Winners of the 1938-39 season were ‘The Sidney’. In the following season, the New Inn team from Charlton Kings took the title. The Charities Cup was also started in 1939/40, the first winners being the White Horse.

The league was suspended during World War II, and restarted in 1948/49 when the 'New Inn' carried on where they had left off by taking the title again.

Many years later, we were delighted when Roger, son of Tommy Stratford, presented us with copies of the 1948-9 Member's Card containing the season’s fixture grids. A newspaper article of the time tells us that the League had over 500 registered members that year.

Season 1949-50 saw  a big increase in the popularity of skittles with  the formation of Divisions 2, 3 and 4, bringing a total of 64 teams.

By 1950-51 a fifth men’s division was formed, as was the first ladies division which was won by Suffolk Arms Ladies. Season 1951-52 saw the formation of the sixth men’s division.

By 1960-61 season there were 162 men's teams in nine divisions, and 54 ladies’ teams in three divisions. Several of those teams are still going today.

At its peak in the 1980s, the men’s League consisted of 18 divisions with 16 teams each and an average of 16 players per squad. In our Golden Jubilee year 1987/88, over 6500 players were registered, but numbers have been in steady decline in recent years.

The game format has remained much the same throughout the years. Teams consist of twelve players divided into 4 sets of 3 players. Each player bowls 3 balls per ‘hand’, and a total of 18 balls (6 hands) per set.  Other leagues throughout the country play skittles in many different ways, but all play with the same object in mind - to fell as many pins as possible with three balls, and just enjoy the evening.

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