By John Ashbridge, Tenpin Bowling Proprietors Association President
The penultimate centre to open in the Excel chain was the 32-lane centre located alongside of the Toby Jug public house at the Tolworth Roundabout.
The centre occupied the first floor of a new building with a large car park below the bowling centre.
The AMF equipped centre opened on 21st June 1965 by the Carry On actress Hattie Jaques and was an immediate success, obviously due to its modern facilities but also because it enjoyed an ideal location.
The centre was a joint development between Excel Bowling and Bass Charrington, the owners of the site. Some of the success was due to the well-known Excel Bowling’s Promotions Manager Jean Ferguson (Pictured with Hattie) who soon became Assistant Manager of the centre.
The bowl continued to trade well although business levels were declining in many other centres. It is believed that about November 1967 Doug McNulty, was appointed Centre Manager, and it was Doug who become the longest serving manager of the centre. The formation of successful leagues, some enjoying sponsorship from local business, continued and together with buoyant open-play business the centre continued to flourish.
Sometime during 1974 Bass Charrington took over the remains of Excel Bowling and the centre became known as the Charrington Bowl. In September 1975, the FIQ World Championships were held at Tolworth with great success, this was preceded by the installation of new pinspotters as those installed in 1965 were deemed to be beyond repair.
Further recognition followed in 1977 when the centre was chosen to host the annual AMF Bowling World Cup and, once again, this proved to be a very successful tournament.
In the early months of 1984, it was announced that the centre had been equipped with air conditioning equipment and in the summer of 1985 the centre was closed for about five weeks when all 32 lanes were replaced.
Throughout the following years many other successful tournaments were hosted, whilst business levels continued at a high level of profitability.
In 1990 Bass Leisure Entertainments opened a 28- lane centre in Bracknell and in the summer of 1992 purchased a number of Hollywood Bowls from the failing Themes International company. These, together with the Bracknell and Tolworth sites became part of, and under the management, of BLE. Initially very little changed for the Charrington Bowl, the name and management were retained, and business continued as normal.
After a long tenure as Centre/General Manager the end came for Doug McNulty on the 27th March 1998 when he retired. A farewell party was arranged at the bowl and the BLE management marked the occasion with a short ‘This is your life’ presentation.
This was followed eighteen months later when Jean Ferguson retired on 11th September 1999 and the occasion was similarly marked to wish her well in her retirement.
After this the centre was renamed Hollywood Bowl and the full company policies were introduced. Twenty years later, and after 55 years of success, the centre continues to enjoy a high level of business.