King Alfred Indoor Bowls Club

Photographs from 1938 show a phenomenal amount of shingle being removed to make way for the foundations and lower levels of Hove Marina – the building that became the King Alfred when it was requisitioned by the Navy during the Second World War. What lies beneath today is a mystery to many.

The area beneath the west side of the site is now completely derelict. It began as a car park and became a ten-pin bowling alley during the 1960s. Space was later found for a Megazone laser game centre which closed in 2004 after a court battle.

On the east side, not only have Cheetahs Gym and Brighton & Hove Amateur Boxing Club thrived below ground, the King Alfred Indoor Bowls Club has done so too for years. It was formed in 1946 and initially occupied part of the old car park on the west side. In around 1960, the car park on the east side was done away with and the bowling club took its place with, initially, four carpeted rinks. I visited recently for a behind-the-scenes tour.

A short descent leads down to an expansive bowling area which was a real hive of activity when I visited. The club today has six rinks (two more were added in 1979) and these are framed in a somewhat striking manner by a series of large columns and lintels which hold up what is the outside trampolining area above.

There is a spacious restaurant and bar area adjacent to the rinks where club members can relax when not bowling. Food is very much part of the bowling season though and different events come with different dining arrangements. On the club’s fixtures list, most events are either annotated as ‘Meal’ or ‘T&B’ (tea and biscuits!).

It is unclear what the fate of the club will be when the King Alfred is redeveloped, whenever that may be. It is unlikely though that Brighton & Hove City Council will be proposing the sort of facility that formed part of the infamous Frank Gehry scheme. Gehry’s general offering offended many but the bowling element, which would have been built as a stand-alone facility beside Hove Park, was incredible.

The case for a 50m pool as part of a new King Alfred has thousands of supporters and few opponents. The case for bowling – a very popular sport incidentally – needs to be made loud and clear henceforth.