It is known that the ancient Egyptians played a form of bowls more than 7000 years ago. It was in the thirteenth century that the game as it is played today became popular. It is generally accepted that earlier versions of the game were centred around hitting the target, as opposed to getting the bowl as close as possible to it. It is primarily an English game, and the Southampton Bowls Club is reputed to be the oldest in the world, its lawn having been laid in 1187. The green was in regular use by 1299 and the club has a tournament every year to mark that history. The Chesterfield Bowling Club claims to have a rink dating back to 1294. In the early fourteenth century, King Edward III banned the playing of bowls, along with other sports. Why? Because he wanted the archers of Britain to get practice with no other sporting distractions. This was because of the wars in Europe at the time.
The game was banned or restricted for nearly 500 years, but it became popular, and it was in the sixteenth century when bowls with a deliberate bias were introduced, possibly by Charles Brandon, known as the Duke of Suffolk.
In 19 July 1588, Sir Francis Drake was playing bowls at Plymouth Hoe. When he was told that the Spanish Armada had been seen coming towards England, he is reported to have said, "There is plenty of time to win this game, and thrash the Spaniards too."Drake completed his game with typical English calm, and the Spaniards were duly defeated by the English fleets.The first clear set of the rules of bowls were drawn up by none other than King Charles II in 1670. The game also became very popular in Scotland and in the mid-nineteenth century a committee was set up to draw up a code of laws. A Glasgow solicitor named W.W. Mitchell drew up the rules, and they have remained almost the same since then. The Scots were responsible for developing flat greens, and also for taking the game abroad. The Scottish Bowling Association was formed in 1892, and the English Bowling Association (EBA) was formed in 1903 with test cricketer W.G. Grace, as its president. The first Scottish Championships were first held in 1894, and the English Championships were first held in 1905.
The world game
In July 1905 a governing body was formed to oversee the game, as by then it was becoming played in different countries. The International Bowling Board (IBB) was formed in Cardiff, Wales. It replaced the Imperial Bowling Association which arranged matches within Commonwealth countries.
In 1930, bowls made its debut at the Commonwealth Games, at Hamilton, Canada. It has been included in every Games since, except in 1966 when the first World Championships were held. The IBB is now called the World Bowls Board. The English Bowling Federation (EBF) was formed in 1945 because there were some counties in England, mainly in the Midlands and the North, who did not want to be subject to the rules set down by the EBA. Both are flat green games. Women have been playing bowls since around 1900, and in 1931 the English Women's Bowling Association was formed after the efforts of Clara Johns.
The indoor game was initiated by W.G. Grace during his time as EBA president, although a Scot named William Macrea demonstrated indoor bowls on a concrete floor covered in sawdust. In 1888, Grace laid a carpet across the floor at the Crystal Palace, London. The first indoor club was formed at Edinburgh's Synod Hall in 1905 when the Edinburgh Winter Bowling Association was formed. The English Indoor Bowling Association was formed in 1933 but only as the indoors section of the EBA. It was made separate in 1971, and in 1979 the first indoor World Championships were held.
Crown Green bowls
Crown Green bowls is mainly played in the North and Midlands of England, North Wales, and the Isle of Man.
The earliest reference to Crown Green bowls dates back to the 1870's, although it was not until 1888 that the game's first governing body was formed, the Lancashire and Cheshire Association. It was replaced by...
The British Crown Green Bowling Association (BCGBA), which was then called the National Amateur Crown Green Bowling Association. The word 'Amateur' was dropped in 1972. This body brought together all the County associations. The game was originally amateur only. Prize money was not allowed. Professional Players did exist, and they formed their own Professional Players Association, called the 'Panel'. They used to play daily matches in Lancashire . The games were played to 41 and bets were made on the games. The games are still played today, but generally to 31 points, and the games are not as well supported as they used to be. Because the Lancashire Association paid prize money, it was expelled from the parent association for not suspending players who played for money. Crown Green bowling has become more popular since the early 1970's and the number County Associations has increased from ten to sixteen. The game is spreading from its origin in Lancashire to other counties.
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015