Welcome to Bowls - History.

Bowlers are not unlike Anglers, those who participate are very similar, in that we tend to spend many hours deep in heated debate on our chosen sport. Our own spin and exageration coupled with lack of knowledge often fueling a good discussion on the subject. The relevance of size and type of bowl always seems to be the top favourite,

Next up is the best way to play any given shot, to draw or fire that is the question?.

The origins of our game give rise to some speculation and the answers are not always easy to come up with, but please consider thoughts on the subject.


There where reported sightings a few years back of some Egyptian stone masons, whilst on their lunch breaks having made some smooth round spheres, intended so we are led to believe from our sources, for use in a game where the object was to set a target and throw their spheres at said target in an attempt to get closer to it than their friends.


Since that earlier period in history evidence has come to light here in Britain that during the middle of the13th century, two bowls clubs, one in the middle of England around 1294 and another in the south of England around 1299 were in fact playing on grass a game of some” skill and touch”, the object once more being to deliver your bowls closer to the target than your opponents.


However King Edward III early in the 14th century noticed over a period of time that his legendary  bowmen, were playing bowls when they should have been practicing their skills with the longbow.

Fearing for any loss in their accuracy, which could in the long term be detremental to his kingdom, he decided in his infinite wisdom, and of course being the King, banned his archers from playing the game of bowls.


The years were moving along nicely now and the game of bowls seems to have become very popular in the 16th century.There are references made by the great bard himself, William Shakespeare, to some of his characters being involved in playing the game. In some of his work he mentions the game having been played by the ladies of the day.


Later in the century we find the most well reported historical fact concerning bowls. As we all know on the 15th July 1588 Sir Francis Drake was in the middle of a mens fours game on Plymouth Hoe, and with just a couple of ends to go he was given a message informing him that the Spanish Armada

was coming up the English Channel. Being a good “skip” he replied that they would have to wait until the game was over.


Coming into the 20th century we at last find bowls being played by a sportsman. Even if it was a cricketer, what better than the great W.G.grace to promote the game. He had spent many hours on the field playing for his country. He help to form the English Bowls Association and became it’s first president in 1903-1905 he worked to organise the first international bowls tournament between Scotland and England.

We should point out at this juncture that it was the Scottish Bowls Association who wrote the first official set of “rules of the game of bowls”.


From what was obviously the start of the game as we know it today the game is now played by millions of people in over 35 countries around the world. Games are played between individuals, clubs, counties, states and at International level, the highest level being the Olympics Games.

Our transition through time started with people probably using objects made of stone trying to fill in their free time by improving their skill and aim something that goes back beyond time to days when man had to be a good shot if he wanted to eat, and cloth himself.


It’s anyones guess that as time moved on people would use things like small lead or iron cannon balls or stones found in fast flowing rivers worn smooth and round by abrasion. Undoubtedly as mans technical ability improved we see bowls turned from hard durable wood such as Lignum Vitae from the West Indies and the application of a shape to the bowl to give it a bias in order to make it bend. Moving up to the modern day, bowls are now made from Plastics such as Polyester, Melamine and Phenolic Thermoset, they come in all shapes, sizes and colours. It’s hard to see where things can go from here on the technical side of the game, ie the equipment etc.


But we need to start by modernising the dress code giving it our top priority in order to attract new and younger people into the game. There needs to be one worldwide bowls governing body with one set of rules and regulations so that we all “sing form the same hymn sheet” as the saying goes.


Bowls is a great game and is to be recommended as a good form of exercise and social activity.

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David Crisp







07841 437616




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