Bowls Club History
Bowls at Reading Country Club
The Bowls Section of Reading Country Club was officially opened on 11th November 1945.
There are 3 bowling greens situated close to the clubhouse. Reading provides year-round bowls. When the top 2 greens close at the end of August for their annual spring treatment, the bowlers move to the bottom green, affectionately referred to as “the cabbage patch”. Members of other clubs that do not have winter facilities are welcome to play at Reading, as there is always a green available.
The History of Bowls
Shakespeare (Richard II, Act III, Scene IV):
Queen: What sport shall we devise here in this garden,
To drive away the heavy thought of care?
First Lady: Madam, we’ll play at bowls.
Queen: ‘Twill make me think the world is full of rubs.
And that my fortune runs against the bias
Bowls is considered a quintessentially English sport. However, it probably originated in France. Like Italy’s bocce and Provencal’s petanque, bowling originated in a game played by Roman soldiers, in which stones were tossed toward a target stone with the object of getting as close to the target as possible. Roman legions introduced the game to countries throughout their empire.
Over time, the stones were replaced by balls that were usually rolled, rather than thrown. In France, the sport became known as boules, from the Latin word for ball, and the English world “bowl” came from that French root. The oldest known bowling green, in Southampton, England, dates at least to 1299, although other greens claim to be older. Henry VIII, himself a bowler, in 1511 banned the sport among the lower classes and levied a fee of 100 pounds on any private bowling green to ensure that only the wealthy could play. The main reason for the ban, as for similar bans on other sports, was that able-bodied men were required to spend their spare time practicing archery.
The king’s proclamation also noted that arrow-makers and bow-makers were not being productive enough because of the time they wasted on bowling. Such bans soon passed with the use of firearms and the declining importance of archery in warfare, but the Puritan revolution virtually ended all sports in England, and lawn bowling did not make much of a comeback even with the Restoration of 1660.
The sport flourished in Scotland, however, and the Scots during the 1840s developed a set of standardized rules that have been changed very little.
In Italy it became Bocce Balls. In France it became Boile. In England it became Lawn Bowls or simply Bowling. In the USA it became ten pin bowling after someone lost the instructions and rules on the way over. But we do know Sir Francis Drake played bowls – Legend has it that Sir Francis Drake was playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe, and on hearing of the sighting of the Armada is reported to have said:-
“We have enough time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards too”