History of Bowls

Bowls, like archery, is Britain’s oldest sport. There is a positive recorded history of bowls having been played in England as far back as the 12th century.

The bowls used in the early days of the sport were simply rounded, without bias. The bias, which, when a bowl is rolled, causes its path to be curved instead of straight, was not introduced until 1522.

In Wales, we had a kind of bowls being played in each region in the 19th Century, with each region adhering to its own rules. The 20th Century was a period of great change, where the game developed largely due to outside influence.

Short Mat Bowls was thought to have been first played in the early 20th Century by two South Africans living in South Wales who, fed up with the wet climate and not able to play bowls outdoors, simulated the game indoors.

Governing Bodies

The Scots were responsible for putting in place a structure for the governance of bowls. Following a meeting in Glasgow in 1848 W.W. Mitchell of Glasgow drew up a “uniform code of laws”, and these are the basis of all subsequent laws.

In 1892, the Scottish Bowling Association was formed and in 1893 it drew up rules or laws based on Mitchell’s Code and also published a Code of Ethics. These formed the basis of all flat green bowling throughout the world.

In 1903, the English Bowling Association was formed, the first President being Dr. W. G. Grace, who is much more acclaimed and remembered for his fame as a cricketer. The International Bowling Board was formed in 1905 at the Park Hotel, Cardiff. The foundation members were Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales. The Welsh Bowling Association was the last of the four home country associations to be formed.