Home > News > Bowled Over by a Blackburn Bowling Club

A new book, by Lancashire born historian Hugh Hornby charts the history of Bowls in British sporting history.


Bowls is one of Britain’s oldest and most loved sports: older that football, cricket and golf, it is still played in over 7,200 clubs across the country. Bowled Over is the definitive illustrated companion to this popular, yet little known sport, and the first book to comprehensively look at the importance and crucial role of bowls in British sporting history.


Expert bowler and sports historian Hugh Hornby traces the sport from its medieval beginnings, when Henry VIII banned all labourers from the game as he felt it was distracting them from their trades, and through the Elizabethan era when it was the most popular sport in England, beloved by royals, celebrated by Shakespeare and, according to legend, adored by Sir Francis Drake, who insisted on finishing his game despite the approach of the Spanish Armada.


Standardisation of the Sport


Looking at the Victorian heyday of the bowling clubs, pub greens and the standardisation of the sport, Hornby’s analysis is bursting with tales of active clubs and greens from across the UK. With his exploration of the sport taking him to the Blackburn Subscription Bowling Club, established in 1749, the Club is one of the oldest in the UK and even had a hand in the standardisation of the sport.


Hornby looks at the Victorian heyday of clubs, pub greens and the standardisation of the sport, at bowling through world wars, when clubs opened up their facilities to troops and the war effort, and the present day, where it has a much quieter profile. Despite the game being dismissed by many  as one only played by the elderly, the immensely popular Barefoot Bowls’, played in urban parks to live music, is now enjoyed by younger people on several continents.


Accompanied by contemporary photographs and striking historic photographs from the Historic England archive, the book is a visual celebration of bowling architecture. From fine pavilions and sophisticated clubhouses to quaint village greens, and greens in pleasure gardens, country houses, castles, pubs and breweries, the book highlights the importance of cherishing and preserving these unique historic buildings.




Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *