Lawn bowls has been played in England since at least 1299. It attracted players from all ranks of society from Tudor kings and queens to labourers, apprentices and the like, writes Keith Ward.
It became so popular among the latter that statutes prohibiting it were enacted as early as the reign of Edward III when king and parliament feared it would jeopardise the practice of archery, then the nation’s primary defence in battle.
Subsequently the game fell into disrepute, the upper and middle classes leaving it to the lower orders to enjoy on rough greens associated with pubs and taverns.
By the latter half of Queen Victoria’s reign, however, bowls had become recognised as a respectable healthy pursuit which could be enjoyed by all classes and abilities.
In 1904 Mr. G. Grove of Brockley wrote a letter to the Kentish Mercury in which he appealed for support to found a bowls club on Hilly Fields describing the game as “a pleasure and delight”.
Several local men responded favourably to his suggestion and together they successfully persuaded the London County Council, the municipal authority, that a bowling green in the park would be a widely used and appreciated amenity and a popular addition to the park’s attractions.
Francis Drake Bowls Club opened in 1906, the first members being men living locally in the roads surrounding Hilly Fields.
The club grew and flourished and still flourishes today, offering bowls at all levels from sociable club roll-ups to competitive matches. The club now has more than 40 members – and a third are women.
Playing on our delightful green at the corner of Hilly Fields, the club welcomes new members and offers a great way to make new friends and enjoy being outdoors while keeping fit in body and mind.
If you would like to find out more, please call in if you see us on the green. Time your visit right and you might get a cup of tea! We are always pleased to welcome visitors.
For further information please visit our website: www.francisdrakebowlsclub.org