It has been traced certainly to the 13th century, and conjecturally to the 12th. William Fitzstephen (d. about 1190), in his biography of Thomas Becket, gives a graphic sketch of the London of his day and, writing of the summer amusements of the young men, says that on holidays they were "exercised in Leaping, Shooting, Wrestling, Casting of Stones [in jactu lapidum], and Throwing of Javelins fitted with Loops for the Purpose, which they strive to fling before the Mark; they also use Bucklers, like fighting Men." It is commonly supposed that by jactus lapidum, Fitzstephen meant the game of bowls, but though it is possible that round stones may sometimes have been employed in an early variety of the game - and there is a record of iron bowls being used, though at a much later date, on festive occasions at Nairn, - nevertheless the inference seems unwarranted. The jactus lapidum of which he speaks was probably more akin to the modern "putting the weight," once even called "putting the stone." It is beyond dispute, however, that the game, at any rate in a rudimentary form, was played in the 13th century. A manuscript of that period in the royal library, Windsor (No. 20, E iv.), contains a drawing representing two players aiming at a small cone instead of an earthenware ball or jack. The world's oldest surviving bowling green is the Southampton Old Bowling Green, which was first used in 1299. Another manuscript of the same century has a crude but spirited picture which brings us into close touch with the existing game. Three figures are introduced and a jack. The first player's bowl has come to rest just in front of the jack; the second has delivered his bowl and is following after it with one of those eccentric contortions still not unusual on modern greens, the first player meanwhile making a repressive gesture with his hand, as if to urge the bowl to stop short of his own; the third player is depicted as in the act of delivering his bowl. A 14th century manuscript, Book of Prayers, in the Francis Douce collection in the Bodleian library at Oxford contains a drawing in which two persons are shown, but they bowl to no mark. Strutt (Sports and Pastimes) suggests that the first player's bowl may have been regarded by the second player as a species of jack; but in that case it is not clear what was the first player's target. In these three earliest illustrations of the pastime it is worth noting that each player has one bowl only, and that the attitude in delivering it was as various five or six hundred years ago as it is to-day. In the third he stands almost upright; in the first he kneels; in the second he stoops, halfway between the upright and the kneeling position. As the game grew in popularity, it came under the ban of king and parliament, both fearing it might jeopardise the practice of archery, then so important in battle. Statutes forbidding it and other sports were enacted in the reigns of Edward III, Richard II and other monarchs. Even when, on the invention of gunpowder and firearms, the bow had fallen into disuse as a weapon of war, the prohibition was continued. The discredit attaching to bowling alleys, first established in London in 1455, probably encouraged subsequent repressive legislation, for many of the alleys were connected with taverns frequented by the dissolute and gamesters. The word "bowls" occurs for the first time in the statute of 1511 in which Henry VIII confirmed previous enactments against unlawful games. By a further act of 1541 - which was not repealed until 1845 - artificers, labourers, apprentices, servants and the like were forbidden to play bowls at any time except Christmas, and then only in their master's house and presence. It was further enjoined that any one playing bowls outside his own garden or orchard was liable to a penalty of 6s. 8d., while those possessed of lands of the yearly value of £100 might obtain licenses to play on their own private greens. In 1864 William Wallace Mitchell (1803-1884), a Glasgow Cotton Merchant, published his "Manual of Bowls Playing" following his work as the secretary formed in 1849 by Scottish bowling clubs which became the basis of the rules of the modern game. Young Mitchell was only 11 when he played on Kilmarnock Bowling green, the oldest club in Scotland, instituted in 1740. The Scottish Bowling Association was the very first one to be established in 1892, although there had been a failed attempt in 1848 by 200 Scottish clubs. Today the club is played in over 40 countries with more 50 member national authorities. The home of the modern game is still Scotland with the World Bowls centre in Edinburgh at Caledonia House,1 Redheughs Rigg, South Gyle, Edinburgh, EH12 9DQ.
Lawn Bowls are available in different sizes with a mid sized men's bowl being between 116mm and 131mm in diameter. They are made of a hard plastic material which is able to withstand the constant contact between bowls during play. Their weight should not exceed 1.59kg. Until 2001 all lawn bowls were either black or brown in colour. The rules have now been changed to allow bowls in virtually any colour and the manufacturers have taken up the challenge by producing bowls in just about every colour imaginable, even pink! During a game players deliver (roll) their bowls up the green in turn trying to finish closest to a smaller white ball called the "Jack". A bowling green is normally square and the Scottish Bowling Association rules say that it shall be not less than 34 metres and no more than 40 metres in the direction of play. It is surrounded by a shallow ditch. The perimeter of the ditch is surrounded by a bank, which should be not less than 230 mm above the surface of the green. The green is normally divided into six "rinks" allowing six games to take place concurrently. The rinks should be not less than 5.5 metres nor more than 5.8 metres wide. Surface wear is spread by moving the rink settings laterally and by changing direction of play every two or three days, playing either across the green or up and down Rink extremities are marked off by boundary markers with the centre of each being indicated by a "pin" which also carries a number for the rink. The rinks are numbered 1 through 6. Players deliver their bowls from one end to another during an "end" then, when the end is complete, they turn around and play back again. Lawn bowls are not spherical, they are shaped on one side such that they follow a curved track to the jack. They carry a mark to indicate to which side the bias is applied. The bowls can be delivered on the "forehand" or the "backhand" depending on the players preference or where bowls that have already been played are located. The curved path helps the player to find a way past bowls that have been delivered short of the jack. Note that bowls may travel outside the boundaries of the rink during their course as long as they come to rest within these boundaries.
Bias is the amount of curve that a bowl will take during its course to the jack. Bowls are available with several different biases for use in different conditions and competitions. As part of the manufacturing process all bowls are tested against "Master Bowl", which defines the limits of this bias.
A Burned or "burnt" End is one where the Jack has been moved outside the boundaries of the rink by a bowl in play. In normal competition Burned Ends must be replayed.
Deliver is the term used for throwing or rolling a bowl. The delivery is the action of delivering a bowl. A bowler with a good delivery can be compared to a golfer with a good swing.
The term draw can have several meanings in bowling. As a noun it can refer to the type of shot being played. A "dead draw" is an attempt to deliver the bowl as close as possible to the target (generally the jack). It can also be used as a verb. You may hear a skip issuing an instruction such as, "Just draw to the jack".
A drive is type of shot in bowling where the player delivers the bowl with maximum force toward the target. Otherwise know in Scotland as a "blooter"!
An end of bowls comprises the placing of the mat, the delivery of the jack and the playing of all the required bowls of all of the opponents in one direction on the rink.
A Guard is a bowl played to a position that restricts the opposition from getting to the target.
The head refers collectively to the Jack and the bowls that have been delivered and come to rest within the boundaries of the rink.
When a player unintentionally delivers a bowl beyond the jack or the intended target it is described as being Heavy.
The Jack is the small white ball that is the target in bowls. You may also hear it referred to colloquially as the "White", the "Kitty" or the "Sweetie".
If a bowl is Jack high it means that it has reached a position such that its nearest part is laterally aligned with the jack. Effectively it means that the bowl and jack are level.
A Lead is the person who plays first in pairs triples or fours (rinks) game. The lead is responsible for setting the mat and delivering the jack to start the end.
LINE OR ROAD
The Line or Road is the curved route taken to the jack. E.g. "You are a yard short but your line was good."
The Second in a triples or rinks (fours) game is the player who plays second. In the rinks game the second is responsible for marking the score card.
A bowl that does not reach the jack or the intended target is described as being short.
Shot can have several meanings. The shot or shots are the number of points scored in an end. It can also mean the type of delivery, e.g. a drawing shot, and during an end, the bowl that is currently nearest the jack.
The Skip is the captain of a team in pairs, triples or rinks play. The Skip is always last to play and is responsible for directing the play during an end. The other players in a team must follow the Skip's instructions.
The third is the third player to play in a rinks game. The third is normally responsible, with his corresponding opponent, for deciding the result of an end, i.e. who is lying the shot and how many shots have been scored. The skips however have the final say in this in the event of any dispute.
A Toucher is a bowl that during its course touches the jack before finishing within the boundaries of the rink. A Toucher remains live even if it finishes in the ditch.
Weight is the term used to refer to the power applied to a delivery.
Before the introduction of plastic composition bowls they were made from the heaviest most dense wood available, Lignum Vitae. At this time bowls were often called Woods and some people still use this as a generic term for bowls.
The bowls green is split into 'Rinks' , this is the area each game is played on. The term 'Rinks' it used when describing a game involving 4 players per team