In late October 1922 the Gazette reported:  ‘ A storm of protest has disturbed the peaceful atmosphere in which recreations in People’s Park have hitherto been conducted. The Bowling Club have erected a fence around their greens, and it is of such a design that remarks have been the reverse of complimentary’. On the one hand it was acknowledged that the Club was ‘a profitable attraction’ to the town but there were a large number of rate payers who were against any area of the public park being fenced off for ‘games’.

An old black and white photo showing a group of men in front of a pavilion in a park. The men are all wearing jackets and hats. Three of the men are kneeling in the front with a number of bowling balls in front of them.

Tiverton bowling club in the early 1900s

Bowls has a very long history, although perhaps the most famous bowling anecdote cannot be reliably confirmed. It is not clear if Francis Drake was actually playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe when he received the news of the approaching Spanish Armada! There is some evidence, from tomb excavations, that similar games may have been played by the Egyptians. In this country, bowls has been played since the 13th century although its popularity has been variable. It was banned, and re-instated, by a number of monarchs in the Middle Ages; craftsmen were spending too much time playing rather than working! A ban was introduced by Henry Vlll which limited play to all but the very wealthy. This ban was only officially lifted in 1845.

An old black and white photo of a group of men in front of a pavilion and some trees in a park. Some of the men are kneeling or seated in front with a small number of young boys also kneeling. There are bowling balls at their feet. The men are dressed in late Victorian fashion with white shirts and either dark waistcoats or jackets. All the men are wearing hats, several have large moustaches and a few are smoking pipes.

Early photo of Tiverton Bowling Club which was founded in 1902

Today, in addition to the Tiverton Bowling Club, still in People’s Park, Tiverton West End and Tiverton Borough Clubs offer this still popular outdoor sport to local people. Indoor Bowls can be played at the Mid Devon Bowling Centre. Many of the Mid Devon towns and villages also boast bowling greens.

An old black and white photo of a group of men in jackets and hats gathered for a photo in front of some trees on a bowling green. They are arranged in three rows, standing at the back, seated in the middle and sitting in the front. There are bowling balls in front of them and the man seated in the middle is holding a cup. '1920' has been written on the bottom right of the photo. Lots of the men have large moustaches.

West End Bowling Club in 1920, it was founded in 1911.