Carpenters’ bowling alley expenses

I’m supposed to be putting together 3 lectures and planning 2 demonstrations. And finishing an article. And more. So I’m susceptible to distraction tonight. While looking for slides, I ran across these old notes I took about 15 years ago. Many years ago, I bought a few volumes of the Records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters. An extravagant purchase, but with some great details about their goings-on. Here’s a snippet, I wrote a “translation” in parentheses for the many folks who might not be so nimble at deciphering the original:

Bower Marsh, editor, Records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, vol 4, Warden’s account book, 1546-1571

payd to Rychard burdn for iij plankes for the bowlyng ale xviijd  (paid to Richard Burden for 3 planks for the bowling alley, 18 pence)

payd for iiij lode of funders yearthe & the caryag for the bowlyng ale vs vjd  (paid for 4 loads of founders earth and the carriage for the bowling alley, 5 shillings, 6 pence)

payd to ij laborars for a day & di for caryeng owte of the funders yerthe in to the strett Redy for ye cartes & for caryeng yt in to or well yard xviijd

(paid to 2 laborers for a day & a half for carrying out of the fuller’s earth into the street ready for the carts & for carrying it in to our well yard – 17 pence)

payd for iiij lod of sope ahysses & the caryag iijs xd (paid for 4 loads of soap ashes and the carriage 3 shillings 10 pence)

payd for v busschelles of howse ahysses for the bowlyng ale xd (paid for 5 bushels of house ashes for the bowling alley 10 pence)

payd to ij men for the makyng of the bowlyng aly xxjs xjd  (paid to 2 men for the making of the bowling alley 21 shillings 11 pence)

Randle Holme’s description of bowling, from 1688 is:

Bowling is a Game, or recreation which if moderately used very healthfull for the body, and would be much more commendable then it is, were it not for those swarms of Rooks, which so pester Bowling greens, where in three things are thrown away by such persons, besides the Bowls, viz: Tyme, Money, and Curses, and the last ten for one.
Seuerall places for Bowling.
First, Bowling greens, are open wide places made smooth and euen, these are generally palled or walled about.
Secondly, Bares, are open wide places on Mores or commons.
Thirdly, Bowling-alleys, are close places, set apart in made more for privett persons, than publick uses.
Fourthly, Table Bowling, this is, Tables of a good length in Halls or dineing roomes, on which for exercise and diuertisement gentlemen and their assosiates bowle with little round balls or bullets.

Here’s Jan Steen’s skittle players, not technically bowling. But what we in the US think of as bowling these days.

Randle Holme again, describing the types of bowls:

Several sorts of Bowles.
Where note in Bowling the chusing of the Bowls is the greatest cunning, for
Flat Bowles, are best for close Narrow alleys.
Round Byassed Bowles for open grounds of advantage.
Bowles as round as a ball for green swarths that are plain and Levell.
Chees-cake bowles, which are round and flat like cheeses.
Jack Bowles, little bowles cast forth to bowl att, of some termed a Block.
Studded Bowles, such as are sett full of pewter nayles, and are used to run at streight Markes.
Marvels, or round Ivory balls, used by gentlemen to play on long tables, or smooth board Romes.

I saw these bowlers during my trip to England a few years back. I think this was near Royal Leamington Spa

Here is a 17th-century bowling ball, found during Boston’s famous Big Dig:

Read about it here: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/mhc/mhcarchexhibitsonline/crossstreetbacklot.htm 

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Carpenters’ bowling alley expenses

  1. We had a wonderful opportunity to play Skittles at an old alley in Bristol many years ago. The ball was no longer round and the rules were made up as the game went along. Great fun!

  2. Those pics are actually just ordinary outdoor bowls. If one has a flat green, people can play at the same time by going back and forth parallel across it. The lanes are invisible but make for efficient use of green space. In the North of England though they play on mounded greens – the centre is a foot or two higher than the edges – and play is to wherever the first player chooses. It can be along an edge, across the hill, half-and-half. And each end starts from where the last one finished. These are not geometrically precise domes put patches of land higher in the middle with variations. People learn and use all this after years of experience. The only problem with wandering about like that is that only one game can take place at a time. Watching crown bowls while waiting for your turn is therefore as much a past-time as playing it. I have played it once and was made quite aware – but good-naturedly – of what a waste of green-time I was. Fortunately the massacre occurred quickly and I was not in the way for long.

  3. Recently there was a chat on an email group, oldtools, about these bowls. The conversation was around converting them into mallet heads, being that a lot were made from lignum vitae or some sort of rosewood. Interesting I suppose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s