to be at least three versions of this game of bowls designed to be
played at table height two of which have their roots in the UK the
other in Australia.
trace the history or roots of these games has been all but
impossible. However general consensus indicates they were probably
started in the Victorian era.
above page taken from a 1935 Taylor Rolph catalogue - note they
Newman, a famous Billiard Champion of the time, endorsing the
the version of table bowlsare designed for play on Full Size
Snooker / Billiard tables and rather like Flat Green and Crown
Green there is a North / South split.
Blackpool and Cumbria area the table bowls are two inch in dia.
(Sec 1) Were as the version played in the South (East) of England
use a 2 ¼ inch bowl (sec 2). Although in an old catalogue (dated
1950) we have found reference to 2 ¼ inch and 2 ½ inch. As you will
see from the illustration below these table bowls were made from
Lignum Vitae. The old Lignum Vitae table bowls would likely have
been made from quartered timber and would therefore have lost their
shape. This would have required them to be re-worked and it is
therefore safe to assume that they would have reduced in size so
that the 2 ¼ inch would have been nearer 2 inch after being trued
and the 2 ½ inch would be near enough 2 ¼ inch. Now Table Bowls are
made from a similar composition as used in 'full' size
-Norman Clare Heritage Collection
An 'old' set of Jaques Lignum Vitae Table
Picture acknowledgement _James masters -
Australia version played mainly in Northern Queensland is based on
a purpose built table and they also use a 2 inch bowl (sec
not seem to be any set rules as there is no governing body and so
slightly different local variations will be followed. All the rules
seem to have the same basic structure, the following are the rules
issued with the Drakes Pride
The game may
be played by two, three or four players. Each player has one pair
of bowls but, if two players only take part each may if desired
have two pairs of bowls.
persons are playing, they may form themselves into two sides, or
they may play individually.
In the case
of partners, one of either side shall play alternately or, subject
to agreement one player from each side playing alternately may bowl
their pair of bowls before the second player of each side
commences. They would play alternately in the same order as their
commencing play, the number of points to be scored for the game
should be agreed. This is usually 21 but, may be altered by mutual
The spin of
a coin shall decide which player or side has the option of playing
otherwise required by local practice, the lower end of the chute
should be positioned within the limits of the "half circle" or "D"
of the snooker / billiard table baulk.
player may play the Jack down the chute, or place the Jack by hand
in any required position.
Jack be played so that it strikes the Snooker / Billiard table
cushion, it is "Dead" and the opponenet is then entitked to play
the Jack. If, during play, the Jack should be knocked or driven
into contact with the Snooker ? Billiard table cushion the end is
"Dead" and should be commenced again without penalties to either
which come into contact with the Snooker / Billiard table cushion
is "Dead" and cannpnt score and should be removed from the table
or side having a bowl nearest the Jack counts as one point. Should
two or more bowls played by the same player or side be nearest a
further point for each bowl is counted. Should two players or sides
tie for the nearest position, the End is declared "Dead" and played
involves the penalty of removing a palyer's wood (bowl) from the
table, and it fails to score. A foul is any of the following
(bowl) bowled out of turn, or a wrong wood (bowl)
(bowl) propelled or pushed down the chute - when playing the wood
the chute as per Rule 6
send the Jack into the top half of the table is also a foul and the
Jack is given to the opponent to play as a penalty
Section 1 -
"Northern" Table Bowls
been said that there are some snooker / billiard tables in the
Carlisle region that have been install in such a manner that they
can only be used for table bowls, it being impossible to get all
round the table!
Picture acknowledgement - Drakes Pride
The set of
bowls comprises 4 pairs of black 2 inch dia. bowls, a jack and a
delivery chute. Each pair of bowls has a different bias strength.
The pairs are colour coded to indicate their bias strength as
follows - YELLOW ringed bowls have the least bias next increasing
in bias are the Green ringed increasing to Blue ringed increasing
to the strongest bias Red ringed pair. The jack is a plain white
ball (non biassed) usually 1 3/8" ( 1 1/4" has also been used). The
delivery chute has a groove along its length down which the bowls
Cumbria there is a strong Billiard Table Bowls League and even
there they have slightly different rules between the Pensioners
League afternoon matches and the Evening League matches. In
November 2011 the writer was invited to see a Pensioners League
match at the RAOB Club. The set of bowls used were an old set of
Taylor Rolph Lignum Vitae about 70/75 years old. The host club
provided the bowls and the visitors had first choice of the pairs
that they would use. As the set bowls have been in play for so long
both teams knew the quirks of each pair. Although they were called
pairs and numbered up as such ,because of their age and the fact
they were made from quartered timber, they did not run as a pair.
So each player carefully examined the bowls so they selected the
best one for their desired shot.
places the release chute in the middle of the top cushion of the
Snooker Table carefully angling it to their desired position. They
then, with just as much care, place the bowl at a position on the
chute before releasing it down the table toward the jack. The jack
itself was released down the chute to set its position. If it
touches the end cushion it is replayed and if it is closer to the
cushion than 8 inches it is placed on the centre 8 inches away from
the cushion. Play is in both directions and it is noticeable that
the nap on the cloth has a marked effect on the draw /bias of the
consist of 8 players and the matches consists of 4 games of pairs
(all games consisting of 9 ends)In the evening league the visiting
team take their bowls to the home teams club, Scoring in the
Pensioners League - 1 point for each game won (half points for a
drawn game). The same scoring system is used in the Evening League
but with an additional point for for the team with the highest
for Carlisle Pensioners League versions are printed below
PENSIONERS TABLE BOWLS
LEAGUE RULES (DECEMBER 2000)
The League to be called 'Carlisle Pensioners Table Bowls
The Chairman and Secretary to be appointed at each A.G.M.
The League Committee to have one representative from each competing
club, inclusive of Chairman and Secretary - one vote from per club
with the Chairman's casting vote if needed.
All Old Age Pensioners are eligible to play for their club
providing they are members and registered players at the start of
each season. (Additional players are acceptable on the application
to the Secretary during the season but cannot be considered for the
Pairs or Singles competitions) Each club may register players who
are 60 years or more but they must be pensioners through age,
disablement or redundancy. Any player over 65 years takes
preference to those under 65 years. Special cases can be considered
on their merits.
Each club will be asked for a donation per team for League
funds each session.
Matches will be played
on Thursday afternoons,
commencing at 1.30pm prompt. Competitions will be played on
Wednesday afternoons commencing at 2.00pm prompt.
A team shall count one point for each game won and half a point
for a drawn game. The team with the most point at the end of the
season will be league Champions. Should two or more teams have the
equal points, they will play off on a neutral table.
Any team playing an ineligible player and/or not providing 8
players for a match, will forfeit one point per absent pair.
The home team must have a correct statement and the scores
prominently displayed during the match.
HOME TEAM bowls will be used for all matches with the visitors
having the choice of bowls.
Home Captains must inform League Officials of all League
results as directed on the fixture list. Failure to comply with
this rule will incur a penalty deduction of one point.
In the Singles competition, League rules will apply. Choice of
bowls and throwing Jack will be determined by the spin of a coin,
the winner drawing his two bowls from the market and leaving his
opponent the other two.
All competitors in the Singles Competition must attend the
stated venues punctually, not later than 2.30pm or notify their
opponents if unable to do so and re-arrange the match amicably if
possible. Otherwise any player failing to appear will automatically
forfeit the tie. Rules 12 & 13 also apply to Pairs
In the event of a player taking ill during a game, a substitute
will be allowed. This applies to the League and knockout games only
- on the basis of one substitute per match.
Any player having played for a team cannot transfer to another
team during the season.
The League Committee will appoint an official marker for all
Any team wishing to postpone a match for any reason must notify
their opponents 48hrs prior to the date the match should be played.
Failure to observe this rule will result in their opponents being
awarded 4 points. All postponed matches must be re-arranged within
14 days of the original match date.
Notice of 'Motion' for the AGM must be sumitted in writing to
the League Secretary 14 days prior to the AGM.
The AGM will take place on the first Thursday in August each
just released from the delivery chute makes its way to the
'head'. Picture taken at the
RAOB Club in Carlisle
can be seen at the middle of the end cushion.Picture taken at the
RAOB Club in Carlisle
for the Carlisle League that play in the Evenings are as
Throwing the Jack decided by the spin of a coin.
During play the Jack is always 'alive'. In the event of being
forced into a pocket, it will be replaced on the lip of the pocket
and the remaining bowls played to that position.
If the first thrower hits the cushion with the Jack it becomes
'dead' and is re-thrown by the opposing lead. If he should do
likewise, the Jack will then be placed 8 inches from the centre of
the end cushion.
If the Jack fails to reach the half-way mark of the table, the
procedure will be as Rule 3.
In the game the Jack must be 8 inches from any cushion when
first played, with the marker having the power to place the Jack in
The chute must be placed on the exact centre of the baulk or
spot end of the table, either on the cushion or bed of the table
with the rear of the chute touching the cushion and always
When opposing bowls are equidistant from the Jack there will be
no score for either side and the end will NOT be replayed.
All bowls become 'dead' on contact with the cushions and will
be removed from the table.
In ALL League and Competition games there will be only ONE
Competition matches ending in a drawn game will be decided by
an extra end and the throwing of the Jack by the spin of a
Team Knockout matches will be played to League Rules using the
venue bowls and deciding the choice of bowls and throwing the Jack
as in competitions. Any team leading by 2 ½ games (or more) to 1 ½
games (or less) will be the winner. In the event of a tie the
aggregate score will decide the winner. If there is still a tie
Rule 11 will apply.
The Jim Pattinson Challenge Trophy will be played to League
Rules using the venue bowls and deciding the choice of bowls and
throwing the Jack as in competitions. Matches will be decided by
aggregate score only. If there is a tie Rule 11 will apply.
The home team shall provide an efficient marker for all League
games. In the vent of both skips being unable to agree, the markers
decision is final. All players must stand at the opposite end
whilst the marker measures.
The Semi-final and Final of the Singles, Semi-final and Final
of the Pairs, Team Knockout and Jim Pattinson competitions will be
played with special bowls provided by the League and will be played
on a neutral table.
The Jacks provided by the League must be used at all
Players are requested to stand clear of their opponents at all
times whilst they are plated their bowls and on no account should a
player carry his bowl to the opposite end of the table.
In the Team Knockout and the Jim Pattinson Challenge Trophy, a
selected pair from each team will commence the match thereafter a
draw will be made for games two, three and four unless the team
captains agree otherwise.
Should a player bowl his opponents wood by mistake it will be
judged a foul shot. The said wood will be returned to his opponent
and his own wood will be removed from the table for that end. Any
displaced woods to be replaced at the markers discretion.
Any protest must be submitted in writing to the League
Secretary within 48 hrs. of the event taking place.
In all games, skips should stand at the other end of the table
while leads are bowling.
Gambling on any match is strictly forbidden and any offenders
will have their registration cancelled.
These rules have been carefully drawn up to ensure the games
are played in the best possible spirit and will be strictly
Blackpool League have another version of the game with their own
set of rules. They too generally play with old Lignum Vitae sets
made by Taylor-Rolph. The main difference seem to be that they only
play in one direction and use the 'D' and the centre baulk line
spot (the position of the Brown ball for Snooker) for the chute to
be placed. The jack used is a biased jack , so basically a smaller
version of the bowls used.The writer was able to visit the Marton
Social club, Blackpool to see a match and be shown the metod of
play. Our thanks go to Steven Murphy for all the information and to
the Marton Social Club for their hospitality. The Guide lines and
rules for the Blackpool League are as follows -
Standard Rules for Table
(for 2 and up to 4
These rules are written with
two players in mind
Played with a set of table
bowls consisting of eight balls which are divided into pairs and
indicated as such by numbers or colours.
I.e. in a bowls set each pair
of bowls will be indicated with the numbers 1,2,3 and
If coloured bowls the they
shall consist of 2 bowls per colour.
Game is played on a standard
full-size snooker table.
Games usually plated first to 7
points but can also be 5, 9 or 11.
At present in The Blackpool
Bowling League match games are played to 7.
Bowls bowled from a ramp or a
The bowling ramp or
The ramp should be placed in
the D of the table at the bulk end. The ramp shall be placed so
that the foremost tip ( i.e. where the bowl exits the ramp) is
touching or close to the brown ball spot. Note: Where the ramp has
a V or U shape at the foremost tip then the ramp shall be placed so
that the brown ball spot is seen in the V or the U
The rear of the ramp can then
be rotated through 180 degrees (i.e. from the yellow ball spot to
the green ball spot) depending on the shot selected.
On commencement of the shot the
ramp must not be physically raised and must lie flat on the table.
When the player releases the bowl for the shot there must be no
interference with the ramp, (sideways or raised) until the bowl
leaves the ramp, which would otherwise alter the chosen
When taking a shot a bowl can
only be released from where it is positioned on the ramp and cannot
be forced or pushed in any way.
The ultimate goal of the game
is to get as many of your own bowls closer to the jack than your
The player who has drawn the
lowest numbered bowl now bowls the jack from the ramp which he will
follow by bowling his own bowl first.
Bowled from the ramp the main
requirements of the jack are-
Distance wise it must at least
pass an imaginary line across the table (width ways) where the blue
spot is positioned.
Then where ever it rests in
this area of the table it must be at least the width of a bowl away
from any of the other 3 side cushions.
If any of these criteria are
not met then the
jack is to be termed as a dead bowl and the jack is then offered to
the opponent to bowl. However although the first bowler loses the
right to bowl the jack, he still bowls his own bowl first after his
opponent has bowled the jack. Players will then bowl
At the start to determine who plays
with which ever pair of bowls, one bowl from each pair (so four
bowls in all) are placed in a concealed bad and away team player
picks the first ball. Whatever number is chosen becomes the pair
which the player uses. The player that picks the lowest numbered
bowls will bowl the first jack and then his own bowl
Before the start both players have
an optional 2 practice ends (4 bowls each).
As each player begins with 2 bowls
then the maximum points that can be scored in an end is 2 points (1
for each bowl). This is of course if both their bowls are both
nominated to be closer than their opponents. Where a players bowl
is judged to be 1st closest and opponent is next closest
then this scores 1 point for the player closest.
At the conclusion of each end the
player who wins that end bowls the jack for the next end followed
by his own bowl first.
Any player's bowled wood (bowl)
that makes contact with any side cushions is taken off the table
and is deemed void.
Where two player's bowls are
simultaneously touching the jack after all woods have been bowled,
this is deemed a dead end . No point scored. Whole end is void and
is restarted with the same player, who began that end, given the
jack and bowling first.
Where a player bowls a ball by
mistake that is not their own then one of that players bowls is
taken off and deemed void. The wrongly bowled ball is then returned
to the player it belongs to.
Where any player bowls down the
ramp and the shot results in the jack touching any side cushion
then the whole end is void and is restarted with the same player,
who began that end, given the jack and bowling first.
Note: This situation, where the
jack makes contact with a cushion during play, is slightly
different to the situation mentioned regarding the initial bowling of the jack
where the bowled off jack is given to the opponent to
Bowl on and Good Luck
Anyone wishing to make contact
with the Blackpool Table Bowls league can cotact Steven Murphy by
email - firstname.lastname@example.org. . He
is keen to encourage more players sothat the League can
Section 2 -
"Southern" Table Bowls
acknowledgement - Drakes Pride
The set of
bowls comprises 4 pairs of brown 2 ¼ inch dia. bowls, a jack and a
delivery chute. Each pair of bowls has the same bias strength. The
pairs are colour coded to be recognisable. The jack is a plain
white ball (non biassed) usually 1 3/8" ( 1 1/4" has also been
used). The chute has two rungs set apart down which the bowl is
Section 3 -
"Australian" Table Bowls
Picture acknowledgement- Paul Eathorne of
Ayr, Queensland kindly contributed this picture of an Australian
Table Bowls league table. Notice that Australian Table Bowls is
played on dedicated specially-made tables unlike the British
version of the game.
The set of
bowls comprises 4 pairs of black 2 inch dia. bowls, a jack and a
delivery chute. Each pair of bowls has the same bias strength(Note-
the bias strength is considerably strong than any of the UK bias
strengths. The pairs are colour coded to be recognisable. The jack
is a plain white ball (non biassed) usually 1 3/8 inch ( 1 ¼ inch"
has also been used). The delivery chute has a groove along its
length down which the bowls are release. These table bowls look the
same as the U.K. 2 inch Table Bowls .
James Masters of Mastergames for
allowing use of the picture of the Jaques set of table
Also for the picture of the Australian
table to James Masters and Paul Eathorne
Thanks to the Carlisle Table Bowls
league, especially to Ian Welsh for all his help
Thanks to Blackpool Table Bowls league
especially to Steven Murphy for all his help
©Peter Clare 2011 - E.A. Clare &
Son Ltd. This Article can be reproduced only with the permission of
E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.