Non Bias (Scottish) Carpet bowls

Non Bias (Scottish) Carpet Bowls.

This version of the game is played on a raised bed on a 24ft x 3ft carpet. The picture below taken from a 1936 catalogue gives an idea of what the game looks like.

EJRBowls 1936 


Picture acknowledgement- Norman Clare Heritage Collection


Lindean Open _1


 Lindean Open _2


 picture of Lindean Open Pairs


                 picture acknowledgement

Non Bias _1935

The above is a page from a Taylor-Rolph catalogue dated 1935. It mentions that the Tournaments attract enormous crowds with 95 affiliated clubs in Scotland. It states that the game is little know south of the Tweed but has a large following in Canada.

We are gratefull to the Birkenhead Carpet Bowling Society 1896 for allowing the use of information concerning both the history of the game and its Rules.

further info Email New members always welcome

"Birkenhead Carpet Bowling Society 1896"


The origin of carpet bowling is unknown but it is believed to have originated from a form of parlour game which used ceramic bowls known in Scotland as 'Piggies'.  This was extremely popular between 1860 and 1880 as almost every home had a set of 'Piggies'.  As carpets were rare they used blankets, canvas or even paper; it is recorded where one club played on sawdust spread on a hard floor.  This developed to where groups of young men began to organise events with rules throughout Scotland.  Some of these young men also played the game of Curling.  By the1890's the game had developed with rules invented by some and copied from the new rules put in place for curling.  The measurement for the carpet and markings are the same as that for curling but reduced from yards to feet thus a third of the size of a curling rink.

By 1895 the Scottish Carpet Bowling Association had been formed with 12 districts within Scotland.  In the original form it did not include England.  Each district had anything between 5 and 10 member clubs.  You can see from that that they had a membership in the region of perhaps 100 clubs with average of 30/40 members each.  They were also responsible for arranging international events which indicated that carpet bowls were being played elsewhere to the same rules

It was a popular pastime and was encouraged by the churches to "prevent young men from partaking in alcohol and mischief" and local schoolrooms were often permitted to be used as bowling halls.

In the early days there were no boards, just carpet laid on the floor.  Boards were introduced following the formation of the association as the condition of many of the floors disadvantaged visiting teams.

Ceramic bowls were used prior to 1895 when the association decided on Lignum or a plastic substance called 'Lawrite composition' and the size was set at no more than 12 inches circumference.  The problem of ceramic bowls hitting the 'wicket' or hoop and shattering could now be avoided.

The first mention of carpet bowling in England follows the formation of our club.  The Birkenhead Carpet Bowling Society was formed in 1896 by a group of drapers who originated from Dumfries.  It is believed that the first venue at that time was a hotel or public house in Market Street, Birkenhead.  Since then it has had many venues throughout the town.  Although it was formed by Scots it had members from all sides of the community, English, Irish and Welsh.  In the North West region there soon came several other clubs, the next formed being Chester.  There was an international fixture between England V Scotland in 1957, which incidentally England won.  There were many other tournaments both regional and local.  The most recent one is an annual fixture between Wrexham and our club.  Research shows that there are not many of these clubs remaining.  This may be due to the fact that the sport is not widely publicised compared to others forms of bowling.  Research is vague but the Association seems to have been absorbed into the Scottish Indoor Bowling Association (SIBA) during the mid 20th Century.

This form of bowling is more affordable than short mat as the carpets are approximately half the size and the bowls are half the size; thus you only require a room which can accommodate a carpet 24' X3'.  It is time for the sport to be reborn.


Rules of Play

 1 a)   the carpet should measure 24 feet long and 3 feet wide

    b)   In the centre of the carpet, 21feet 9 inches from the playing end, a clearly defined tee shall be fixed.  Around such tee as a centre, a circle of 15 inches radius shall be drawn.  To facilitate measurements smaller circles may be drawn on the inside of a smaller radius than the first.

    c)    A hog score line shall be drawn across the carpet 4 feet 6 inches from the tee towards the playing end.

   d)    Two guides made from wood 3feet 6inches long, 1 inch wide and ½ inch thick are to be fixed at the playing end of the carpet.  They should start 9 inches forward of the end of the carpet and be 6 inches apart at the end nearest the tee and 9 inches apart at the playing end.

   e)    A guard mad of wood or metal about 5/8 inches thick, 8 inches long and 43/4 inches high is to be fastened to the carpet at the end of the wooden guides nearest to the tee.

   f)    At 27 inches from the playing end of the carpet distinct lines shall be  drawn from the edges of the guides to the edge of the carpet, known as a delivery line.  Every player should place their hand, foot or knee behind that line.  It is a breach of the rules to deliver a bowl in a position where the hand, foot or knee is on or beyond the line.  All bowls being played have to be delivered on the carpet between the two guides.  When a bowl being delivered leaves the players hand and passes beyond the guard it shall be deemed a played bowl.  The bowl must be released before it passes through the guard.

2)    All bowls must be made of wood or composite compound which have been passed entirely free of loading or bias and not to measure more than 12 inches in circumference.

3a)   Every bowl shall be eligible to count which is not clearly outside the 15 inch circle.

  b)   Each bowl past the tee and outside the 15inch circle is considered out of play and laid off the carpet.  Should there be any dispute regarding a bowl on the 15 inch circle past the tee while the game is in progress and appeal can be made to an umpire for an immediate decision to decide whether the bowl is out of play or not.

  c)     Each bowl shall be a hog which does not entirely clear the hog line must be removed from the carpet.  No bowl can be considered as such if it has struck another bowl lying in a position over the hog line.  In the event of a dispute concerning the hog line the captain or his nominee or an independent member not being a member of either team involved may be asked to make a decision which shall be deemed final.

4a)   Should a bowl in play get broken another bowl shall placed in the position where the largest fragment is situated.  The player is entitled to use another bowl for the remainder of the game.

   b)  On no other conditions can bowls be changed after the game has commenced.

5a)    Except as provided by the Regulations every rink is to be composed of four players a side one of which shall be Skip, and direct the game.  Each player shall play two bowls.

   b)   The Skips opposing each other shall settle which team shall lead at the first head after which the winning side shall do so.

6a)    The players on each side shall be the only persons allowed to have any say in the game.

  b)    No person shall be allowed to be in contact with the board while a player is in the act of delivering his bowl.

7)    All matches to be of a certain number of heads as is agreed at the Annual General Meeting.

8)    Each player to be ready to play when their turn comes and not to take more than a reasonable time to play.  Should a wrong bowl be played any player may stop it while running.  If it is not stopped while running they must wait until it comes to rest and it may be replaced by the bowl that ought to have been played to the satisfaction of the opposing skip.

9)    Should a player play out of turn the bowl they played may be stopped and returned to the player.  Should the mistake not be realised until the bowl is at rest or has struck another bowl the opposing skip will have the option of declaring the end null and void.  If another bowl has been played before the mistake has been realised the head must be finished as if it had been properly played.

10)    If a running bowl be marred by any of the party to whom it belongs it may be by the challenge of opposing skip to be put off the rink, but if by any of the adverse party it may be placed where the skip of the party to whom it belongs shall direct if otherwise marred, (except as provided for in rule 15) the player shall replay the bowl.

Should any played bowl be displaced before the head is reckoned, it shall be placed as near as possible to where it lay to the satisfaction of the skip opposing to the party displacing it.  When no bowls are in the rink at the termination of the end this shall be recorded as a played end.

11)   No measuring of shots is allowed previous to the termination of the end unless as in the latter part of Rule 3 b).  All disputed shots are to be determined by the captain or his nominee.  All measurements are to be taken from the centre of the tee, that centre being clearly defined.

12)   During the games players should be arranged along the side of the carpet but well away from it, as the skip may direct.  No person shall kneel, walk, or rest on or over the carpet under any pretext whatsoever whether or not a game is in progress.

13)    If any player belonging to either of the competing sides shall speak to, taunt or otherwise interrupt another not belonging to their own party while in the act of playing their bowl, the said player shall be warned against such conduct, and if they persist shall be brought before the committee and shall be liable to suspension or dismissal according to the fining thereof.

14)    If a bowl passes underneath the guard it shall be deemed a played bowl whether it strikes the guard or not and it shall be allowed to run it's course.  If the bowl passes over the guard, passes by the side or bounces back from the guard it shall be deemed out of play and the player shall not be allowed to replay the same.

15)    All disputes must be referred to the Captain, his nominee and/or the secretary whose decision shall always be final.

16)    Should any situation occur which is not covered by the rules, the decision will be made by the committee in accordance with fairness.

17)    There shall be no smoking within the confines of the playing area.

           Disabled bowlers

Every possible assistance will be given to disabled bowlers to allow them to compete on equal terms

with able bodied bowlers:-

a)   b)   If a walking stick, crutch or similar aid is essential to give the bowler proper balance it shall be allowed.

c)   Where a bowler requires the use of a length of guttering, or similar, to be able to deliver his/her bowls, this will be allowed.  IF it is the ONLY way in which the person concerned is able to deliver them.

d)   At the discretion of the Committee, any member, either disabled or otherwise, who requires to rest between ends, shall be allowed to do so, but they must not wander away from the rink.


             Skip - Is the skipper or leader of a team and plays fourth in the team

           Hench -  is henchman and deputy to the skip; they play third in the team

           Second -  Is the player that plays second in the team

             Lead -  Is the player that plays first in the team

            Tee - Is a point measured 21' 9" from the playing end of the carpet and in the centre of the width

            Guard - The metal or wooden guard at the end of the guides through which a bowl must pass to be in play

             Guides - Pieces of wood placed at the players end

                 Hog - A line drawn 4' 6" from the tee in direction of player

                 Rink - A team of four players

              Carpet - The area on which the game is played

               Wood - A bowl regardless of whether it is wood or composite compound no more than 12" in                        circumference.

              Reserve - A player from a team is not allocated a game or who is not a permanent member of a team

                  Circle - This is the scoring area within a radius of 15" from the tee.  Also referred to as the House.

                 House - This is alternative name for Circle.

                     End - Means that part of the game in which the two opposing teams deliver eight woods alternately and then determine the score

               Game - Means play between two teams to determine a winner.

         Delivery line - Line drawn 27" from playing end beyond which the player cannot exceed.

                 Wick - Term applied to a bowl which glances off another bowl or bowls to change its natural line of travel. 

 B 8400

 picture acknowledgement - Drakes Pride

© Peter N. Clare 2009 © E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. 2018 - reproduction of article allowed only with permission from E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.