To further emphasize its exclusivity, Henry VIII imposed a substantial fee of 100 pounds for anyone who wished to maintain a green, and the green could only be used for private play. Public games were forbidden in open spaces. Nevertheless, despite fines and imprisonment, the game persisted, and it was only in 1845 that the statute was finally repealed. Even Windsor Castle had a permanent bowling green, and notable figures like Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, and Queen Victoria were known to enjoy the sport.
One of the most famous stories in the history of lawn bowls involves Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada. On July 18, 1588, Drake received word of the approaching Spanish Armada while he was engaged in a game at Plymouth Hoe. In response, he famously said, “We still have time to finish the game and to thrash the Spaniards, too.” Drake completed the match before embarking on the battle with the Armada, ultimately emerging victorious.
During the Tudor Period, bowls was a highly popular sport, and substantial fortunes were won and lost through gambling on games. Bowling even made its way into the works of William Shakespeare, featuring prominently in several of his plays. Phrases like “to kiss the jack” to indicate an advantageous position and “to run against the bias” when departing from the natural course can be traced back to bowling terminology.
The game’s legacy can also be linked to Roman culture, as the term “jack” is derived from the Latin word “jactus,” which means a cast or throw. “Jactus lapidum” in Latin referred to the casting of stones, which is reminiscent of the early form of bowling. It’s believed that the modern word “jack” originated from this Latin term.