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THE ARMADA IS IN SIGHT
Perhaps, the most famous game of bowls ever played by one of the game's most illustrious players Sir Francis Drake. This is an imagination by John Seymour Lucas (1849-1923) of the scene on Plymouth Hoe on 20th July 1588 when Drake, reputedly, decided that he had time to finish his game of bowls before turning his attention to the Spanish Armada.
Thanks to Chris Wright (and Dave Bainbridge who brought it to her attention) for an early view on bowls. This is an extract from Ian Mortimer's 2017 book 'The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain' which quotes various seventeenth century authors who expressed their thoughts on bowls.
”'A bowling green or bowling alley' writes Charles Cotton,’ is a place where three things are thrown away besides the bowls, viz: time, money and curses..’ Nevertheless, you will find greens and alleys everywhere - and I do mean in the most extraordinary places. A Scotsman even builds one on a Thames barge. In short, the whole nation is obsessed by the game. William Schelinks notes that there isa bowling alley in the Fleet Prison, just as there is one in Gloucester Gaol. Almost every nobleman's and gentleman's residence has a bowling green. As he travels around the country, Thomas Baskerville makes a special record of which Inns have particularly good greens: the Swan in Bedford; the Bull in Bury St Edmunds; the George Inn in Watton; and the Bear at Speenhamland, to name just a few. What is the reason for this popularity? First there is the gambling. As with so many other sports and games, people place large sums on bowling and thus it is enormously exciting. Another reason is that it is one of the very few games that men and women can play together. Thus couples can play against other couples, as Pepys does with his wife and another couple in 1661. This adds a social and perhaps a sexual frisson to the game. But in case you are planning to win your true love's heart in this manner, be warned it is a very high risk strategy. According to Cotton, bowling is the best discovery of humours, especially in the losers, where you may observe fine variety of impatience, while somefret, rail, swear and cavil at everything, others rejoice and laugh.”