Norfolk’s bowling greens leave lasting impression with author

A bowls scene at Great Yarmouth

A bowls scene at Great Yarmouth - Credit: Bowled Over

Of the thousands of bowls clubs across Britain, few can boast of such a varied take on the game as those in Norfolk.

Sport - BowlsNorwich - Parks & GardensPlay in progress in the N.C.B.A. County Cup final at Eaton

Sport - BowlsNorwich - Parks & GardensPlay in progress in the N.C.B.A. County Cup final at Eaton Park, Norwich between Dereham St. Nicholas and Runham.Dated 1966Photograph C8157Used in Evening News letters page, "Do You Remember..?" 21 August 2003

And now the county's rich history of the sport has been explored in detail as part of a new book launched this month.

Author and sports historian Hugh Hornby has spent the past six years travelling across the UK to find out more about the game.

Despite visiting hundreds of bowling greens during his travels, it was Norfolk's clubs that proved to be some of the most fascinating.

Mr Hornby, 46, of Preston, said: 'We have been to about 1,000 clubs in total and without a doubt Norfolk was one of the most interesting counties in terms of bowling history.


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'I didn't realise that it had so many different types of bowling, including roving cot, which is pretty much unique to the area. It survives in and around Norwich and is the old English way of playing the game.'

Unlike crown green bowls, where each player has a designated strip to play in, roving cot allows players to throw the jack anywhere on the green.

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This leads to multiple games crossing over and adds to the difficulty.

It was not just Norfolk's wide mix of playing styles that caught Mr Hornby's interest.

The number of pub bowling greens in the county was also significantly higher than other regions.

He added: 'There are not many of them around any more, but it used to be a common site if you were travelling on a stagecoach. People would often find bowling greens attached to pubs and you could play while you waited.

'Norfolk had a very high concentration of them, much more than other counties, and it was well into three figures in East Anglia.'

Some of his favourite clubs included the Mitre, on Earlham Road, for its unusual-shaped bowling green and the Victoria Bowling Club, also in Norwich, which features an attractive thatched pavilion.

His new book, Bowled Over, features photographs and information from hundreds of clubs from across the UK – including those in Norfolk.

It traces the sport back to its medieval beginnings through to modern times, where it is now played at around 7,200 clubs in Britain.

Does your bowling green have an interesting history? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684

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