Fringe Box



Bowls in the Castle Grounds Goes Back to at Least 1624

Published on: 19 Jul, 2012
Updated on: 23 Jul, 2012

By David Rose

Back in June I wrote a story about the history of bowls being played in the Castle Grounds. Although this was largely a history of the Castle Green Bowling Club in more recent times, I mentioned that it was generally thought that the game had been played there as long ago as the 1660s. I am now pleased to report that an earlier date has been found – 1624.

The bowling green in the Castle Grounds, with the keep or great tower in the background, in about the 1920s. Bowls was being played here as long ago as 1624.

I am grateful to historian Dr Mary Alexander, an expert on the history of Guildford Castle, who has supplied the following information.

She writes: “The first reference to the bowling green in the Castle Grounds that I have come across is in 1624 when Henry Wheeler of Guildford sold the Manor of Poyle. The lease mentioned an acre of land ‘next the Bowling Alley’. This is almost certainly on the site of the present bowling green but may have been narrower, as is suggested by the word ‘alley’.

“A bowling alley may have been established in the 16th century, when it was a popular game. In 1544 John Daborne, a wealthy merchant in Guildford, was made Keeper of the Castle Gardens. I don’t know quite what that means, but clearly the castle was now important for its gardens. Most of the buildings were in ruins by this date.  The king stayed at Guildford Park or the Friary when he visited.

“John Daborne must have made the brick alterations to the keep, which may have made it into a giant summer house, or banqueting house, where informal refreshments were taken, perhaps after a game of bowls.

“Was it used by John Daborne and his friends, or did visiting royalty or nobles take the air in the grounds and try their skill at bowling?”

Be sure to see the Castle Green Bowling Club’s match reports in the ‘Sports’ section.

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