Friday, January 20, 2017

Women Bowling & Playing Nine Pins in the 19C

Women Playing Nine Pins & Bowling in 1822

Here only women were bowling. Historically, Bowls-like many other games-had been outlawed in a British act of 1541 known as the Unlawful Games Act (33 Hen. VIII, c.9), which enacted that:

"no manner of artificer, or craftsman of any handicraft or occupation, husbandman, apprentice, labourer, servant at husbandry, journeyman, or servant of artificer, mariners, fishermen, watermen, or any serving man, shall from the said feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, play at the tables, tennis, dice, cards, bowls, clash, coyting, logating, or any unlawful game."

Anyone found playing unlawful games, except at Christmas, was subject to a 20 shilling fine, and innkeepers were also forbidden from "maintaining" these games. The principle motivation behind the act seems to have been concerns over the state of the nation’s archery skills; as the act was formally titled "An Act for Maintenance of Artillery and Debarring of Unlawful Games," and the fear was that such men were playing games rather than practicing their bowmanship. There were fears at the time that, in the wake of the break with Rome, England could be invaded by Catholic powers in Europe, but that the skill with the bow of the English had badly declined since the glory days of Agincourt; and they could be ill-prepared to repel an attack.

Local authorities–in some places–continued to try and enforce the Unlawful Games Act across the early modern period as many of these games had become closely associated with gambling. When they took place on the grounds of alehouses, they were seen as a potential source of both conflict between gamblers, but also another means by which poor men were wasting money at the local tavern.