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The game of Bowls has been played in Bristol for at least 400 years according to a report published in the Bristol Times and Mirror on the 21st May 1906. It stated that in 1602 on what is now Queens Square and was then known as the Marsh, a Green was laid out by the City Surveyors for the ‘Merchants and Gentlemen’ to play their Bowls.

There was at this time a Bowling Green in the Pithay as well as a Cock Pit.

In preparation for the Siege of 1643 the Green in the Marsh was destroyed to make way for a Battery. It was not until 1894 that the first organised Bowls Club was formed in Bristol under the title The Bristol Arrow Bowling and Quoits Club. The Green was at the County Cricket Ground and the original members were all connected to the printing firm of J. W. Arrowsmith. The initial subscription was 2/-.

The book ‘The First Hundred Years’ by John Lawes is a comprehensive account of the Club’s history. Some of the more noteworthy events are listed here.

1894 - The Arrow Bowling and Quoits Club was formed.

W. G. Grace advised J. W. Arrowsmith and John Spry, the Head Groundsman at the County Cricket Ground, to build a bowling green in the corner of the ground. Thus our club was born.


1896 - First bowls match against Bristol Burns Club.

1900 - First away match against Victoria, W-s-M.


1902 - Founder member of the West of England and South Wales Coronation Bowling League.  (photo)


1903 - The ‘Quoits’ was dropped from our title and we became the Bristol Arrow Bowling Club.  (photo)

In 1903 W. G. Grace was a founder member and first President of the English Bowling Association.

The club was affiliated to the EBA for a fee of 10/6d.


1906 - It was decided to relay the bowling green at the County Ground. The green was relayed and extended to 4 rinks. John Spry supervised the laying of nearly 20,000 turfs. He did the task so well that the green was officially opened by J. W. Arrowsmith J. P. and the Sheriff of Bristol on May 19th 1906. Bristol B. C. and Weston Victoria B. C. were invited to the occasion (see program). Fixed Jack competitions were the order of the day, with targets being circles 1’ in diameter for 3 points, 2’ in diameter for 2 points and 3’ diameter for 1 point, the bowling lengths from the mat being 30 yards, 25 yards and 38 yards in sequence. Ladies also played, whilst scoring the same points as the men, the mat was restricted to 16 yards.

We were founder members of the West of England Bowling League.


1907 - The first Ladies Day.  (photo)

The green was enlarged by the addition of 2 rinks, presumably to 6 rinks.


1908 - A Testamonial Festival of Sport was held in Honour of John Spry, Groundsman for 21 years.  (photo)

A new pavilion was erected at a cost of £50.


1910 - Mr Arrowsmith protested that Ladies were being allowed to play on the Green and stated that the club was started as a men’s club and so long as he was a member of it, it must remain so.


1915 - The Arrow affiliated to the Somerset BA.


1916 - Negotiations started for the acquisition of a new green at Redland.

The laying of the green cost £55.


1917 - All matches played away, no home green.


1918 - Our green was opened at Redland by the Vice President F. N. Cowlin (later Sir Francis).

The first game was played against a combination side with one rink from each of Clevedon, Bristol, Knowle and Imperial. The visitors won by 80 shots to 65.

Membership restrictions were lifted and we became a fully independent club.  (photo)


1919 - The green was relaid with Cumberland turf at a cost of £440.


1920 - The Railway Company gave us a lease for 7 years at £20 pa.


1925 - The new pavilion, costing £650.17.6, was opened by the Lord Mayor. (photo)


1927 - A further lease was secured for 10 years at £25 pa.


1928 - Our first bowling tour was to the Isle of Wight.


1933 - The opening of the pavilion extension.  (photo)


1936 - The EBA directed us to switch county affiliation to Gloucestershire (GBA). We were a founder member of the City and County of Bristol BA (CCBBA).

Our lease was secured for another 21 years at £55 pa.


1937 - The green was relaid and benches were provided round the green.


1944 - Bristol Arrow Jubilee.  (photo)


1947 - The Arrow initiated the ‘Over 80’s’ match. The first post-war tour to South Devon.


1950 - Arrow members were instrumental in founding the Bristol Indoor Bowls  Club.


1954 - The green suffered from Fusarium disease, Bristol St Andrews kindly let us play our home games at Derby Rd.


1957 - The Arrow commenced sponsorship of the ‘Harry Priday’ Memorial matches with the proceeds going to the CCBBA Benevolent Fund.


1958 - The club badge was changed.


1964 - Our green hosted the GBA v South African Tourists.


1968 - Ladies were admitted as Associate Members.


1971 - Our first Sunday match was against Ealing Tourists.


1974 - A Victorian match was held to celebrate our 80 years.

Harold Maynard bowled the first wood.  (photo)


1975 - The Winstone Cup was given to the club in memory of Cliff Winstone’s father. The cup was played for by the ladies who helped with the teas.


1976 - The start of regular tours to south Devon. A ladies rink was included in each of the matches.


1978 - A new fixture was arranged with Bristol Blind Bowling Club.

We were the first West Country Bowls Club to hold a Frances Drake Fellowship Tournament.


1980 - Our oldest member, Sam Crabbe, was 100 years old on December 12th.


1981 - ‘A Century of Arrows’ was written by George Allen.

Plans for another extension were passed by the Planning Committee.  (photo)


1982/83 - Work on the extension, during a really bad winter, was carried out by our own members. (Roll of Honour)


1984 - Completion of the 3 year out-of-season work program to extend the pavilion.


1986 - The green and pavilion sold to a property developer. Lease uncertain.

1987 - We purchased green and pavilion from the developer. First Coaching course.


1988 - Formation of Bristol Arrow Bowling Club Limited.

The Ladies Bowling Club founded.


1994 - Centenary Year.

A celebratory dinner was held in the Merchant Suite of the UWE on 29th October. (photo)

Special matches were played against  Devon, EBA, Fowey, GBA, GBA VPs,  Somerset,  Mackintosh and the Royal Household.

The building of Fred’s wall.  (photo)


2000 - The second extension to the club house, with new changing rooms. (photo)

The majority of the work was carried out by our own members. (Roll of Honour)


2015 - Our oldest ex-member, Reg Gould, was 100 years old on February 7th.


2016 - The Arrow Bowls Club finally agreed to become a mixed club.

On September 12 in the afternoon just after the Umbrella game had finished a helicopter landed on the green. A medical emergency somewhere nearby required the services of the helicopter and our green was the only area big enough for it to land.  (photo)

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