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History of P & D B A

History of Portsmouth & District Bowling Association 


Before 1903, it is thought that the type of bowls being played in the Portsmouth and Gosport area was based on the Old English game, as some of the photographs of that time show.

Then, in 1903, eight bowling clubs from the area got together to form the Hampshire Bowling Association. This was in the same year that the English Bowling Association was founded, and 17 years prior to the present Hampshire County Bowling Association.

Those eight clubs were:

  - Alverstoke BC, which is still in existence, but now known as Alverstoke Old English BC.

  - Carisbrooke BC, of which little is known about. They could have been named after a Hotel, Road, or may even have come from the Isle of Wight.

North End BC, who played in Kingston Crescent and were known as Kingston Cross BC. The club is still in being, but they now play Old English Bowls.

  - Portsmouth BC, who later became Portsmouth Corporation, but are now City of Portsmouth BC.

  - Queens BC. The Club is still in Queens Road, Gosport, but their green has been built on.

  - Saxe-Weimar BC, who are now Southsea Waverley

  - Southsea BC, who later became Southsea Falcon. Sadly, they are now defunct.

  - Victoria BC, which was situated behind the Pelham Hotel in Chichester Road.

Sadly, they are now defunct.

For the inaugural competition, Portsmouth BC presented a Challenge Shield Trophy. The first winners were Saxe-Weimar. The shield is on display in the Southsea Waverley Club house.

A second shield was presented to the Association by Saxe-Weimar, and the inaugural winners of it was Queens BC.

A Singles competition was introduced in 1904, the first winner being WC Bower (Carisbrooke BC).


Records don’t show when the Association disbanded, but it is thought to have been at the outbreak of World War One.

In 1925, the Portsmouth and District Bowling Association was formed to run League bowls for clubs in the Area. Records of that time being a bit hazy, it can only be deduced that that first league consisted of:

  - Alexandra

  - City of Portsmouth

  - Civil Service

  - Copnor

  - Milton Park

  - Pembroke Gardens

  - Queens (Gosport)

  - Southsea

  - Southsea Waverley

  - Star & Crescent

Southsea Waverley became the first Champions, and they were awarded “The Peters Bowl”, presented by Colonel JW Peters.

A Second Division was formed in 1927, with a Third being formed in 1933.

In 1928, Sir John Rowland donated a trophy (The Rowland Cup) for a competition to be played between all the clubs in the District. The proceeds from this competition were to go to the Amenities and Comforts Fund for Hospital Nursing Staff, at the Royal Hospital, Portsmouth. The first winners of the trophy were Pembroke Gardens.

With the outbreak of World War 2, it was not until a few years after the cessation of hostilities that the popularity of bowls started to gain momentum. However, records do show that League 1 did restart in 1942, as did the Rowland Cup. However, it was not until 1947 that Division 2 restarted, whilst Division 3 restarted in 1949. 

In the early days of the P&D, individual competitions were mainly the responsibility of the Hampshire County Bowling Association, with the District taking care of the needs of players who wanted to play League Bowls. However, the P&D decided to run its own Competitions

To cater for the increase in the popularity of Bowls in the District, the first Combination League was started in 1956, soon to be followed by further Combination Leagues.

The 1960’s saw the start of an explosion of new Bowling Clubs being formed.

  - In the 60’s, 4 new clubs were accepted into the P&D.

  - In the 70’s, another 5 joined


- In the 80’s, another 7 joined.

This explosion, probably due to Bowls being shown regularly on Television at Prime Time (remember Jack High on BBC2 shown at 7pm) meant that a Fourth Division proper was started in 1986.

The last recruits into the P&D were Denmead, in 1990, and Emsworth, in 1996. 

Sadly, we have also seen the demise of some of the Clubs that used to be in the Association. Some have merged (like Copnor & IBM), others have had to cease altogether (notably Portsmouth Civil Service) whilst others have decided that League Bowls is not for them.

This demise may be down to the fact that Bowls is no longer shown at Prime Time on Terrestrial TV, so that newcomers or youngsters don’t get fascinated with the game. Who knows? However, it is up to the Clubs and the Association to try to revive interest in this wonderful sport. For Bowls is the only game where people of all ages can play against one another, without recourse to a handicapping system. This was epitomised in August 2010 in the match between Southsea Waverley and College Park. Playing for the Waverley was eleven-year-old Louis McCubbin, whilst Bob Reilly was playing for College, at the tender age of 92!

Most players in the early years were Aldermen, Councillors, businessmen or well to do people. The game itself was a much more leisurely affair then today, with more emphasis on the social side of the sport. Ladies seem to have taken a fairly active part in those early days, as some old photographs show. It was not until later that divisions were set up between the sexes, who instigated this division is unclear. In recent years, the pendulum swung back, with more mixed clubs being formed.