The following details were obtained from various websites.  

The author/owner of the website is credited with the details where appropriate

 

Belper Potteries Bowls Club - Site maintained by Martin Wilkinson

Bowls historians believe that the game developed from the Egyptians. One of their pastimes was to play skittles with round stones. This has been determined based on artefacts found in tombs dating circa 5,000 B.C. The sport spread across the world and took on a variety of forms, Bocce (Italian), Bolla (Saxon), Bolle (Danish), Boules (French) and Ula Miaka (Polynesian). The oldest Bowls green still played on is in Southampton, England where records show that the green has been in operation since 1299 A.D. There are other claims of greens being in use before that time, but these are, as yet, unsubstantiated.

Certainly the most famous story in lawn bowls is with Sir Frances Drake and the Spanish Armada. On July 18, 1588, Drake was involved in a game at Plymouth Hoe when he was notified that the Spanish Armada were approaching. His immortalised response was that "We still have time to finish the game and to thrash the Spaniards, too." He then proceeded to finish the match which he lost before embarking on the fight with the Armada which he won. Whether this famous story really took place has been heavily debated.

King Henry VIII was also a lawn bowler. However, he banned the game for those who were not wealthy or "well to do" because "Bowyers, Fletchers, Stringers and Arrowhead makers" were spending more time at recreational events such as bowls instead of practising their trade. Henry VIII requested that anybody who wished to keep a green pay a fee of 100 pounds. However, the green could only be used for private play and he forbade anyone to "play at any bowle or bowles in open space out of his own garden or orchard".

King James I issued a publication called "The Book of Sports" and, although he condemned football (soccer) and golf, encouraged the play of bowls. In 1845, the ban was lifted, and people were again allowed to play bowls and other games of skill.

The earliest documented use of the word 'Jack' in Bowls is from 1611 "Was there euer man had such lucke? when I kist the Iacke vpon an vp-cast, to be hit away?". It appears that Jack in some contexts meant a slightly smaller version of something - in this case a 'Jack-Bowl', later shortened to 'Jack'. In 1697 R. Pierce wrote "He had not Strength to throw the Jack-Bowl half over the Green".