720 years on Southampton Old Bowling Green rolls on!

Margaret Hirst (left) with Ann and Rosie, runners-up in the 2018 County Benevolent Triples Trophy.

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MARGARET Hirst from San Miguel, who plays bowls at Greenlands, Los Montesinos, talks about Southampton Old Bowling Green, deemed the oldest bowling green in the world, circa.1299.

Knighthoods are not usually linked with playing bowls – but Southampton Old Bowling Green have a unique annual ‘Knighthood’ competition.

Held annually, members – Gentlemen commoners – compete, with the winner being awarded the title of Knight of the green and becoming a sir.

“The green was first used in 1299,” said Margaret, who splits her year between Spain and Cowes, Isle of Wight.

“The Southampton Old Bowling Green was established during the reign of Richard I, and first used for a game of bowls in 1299,” said Margaret, who has played at the Lower Canal Walk and Platform Road club.

The current club have been established since the 17th century, with records of the history of the ‘Knighthood’ competition.

Southampton Old Bowling Green c.1299.
Southampton Old Bowling Green c.1299.

“It is also the only club that has a ‘Master’ in charge – a title carried forward from the early days,” said Margaret, who plays bowls at Plessey in Cowes and at Greenlands, Los Montesinos.

The ‘Knighthood’ competition features gentlemen commoners, who compete to obtain seven points, adjudicated by the members who have previously won the competition.

The adjudicators – Knights – adjudicate in top hats and frocked tails suits.

Winners are not permitted to compete again in future ‘Knighthood’ competitions, of which rules are different from the normal variant of bowls.

“The game is played ‘Roving Jack’ style – the jack is placed on a penny, anywhere on the green,” said Margaret.

If the penny it partially covered by the bowl, it is a toucher; if totally covered it is a lodger.

Margaret, 81, said: “It is recorded the competition has been known to last 10 days to become a Knight!.”

In 2019 it was the 245th staging of the Knighthood competition.

The record book shows Tom Nicol, ex-Burnley and Southampton footballer, received his Knighthood in 1907, the 133rd Championship.



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