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September 2 J, 1912.
SOUTHAMPTON AND DISTRICT PICTORIAL.
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Our Weekly Illustrated feature.
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No. 24.—THE WORLDS OLDEST BOWLING GREEN.
'a;--'j are three classic bowling green* in England, of which two (waiving for a moment the ancient quibble that the Isle of Wight is not part of the. county) are in Hampshire. Two of them, at Plymouth Hoe and Carisbrooke, became famo.13 because of their aasociation with historic personages; Hie tliird, at Southampton, occupies pride of place, because it is the oldest in the world. Bowlers, a proud race because of a proud tradition, count it a distinction to play on the green on which Drake throw his wood befoie he overthrew the Armada and it is natural that members of the Southampton Green should indulge in a feeling of pride in their membership of a green which existed in the 13th century, and which ham been in con-stant use since. Indeed, no one has any precise idea as to the exact date of the club's institution, for even the zealots who have delved with such industry into our ancient civic memorials cannot say more than that the green was in oxistcnoo PRIOR TO 1299, which gives a load oi something like 300 years over the record of any other club.
At tiie date mentioned it was known as the Master's Close, and a not unreasonable assumption is that it was part of the amenities of God's House. There is an interval of ovur 200 years before any oi our 1 historians make further mention of the green, far in 1560, vide the Rev. Sylvester Daivies, a townsman managed to get into serious trouble with the authorities for playing bowls on the King's orchard, the game being at that time under the interdict of the King, Ur what reason is not apparent. There was an Act passed in 1541 which made the playing of bowls "an unlawful game, agaynst the King's statute," and many citizens were lulled before the authorities and fined for contumaciously persisting in playing a game upon whkfc there was an oflioial ban. The records are silent as to the reason why tho ancient game
PELL IXTO DISREPUTE,
but it was a phase in sporting liiatory which passed in the course of time, for the green was descrilxxl in 1655 as a place " whore many gentlemen, with tho genteel merchants of this town, take their recreation." Thus rehabilitated, tlx) green has since been an institution held in considerable esteem; indeed, membership was very highly prized, for not only was it historic, but it was generally regarded as the beat available. It could scarcely be otherwise, for it fulfilled all the conditions of tho historic sward at Oxford (Magdalen, was it?), which was the subject of such enthusiasm on the part of an American that ha asked its secret. The reply of the gardener was just this: " You cut and roll, and cut and roll, and if you keep on outtin' and rollin' for about 400 yeora you get a green like this."
It is the theory of some of the members that in those early years the Bowling Green was outside the borough boundary, a contention which is supported, it would seem, by an old map, dated two and a half centuries ago, in which an open space outside tho walla contains rough caricatures of a ^gopuD of bowlers. It may very well be that thisc&cumstance of the green being outside the gates would account for the general absence of reference to it in the historical works of tho middle ages and later.
We take up the story again as from tho year 1776, when
THE KXIUHTIIOOD OF TIM OREEX
was instituted under circumstances upon which history is, rath if strangely, silent. It is an order held in the highest esteem by bowlers, though we believe that Southampton has the only green where the practice of knighting the winner of the chief event of the year obtain*. Tho list of nan** of tho earlier Knights is incomplete, for upon the record which hangs in tho club-rojm there are a gcod many blanks in tho first sixty or so years of tho history of tho " order." After that it is complete, and contains the names of many who have played an honourable part in civic history. Alderman John Truffles Tucker, an early Victorian mayor, was one of the keenest bowlers of his time, and a Knight who shed distinction on his order, Mr. W. H. Rogers was a Knight and Mayor
The Clubhouse. Inset (left) " Sir " J. Russell, hon sccrctary; (right) ' Sir " Alan Fincher, Master.
mr„ .- "■"/ s*. ^
,l., 1.. ...1..«ur.rriMt IlKBftK*

1I1 ,r nr fX* I'tuvf u liixlltri' %|.ll Mil
lUr ASMf
Knighthood medals. The two at the top were commemorative of the battles of the Nile and Waterloo.

View of the Green. The Mayor, who is a member, is the .central figure.
lion, while Alderman T. P. Kmgfit who held high civie ortrait hangs m tlie cluWoom, likeness of the present Maw'i father, was Mastor, but never a Knight. Mr. Hurry Cnlrs. several times Mayor, was a well-known member, and another Knight of 40 years ago was Xftr. Geoigo Pellatt, a former Postmaster of Southampton, who is still living. He is not, how over, the senior Knight living, which honour belong* to "Sir" James Cole, who was the Knight of tho year 1869. "Sir"
THE UOYKX OF LOCAL ROWCERg,
fIt is a littlo remarkable tiiat thoro is an in* terval of thirty years U-twemt the knighthood year of tins eldest Knight and that of the senior playing Knight, wrliich distinction belongs to " **ir' Julm Bo**, II, tlie present hon. secretary, wltoso " acolado " dates from 1099. The intervening 28 have left tiiu town or given up bowling, or in many cases have died, though Mr. John Clark, a Knight of 1879, is still bowL ing ngulwiy, and is the "tfether" of the Uaiitstoi- Park Club.
THE MAKTKR OF THE QUEEN,
in whom authority in regard to the green and its im< vests, is invariably thueen from among the Knights of tho green, in something the same *ay, appannitly, as tiie Lord Mayor <4 Loudon is chosen from the Court of Aldermen.
Since tho order of knighthood was established it has, indeed, been a "sine qua non" that the Mastership should be a bowler of "Knightly"
rank, but there have been two exception* In the cases of Aldnrinan Harry Gales and Mr. J. T. Bowyur, tho pneont Mayor's father, who,
though Mastor, were never Knights.
It lias been tive practice for well over a century to present tho Knight of the year with & commemorative modal, which in times past was designed to illustrate tile ohief public svent of tho year. Thus thoro are medals which illustrate tiie battle of tiio Nile and the fight at Waterloo. To-day the medals, instead of being beaten and engraved, are "struck," but edl of ^ them Iwxtr the club motto, " Win it and wear it." As to tho latter part of the motto the Knights are required to wear their honours on certain occasions under penalty, and at ths investiture tlwre is an interesting ceremonial, the details of which are known only to members. ,
The happy cmunsrtanco of last week's roosting of tiio bowling members of tho Corporation and tiio meinlxas of ths green throws into contrast ths attitude towards tiie green which was held by the members of the Corporation of less than 20 years ago. It constituted
A LITTLE 00UEDY
which is wortli recording. It was recognissdx"^^ that the Master, Knights, and members had a very valuable holding in their historic green,
I ait they paid no rent, because the green was their own, though they hod no title doeda. It 4 was the contention of a section of tiie Corpora-| t'on tiiat the " Master's Close" was town pro-1 party, wiiicli ought to be yielding a rent. ' ; Wherefore the Town Clerk of tiiat time, Mr.
O. B. Xahler, was direct**! to investigate ths ■ title, which ho did—to the complete satisfaction of the membi-rs. So much so that the Town > Clerk's rojxvt figures as tiio club's title in ths ! membership card. Mr. NaJdor admitted that ^ it was extremely diflicult, if not "impracticable, . a to trace tiio origin of tiie acquirement" of the | green. " It appears probable," Iw reported,
"tiiat tiie ground was set apart for recreatiOjK^---J
and bowling fioin the earliest period, and t#st ,| a Master of the green was elected so far l4ok - x as 1299 . . . and that although the ground itself no doubt belongs to Die town, the present club or association who-occupy and manage the green would appear to have obtained certain prescriptive rights thereon from length of user for the purpose of playing the game of bowls."
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