Hamilton Bowling Club’s foundation took place at a meeting of eight worthy citizens of the town on 27 August 1841 in the Trades Hall on Church Street. The eight men present had no difficulty in reaching agreement.

It was unanimously resolved that an association to be called the Hamilton Bowling Club should be formed and that the entry money and subscription for this year should be seven shillings and sixpence.

To manage the club a committee of office bearers and “masters” was set up. These were the founding fathers of the bowling club in Hamilton:

John Patrick, President
William Rankin, Treasurer
Francis Hamilton, Secretary
The other “masters” were:
Charles Freebairn, doctor
James Stevenson, lace manufacturer
Thomas Ferguson, grocer
Fullerton Baird, teacher

At the time of its formation Hamilton Bowling Club was one of only about 25 such clubs in the whole of Scotland. But this was a time when bowling was becoming more and more popular as a sport. By 1860 there were 65 clubs in the country.

Bowling had its origins in this country in medieval times and the game had been played in one form or another in Scottish towns since the 15th century. By the 19th century the game was becoming more formalised with moves towards standardisation of bowls and agreed rules for the game.

What, then, was the setting of the new club in 1841? Hamilton in 1841 was an historic burgh dating back to the fifteenth century, a busy market town and a centre of local government and of law and order. Over 11,000 lived in Hamilton Parish in 1841, about 2,000 more than had lived there at the time of the 1831 census. Most of the inhabitants of the burgh lived in or near the triangle bounded by Muir Wynd, Castle Street and Cadzow Street. The focal point of the burgh, however, was Hamilton Palace which stood in the Low Parks close to the junction of Muir Wynd and Castle Street. This was the stately home of the Dukes of Hamilton, dating back to the seventeenth century and earlier.

Hamilton’s population had been growing since the beginning of the 19th century with the prosperity of hand loom weaving, but the town did not really become industrialised until the development of coalmining and the coming of the railways in the second half of the nineteenth century.

This then was the scenario for the beginning of play in Hamilton’s first bowling club. Play started formally on 10 May 1842 and arrangements were quickly made to draw up laws for the running of the club and for the playing of the game on the green. Understandably, the members were concerned about the maintenance of the green and money was provided for wax cloths on which the bowlers could stand at each end and for the regular cutting of the grass.

It was perhaps a sign of the times that, at the A.G.M. of the club in April 1843, a motion had to be proposed that “no spirits or other intoxicating liquors be allowed to be brought on the green”. This was only carried by the casting vote of the Chairman. However, a following resolution that smoking be forbidden on the green was rejected by the members.
The first crisis to hit the club during these early formative years happened in the spring of 1845 when the green and the land around it were sold by the owner, James Forrest, to another local businessman, David Marianski, who was planning to set up a new gas light company for the town of Hamilton and who had dumped building stones and sand on the green. The office bearers of the club decided to look for another green, but failed and so no play was possible for club members during the summer of 1845. This was the only break in play in the club’s history.

It was the Duke of Hamilton who resolved the crisis for the Club in early 1846 when he bought the ground where the green was located from the gas company and leased it, once again, to Hamilton Bowling Club. Arrangements were quickly made to restore the playing surface and to lay out flower beds around the green, while keeping the area for quoiting for members.
By the summer of 1846, then, Hamilton Bowling Club was well established with over forty members, its own set of laws, secure tenure of its own green and a healthy club spirit.
That healthy spirit led the members to establish a link with the nearest club in Lanarkshire, the Shotts and Cambusnethan Bowling Club. The first of these parish matches took place in the summer of 1844 and the two clubs played each other regularly during the following years.


In the years following the foundation of the club its membership and organisation grew stronger and its external connections expanded.
The membership of the club, in its early years, was restricted to about 40 - all men. The members were all known to one another and new members had to be elected at meetings of the whole club. By the 1850’s, however, the club had extended its membership to a maximum of 80 and this, in turn, was extended to 100 in 1859.

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