Woods and Jack (lost early televised lawn bowls; 1937; 1946)

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Issue 713 of Radio Times detailing the 1937 broadcast.

Status: Lost

Woods and Jack is the title given to an early broadcast of televised lawn bowls on BBC Television Service. Broadcast on 5th June 1937, it featured the Alexandra Palace Bowling Club playing a rink outside the Palace, with a further demonstration being aired on 21st September 1946.


The origins of lawn bowls dates back to the 13th century, where it was noted to be a popular sport in England.[1] However, it faced various restrictions from various English monarchs over the years,[2] including in 1511 when Henry VIII declared it illegal.[3][4] Nevertheless, the sport was made legal again in 1541, albeit only legal for the upper-classes, with the working-class only allowed to play it at Christmas in their master's house and presence.[2][3][4] In 1845, the act was repealed, making it fully legal.[2][3][4] The objective of the sport is to roll several biased balls known as woods in a way that they stop as close as possible to a smaller white ball known as the jack.[1] While it is one of the oldest games in the United Kingdom, there is concern that lawn bowls is a dying sport due to the ageing membership, closure of clubs, and its struggle to attract a younger audience.[5]

Televising of lawn bowls was conceptualised during the early days of BBC Television Service, which was looking to broadcast a variety of sports like darts, ju-jitsu, and snooker.[6] Thus, on 5th June 1937, a game of lawn bowls featuring The Alexandra Palace Bowling Club was broadcast, with the segment entitled Woods and Jack lasting approximately 15 minutes.[3][4] Little is known about the game and its outcome, although televising it from Alexandra Palace was ideal due to the fact the BBC primarily aimed to capture events from the Palace, with the Palace also housing its television equipment.[6] Following the Second World War, a similar program was broadcast on 21st September 1946, featuring a demonstration of the game from the Alexandra Park Bowling Club on the grounds of Alexandra Palace, which lasted for 30 minutes.[7][8]


Like all early television programs, the lawn bowl games were televised live and were unlikely to have been directly recorded. Although there were means of achieving this following the Second World War, recording seldom occurred until video tape was perfected in the late-1950s.[9] Thus, televised footage of both lawn bowl games is most likely permanently missing. Nevertheless, issues 713 and 1198 of Radio Times helped to document the television broadcasts.[4][8]



See Also

Early BBC Sports Television

Early BBC Television

Early Sports Television Media