Blast from the Past List of British Bowling Alleys in the 1960’s

john_moyes_book.jpgUPDATED with viewer comments – Blast from the Past

List of British Bowling Alleys in the 1960’s

Bowling may have arrived in the UK at Stamford Hill in 1960 but by 1964-65 the centre list had grown to 114 and the first bowling boom had well and truly begun. The biggest chains at the time were Top Rank and Excel but many other smaller chains were beginning to appear. Outside of London it was Birmingham with the most centres with seven but in the northern region it was popular in Leeds and Manchester also.

Looking down the list you can see a few of the centres are still around today with some reaching the grand old age of 50 this year.

Having looked around the web, there is no record of all the bowling “alleys” from the beginning so thanks to Keith Hale and a book called Tenpin Bowling by John Moyes we have been able to find a list at last.

John Moyes was an Editor and Journalist and became a well known figure on the UK bowling scene, He was also the managing director of Tenpin Publications LTD who were the publishers of The Tenpin Pictorial bowling magazine.

Did you bowl in any of the centres below that are no longer with us?, We would love to hear your stories and publish any photos you may have from what some say were the golden years of bowling. Send your stories and photos to

The list in full

City Name
 Aberdeen  ABC Bowl  George Street
 Aberdeen  The Granite Bowl  Loch Street
 Acton  ABC Bowl  Westway, East Acton
 Airport  Airport Bowl  Bath Road, Harlington
 Barnsley  Magnet Bowl  Queens Road
 Basildon  Ambassadors Lanes  Basildon
 Bedford  Lee West Lanes  London Road
 Bexleyheath  ABC Cine Bowl  Broadway
 Billingham  Brunswick Bowl  The Causeway
 Birmingham  Blackheath Bowling  Long Lane Bowl
 Birmingham  ABC Cine-Bowl  Pershore Road
 Birmingham  Warwick Road  Acocks Green
 Birmingham  Top Rank Bowl  Hagley Road, West Warley
 Birmingham  Top Rank Bowl  Pershore Street
 Birmingham  Villa Park, Fairlanes  Trent Road, Aston
 Birmingham  Fairlane, Hawthorns  Birmingham Road, West Bromwich
 Blackpool  Top Rank Savoy Bowl  Promenade
 Blackpool  Top Rank Bowl  Central Drive
 Bournmouth  Top Rank Bowl  Bounmouth, Hants
 Bradford  Excel bowl  Park Avenue
 Bristol  Top Rank Bowl  Regent Street, Kingswood
 Burnley  Fairlanes  Finsley Gate Road
 Burton on Trent  Top Rank Bowl  Bargate
 Cambridge  Magnet Bowl  Mill Road
 Chatham  Top Rank Bowl  Watling Street
 Chester  Top Rank Bowl  Brook Street
 Cleethorpes  Excel Bowl  Grant Street
 Cliftonville  Excel Bowl  Ethelburth Cresent
 Corby  Corby Bowl  George Street
 Coventry  Fairlanes Savoy  Radford Road
 Coventry  Fairlanes  Wallsgrave Road
 Coventry  Top Rank Bowl  Queen Vicoria Road
 Croydon  Top Rank Bowl  Tamworth Road
 Dagenham  ABC Princess Bowl  New Road
 Derby  Top Rank Bowl  Colyear Street
 Doncaster  Excel Bowl  East Laith Gate
 Doncaster  Top Rank Bowl  Silver Street
 Dublin  Stillorgan Bowl  Stillorgan
 Dundee  Skyline Bowl  North Tay Street
 Edgeware  Ambassador Lanes  High Street
 Exmouth  DEB Bowling, Regal Bowl  St Andrews Road
 Gateshead  Top Rank Bowl  Gladstone Terrace
 Glasgow  Briggs Bowl  Colston Road
 Glasgow  Brunswick, Hampden Bowl  Sommerville Drive
 Glenrothes  Fraser Bowl  Central Way
 Golders Green  Top Rank Bowl  Finchley Road
 Grays  New Regal Bowl  New Road
 Halifax  Brunswick, Halifax Bowl  Orange Street
 Harlow  Ambassadors Lanes  West gate, The High
 Harrow  ABC Bowl  Pinner Road
 Havant  Excel Bowl  Somborne Drive
 Hemel Hempstead  Ambassador Lanes  King Harry Street
 High Wycombe  Needham Bowl  Desborough Road
 Hounslow  Ambassador Bowling  Stains Road
 Hove  King Alfred Lanes  Kingsway
 Hove  Top Rank Bowl  Denmark Villas adj Hove Station
 Hull  Humber Lanes  Beverley Road
 Hull  Fairlanes Bowl  Harrow Street
 Ipswich  Ambassador Lanes  London Road
 Jarrow  Excel Bowl  Viking Precinct
 Leeds  Excel Bowl  Merrion Street
 Leeds  Excel Bowl  Otley Road
 Leeds  Top Rank Bowl  Kirkstall Road
 Leeds  Universal Bowl  Seacroft
 Leicester  Top Rank Bowl  Lee Circle
 Leigh  Universal Bowl  King Street
 Leytonstowe  ABC Bowl  High Road
 Liverpool  Ambassador Lanes  Overton Street, Wavertree Road
 Liverpool  ABC Green Lanes  Tuebrook
 Liverpool  ABC Bowl  Church Road
 Llanelly  Scotlanes, Llanelly Bowl  Llanelly, Glam
 Luton  Lee West Lanes  Hitchin Road
 Manchester  Granada Belle Vue Bowl  Belle Vue, Gorten
 Manchester  Top Rank Bowl  Cheetham Hill
 Manchester  ABC Bowl  Stockport Road
 Manchester  Top Rank Bowl  Old Trafford
 Middleborough  Excel Bowl  Linthorpe Road
 Morecombe  Universal Bowl  Marine Road
 Newcastle  Excel Bowl  Westgate Road
 Northampton  Fairlanes Bowl  Franklins Gardens
 Norwich  Brunswick Norwich Bowl  Magdalen Street
 Nottingham  Excel Bowl  Barker Gate
 Oldham  Top Rank Bowl  King Street
 Preston  Winsor Lanes  Vernon Street, Moor Lane
 Portsmouth  Ambassador Lanes  Arundel Street
 Plymouth  Wyvern Bowl  Mayflower Street
 Reading  Excel Bowl  Brigham Road
 Rotherham  Universal Bowl  Main Street
 Scunthorpe  Arrow Bowl  Doncaster Road
 Sheffield  Fairlanes  Sicey Avenue, Firth Park
 Sheffield  CBC Bowl  Birleyvale, Frenchville
 Slough  Windsor Lanes  Burnham Road
 Southall  Top Rank Bowl  High Street
 Southampton  Excel Bowl  Bitterne Road
 Southampton  Top Rank Bowl  Banister Road
 Southend on Sea  Excel Pavillion Lanes  The Pier
 Stamford Hill  ABC Tenpin Lanes  Stamford Hill
 Stevenage  Ambassador Lanes  Danestrete
 Stoke on Trent  ABC Cine Bowl  Broad Street
 Stoke on Trent  Magnet Bowl  Kings Cross House, Longton
 Streatham  Top Rank Bowl  Streatham Hill
 Sunderland  Excel Bowl  Newcastle Road
 Swindon  Fairlanes  Cheney Manor Road
 Torquay  Excel Bowl  Union Street
 Wakefield  Fairlanes  Denby Dale Road
 Wakefield  Savoy Bowl  Horbury Road
 Walkden  Excel Bowl  Walkden Nr Bolton
 Wallasey  Fairlanes  Marine Promenade, New Brighton
 Walton on Naze  Walton Pier Bowl  Walton on Naze
 Wanstead  Play Bowl  Wanstead High Street
 Wembley  Wembley Stadium Bowl  Wembley
 Whitstable  Excel Bowl  Lower Parade
 Wolverhampton  Ambassador Lanes  Birmingham Road
 Wylde Green, Warwick  The Pavilion Bowl  Wylde Green
 Yarmouth  The Regent Bowl  Regent Road

Replies from viewers

Rich Poncheri

Just came across the list and brings back great memories. I was a United States Air Force son. Dad was stationed at RAF South Ruislip from 1968 to 1972. Originally bowled at Harrow, before moving to the Wembley team. Our team was Roger and Malcom Bass, Chris Kier, Nigel Thompson and Rich Poncheri.

Great competitors during those days including Paul Carpenter, Dave Field, Trevor Timberlake (RIP) and Phil Smith.

Remember practice one Saturday morning to look up and see Rod Laver, the great tennis player watching us! He was in a tournament at the Empire Pool. Great times,

Brian Langford 

I was the first member of the public to bowl on lane six, when the  ABC Bexleyheath Bowling centre opened in the early sixties and when I closed the bowl in 1987 I kept the #6 pin as a keep sake.

Keith Clark

Hi just found your site,I bowled on the first day in coventry when the ally opened in Queens Road. My friend and I went in at about 10am to play and found we had to book a lane ,we were told to return at 4pm which we did.Sorry I do not have pictures just a good memory. Great site.

John Cooper

There is one possibly two centres missing from the list.

Certainly there was a bowl in south Manchester in Wythenshawe circa 1966/7 which had a discotheque in the rear of the building. I cannot remember how the centre was named. It eventually closed and became The Golden Garter cabaret club and is now a bingo centre.

Also, I seem to recall there was a centre in Walkden (North west Manchester) which may have been an Excel centre.

Maybe other bowlers can verify.

Stuart Robinson

I first entered the old Sunderland Bowl as an 8 year old in 1962.The sport hooked me from day one and joined the YBC the following year.My interest in the game has continued since I left the YBC and continued bowling into my adult years.However,it was my belief that I owed the YBC a debt of thanks.Due to this I became a coach and official of the YBC.When I left Sunderland in my 30’s I became involved at Acocks Green YBC and Tamworth YBC.I am now 60 years of age and cannot believe how much enjoyment I have had since that first day over 50 years ago.

Nicholas Taylor, Harlow

I first entered Harlow Bowl on my way home from school in 1966 aged 13 and was quickly hooked on what was a booming sport. Harlow Bowl had been open for about three years then and at one time was open 24 hours a day. A young Dave Pond was the centre’s star and when an advert went out that a YBC was being set up on 1 April 1967 I was one of many youngsters who signed up. Celia and Tony Merryweather were the main adults who set up the club with help from Ian Dabbs and Fred Mathews. I went on to join a couple of adult leagues and on the 31 August 1972 turned up on a Thursday night for the last week of the season, only to find that the bowl had closed down that morning. We tried to get the manager Vaughn Clarke to let us see the season out but without success.

The Thursday league spent a couple of seasons travelling to Dagenham bowl by hiring a double decker bus on Sunday evenings before spending many years at Hoddesdon Bowl until that burnt down ( I was the last person to bowl a 200 game there, just hours before the bowls demise), then the town centre bowl in Stevenage, where I first met Andy and Shirley Penny. Bowlers have come and gone, the league moved to Enfield, Becton, Tottenham, back to Harlow in 1999 when a new bowl opened and is now at Chelmsford on a Thursday evening.

Barry Croucher

Without doubt one of the draws of tenpin bowling, despite it’s competitive nature, is the long lasting friendships which so many people over the years have enjoyed.

Hi there, I spent a lot of time in the early 1970’s bowling at The ambassador in Hounslow but have been unable to find any photographs

I remember there was an amazing atmosphere there

Malcolm Riddall

I started bowling at the playbowl Wanstead in 62.  I was in a team called the flying pins, we won the evening news team trophy at Streatham Playbowl.  Did well that year as we had mens and womens singles finalist. Playbowl was like a club just 6 lanes.  I later joined direct of smithfield. The team included smokey clarke, ben benmore, pete fountain chris fleetwood and myself malcolm riddall. We won a good finals at leytonstone against brunswick jets. l did well there as I won the london and south east jerry butler singles. Tony Samuals was good enough to take me to manchester for the finals, sadly I was runner up to Sam Taylor.

Lol Ellis

Started bowling at Wylde green in 1960 with my mom and dad. Bowled in the Junior league and in the adult league from age 14. Ray Adams was the manager and also a good bowler. There were some great players in those days. Quite a few played for Great Britain. Gill Hunt now Gill Holt played there, one of the top lady bowlers in those days. I also played at fairlanes next door to the Baggies ground. Used to bowl in a moonlight league with my parents on a friday night. League started at midnight bowled with the lights out. Proper moonlight bowling.

Bowled at Top rank Warley in the Woburn Abbey league sponsored league. Bowled with Gregg Turvey and my dad in a big 5 man team league. Quite a few American servicemen played. Larry Lalone was one i remember. Those were great days i played in all those Birmingham centres mentioned. We travelled ever where to bowl. They say people remember where they were when Kennedy was killed well i was travelling to bowl at Wylde green we heard it on the radio nobody could believe it when we told them at the bowl.

I will try to find some photos. I know i have one of my late Dad bowling for his works team Savory Hawks bowling in the old style bowling shirts.

Ronnie Gibb

There was a 10-pin bowling alley in East Kilbride, near Glasgow.
In the Olympia Centre, called Olympia Bowl.
Found a photo here,  but probably others elsewhere.
It was originally a 5-pin bowing centre, but became 10-pin about 1964-6?

Richard  Owen

The Ambassador Bowl Hounslow was the first UK  venue to hold the European Youth Games in May 1972. The first GB Youth Team was selected and I had the great honour to be the first Captain. The event was a great success and the UK Team did well against some much more experienced teams i.e. Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland. The GB Team was:-

Paul Carpenter Hounslow

David Field Crawley

Colin Peplar  Bexleyheath

Paul Scottow  Walton Pier Bowl

Nigel Thompson Wembley

Myself Hounslow

Youth bowling was booming back in 1972  and a number of young bowlers went on to do very well in senior events i.e. Pauline Bowry  (Pauline Smith/Buck) Paul Carpenter, Ralston Reid  to name just a few. Great times and very happy memories.

Two Centres missing from the list were Humber Bowl Crawley and Magnet Bowl Peterborough.

Happy days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Arthur Thynne

We bowled at Birmingham Villa bowl in the sixties. Our team was called the Peerless Pirates!.. We were Arthur Thynne, Terry Thynne, Tony Shrimpton, Gordon Adams. We bowled in the midnight league and then in the 2.30 pm league. Saturday night thru till Sunday morning. Good times. One night Douglas Fairbanks jnr came and presented prizes. World Cup 1966. all sorts of foreign football teams in there. Wonderful times

Dave Steiner

First time I played, Harlow on the way back from a folk festival.

Two o’clock in the morning has a lot to answer for.

Chris Hodgson

Hi, just a quickie. From memory the Bradford Bowl was in Canterbury Avenue, not Park Avenue. I and many others bowled there in the 1960’s. We had a team in the Yorkshire Supreme League, sponsored by Ben Shaws. We played matches all over Yorkshire and managed to win the league one year. I cannot recall the year, it would be mid 1960’s. We were photographed receiving the trophy for the local paper, but the photo has long ago disappeared.

Several of us schoolboys also worked (unofficially as I recall!) on the shoe counter and also behind the lanes, clearing pin jams etc. No training, no health and safety, but such fun! No pay, but free games depending on how long we worked.

Many happy memories, including the visit one evening from the West Indies cricket team. Huge men, the fast bowlers in particular, who I recall handling the heaviest bowling balls like tennis balls, and demolishing the tenpins with such power.

It all came to an end very suddenly when I arrived one day and the Manager said “we’re closing!”. The place was being rapidly emptied of all fittings etc, and I never went back. My souvenirs were one battered tenpin. my league shirt and badges (all long since mislaid) and memories of one of the best times of my young life.

Ronald Johnson

Found this on a South Tyneside blog. Download news clipping here

It is a cutting from the Shields Gazette about a new bowling centre opening at the greyhound track in South Shields; the rather aptly named Dog’s Bowl closed in the late sixties I believe or possibly very early seventies.  By then the area had already lost bowls at Jarrow and Gateshead so a couple of the leagues transferred to the Excel Bowl at Sunderland.  I never had the pleasure of bowling at the Dog’s Bowl but I vaguely remember going there with my family, possibly shortly after it opened.  Several relatives and my father bowled league there and then moved to Sunderland.  I understand that both the Wouldhave League and the Stanhope League both relocated; I am informed by my brother who still bowls in Sunderland that they are still in existence.


John Moor

One missing from your list is the short-lived Fairlanes Bowl, Harrow Street, Hessle Road, Hull.  It was opened on Saturday 11 May 1963 by Douglas Fairbanks Jnr.  On this Saturday there was free bowling all day and as I only lived 10 minutes away I took advantage of this offer.  One of the main reasons for this offer, apart from the obvious, was to recruit league bowlers and after spending quite a while in the bowl I came away with a leaflet about league bowling.  The next week I attended a meeting along with many others and was persuaded to join a league.  I chose Thursday night as it was the most convenient for me and within a fortnight I was bowling in a 5-man team on a Thursday night.  At this stage it was only 5-man teams as the bowl had organised all the leagues.  I seem to remember there were 14 teams in the league.  Obviously, from the date, I am now celebrating 50 years as a league bowler although I had an enforced rest when the original Hull Bowl on Beverley Road burned down.

I don’t know exactly when Fairlanes closed but it was only open approximately two years.  When it closed, the team I was bowling with moved to the Hull Bowl on Beverley Road and we continued bowling there.  There were several rumours at the time why Fairlanes Bowl was so short-lived but I still don’t know the true reason for its demise.  The Fairlanes Bowl was in the old Langham Cinema on Hessle Road which closed after a fire in 1961.  It was on the upper floor with a supermarket underneath.  The site has now been taken over by Tradex.  The Bowl was accessed from Harrow Street and at the top of the stairs 14 lanes were visible in front of you and further to the right another 10 lanes at right angles.  There was also a bar, again accessed by stairs, which overlooked the 14 lanes.

The first team I bowled for was sponsored by Ken Blakey, motor cycle dealer, a Honda agent on Walton Street, Hull.  The reason for this sponsorship was one of our team, Don Ellis, worked at Ken Blakey’s motor cycle shop.  In the first year the Bowl encouraged local traders to advertise their businesses in the Bowl and I’ve attached a photo of our team with our sponsor and display.

The people in the photo are from L to R:  Don Ellis, Dave Wilson, Gordon Parker, Ken Blakey, Stan Jenkinson and myself.  The team was called ‘Whondas’.  Many present bowlers of a ‘certain age’ may remember Don Ellis and Stan Jenkinson as they are the only two, apart from myself, who bowled at the recently closed Hull Bowl on Sutton Fields.  I sometimes wonder how rich I would be if I had not gone to that free session on that Saturday morning.  Fifty years of league bowling, my wife who bowled for 30 years, our two sons in the YBC and numerous tournaments throughout the country involving all the family, not to mention the cost of equipment, would have probably bought the original Fairlanes Bowl with money to spare!

Eric Lane

Now having read the article on the Blast from the past on bowling centres  there were two which keith hale did not put down and they were the first to open in scotland.  One was in the town of Saltcoats and the other was in Troon they were only small centres both with 8 lanes and it was there where one of Scotland’s well known bowlers started and that was Tommy marshall.

Now the reason why I know about this is that I started working at Stamford Hill as a mechanic and was there when Keith Hale started in bowling along with other well known bowlers such as Jim Brewer and Ron “Smokey” Clarke, I myself was a member of the Brunswick Jets that started at Stamford Hill when the team was D.Meil capt  Harold King, Neil Osborn, J.Rose, M. Wade, Toni Samuels, Bobby Mansfield and Stan Thompson and there were other good teams even the Spurs footballers came a bowled there on a thursday night as a team. When AMF handed stamford hill over to ABC I went with AMF and did the work on those two centres in Scotland and many more around the UK and even in Europe and to this day I still love bowling.

Steve Black

How”s about Corkwood Bowl Hoddesdon Herts,Managed by Bill Randall? Second bowling alley I went into opened 1967.