Bowls started to be played regularly on the Southampton Old Bowling Green in 1299. It had previously been a general recreation area established as a close for the warden of the God's House Hospital during the reign of Richard I the Lionheart. It is therefore the oldest bowling green still in use in the world.
The club that plays there now is believed to have been established in the 17th Century because of the history of a competition known as the Knighthood.
The is the annual competition of the club with rules which are different from the normal variant of the game.
The competition used to start on the 1 August but now starts on the third Wednesday of the month and is open to all members of the club, except the knights.
The game is played roving jack style in that the jack is placed on a penny any where on the green. Each player takes it in turns to bowl his two bowls at the jack. Each bowl when it comes to rest is measured and the distance from the jack is recorded before the bowl is removed. If a bowl moves the jack, the jack is placed back on the penny before it is measured. If the penny it partially covered by the bowl it is a toucher, if totally covered it is a lodger. After all the players have bowled the player with the closest bowl is awarded one point. If he also has the second nearest he scores two. The jack is then reset at a different position and the game continues until somebody has scored seven points.
The winner is made a knight-of-the-green and can never enter this competition again. It is a rarity for the knight to be declared on the first day and the competition has been known to last ten days.