The Rose Bay Bowls Club is typical of many a suburban club, it started in 1920s and amalgamated with Double Bay Bowling Club in 2001, selling the land and building to Cranbrook school. Many other clubs have suffered this fate like the City Bowling Club (established in 1880). The collection from Rose Bay includes a rare 1930s medical stretcher. Folklore asserts there's a high number of deaths on the bowling field. There's also a player's locker with bowling bag, bowls, purse and tube of bowler's grip. There's also bowls with advertising and point-of-sale material from Henselite, an Australian company designing and manufacturing bowls since the nineteen thirties.
Lawn bowls is one of Australia's most popular sports. It has seen several transformations in its history. Beginning as an occasional public house sport, it was a leisure activity for the male elite in the nineteenth century, a mass sport for men and women after the Second World War and now appeals to a much younger demographic. A player quoted in 1937 acknowledged it was no longer a game for old or rich men but frequently regarded as the most democratic game. "For it knows no social distinction. Jack is as good as his master and probably a bit better on the green." (Hawker, 'Bowls in New South Wales', 2.1 September 1937,p2). Competition has long been an important element of lawn bowls, with inter-colonial competitions starting in 1880 and test matches against Britain in 1901. In the 1920s a number of bowlers sought to build acceptance as a 'serious' sport.
Uniforms, standard rules of play and green behaviour were introduced around Australia. Local and national competition award winners with pennants, badges and more permanent symbols like honour boards and trophies. The spirit of local competition is evident with this 'Goodwill Cup', a delightful trophy with stylised bowlers on the base. International competition provides Australia with world champions. Professional bowlers with television coverage and corporate sponsorship have brought change. The acquisition of this 'Dover Heights International Gala Day'board shows the international mix of the community playing lawn bowls, with flags representing 36 countries. Playing the game has only been one aspect of Australian lawn bowls. The clubs have been diverse organisations providing a number of important social functions.The bowling green has flourished in Australia, fulfilling the role of a local, licensed, community club. This collection reflects different aspects of one community, Rose Bay. Over the past few decades bowls associations have developed strategies to change the image of the game and initiate the young. This has seen a relaxation in rigid dress code and changes of lawn bowls.
The shape of lawn bowls has been refined in materials and processes. Bowls of the nineteenth century were made from a hard wood. In 1930 an Australian Raymond W. Hensell developed plastic bowls made in parts. Whole moulded bowls were then developed in 1937 by his Australian company Henselite. A new, improved plastic powder compound was used in the bowls in 1959 which allowed the development of a dimple or gripped bowl. Ninety percent of Henselite bowls now contain the dimpled or grip feature. The company made its three millionth ball in 1988 and now manufactures lawn bowls in red, green, blue and burgundy. Coloured uniforms are starting to appear. The collection reflects the many various influences on the community of Rose Bay and illustrates the changing role of sport and leisure in Australian society over the past century.