Drakes Pride

Drakes Pride - Bowling Green Bowls manufacture in Liverpool

   Drake Logo 1938   TMV2_rev 1979  Logo _SirF     Logo -12      


The business has the most famous bowler, Sir Francis Drake, as their trade mark, his comments on being informed about the Armada being in sight is recorded as saying 'finish our game' (of bowls) is part of the great history of the sport.


An early price list showing the trade mark
and that they were official testers of the International Bowling Board also
Standard Jack makers to all Crown Green Associations

The picture by Seymour Lucas depicting Sir Francis Drake and that famouse game of Bowls is shown below thanks to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London who hold the copyright . You can see however where the idea for the design of the original trade mark came from!

PLymouth H_use

© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

The trade mark currently used is based on the original registered by the Liverpool bowls business of Darlington's which was established in the City in 1820. As Drakes Pride traces its association with bowls back to Darlington's it can claim to be the oldest surviving English bowls business and thus one of the oldest in the World.

Darlington Drakes Pride

A very early price list booklet.
It is interesting to note the reference to Billiard Balls as there
is a strong association with the game of Billiards and the other manufactures of bowls, which
must be to do with the turning skills of the bowls makers of the 19th & 20th Centuries.

Before moving on from the Darlington part of the story there are some points of interest for the early history of bowls. The old price lists and rule book published by Darlington have some information which helps with seeing how the bowls developed, Already mentioned is the association between bowls and billiards and the following picture from a Darlington price list circa 1900 shows the extent of that association.

Darl _1900a

From the same price list it is interesting to note that the range of sizes of bowl that were being offered, they obviously like 'big' bowls in those days, and perhaps more especially the range of bias that you could specify!  

Darl _1900

From a later price list, circa 1930, the range of qualities and prices for Lignum Vitae (wooden) bowls is extensive but composition bowls must  also have been available as shown by the reference to 'imported plastic bowls' in the section refering to engraving charges.

Darl _1900d

In their 1957 price list as part of the renovation / testing service for 'Flat Green' bowls they list a charge for buffing composition bowls which indicates that they were by then well accept.

Darlington Letterhead

Letterhead 1959

By 1971 Darlington were offering their own Drake's Pride composition bowls. This is the first reference to the use of their trade mark name for a model of bowl that has been found (to date).

Darl _1971a

The rule book published by Darlington must quite early circa 1900 and makes interesting reading the front cover and a copy of two of the pages are shown below. (This rule book is currently on display in the Museum of Liverpool)

Darl _1900c

1850 Darlington Advert

 Darl _1900b

The rule concerning playing in the dark is quite an interesting one - You can just imagine a bowler standing at the jack with a torch of some kind in his hand illuminating the 'target'!!

Darlington's were licenced testers to the International Bowling Board and as the box label below shows, Standard Jack Makers to ALL Crown Green Associations. We think this box label, from a set of Crown Green Lignum Vitae Bowls, is circa 1947 although it could be earlier as the IBB stamp was introduced in 1939.

Drakes Box1

The Darlington business was acquired by E.A. Clare & Son in the 1970's to enhance their growing renovation / refurbishment service of Crown Green Bowls. Bill Walsh who managed the bowls work, at 'Clare's'  was a skilled wood turner having served his time at Darlington's. Darlington's not only provided a Crown Green service but were also licensed testers of Lawn Bowls and so 'Clare's' were able to take over this licence. At the time of the acquisition Arthur Ayres, another highly skilled bowls turner from Darlington's, had already joined the expanding bowls business. 


Bill Walsh - Works manager & Arthur Ayres -Bowls Shop Supervisor

E.A. Clare Son interest in bowls had come about because the founder of the business was Crown Green Bowler and felt that as bowls was a summer sport it would fit well into his Snooker and Billiards business, which was a winter sport. Once Darlington's was acquire Clare's offered a full testing service for Lawn Bowls (usually called Flat Green in the Crown Green areas), being licensed by I.B.B. (International Bowling Board), which allowed them to use either the I.B.B. Stamp or the, more common in the UK, B.I.B.C. (British Isles Bowls Council) stamp. The firm was also registered as Crown Green jack makers to the  B.C.G.B.A. (British Crown Green Bowls Association).

Clare's continued to offer these service and make their own Lignum Vitae bowls under the brand name 'Standfast' but in the mid late 1970's it became more and more difficult to source good quality Lignum Vitae especially as it was one of the timbers on the U. N.'s CITES list - The United Nation's has a list of species that are 'at risk' and so special licenses have to be obtained to deal in species that are on the list. Also composition bowls were becoming more and more accepted which had a knock on effect by reducing the number of bowls that came in for renovation.

Research was carried out by Peter Clare as to the way forward and after careful consideration it was decided that investment into manufacture of composition bowls was required. So in 1981 Liverpool University Computer Laboratory was used as consultants on the project and they came up with a bowl profile. Based on this it was obvious that the way forward was to use computer controlled lathes to ensure accuracy of the profile rather than the traditional copy lathes or grinding processes. Thus the Drakes Pride bowls became the first to be produced on CNC lathes.

The installation of the CNC lathe in 1981 was no mean feat as the room for it was not only at first floor level but was set back from the road and had to go over a second floor. The roof of the room had to be removed and the lathe was craned into the room through the open roof.

The lathe high in the sky!    

  Going through the roof!

After proving out the bowl profile the new Drakes Pride bowl was launched in late 1982 via the Clare Bowls Centre. In November 1982 the following article appeared in that months magazine.


Tom Brophy the Works Manager, whose picture is shown in the article was heavily involved along with Peter Clare in the setting up  the lathe and the launch of the Drakes Pride bowl. He had been trained in the bowls department and was a skilled turner of wooden bowls.

Logo _93
Up-dated trade mark used by The Clare Bowls centre

With the launch of a new composition bowl it was not easy to be noticed against the already established bowls manufactures. However with the help of the great Scottish Bowler Willie Wood the Drakes Pride bowl became established.


1983 the launch of the
Willie Wood professional model bowl
Norman Clare; Willie Wood; Peter Clare

Dp _1982

The sales brochure for the Willie Wood Professional model bowl

Granada TV in the mid 1980's promotoed bowls with a major event telivised from their Manchester Studio. It was call 'Superbowl' and pitted top Crown Green Bowlers against Top lawn Bowlers playing indoor lawn bowls on a specially installed carpet. Drakes Pride was involved and at the 1985 recording the 'Bowls International' magazine 'Spot the difference' winner had her set of bowls presented at the studio. The picture below was used as an advert in the December 1985 edition and shows Willie Wood presentingJean Rose with her set of Willie Wood 'Professional' bowls. Tom Brophy the Production manager of Drakes Pride is on the right.

Granada Superbowl


Dp _1984
As the Professional Model proved to be excellent on quality outdoor greens and indoor surfaces another model was required for slow UK outdoor greens and so the
Melbourne model was introduced.

At first the business traded as 'The Clare Bowls Centre' with using the address of Queen Anne Street, but as the bowls became more popular it was necessary to supply the retail bowls outlets it was decided to call the business Drakes Pride re-establishing the trade mark with the business name.

In the 1980's the catalogues and adverts of that period show the address as 5-11 Springfield, Liverpool where not only the office and stockroom were situated but also a small trade counter.

Also at that time when Tom Brophy and Peter Clare attended bowls matches Willie Wood not only introduced them to the officials but also to the top players at those events. So it was that they met Ian Dickison an up and coming New Zealand bowler who so like the bowls he asked to be their agent in New Zealand. So once the bowls were accepted as meeting the NZBA (New Zealand Bowls Association) regulations the first export of Drakes Pride bowls took place. The fact that Ian one the Singles Gold medal at the 1986 Commonwealth Games playing with a set of the 'International' model Drakes pride bowl was a tremendous boost in the early days.


Ian Dickison (NZ) with the gold medal, Ian Shuback (AUS) with Silver
and Richard Corsie (Scotland) with Bronze
1986 Commonwealth Games - Edinburgh

Dp NZ_1986

Part of the poster promoting the Drakes Pride bowl in New Zealand
Note - the NZBA 86 stamp on the bowl

As Drakes Pride was based in the North West of England, Crown Green Bowls country, it was perhaps strange that the first bowls produced were for the Lawn Bowls discipline but they soon remedy that and the Crown green models quickly found similar success for that discipline of the sport.


Early successes on the Waterloo Green the Home of Crown Green Bowls

After winning the Gold medal at the Edinburgh Games Ian Dickison was invited to play in tournaments in Australia and was spotted at The Adelaide Masters by Elliot Beasley a member of the Adelaide Club. He liked the way the bowls performed and contacted Drakes Pride with a proposal for his son Geoff Beasley to be the Australian agents.

The agency was set up but it require the Australian Bowls Association to modify their regulations and stipulate that bowls manufacturers licensed by the International Bowling Board were to be used. This was as a result of the President of the IBB Garnet Putland OAM, efforts to ensure all Countries played to the same regulations.

Geoff Beasley, who was a South Australia State Bowler became the Drakes Pride agent in 1986 and through his efforts and advice bowls were designed specifically for the high quality outdoor greens enjoyed by Australian bowlers.

 Geoof B_Rob Parella
Rob Parrella, a great Australian bowler & Geoff Beasley, the Drakes Pride agent

Geoff set up State distributors - in Queensland it was International Bowls Services run at that time by Warwick Jefferies. He was a keen supporter of up and coming talent and so Kelvin Kerkow and Steve Glasson were both successfully users of Drakes Bowls whilst making their name in bowls.

Kelvin & Steve with Warwick
1994 Australian Indoor Championships at Tweeds Head Bowls Club

Edda Bonutto _1993
Edda Bonutto - Queensland Single Champion 1993
Edda was also a well respected International representative for Australia and loved her Drakes Pride bowls

The distributor in Victoria was Don Sherman, a Gold medal winner representing Australia many times at bowls and later becoming the Manager of the bowls team. In 1996 he decided to set up a test table in Bendigo and came over to the Drakes Pride factory for training. Once he had completed the in house instruction he was examined by World Bowling Board to ensure he was competent to test bowls according to their requirements.

Alan Williams handing Don Sherman his certificate on passing the practical training.
L -R
     Rob Curran Drakes Pride Production Manager; David Johnston WBB Secretary,             Alan Williams WBB President;
Peter Clare Director DP and Don Sherman DP Victoria.

The following year Don's son, another Don, came over to the UK and again took the training course and was as before was examined at the end of it by representatives of WBB.

L - R
 Alan Williams WBB President;
 Don Sherman (Jnr) DP Victoria
 Peter Clare Director DP

In 1997 Thurston, the UK leading Snooker and Billiard firm, who have been involved in the supply and or installation of 10 or more bowls test tables, supplied and installed the test table in Bendigo. The bowls test table was inspected and approved by Jim Evans the WBB representative in Australia.

The New South Wales & Australia Capital Territory distributor was Bob Bowell based at first in  Canberra but he subsequently took over the running of Bentley's bowls shop in the suburbs of Sydney.


Bob & Robyn Bowell at Bentley Bowls Shop - 1998

Whilst the growth in the popularity of the Drakes Pride bowls in Australia was important the UK and rest of the World was not forgotten.


In 1988 when the UK celebrated the 400th Anniversary of the sea battle that made Sir Francis Drake famous the firm took advantage of the first day issue of commemorative stamps by sending envelopes to their customers at home and around the World.

 July 1999Buckland

In 1999 Drakes Pride followed up the association with their Trade Mark of 'Sir Francis' on Plymouth Hoe' by visiting Drakes home in Devon. Buckland Abbey in Devon was the home of Sir Francis Drake , which is now owned and managed by The National Trust. In 1999 Drakes Pride were delighted to make a presentation to the National Trust at Buckland Abbey of a set of bowls. The picture shows Peter Clare Managing Director of Drakes Pride presenting the bowls, under the watchful eye of 'Sir Francis' (Clive Simpson, dressed as the great sailor and famous bowler, himself) to Doreen Johnston, who was the Ladies Captain of the local Yelverton Bowls Club.


Margaret Johnston & Tom Brophy - 1990

Many bowlers enjoyed success whilst playing with their "Drakes", perhaps no more so that Margaret Johnston, probably the most successful female bowler. From  the late 1980's to her retirement from International play in 2008 she was the bowler to be using her "Drakes".

1990_com ,Bronze
Margaret at the 1990 Commonwealth Games New Zealand, She won the bronze medal in the singles

1992_worl Sing Ayr


1992 World Bowls Ayr - Margaret - Singles Champion


2000 World Bowls - Margaret - Singles Champion


2004 World Bowls Leamington
Margaret Johnston took Gold ( Taking the title for the third time) & Lorna Trigwell (South Africa) took Silver.
Both using Drakes Pride Bowls

In late 2001 the Drakes pride new Zealand agent Russ Heys decided to offer the New Zealand bowlers the chance to have their bowls tested in New Zealand. He travelled over to the UK to go through the practical training in the Drakes Pride factory and on achieving the required level of competence require by the WBB received his certificate from John Armstrong President of WBB. Russ also travelled to Bendigo in Australia whilst their test table was being upgraded, by the UK Snooker business Thurston, so he could ensure that his table was erected correctly.   His test table was inspected and his tester license granted in 2002.

Khan NZ
L- R
Jan Khan; Marina Khan & Millie Khan
Millie and her daughters were all using Drakes Pride bowls when they took the New Zealand National Fours Championships in 2001

Drakes Pride bowlers have also enjoyed success indoors from the early when Terry Sullivan won the UK Indoor Singles Championships in 1984 and then in 1985 went on to win the World Indoor championship.

 1985 Drakes Pride advert

Ts Indoor _1985
Bowls International March 1985

 Another well know Welsh player took the title in 2000 - Robert Weale who has represented Wales at International level on many occasions.

2000 Drakes Pride advert

Another advert which appeared in the June 2000 issue of the Queensland Bolwer announced the introduction of 1/2 size bowls to the Australian market.

Aussyadvert 2000

 Golden Nugget 02

2002 Golden Nugget Champion and Runner Up - tweeds Heads, Australian
Jenny Haaragon & Lauraine Murray - both played Drakes Pride

Mk _potters 

In 2006 it was Mervyn King who took the title - a great representative for England at International level and a local hero when playing at Potters.

John Potter  & Mervyn King
Photo courtesy Bowls International


 2008 Drakes advert
recording Mark Royal winning the Welsh International Open

2008 advert recording Alison Merrien (Guernsey)
winning the Champion of Champions at the Warrilla Bowls Club in Australia

Kerrypackwood _red
Kerry Packwood, who in 2007, won the World Under 25's Singles Championship which she regained the title in 2009. Drakes Pride are please to be associated with her bowling successes.

CGgroup _speckled

In 2009 Drakes Pride chalked up another first with the introduction of the 'speckled Crown Green Bowl'. Up to then coloured Crown Green Bowls were made from poured resin. Poured resin material shows marks and scratches easily. Drakes Pride therefore used the tried and tested phenolic composition and added a bit of colour. These bowls are superior to any solid coloured Crown Green Bowls currently available.

 Rweale _0810DRJ

 Picture courtesy of David Rhys Jones
L - R
Brian - David - Robert - Stuart

The Weale brothers holding the Welsh Bowls Association National Fours Championship Shield. Ehich as a team they won for the sixth time in 2010. However the Weale family have in fact won the National Fours on seven occasions when their father stepped in to replace a brother who was unavailable. All bowl Drakes Pride

Drakes Pride have always encouraged the playing of bowls and so were keen to introduce to the U.K. the 'Bowling Arm'. This device allows those with limited mobility to deliver their bowls standing and also wheel chair bowlers to deliver their bowls more easily. The 'Bowling Arm' had been used in Australia for many years and was approved for use in that Country. Drake Pride submitted the 'Bowling Arm' to Bowls England , who in September 2010 approved its use.

Bowling Arm _pic

 Bowling Arm

 The two main men's bowls events at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games were won by bowlers who used Drakes Pride bowls.

Weale R_com 2010

Rob Weale representing Wales took the single Gold medal adding it to the Silver medal he won at the 2006 Games in Melbourne.

CGames 2010Pairs Champions
South Africa Pairs team of Gerry Baker and Shaun Addinall took the Gold Medal and as the picture shows they were delighted with their success.

 Robert Newman HKBowls 2010

Rob Newman from England won the 2010 Hong Kong International Classic using his size 7 Drakes Pride Professional; Bowls

Simon _alison -potters 2011
Guernsey's Alsion Merrien and Nottingham's Simon Skelton, clinched the Ptters Holidays 2011 World Mix pairs Matchplay Championship both played Drakes Pride bowls.
Picture courtesy © Howard Harding

Alison Merrien _DP2011
After finishing as runner up in 2009 and 2010 it was third time lucky for Guernsey's Alison Merrien , who overcame Australian Karen Murphy to take the Potters Holidays Ladies 2011 World Matchplay Championship. (Picture courtesy © Howard Harding)

The Australian Champion of Champions was Grant Seeary from Victoria who won the title in November of that year in Tasmania using his Drakes Pride Excel model bowls. Kylie Whitehead a 16 year old help Victoria juniour girls team reclaim the Bev Shannon Shield. The rport in January Bowls Magazine reads - "Pivotal to the success in any rink combination is the performance of the Lead and this is where the talented Wodonga teenager Kylie Whitehead shone"

Aussy Jan 2011
Drakes Pride congratulated both players on their success and for choosing Drakes Pride Bowls - the picture is the advert from the Bowls Victoria magazine.

Mark Royal _2011

Mark Royal winner of the 2011 Welsh Grand Prix at the City of Swansea Indoor Bowls Club. It was the second time he had won the event in the last four years. Another successful bowler that chooses Drakes Pride bowls.

Davidbolt _Bowls England 2011champ
David Bolt - Bowls England 2011 Singles Champion proudly showing one of his Drakes Pride Professional bowls which help him through out the competition.

Ian Paxton _112011
Ian Paxton
2011 Winner WBT Scottish Open. Ian was using his Drakes Pride Professionals to win the event beating many higher Ranked players.

Wales 2011

Wales 2011 Atlanic Rim Team - sponsored by Drakes Pride

Sivler medal in the Singles won by Jon Tomlinson with the bronze in the Fours won by Sion Jones, Mark Harding, Andrew Fleming and David Axon.

Alison Merrien .worldcup 2012

Alison Merrien 2012 winner of the Women's World Cup representing Guernsey at the Warrilla Bowls Club, Australian (phot courtesy David Allen - Editor of  -www.insidebowls.com)

In 2012 the Sherman family retired from being the Australian agenst for Drakes Pride and so the NSW based business run by Fred Ayoub was appointed to handle the Drakes Pride product range. In May 2012 Mike Eggington and Peter Clare of Drakes pride flew over to Australia to finalise the deal.

Drakes _Holdfast May 2012
L - R
Fred Ayoub - Mike Eggington - Peter Clare - Don Sherman

Mike and Peter may look a little 'Jet Lagged' as this picture was taken at the Six Nations event held at Holdfast Bay Club in Adelaide. They had only been in Australia for a couple of days arriving in Sydney and then flying to Adelaide for a 24 hours visit!

In 2012 Drakes contiunued experiments in use of coloured material resulted in the following mix. At the time it was considered that such a set of bowls did not meet the WB Ltd regulations on what constitued a match set! Note add in 2014 - in 2014 similar bowls are now marketed and WB Ltd. have allowed them as being within their rules.

Mixed colour


In 2013 Drakes pride re designed their logo to make it more user friendly and more modern

 Dp -green .logo

 Andy Buckley 0913

Advert used in the Champion of Champion's programme recording Andy Buckley winning the 2013 Men's Waterloo. A Drakes Pride Crown Green bowler. Picture by David McDermott 


Terry Glover BCGBA Champio of Champions 2013

Terry Glover from Merseyside winner of the BCGBA Champion of Champions 2013. Terry is another 'Jewel in the Crown' bowling with Drakes Pride Crown Green Bowls picture by David McDermott

DP advert Glasgow Commonwealth games 2014

Medal winners at 2014 Commonwealth Games - Glasgow

Lorna Smith Bowls Scotland National Singles2014

Lorna Smith - Bowls Scotland National Singles Champion 2014 bowling Drakes Pride. She also won the title in 2012 and 2013. "Picture by Rob Eyton-Jones"

Drakes Pride bowlers winning titles in both the Northern & Southern Hemispheres

Scotland Eileen McEwan 

2015Samoa Youth Commonwealth Games


In June 2018 Drakes Pride, after requests from retailers and bowlers, introduced the DEEP DIMPLE 50 Grip. This deep dimple 50 grip enables bowlers to maintain playing the size of bowl they are use to rather than dropping a bowls size.

 Deep Dimple 50 R

Drakes Pride Deep Dimple 50 Grip


Sophie Tolchard BE 2018

Sophie Tolchard (Team Drakes)

Bowls England Ladies Singles Champion 2018

Rob Paxton Jan 2020

Robert Paxton

winner of the 'Just 2020 World Indoor Bowls Championship'

played at Potters Resort, Hopton on Sea.

Robert had to overcome, an on form, Les Gillet, another Drakes Pride bowler, in the semi final.

Drakes Pride have claimed over the years to be "The Bowlers Choice Worldwide" and certainly over the years this has proved to be the case, quite often the younger players have made there first successful steps using Drakes Pride. Perhaps part of the reason is the care and craftsmanship that goes into each set or pair of Drakes Pride Bowls. They have blended the traditional bowls making skills acquired from wooden (Lignum Vitae) bowls and transferred those skills into the making of their composition bowls. They control everything from the selection of the powder  used to mould the blanks from which the bowls are turned. The turning process to ensure that the profile specifications are achieved and at all time checking to that the bowls conform to standards better than those set down by the licensing and governing bodies of the game - World Bowls Ltd for Lawn Bowls and the British Crown Green Association for Standard Jacks. To the engraving of emblems and the painting of them to the final testing before boxing, the skill work force take a pride in the product.

Drakes Pride have been proud to have been associated with supplying bowls and accessories for the Commonwealth Games (Nominated supplier to The Games in Kuala Lumpur 1998,  Manchester 2002, Delhi 2010 and galsgow 2014)) as well as the major bowls competitions round the World.

The tradition of bowls manufacture started by Joseph Darlington in 1820 is continuing with the Drakes Pride name as a division of the family business of  E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.  with the  fourth generation now involved in the running of the Company.


Acknowledgements -

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London who have the copyright of The picture by Seymour Lucas depicting Sir Francis Drake


© 2009/2010/2011/2013/2018/2024 -  E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. - Peter Clare