Thursday, 3 March 2011

Down the Alley

It always amazes me that two activities I always used to associate with 1950s America are actually thoroughly Victorian in origin and popularity. The first is the craze for roller-skating (on marble-floored rinks) which reached London in the 1870s. The second is this:


The annexed illustration will vividly portray to the reader's imagination the magnificent American Bowling Saloon lately opened in the Strand, near the Adelphi Theatre, for the purpose of introducing to the public of London the game of bowling as it is played in America. The game is in some respects similar to the common game of bowls. The alley in which the game is played consists if a narrow platform of timber, elevated three or four inches above the floor, along which the bowls are rolled by he players towards the pins, of which there are ten, set up in a triangular figure, the apex being nearest to the player. The bowls, after being delivered by the players, are returned by means of an inclined groove or channel in which they are placed by a boy who attends to set up the pins, and along which they roll to the top of the alley merely by their own weight. As an amusement requiring less physical power than the vulgar game of skittles, and possessing the attraction of bowls, in an elegantly fitted-up saloon, this game will unquestionably become popular in a city like London, where the opportunities for invigorating exercise are so rarely afforded to the inhabitants. The decorations of the interior are in the Louis Quatorze style, and have been executed with extraordinary taste: indeed, nothing can exceed the luxurious elegance which everywhere meets the eye—mirrors, candelabra, vases, rich carpets and couches, and costly furniture, form only a portion of the numerous accessories to quiet enjoyment or healthful exercise which this place affords.

Penny Illustrated News, 1849


  1. I`m really suprised at this!

    I would loved to have seen the roller skating on marble floor too. That`s actually a good idea, I wonder why they don`t do that now?

  2. Probably both expensive and a bit hard on the knees?

  3. Well yes, good point lol. I bet there were a few broken bones there. Health and safety would have a field day.