Bowling Alley

The bowling alley at Gubbhyllan is a replica of an alley from the mid-1800s, located in the open-air museum, Gamla Linköping, in the province of Östergötland.

It is also known as the Wallenberg Bowling Alley, after the Lieutenant Governor, Adolf Wallenberg, who was granted permission to build a bowling alley on his estate at Djurgårdsgatan 17, next to the Garden Society of Linköping, in 1867. Work on the bowling alley was completed in 1868.

The estate was eventually divided between Wallenberg’s relatives, and the alley passed to a wholesale merchant known as Axel Karlsson. In the late 1800s, he moved it to his summer residence at Drabbisdal in Berg, Vreta Kloster, and the bowling alley was eventually moved to Gamla Linköping in 1964.

The roots of games involving bowling pins go back a very long way. A form of bowling was played back in the days of the Egyptian pharaohs, as can be seen in the frescos in their tombs. In Germany, mention was first made of a version of bowling known as “Heidenwerfen” (knock the heathens down) in the 1100s, which was played by all classes of society. It was said to symbolise the victory of Christianity over heathendom, and knocking down a pin was said to yield the same satisfaction as converting a heathen to the Christian faith.

In 1335, a dictate was issued setting a maximum amount that could be bet on bowling games. Monasteries also acquired their own bowling alleys and the monks spent so much time playing there that bowling was sometimes prohibited in buildings belonging to the church. Much of the spread in the popularity of bowling throughout Europe can, however, be attributed to the medieval convents and monasteries. Bowling gradually became so popular that it was forbidden to bowl at certain times of the day, due to the noise generated. Bowling was also forbidden during the hours when church services were held.

Bowling was very popular in the 1500s and 1600s, when it was said to be even more popular than shooting. A more modern version of bowling probably developed in Germany, from where it spread across the world. German immigrants are, for example, known to have taken the sport with them to America, where it gradually changed its character and acquired its English name. In the Nordic region, bowling was first mentioned as early as the 1500s, and by the end of the 1800s, there were bowling alleys at many large manorial houses and estates. The game peaked in popularity in Sweden in around 1900, but interest in the sport declined after the First World War, and the bowling alleys began to disappear.

There have been numerous different bowling games over the years. The oldest version is said to be one where the pins are placed in a line behind one another and the players threw a stick at the pins to knock them over. Other versions used a ball. The number of pins has varied from 3 to 9 to 25 in a row. The “king pin” was sometimes placed in the middle, and sometimes there were two rows of pins. No alley was needed when playing with the pins in a line – the game could be played on a gravel or grass surface. A book entitled “Hand-Bibliothek för sällskapsnöjen” (Handbooks for social amusements), published in 1839 by G. J. Billberg, describes a form of bowling with nine pins laid out in a square. The author differentiates between Swedish and German bowling games and also describes Arabic and Norwegian variations. The only differences were in the way the points were calculated.