Thursday, 31 May 2012

A Miscellany of Pub Game Images - Pt.2

Since the restoration of the building in the mid 90's, The Tobie Norris in Stamford has quickly established itself as a must-visit for pub goers when in the area. The interior has been lovingly refurbished, and consists of a number of highly distinctive rooms in a truly historic building. The pub has also has gained quite a reputation for its beer range and food, particularly the pizzas. What it perhaps doesn't have a reputation for is active Darts, Dominoes, and Cribbage teams, it's just not that kind of pub I'm afraid. However, it's not a completely game free zone. In the cosy snug with it's high backed settle and wood-burner, you'll find cards, Poker Dice, and a nice modern Shut The Box to while away the afternoon with.

When I bought these Dominoes they were described as being made of Ivory and Ebony. I've no doubt that such dominoes exist, but I'd imagine they would have been a bit older, and also  fair bit more expensive than these were. In fact these are made of Ox Bone and Ebony, with a central brass pin to hold the two pieces together. This pin also serves to give each tile a small raised knob (or Spinner) which would help ease shuffling on a rough wooden or felt table. These are the third set of old Dominoes I've had, both previous sets were more modern plastic or resin 'Club' tiles, and both have subsequently been lost. I'll be more careful with this set which are very tactile and a real pleasure to play with.

These racks for the safe storage of Pool Cues is a clear indication of how popular the game is at the Jolly Brewer, Stamford. All of these Cues are privately owned, most seeing regular action in League matches.

A recently purchased Shove Ha'penny Board being examined in an Elgoods Brewery pub in Wisbech. This board is a commercial model, perhaps 50-60 years old, and made by Glevum Games of Gloucester. It's quite a cheap model, made from plywood and in need of some polishing up. I'll post a few more detailed images of this board when it's been cleaned up and restored a little.

Another Shove Ha'penny in use during an afternoon session at The George, Ashley in Northamptonshire. The George previously housed a Northamptonshire Skittles Table (the brass marker indicating where you would have thrown from is still in situ on the tile floor), and still plays host to Dominoes and League Darts.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Table Skittles - The Leicester Game

The cut, thrust, and high quality barracking of a league Table Skittles match at Birstall, Leicestershire. Videos c/o the Leicester Table Skittles website:

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Queen Adelaide, Kingsthorpe, Northampton

There is little doubt that most pub games are not nearly as popular as they would have been in the days when pubs themselves were enjoying a peak of popularity. The decline of traditional pub games has been attributed to many factors, but it's perhaps the current decline in pub going itself, and particularly the community locals where these games have traditionally thrived, which is the main reason that fewer people are participating these days. 
The chance are, if you can find a community or village local which is still thriving, and thankfully there are still a few, there's a very good chance you'll find games being played, often with teams represented in a local league. Conversely, there are many pubs which rely for their success on regular team fixtures throughout the week.

A league or friendly game of Northamptonshire Table Skittles will usually guarantees a pub a minimum of fourteen people (seven per team), supping drinks in their bar for several hours on what may otherwise be a quiet weekday evening. If the pub can generate enough interest to field both 'A' and 'B' teams, that ensures a home fixture every week during the season. That could be the difference between a pub struggling, or making ends meet.

On the evening I visited the Queen Adelaide in Kingsthorpe, the Ladies team were just about to start a game on the beautifully maintained Black & Son skittle table. The cosy skittles area adjacent to the bar was packed with the two teams and associated friends and spectators. It's always a pleasure to walk into a pub with a lively pub game in progress, because it's always a pleasure to walk into a busy pub.

I'd like to thank the Ladies of the Queen Adelaide skittles team for allowing me to interrupt their practise ahead of the game. Sadly they were a camera shy lot, and needless to say it would have been an absolute no-no to take pictures during the match itself so no action shots were taken.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Devil Amongst The Tailors

I've featured a few Devil Amongst The Tailors tables on here already, though to be honest they've all been fairly insubstantial affairs, more toy than game. The table shown here is a modern, full size one, and as such a delight to play. It's also located in a very good pub, the Jolly Brewer in Stamford, which is also home to a team in the local Pushpenny League as well as the usual Pool, Darts, Cards and Dominoes.

It's only when you get the chance to play on a sturdy board like this that a full appreciation of the skill of the game can be gained. A very fine old table can be played at the Stag Inn, Kimberley in Nottinghamshire, which I hope to photograph (and play) at some point in the near future.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Geddington, Northamptonshire

The front bar at the White Hart is where you'll find the Darts Board (right), along with a number of trophies and shields to indicate past glories. The pub also hosts regular Poker nights, a game which has become more popular since the 2005 Gambling Act relaxed restrictions on the playing of the game in pubs for low stakes. Padded green baize table toppers are available for the game in the lounge.

The historic Star Inn is perhaps best known for its position in the centre of the village opposite the very fine Eleanor Cross. It also has a fine Northamptonshire Skittles Table, an original by W.T. Black & Son of Northampton. The table is currently sited in front of the Darts Board (apparently Darts is not played at the Star), and though currently not used for league play, the licensee is hoping to instigate a regular 'Killer' game night soon which may lead to the formation of a team. Interestingly, the set of Cheeses bear the mark of 'Red Lion C'. There are many Red Lions in the county and beyond, including a few that ave now closed (such as the Red Lion, Clipston!) so where this set came from originally is not clear. The Star also has a small modern Devil Amongst The Tailors.

The White Lion features Pool and Darts, and possibly other games for the use of guests in their accommodation.

Tools of the trade in the White Hart bar.


Monday, 21 May 2012

A Miscellany of Pub Game Images

Detail of the leatherwork on the Skittles Table
at the Cherry Tree, Little Bowden
The Darts Board at the Queens Head, Sutton Bassett

The tidy Pétanque Piste and scoring boards at The Old Plough, Braunston-in-Rutland

Darts Board at The Old Plough,
A Rings Board. You'll probably need to visit Ireland, or Ventnor on the Isle of Wight to see this pub game being played

The Market Harborough Conservative Club Bowls Lawn
'The Players' Shove Ha'penny slate in use

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Dog & Gun, Walton, Leicestershire

In common with most traditional pub games, Table Skittles is a very simple game at heart. Three Cheeses, nine Pins, a maximum score of 27. That's it really. But Table Skittles, as played in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, and a few surrounding counties, is not a national game with a standardised set of rules, which is where it gets a bit more complicated.

In Leicester, the pins and cheeses (and possibly the tables) are quite different to those used in the Northamptonshire game (see here), being made of hardwood and of a more slender geometry. In the area south of the county of Leicestershire, the standard is similar to the Northamptonshire game, but with one significant difference. In the Northamptonshire leagues, traditional Boxwood pins and cheeses are the norm, but in the Dunton Bassett and Lutterworth leagues, more often than not these are made from tough yellow plastic. Plastic cheeses and pins are generally frowned upon in the Northants game, though needless to say there are enough exceptions to make this anything but a hard and fast rule.

There are also wide variations in the rules, including sequence of play, scoring, permitted throws, removal of 'dead wood', scoring from rebounds off the back of the table etc. The rules of play can even vary between different leagues in the same area!

These differences only add to the fascination of the game. The Dog & Gun in Walton village play in the Dunton Bassett League, where plastic pins and cheeses seem to be the norm.


Friday, 18 May 2012

Red Lion, Kegworth, Leicestershire

Wonderfully traditional in appearance, the Red Lion is a multi-roomed Georgian village pub, and noted ale house featuring a wide range of real ales. In common with many genuine 'locals' pubs, traditional games feature strongly. These include Dominoes and Cribbage, as well as league Darts, and Pétanque in the Summer months. There is also a seperate Skittle Alley/Function Room, though sadly this is now rarely used for skittles.

The cosy front bar of the Red Lion, one of three distinct areas which surround the servery, this one housing the well used Darts Board. 
The match play Darts Board is only used for league fixtures, the board shown here is available for casual play. The main body of the board has been rotated, and the wire scoring ring re-fixed to even out wear. The original position of the 20 bed, target of the most arrows, can now be seen as the 14 bed, although the licensee did suggest that the 1 and 5 had actually seen the most wear!

The Skittle Alley at the Red Lion is housed in a former store, a separate building adjacent to the car park. Since there are no leagues in play in the Kegworth area, the alley gets little use these days.
The pins are of a kind most often seen in the Derbyshire area. The distinctive metal bands around the bottom of the pins, and the presence of a hatted 'Kingpin' (which more correctly should be at the front of the diamond pattern) are typical of a game which is often played outdoors during the Summer, with the 'alley' often sited in the car park.
Three beachwood balls (bowls) are used in this version of skittles. In the traditional game the balls are delivered as a 'full toss', though allowed to bounce once a short distance in front of the nearest pin. I'm not sure how practical this would be in the Red Lion's alley.

Scoreboards and Rakes, the paraphernalia of Pétanque

A basket of Boules

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Talbot Inn, Gretton, Northamptonshire

Skittles Tables are still fairly common in the pubs and clubs of Northamptonshire, somewhat less so in Leicestershire as far as I can tell. If the game itself isn't played as regularly as it once was, and sometimes not at all at league level, then at least the tables are for the most part still in situ, available for casual play, and ready for a league revival should enough players show interest.

Certainly there will have been many tables lost over the years, but equally when a pub closes, or the table becomes an unwanted piece of furniture, the skittles table will often be relocated to another venue, sometimes along with the current teams. In so doing, a certain amount of continuity has been maintained in the game, where other pub games have fallen by the wayside. The Talbot Inn, Gretton, is a pub with demonstrable continuity of skittles play. Not only has it played host to a local competition since the 70's, but it was also one of a handful of pubs listed as having a table in Timothy Finn's 'Pub Games of England', published in 1975.

Pool, Darts, and Northamptonshire Table Skittles, the holy trinity of pub gaming in the county.

An original W.T. Black & Son 'League Brand' skittles table, one of probably hundreds dotted in and around the county of Northamptonshire.

The Talbot field teams in the local Summer and Winter leagues , but the handsome George Boon Memorial Shield is a singles tournament which has been competed for by locals at the pub for around 35 years.