Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Railway, Kibworth, Leicestershire

The Leicestershire village of Kibworth gives its name to one of several Table Skittles Leagues which are still contested in the area, though sadly none of the pubs in Kibworth actually field a team in the league. The Kibworth & District Skittles League is made up of pubs and clubs stretching from it's current heartland of Market Harborough, through to Wigston on the outskirts of Leicester. Kibworth itself is still represented in the league by teams from the local Working Mens Club.

Some of the team now playing at the club originally made their home at The Railway, a welcoming and well run locals pub located in the heart of the village. The skittles table, which appears to be a Leicester model, is still in situ at the pub, though these days it's the Long Alley where it resides which sees more action, being popular for functions and casual games.

In common with most surviving Long Alleys in Leicestershire, the Skittle Alley at The Railway also doubles as a function room, hence the tables seen here in line of fire.
Where a pub plays its skittles in a league, the match-day Pins and Cheeses are not generally available for use in casual games. A second older set will often be available for this function, with the better quality set kept safe behind the bar, often in a box like the one shown here. No home team wants to entertain visitors with a set of excessively chipped and splintered skittles, indeed it's generally accepted that the woodwork must meet a certain standard for a league match to go ahead. Though still stored in their protective box, these pins have certainly seen better days, though still perfectly serviceable for a social match. The licensee is currently looking to acquire a newer set for the pub.
The typically worn barrel-shaped 'Cheeses' of Leicestershire Long Alley Skittles. The darker specimens are probably made from dense and weighty Lignum Vitae, one of only a few woods hard enough to withstand the kind of punishment meted out in this robust game, and survive for any length of time.

Though not all of these are now in regular use, it's rare to find the three types of 'Cheeses' used for Skittles in the Leicestershire area, together in the same pub. In addition to the barrel shaped Long Alley woods, there's also a full set of Boxwood Northamptonshire pins and cheeses, as well as three of the slim hardwood cheeses used in the much rarer Leicester game, though no sign of the matching 'skinny' pins.

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