Thursday, 31 January 2013

Soar Bridge Inn, Barrow-on-Soar, Leicestershire

Long Alley Skittles may not be quite as popular as it once was in Leicestershire, but thankfully there are one or two venues where the game is still well supported, perhaps none more so than the Soar Bridge Inn at Barrow-on-Soar near Loughborough. The tidy, well used alley at this Everards Brewery pub doubles as a function room, and is available to book for Skittles Evenings when free of league play. The alley hosts matches in the Syston & District League and also several teams in the local Amicus Skittles League, a local 'derby' contested between the Soar Bridge Inn and The Beacon in Loughborough.

The Skittles and hardwood Cheeses shown here have been marked with red paint to indicate their use in the Amicus League. Different teams playing in separate leagues are required to fund their own equipment, so it's important that in a game like Long Alley where damage to the pins and cheeses is a frequent and normal occurrence, each team only plays with the correct set.

The pins for the Amicus League have been protected from undue damage with a layer of Gaffer Tape, probably not allowable in other leagues, but a good way of extending the life of this expensive woodwork. Note also the large rubber sheets hanging at the back of the alley, along with padding to protect the lower parts of the side walls from damage.

This wonderful old silver trophy, the Everard Infirmary Skittles Challenge Cup, was presented by William Lindsay Everard for competition in the Syston area. It's good to think that the then head of Everards Brewery, a man later knighted for his achievements in commerce, politics, and aviation, held the humble game of skittles in high enough regard to gift a trophy like this to its players. The game would have been an important one to the Everards estate, and clearly still is at the Soar Bridge Inn.

More recent trophies held at the pub include those for the Porter Cup in the Syston & District Skittles League, and for success in the Quorn & Soar Valley Cribbage League. Darts and Pétanque are also played at the pub.

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