Monday, 4 February 2013

Pushpenny - Two Stamford Boards

The Stamford Pushpenny League pushed off for the 2012/13 season last Autumn. It's good to see that this unique pub league is still being contested in the town, though sadly participation appears to be down to just four pubs and a club now.

Pushpenny boards tend to be jealously guarded when not in league use, if you want to see one in use you'll have to visit one of the participating pubs on a matchday evening. One pub in the town where a good quality board may be available for casual (and careful) play, is the Tobie Norris at the top end of the High Street on St Pauls. The board, which is located in the cosy 'Snug' adjacent to the bar, has a highly polished Mahogany surface, and comes with three smoothed and polished Edwardian pennies, kept safe from harm in an old glasses case. You won't find a better example of a board, and the pub is pretty decent too. It may be a good idea to have a word with the staff before play though.


Stamford Pushpenny Boards are individually hand-crafted and therefore vary slightly from pub to pub. The central playing surface is pretty much standard, with a short run-in, lightly scored lines for the beds, and usually a slight dip at the end of the board to collect over-hit coins. The chalked scoring sections are often separate pieces of wood screwed on to the main body of the board, and there will always be an end stop and a baton of timber attached underneath to brace to board against the table edge. I've puzzled about the depth of the beds, they don't seem to conform to any sensible metric or imperial measure. One possibility which seems to measures up and make some sense, is that the distance is approximately one and a half the diameter of the old pennies used in the game. This gives a wider margin for error in play than in Shove Ha'penny, where the beds are only slightly wider than the coins. The easier scoring in Pushpenny is compensated for by there being only three coins used as opposed to the five played in Shove Ha'penny, also scoring coins are not replayed in Pushpenny to create a 'break'.


I've recently acquired a second Pushpenny board (shown above on the right). This one appears to be made of Teak and follows the standard construction in every way other than having no dip to collect over hit coins at the end of the playing surface. The playing surface on this board was very slow for a Pushpenny, so it's been given a light rub down with wire wool and a good polish up. This has transformed the surface which is now almost as smooth as the Mahogany board I've had for some time. Comparing the two you can see that the length of the playing surface is almost identical, but the width slightly different. One of the main challenges of league play is the slight variations between boards, particularly the 'speed' of the surface which varies widely. The away team are expected to play on the home board(s) giving a clear advantage to the home team.


The coins shown here are Victorian Pennies, entirely smoothed on one side as is the norm for the game of Pushpenny. A set of three like these for use in league play are often smoothed to the point where each coin has a slightly different thickness. Using coins of different 'weight' can help more skilled players when cannoning into a coin already in play. Heavier coins will tend to push up the board, whereas a lighter coin will often bounce back from another weightier penny. The coins shown here are identical in 'weight'.


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