Sunday, 24 March 2013

A Suffolk Quoits Board

The county of Suffolk has a long association with Quoits, a game which seems to have been played just about everywhere in Britain until the latter half of the 20th Century. Even a casual examination of the records of pubs and clubs will often reveal evidence of league or cup Quoits competition, indeed the game was played throughout my own home county of Northamptonshire. A good example of a Northamptonshire Team, proudly displaying their winners trophy and Steel Quoits, can be seen on the Burton Latimer Heritage Society website (this website also includes images of other pub and club game teams, including those for Billiards, Darts and Northants Table Skittles).

Although the game has declined dramatically since its heyday in the early-mid 20th Century, Quoits continues to be played in several regions of the country, most notably the northern counties of England, and is still strongly associated with pubs, clubs, and of course the drinking of beer on a Summer evening. The game is still played in Suffolk, though whether the two leagues mentioned on the excellent Quoits pages of the Suffolk CAMRA website are still active, I couldn't say. Quoits is of course a Summer game, and in common with other outdoor games such as Long Alley Skittles, it's quite likely that smaller indoor versions would have been developed for Winter play. Evesham Quoits is perhaps the better known of these, but there was also a Suffolk version which now appears to have completely disappeared from the pubs where it would presumably have once been quite a popular game.

The Suffolk Quoits Board shown here is typical of examples which occasionaly turn up in the antiques and collectables trade. You certainly won't find one to play in a pub to my knowledge (though I'd be happy to be proved wrong). Arthur Taylor, author of Played at the Pub, describes Suffolk Quoits as being a simple scoring game where four small flat rubber rings are tossed at the board from a distance of 8 ft. The board is tilted towards the thrower, and presumably the quoits must land squarely within the boundary of the five scoring zones. There is a slight mystery with my own board in that a central brass disc or nail head is marked for 10 points, a feature not apparent on the board shown in Played at the Pub. I don't currently possess Quoits suitable for play, but these would have been a fair bit smaller than those used for the Evesham game. There is a photo of a gentleman playing what appears to be the Suffolk game here.

As an aside, the dealer who sold me this board informed me that he'd also acquired another similar board in with the deal, which he's now sold on. From the description given this appears to have been a Suffolk Caves Board, somewhat different to the Quoits board in that the scoring zones are formed of five depressions, into which the quoits need to land. The game was apparently invented by the licensee of the Black Boy pub in Bury-St-Edmunds in the early 20th Century. Interestingly, the dealer was given to understand that this was where the board had originated, in fact he failed to sell the board to the current licensee who presumably didn't understand its significance. The only Caves board currently in use is at the Crown, Bedfield, but this tale suggests the original board may still be in existence, possibly even ready to return to active service in a Suffolk pub sometime soon.

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