Sunday, 3 March 2013

Pub Games in Newark

The Nottinghamshire town of Newark plays host to several traditional pub games, though sadly not all are thriving to the degree they once were.

The area noted for the Notts/Derby version of Long Alley Skittles extends at least as far as Newark and possibly into Lincolnshire, with several pubs competing in the Newark & District Long Alley Skittles League. This version of Long Alley is predominantly a Summer game with many of the alleys located outdoors, or at best in sparsely heated outhouses. This perhaps gives a clue as to the why another form of skittles is still quite common (though not so widely played) throughout the area.

Devil Amongst The Tailors (known locally as Table Skittles) is the most diminutive form of skittles still played in pubs. Through league play the game would have provided keen skittlers with their weekly fix of competition in the warm comfort of the bar, when the draughty alley would have been a thoroughly uncomfortable environment for drinking and play. The game is found throughout the Notts/Derby area, and is also popular in the West Country where alley skittles is still the game of choice in pubs. The absence of 'Devils' in the areas traditionally associated with the indoor game of Northants Table Skittles can therefore quite easily be explained.

Until recently, a re-launched Table Skittles League was active in Newark. Sadly, this league has now ceased, but the tables are still available for casual play in several pubs in the town.

This fine locally made Skittles Table is located in the back bar of the Royal Oak, a pub noted for some fine original internal fittings, including the 60's bar shown above (I'm not sure whether the funky seating is original, but it certainly suits the bar). The table appears to have been made from offcuts of skirting board, stained and varnished, and with minor repairs evident from many years of service. The drawer underneath the cribbage style scoring board is an unusual feature. Note also the short piece of net curtain wire attached to the pole. This is not, as you might think, to steady the pole, but acts as a bar to sideways shots which are not allowed in the league rules hereabouts.

The Skittles Table sits atop a converted Singer sewing machine stand, once a common sight in pubs, often complete with original treadle intact. The bar also has a number of original games tables, featuring shelves for pints during play. The noticeboard to the left is pinned with fixtures for the local Domino League.

The Newcastle Arms was also active in the local Table Skittles league until its recent demise. The table is now available for play on request. Also of interest at the pub is an example of the unique Lincolnshire version of the ubiquitous bar room Dartboard, featuring just a doubles ring and a single bull. Darts played on a Doubles Board like the one shown here is not unique to Newark or the Lincolnshire area, doubles darts is still played in parts of Kent and Yorkshire. Only in this area (to my knowledge) are the doubles boards entirely black like this one, giving them a little of the appearance of the original 'log-end' boards of the Manchester area. The Newcastle teams play in the Newark & District Double Board Darts League. The bar also has a number of original games tables as seen below.

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