Sunday, 20 October 2013
Some Leicestershire Long Alley Skittles Images
Even though an increasing number of alleys are now being covered against the elements, Long Alley Skittles in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire area remains essentially an outdoor summer game. The Leicestershire version by contrast is exclusively played indoors, and other than the two alleys on Thrussington village green, I can't think of a single example which isn't housed in either a purpose built indoor alley, or a later adapted part of the pub. It's an interesting regional distinction, the origins of which must surely be found in the very earliest development of the game.
Perhaps players of the more northerly game consider Leicestershire players a less hardy bunch, not up to skittling in the cold or rain! Maybe the 'southerners' of Leicestershire view the outside alleys of Notts and Derby as being below their standards. Whatever the reason, it's simply another example of the wide and fascinating diversity to be found in what is essentially the same nine-pin game.
The alley shown here is at the Carington Arms, Ashby Folville, a former Everards Brewery pub if memory serves me well. Note the heavy wear and tear where the pins stand, the result of repeated strikes from the hard and heavy hardwood 'Cheeses' used in the Leicestershire game. The game of Long Alley has much in common with the very earliest forms of skittles such as Cornish Kayles or Keels, where the 'balls' are delivered full toss at the pins rather than being 'bowled' on a smooth wooden surface. Because of this, only the immediate area where the pins are standing needs to be prepared for play, in this case laid to concrete, the rest of the 'alley' can be quite rough and ready.
The Carrington play in the Syston & District Skittles League, but the alley is available for functions and casual matches outside of match nights.
The photograph above features Leicester CAMRA branch chairman Keith Williams presenting an Everards Brewery team with the Camaraderie Cup in the skittle alley of The Plough in Littlethorpe, Leicestershire. This was the inaugural match in July 1993 of what has become an annual event between the branch and brewery. Everards are custodians of probably the largest number of traditional Long Alleys in the county, though sadly there has been talk of converting the alley shown here at the Plough into a dining space. This years match, the 21st by my reckoning, was played at the Black Horse in Aylestone, Leicester (some pics of my old local and its alley can be seen here). The Everards team were the winners on this occasion too.
This alley is located in the basement of the Newfoundpool Club in Leicester, a former Labour Club which supports a wide range of sports, games, and other activities, including Long Alley Skittles, Leicester Table Skittles, Darts, Snooker, and Billiards.
This is a good example of how skittle alleys would have been included in the plans of many newly built clubs in the post war era. Often, as in this case and the now defunct alley at the Nottingham Oddfellows Club in Leicester, located in the basement, well out of earshot of the main club. The Long Alley shown here is subject to minor flooding on occasion, hence the sawdust strewn floor.