Sunday, 24 November 2013

A Collection of Shove Ha'pennys

The almost limitless variety to be found in manufactured and home made Shove Ha'penny boards is a dangerous thing for those of us with a penchant for collecting. Putting aside the relatively common and quite similar boards which were manufactured by Jaques, K&C, Wisden's etc. it seems that from my own observations almost every carpenter, cabinet maker, joiner, and sundry other craftsmen would have knocked up a few boards for sale locally. Add to this the literally thousands of handcrafted boards made by locals and hobbyists, and clearly it's not a collection anyone is ever likely to complete.

© John Penny
Of course, when I use the word 'variety' in the context of Shove Ha'penny boards, I'm referring to quite subtle differences in what is essentially the same basic form. To the untrained eye, one wooden Shove Ha'penny might look much the same as another, but it's these subtle differences which make it hard for the enthusiast to resist acquiring yet another piece of highly polished timber or slate whenever one comes up for sale.

The slate shown on the right is from fellow enthusiast, and keen Dorset/Somerset skittler John Penny's collection. I don't know how many boards John has, but I do know that pub games are a passion, and I hope to feature more from his collection in future posts on this blog.

This example was made by Alfred Merewood of 36 Surrey Street, Portsmouth. Cabinet maker? Games Manufacture? I've been unable to find any details of the business online. The slate itself is similar to the more commonly found 'Imp' Shove Ha'penny boards, which were embellished with a cheaper and less attractive plastic end stop than the fine wooden one on this board.

© John Penny
Smooth and durable Slate seems to have been the preferred material for Shove Ha'penny boards in pubs throughout the West Country, with many still in existence in their natural home.

The one shown to the left is located a little further east of this at the White Lion Inn, Wherwell, Hampshire. It's a very serious chunk of slate, not the kind of thing that wants moving around too much but ideal for pub use. It also features five handy recesses in the wooden end stop for the coins.

John has speculated that this may in fact be a Pushpenny given that the recesses are a good fit for old pennies. It's all in the bed depth though, which is hard to gauge from a photo. Perhaps John will have a game the next time he visits.

© John Penny
The detail on the wooden Shove Ha'penny shown above (and below) is a beautifully made, and very neat solution to the safe storage of coins or tokens when not in use. This board was made by John's great uncle, obviously a skilled craftsman, and is certainly pre-war in date.

Of course any half decent collection of Shove Ha'penny boards requires an accompanying collection of Shove Ha'penny Tokens. Here we have examples from the St Georges Series, the Shove Ha'penny Control Association, and assorted plain brass and silvered discs. Judging by the examples shown here, tokens for the game are also an area ripe for the collector.

© John Penny
I think it's true to say that the examples shown above represent the most common materials used for Shove Ha'penny boards, though I've also seen Marble and Granite used on occasion. But every now and then something truly unusual comes to light which makes the point that any hard smooth surface will do for the game, and of course there's really no reason to stick with natural and traditional materials. The board shown below was recently acquired from a snooker club in Cheltenham which was having a clear out. It's very heavy, very smooth indeed, and made from what appears to be some form of man-made resin or laminate such as Paxolin.

It's an unusual board in other ways. It's hard to imagine this would have been 'manufactured', and yet the lines have been precision cut in a way that suggests it was machine tooled rather than cut by hand. The end stop is made from some kind of industrial plastic capping which is effective but quite rudimentary and lacking elegance, and the bracing baton underneath is an off cut, still with vestiges of the paint from its previous life.

The design of the playing surface is unusual too, with a semi-circular 'D' zone, and two inexplicable circles in the end zone. Quite a mystery, and given that I still haven't managed to find out the true purpose of the more common 'D' zone, not one I'm likely to solve to be honest.

1 comment:

John Penny said...

Interestingly, the beds on the wooden board are 1 3/8" wide, which is 1/8 wider than the two slate boards I have.