Friday, 17 January 2014

A Compendium of Pub Games Images - Pt.19

This interesting old skittle set appeared for sale in a Leicestershire antiques centre recently. They're very similar in appearance to a set of Leicester Table Skittles which I've already featured on this blog at the Dog & Gun in Syston. Beautifully turned, showing the deep patina of age, and the many dents and dints acquired through years of pub use. The Cheeses are very tactile and have fared much better than the pins in play, made as they are from a closer grained and therefore harder wood. Yours for the asking price of £125. A desirable collection of perfectly playable vintage skittles which simply require a matching Leicester Skittles Table. Ideally, located in a good pub.

© John Penny
The traditional pub game shown here is a Twister, sometimes called a Norfolk Twister or Twizzler. Unusually, this example is located in Dorset, the game being most strongly associated with the south-eastern counties of England. Having said that, who knows how widespread this simple game of fortune may once have been. The survival of original old Twisters in Norfolk and Essex pubs may have as much to do with the relative isolation of the area from gambling enforcement than any firm indication of geographical origin.

This handsome wooden example of the game was made especially for the Mitre Inn, Sandford Orcas by fellow pub games enthusiast John Penny, and is modelled here by licensee Allen Page. Note the numbering of the segments, also augmented by a chalk zone for when names are required as shown here (I wonder who JP was!). This is one of five such Twisters that John has made, though only four survive, and of these only three remain in their original locations. One Twister didn't survive a fire at the pub, and another went travelling with the outgoing landlord. I aim to feature the other two survivors in a later post on this blog.

The Horse & Jockey (above) is idyllically located overlooking Rutland Water in the pretty village of Manton. A favourite destination of walkers and cyclists, the pub has a reputation as a rural 'destination' venue, and certainly it's the lunchtime food trade which dominates the pub during the busy summer tourist season. It's the kind of pub, in the kind of location, that could quite easily have left behind its more 'pubby' origins, but I'm pleased to say that the Horse & Jockey is also highly regarded for its beer, and remains a vibrant village local at heart. This includes that most traditional of pub games, Dominoes, with regular and successful play in the South Luffenham Domino League for which the trophies shown here are proudly held.

The latest addition to the Steamin' Billy Brewery Co pub estate is The Three Crowns in Oakham, Rutland. Tucked away on a back street, the former Griffin is now trading under its original name, and has been extensively refurbished to the usual high standards of this traditional pub company.

Certainly the revamped beer range will gladden the hearts of CAMRA members and other beer enthusiasts, but what pleases me the most is how genuinely 'pubby' The Three Crowns remains. All too often a refurbishment like this is simply an excuse to erase all the character from a pub, imposing a bland style with little space remaining for the pub to grow and develop over time. The Three Crowns is a pub that thankfully hasn't been overdone, and I can see it developing a good local following in time. I'm also pleased to see that nine or so feet of clear space has been set aside for a Darts throw, an important yardstick of pubbiness in my view.

Wherever you find a traditional locals pub, you'll invariably find the locals throwing things about for sport and pleasure. In the village pubs of Rutland and North-East Leicestershire, the game of Pétanque is perhaps the most commonly found competitive throwing game, maybe even more popular than Darts, and certainly surpassing the much older tradition of Long Alley or Table Skittles. Above is the Pétanque scoreboard for the Black Horse in the tiny village of Grimston, Leicestershire. The Black Horse 'A' team have recently gained promotion to the Premier Division of the Rutland & District Pétanque League.

The image below shows an Aunt Sally backsheet at the College Arms, Lower Quinton in Warwickshire. The local game of Aunt Sally gives the locals something to throw sticks at on Thursday evenings throughout the summer, and is as popular in the Oxfordshire area as skittles is in the West Country. The sheet cushions the impact of thrown sticks, and the black circle helps frame the white painted 'Doll' which is being aimed at. The College Arms is a true village local, with teams playing in local Cribbage, Darts, Dominoes, and Pool leagues, in addition to fortnightly matches in the Illmington Aunt Sally League.

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