Saturday, 14 June 2014

A Compendium of Pub Games Images - Pt. 21

The Bagatelle Table shown here has been squeezed into a room adjoining the main bar of the Royal Oak at Hoole in Chester. Hoole is a small village suburb of Chester, around 15 minutes walk out from the town centre, and very convenient for arrivals at the nearby rail station.

The Royal Oak is a friendly multi-room locals pub, a venue for conversation, good beer, and playing the local speciality of Bagatelle. The pub fields a team in the Chester & District Bagatelle League.

It's perhaps hard for us to appreciate just how widely played and popular the game of Quoits was in the pre and post-war years. Despite being played on Quoits Fields at pubs, clubs, and public recreation grounds the length and breadth of the country, little now remains to remind us of its importance as a game to the mostly working class men who played it. The Quoits Beds themselves are mostly all gone, and the trophies and records of the game have not endured in the same way that other pub and club games such as skittles have. Which is not to say that the game has entirely died out, indeed there are still several active, albeit much smaller leagues operating in parts of Anglia, Scotland, Wales, and the north of England.

A good indication of how widespread and popular the game of Quoits once was can be seen in the images above and below. This magnificent silver Boss, illustrating a Quoits game in progress, sits at the centre of a substantial trophy shield which acknowledges national Quoiting success in the small Rutland village of Ketton. Quoits was a very popular game in Rutland, no less so in Ketton which was home to at least four quoiting beds, and most impressive of all, a three times All England Champion in local cement works foreman Arthur Knox. The full shield, presented by the Peterborough & District Quoiting League, can be seen on the right of the team photograph below, and is now proudly displayed at the Ketton Sports & Social Club.

The last remaining Quoits Bed in the village was within the grounds of the club but is now tarmac'd over as part of the car park. The club is still very active within the village, with most modern games represented, including Bowls, Cribbage, Darts, Dominoes, and Rutlands current favourite throwing game, Pétanque.

The 'Skittle Room' at Leicesters Durham Ox is in truth more of a covered courtyard which serves the double function of a very well appointed smoking shelter. The kind of skittles played here is the thoroughly local Leicester version of Table Skittles, with its thinner pins, smaller cheeses, and slightly different table geometry to the better known Northamptonshire game. I'm not sure how often the table gets used these days, certainly the pub no longer fields a team in any of the Leicester Leagues, but it's good to see such a relative rarity of pub gaming survive in such good shape.

The pub itself is located in an area of the town which has been hit hard by changing demographics, and is one of the last of its type on this side of the city centre (see also the nearby Bridle Lane Tavern). The interior of the pub is very well maintained, and attracts a good local crowd for televised sport, Pool and Darts.

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