Thursday, 3 July 2014

Quoits in Herefordshire

In common with other pub and club games such as the various indoor skittle variants, and the now extinct Suffolk version of Quoits, it's likely that Indoor Quoits developed directly from, and was probably played alongside the hugely popular outdoor version of the game/sport. Quoits was once played throughout England, Scotland, and Wales, and can still be found to this day in a few areas of northern and eastern England, and parts of Wales. A strenuous outdoor pursuit which involves the hurling of heavy iron rings over varying distances to land as close to, or ideally over a short spike projecting from a 'bed' of clay. Not a game that lends itself to the chill of Winter then.

Hence the development of a number of indoor versions, a way to keep your hand in and satisfy the urge for competition when the outdoor game held no appeal. The only version of the indoor game which can still be found in pubs and clubs to this day is the one played in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and the Welsh Borders. Known variously as Step Quoits, Table Quoits, Dobbers, or just plain Quoits, this game can still be found in the more traditional pubs and clubs of the region. Quoits is still played at league level throughout this area, but with most players tending to be in the upper age-range, and ever more of the traditional locals where the game finds a natural home closing for good, the game's future is far from secure.

The Quoits 'board' shown above is resident at the Rose & Crown in the leafy suburbs of Hereford city. This pub is now one of Greene King's 'Meet & Eat' venues, and could quite easily have lost its games area entirely during the recent refurbishment. This concrete 'board' is entirely typical of those found throughout Hereford and further afield, although wooden boards like the one featured here are also common. The colour scheme is traditional, though not every board follows this pattern, indeed the board I have is made from plainly varnished ply wood. The welded steel frame which the board sits on is also a standard feature of the game in Hereford, the netting designed to prevent too many errant Quoits landing on the floor.

The basis of the game is very simple, and lends itself well to both mens and womens leagues. Four rubber Quoits (above) are thrown from a distance similar to a Darts throw, the aim being to land the Quoits either directly over the Peg or Hob (5 points), fall squarely in the sunken inner ring (2 points), or outer ring (1 point). The Quoits have a black side and a white side, and they must land white-side up to score. In play, men seem to go for the risky peg shot (more likely to flip onto the non-scoring black side, or bounce off the board entirely if missed), whilst women prefer a more steady accumulation of points by landing their quoits in the rings. A major part of the skill in this game is using subsequent throws to nudge previously thrown quoits out of the outer ring and into the higher scoring inner zone.

Scoring indoor quoits takes many forms, but in the Hereford league it is similar to the game of Darts, ie. run down from a starting score of 101. Singles and Doubles games are played as part of a league match, with the usual array of cup knock-out matches and competitions for individuals running alongside the league.

The Hereford City Mens League runs through the Summer months, and is now down to just six participating teams. The Brewers Arms (which will feature in a future post on this blog) is the most recent addition, the Quiots Boards and team originally resident of the now closed, and much loved Cotterell Arms in the city.

These images show a Wednesday night Quoits match in the Hereford Womens League. The frosted glass window (above) looks in on the unspoilt Golden Lion pub on Grandstand Road. This pub is a friendly two bar local on the edge of the city, and comes complete with Aviary, Fishpool, and a fine old Skittle Alley at the rear. It's the kind of pub that's hard to see staying unspoilt forever, so I recommend a visit sooner rather than later, though there is no real ale, just cider.

Scoring the game whilst a baseball hatted Golden Lion (one of many in the bar) looks on from the Pool Table. With the match finished (the home team won), and a supper delivered to the ladies, the licensee has a few throws to keep her hand in (below). World Cup Football takes second place on the television tonight.

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