Sunday, 20 July 2014

Some Western Skittles Images

This fine old alley is located on the upper floor of an extension at the rear of the Black Lion in Hereford. The pub itself is a venerable 16th century inn, strategically placed near the older crossing of the River Wye, and despite having a strong focus on dining these days retains much of its character and charm as a drinking venue.

A slightly unusual feature of the nine-pin game in Hereford is the use of 10-pin bowling pins as opposed to the usual stubby skittles found throughout the West Midlands and West Country. Traditionalists may frown on this but they do the job perfectly well, and even look the part when stripped of their white plastic coating.

Why is it that the Hereford & District Invitation Skittles League went over to this style of pin? On a day when I visited several pubs with alleys in the area, no-one I spoke to seemed to know the reason, and the league website gives no clues which suggests it's been this way for quite a good few years. Perhaps they were easier or cheaper to source than the expensive traditional pins, and it may be that modestly priced cast-offs from the ten-pin game are effectively 're-cycled' for skittle play in the area.

Thomas Fattorini (1864-1934) was the head of a Birmingham silversmiths which has a long association with producing medals, trophies and plaques, including many for league and cup pub game competition such as the one shown here. This sterling silver and gilded medal dates from 1930, and was originally attached to a short watch chain by the same maker. The game is of course nine-pin skittles of the type played predominantly in the South West of the country. Who it was originally presented to, and for what is not known as the back has not been engraved in this case. The company of Fattorini continues to this day, and still produces a range of trophies and medals for games and sport.

The alley shown above, carpeted for use as a function room when not in use for skittles, is located at the rear of the Somerset Arms in Cheltenhams Leckhampton area. The Somerset is one of the more traditional drinking pubs in Cheltenham, located on a backstreet near the Bath Road, and as such needs a little searching out. You'll be rewarded with a very welcoming locals pub and a decent pint of ale, as well as the now rare sight of a working Pinball Table at the rear of the bar area.

The eight lockable doors at the rear of alley (right) hold the skittle sets used by the various teams which play from the pub, currently numbering over half a dozen in the Cheltenham Skittles League. The alley record of 69 (below), held by Wayne Hyde, is recorded on a beam over the alley.

No comments: