Thursday, 23 October 2014

Four Pubs for a game of Shove Ha'penny

Considering how few people there are that actually play Shove Ha'penny now, or even know what the game is for that matter, there are still an awful lot of boards out there, some of which can even be found in their natural home of the pub.

Like almost all traditional pub games, Shove Ha'penny is a game you have to make time for, but most people these days seem to have already accounted for their time before they walk through the door of a pub. Dining, watching sport on the telly, focusing fully on the beers, or just catching up with and chatting with friends that we see less often now. All good reasons to visit the pub of course, but it's perhaps rare now for a group of drinkers to arrive at the pub without the day planned out in fine detail, which leaves little free time for the pleasures of a casual afternoon or evening game.

This of course is a large part of the reason pub games have declined so much in recent years. Few have the time, or are prepared to make the time for them. It's also why those games which have survived, and in some cases continue to thrive, are usually played by older, often retired pub-goers who find it easier to take a couple of hours out from the day to shuffle Dominoes or shove a coin up the highly polished surface of a Shove Ha'penny. Sadly all the boards shown in this post are rarely if ever used, but at least they're still in situ at the pubs where they rightly belong, and available for play should time and a willing opponent permit. The one on the left, a fairly modern laminated board supplied as a promotion by the now closed Ruddles Brewery, can be found at the Dukes Arms, Woodford, Northamptonshire.

This venerable old slate Shove Ha'penny (above and below) is firmly bolted to the top of one of those old treadle sewing machine tables that started appearing in pubs in the 80's. It provides a solid and weighty base for a slate which has clearly seen good service over many years at the National Trust owned Fleece Inn in the village of Bretforton in Worcestershire. Until recently the Shove Ha'penny resided in the Games Room of the pub, but sadly both it and the Darts Board have been retired from use to provide more space for diners at this very popular historic pub. With its protective wooden cover on, the board now lives in a corridor and is used as a table for cutlery. The licensee of the Fleece has a keen interest in many aspects of English tradition. A Morris Dancer and Cidermaker in addition to being custodian of two of Worcestershire's most important heritage pubs. I'm reasonably sure that he would be happy to see the Shove Ha'penny polished up and played during quieter times at the pub, though whether the Ha'pennies remain is unclear, so you may have to bring your own.

One of the very first of the new-wave of Micropubs which are springing up throughout the country was Just Beer in Newark, Nottinghamshire. The single bar-room at Just Beer is a little larger than some of the micro's that have opened in its wake, there's even room for a Darts Board, and the layout lends itself well to games such as Dominoes which are available in a vintage Watney Mann box in the bar. A good solid-wood Shove Ha'penny hangs on the wall ready for play, though how much use it gets and whether a well-polished set of coins is available I couldn't say, it's just great to see it in the bar. Either way, Just Beer has a superb reputation for its beer and cider, and is well worth a visit when out for a pint in Newark.

The people behind the Thurlby group of pubs must have a bit of a soft spot for the shoving and pushing tradition of games. The Tobie Norris in Stamford has a very good example of a Pushpenny board in the cosy snug area, and the nearby Exeter Arms at Easton on the Hill had an old Shove Ha'penny as part of the furnishings the last time I visited. The latest addition to this growing collection is a modern laminate Jaques Shove Ha'penny at the Lord Nelson (above and below) in the Rutland market town of Oakham. Whether it gets a great deal of use at a pub which is noted more for its food offering than the (admittedly very good) beer and wine selection, I've no idea, but it seems unlikely to be honest. All the same, it's a nice addition to the pub, and the lovely tile-floored snug where I photographed the board would lend itself well to an afternoon game, though once again you may have to take your own coins.

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