Sunday, 1 February 2015

A Compendium of Pub Games Images - Pt.23

Bonzoline is without a doubt better than Ivory, though it's unlikely the unpalatable nature of the Ivory trade was foremost in the minds of the Bonzoline Manufacturing Company when this advert appeared in the early 20th century book 'The Game of Billiards and How To Play It' (J.Roberts).

The fact is that Ivory, being a natural material, would have exhibited slight imperfections of density and uniformity throughout the ball, such that some balls may have even had significantly different weights. Composite Bonzoline balls, as developed by John Wesley Hyatt of New York, would have been more uniform and stable than the natural materials used previously, and of course would have been a much cheaper alternative to Ivory, which eventually found favour throughout all cue sports. Various manufacturers came up with their own composites, including these from Atlas Co of London Billiard Balls, which bear the label British Made Ronite.

Some recently acquired Cribbage Boards. The large dark Mahogany 'three-way' board underneath is for the slightly unusual occurrence of a three person game. Unusual in that most Card and Domino games scored on a crib board are either for two players, or four playing as doubles. This board is stamped HWR, almost certainly the initials of the person who lovingly crafted it in their shed from an off-cut or 'up-cycled' piece of timber.

The scorer at the top is in a common form for cribbage boards which would have been hung on the wall in a pub or club, and is stamped with the letters T*S, possibly the owner/maker or maybe the name of the pub. The board below that is also a homemade example, this one made from Bakelite or similar. Below that is a Mahogany crib board with brass feet, the wood extremely dark from the patina of many years of use.

The only board shown here that was manufactured is the one bearing the long closed (though recently revived) Truman's Brewery name. A simple moulded Bakelite or early plastic board, perfect for scoring with used matches. Breweries and Cigarette/Tobacco brands are the most common sponsors of these old cribbage boards, though not nowadays of course.

The beer and brewing world of the early to mid 20th century was a battleground of regional and national branding and advertising. You only have to search for Breweriana on eBay to get an idea of the sheer number of beers and breweries fighting for brand awareness in the pubs and clubs of Britain up until the widespread mergers and brewery closures of the 1970's and 80's. Practically every item used in the licensed trade was fair game to carry advertising for a beer brand, from mirrors and all manner of signage, to ashtrays, glasses, and of course the numerous accoutrement's and accessories of pub gaming.

These Shove Ha'penny tokens are quite rare examples of beer and brewery branding. Although I'm sure hundreds, if not thousands of these would have been produced at the time, their diminutive and frivolous nature means that most seem to have been lost or thrown away over time. Probably dating from the late 1970's when Tap Bitter was introduced by the London brewer on the back of the nascent real ale revival. They're a classic example of a simple everyday item being co-opted to keep a beer brand at the forefront of a drinkers mind, even when engaged in the serious business of shoving coins up the smooth surface of a slate such as this.

The slate shown here is one of the more common examples of its type. 'The Imp Shove-Ha'penny Slate', a relatively inexpensive and lightweight model compared to the hefty slabs still occasionally found in West Country pubs.

The Bar Billiards Table shown to the left is a real rarity, located as it is in the very heart of the city of Birmingham.

The Post Office Vaults is a subterranean cellar bar with a great reputation for beer and cider, and a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of the main shopping area of the city.

The Chandlers Arms at Shearsby in Leicestershire has been a firm favourite of mine since the 80's, a regular destination, particularly in the summer when the tidy garden comes into its own. Like the attractive village itself, the pub seems to have changed little over the years, though in truth it's been well maintained, and the beer range has improved greatly under the current licensee.

Pub games have never seemed to feature prominently at the Chandlers. Dominoes and Cards are available, but food has always been an important part of the pubs trade, and there's little room in the cosy bars for a Darts Board. Recently though, room has been found for the landlords favourite game of Bar Billiards, tucked into the less-used left-hand bar area.

1 comment:

Tone said...

Great Monday morning read Mark. Thanks for bringing us this great pub game history.
I used to work in the Royal Aircraft establishment in Farnborough, Hampshire. We used to have an interdepartmental Winter Indoor Games League (WIGL). 12 points were up for grabs. 2 points from 8 games of darts. 2 points for 2 games of snooker and 2 games of billiards. 2 points for 4 games of crib. 2 points for 4 games of dominoes. 2 points for 4 games of table tennis. 2 points for 4 games of shove halfpenny.
Great winter evenings spent playing and 33 Department the team I played for quite often used to win the league. My Dad always played billiards a dying game even in the early 1970's.