Thursday, 27 October 2016

Some Cribbage Boards

I don't play Cribbage, and yet I seem to have acquired one or two Cribbage Boards in recent years. Cribbage is a game that takes slightly more time to learn than most traditional pub games. The basics of games like Dominoes, Skittles, or Darts can be grasped in no more time than it takes to explain them, even if some measure of expertise in the game may take much longer to achieve. But mastery of Cribbage comes through experience, and even then the game seems to involve frequent, and to the uninitiated, baffling debate over the scoring!

To be taught the game of Cribbage is a great thing though because like Fives & Threes Dominoes, once you know how to play to a reasonable level, there are usually plenty of opportunities to find a casual afternoon game. In my limited experience of observing Cribbage around the country, there are a great many players who are more than happy to peg a board with a stranger, such is the appeal of the game to those who appreciate its intricacies. Like Dominoes, it's also a very sociable game, which perhaps goes some way to explaining its decline in recent times! For more about Cribbage, I'd recommend a look at Siv Sears Cribbage in the Counties blog, a travelogue and labour of love based around the six (occasionally five) card game.

A classic old polished Brass & Mahogany Cribbage Board. Whether it was made by a tradesman, or homemade from recycled pieces that were to hand I'll never know, but it's nice examples like this that help explain the attraction of Cribbage Boards to collectors. Note the large hole at the end for hanging on a wall.
Three Player parquetry inlaid Crib Board
Cribbage Boards seem to have been designed principally for scoring Cribbage. A statement so obvious it's hardly worth stating, but Crib boards have been co-opted to score many other games since then. In fact the scoring of some pub games seem to have been designed specifically around the standard Crib Board. Devil amongst the Tailors sets often come with a cribbage style scoring board built into them, with 121 the target score. Similarly Fives & Threes Dominoes scores to 121, and this is what I tend to use my small collection of boards for.

This of course doesn't explain why I've got far more Cribbage Boards than I'll ever need for an afternoon game of Dominoes. Just one would do the job adequately, and of course many pubs have their own boards available for use. The fact is, there's something wonderfully 'collectable' about Crib Boards. This is principally down to the endless variation in design, but also because some are such beautiful works of craftsmanship. I certainly don't aim to acquire every board I see, indeed some are offered at such ridiculous prices it could become a very expensive collecting interest, but when I see one I like, well it's hard not to...

I resisted the urge to buy these two, which are typical brewery branded Crib Boards from the late 20th century. Pretty much every sizeable brewery offered these advertising items to licensees, and Bass Worthington were a very sizeable concern indeed, with a truly national presence through their bottled and draught beers. These are cheaply made commercial examples, of more interest to the Breweriana collector than those of us who appreciate a nice bit of old polished wood.

Brewery branding on Crib Boards is common, but so too are more personalised examples. Some carry the name of the maker or owner, whilst others like the one shown here at the Bakers Arms in Mickleton, Gloucestershire are marked with the name of the pub. These are nice items to find, particularly if you can track down which pub they originally came from, often a lot more difficult than it sounds.

This monster size Crib Board is practically a piece of furniture! At around 15 inches long it could best be described as 'oversized' for the job, and the mahogany door knobs for feet don't help the size issue. In common with most of these earlier Crib Boards, this one features some nice parquetry in boxwood and a darker 'ebonised' wood, and there's a sliding cover underneath concealing a small compartment for the all-important Crib Pegs.

Strangely enough, the Crib Boards I'm most attracted to are tatty old examples like the one shown here. Definitely a homemade or 'shed built' board, there's something so appealing to me about old wood that's obviously seen many years of hard service. A basic, utilitarian board, probably fabricated from an offcut of wood. Stained dark brown from years of smoke, beer, and handling, items like this reflect an aspect of social history that rarely makes it into the history books. A working mans Crib Board, rescued from oblivion (and in due course the fire!) to score a game once again.

The Ushers Brewery of Trowbridge in Wiltshire was closed over 15 years ago. This Crib Board dates from a good deal before then probably the mid-20th century, given that few breweries advertised Stouts as part of their portfolio due to the ubiquity of Guinness toward the end of the century. The Mahogany and Brass circular Crib Board below is a somewhat impractical beauty, which given the similarly unfeasible price I resisted the urge to add to my collection.

1 comment:

Siv Sears said...

Top quality piece. Love it