Played at the Pub

The pub games of Britain

Winner of the Coors Brewers' National Journalism
of the Year Award, 2009

Winner of Katharine Briggs Folklore Award, 2010


By: Arthur Taylor
RRP: £14.99
Special offer: £10 (post-free to UK)
Format: 184pp softback 210mm x 210mm
ISBN: 978 1905624 973
Published by English Heritage in August 2009


Three cheers for this invaluable and amusing book... which tells with formidable scholarship and an afficionado’s passion the story of British pub games lost and found... the terrain covered is formidable.

— Sam Leith, Daily Mail

Aunt Sally in Oxfordshire, toad in the hole in East Sussex, daddlums in Kent and bagatelle in Chester - they sound like relics of a bygone age, and yet, contrary to popular belief the pub games of Britain live on, in all their infinite variety and eccentric splendour.

True, such games as knur and spell (the poor man's golf), peggy, billets and nipsy (once played by Yorkshire miners), appear to have died out in recent years, joining in the history books such former favourites as loggats, bumblepuppy, guile bones, noddy board, slide thrust, fox-mine-host and the mysterious 'milking cromock'.

But new games emerge all the time, so that nowadays regulars are just as likely to be entering pub quizzes, playing pool or poker, or even the French game of pétanque, an 1960s import which now goes down a storm in Rochdale.

Even that pub staple, the standard trebles dartboard, is a relative newcomer, having appeared on the scene only in the 1920s. By comparison, the likes of quoits and skittles, cribbage and shove ha'penny have been with us for centuries, despite Henry VIII's killjoy attempts to ban them all.

Arthur Taylor published his first study of pub games in 1976, updated it in 1992, and now, with Played at the Pub brings us his most extensive study so far, complete with stunning contemporary images taken at some of the loveliest locals in the land.

So if you have ever wondered why some dartboards in Manchester look funny, or where firing a gun will not get you thrown out of the snug, or if you are still in the dark when it comes to the Dorset flop and dwile flonking, put down that pint and let Arthur put you straight.

One warning though - this book does contain nuts.

Arthur Taylor spent most of his working life as a producer/director at Granada TV, and much of his spare time going to the pub. His Guinness Book of Pub Games was published in 1992.

The Manchester log end dartboard

The Manchester log end dartboard

Paul Robson, landlord of the Railway Hotel, Fairfield, Manchester shows off the Manchester log end dartboard which is not only eight inches smaller in diameter than the standard London dartboard but also has to be kept in water between matches to stop the wood splitting.

From page 35 of Played at the Pub
(Photograph © English Heritage.)

Pool in the Docklands

Pool in the Docklands

A game of eight ball at the Watermans Arms on the Isle of Dogs, London. The British Association of Pool Table Operators claims that pool is played regularly by two million people in Britain, and by a further three million on a casual basis.

From page 103 of Played at the Pub
(Photograph © English Heritage.)

Taking aim

Taking aim

A member of the Devizes and District Miniature Rifle League takes aim down a specially made tube inside the Grade II listed Lamb Inn in Devizes. The league is one of several based in pubs across the country, set up in response to the poor marksmanship of British troops during the Boer War.

From page 139 of Played at the Pub
(Photograph © English Heritage.)

Played at the Pub contents


Chapter 1 Played at the Pub - history • Joseph Strutt • royal bans • Henry VIII • early pub culture • gambling • boxing • cock fighting • bull baiting • cricket • football • bowling greens • 1830 Beer Act • 1845 Gaming Act • growth of leagues •


Chapter 2 Darts - origins • puff and dart • javelot tir sur cible • dart and target • flechettes • vogelpik • Hasnon darts • evolution of the dartboard • News of the World championships • Manchester dartboard • dart design and technology •


Chapter 3 Skittles - kyles • loggats • half bowl or rolly-polly • West Country skittles • Dorset flop • Long alley skittles • Old English or London skittles • AP Herbert • ten pin alleys • Aunt Sally • wallops • Irish skittles • corks •


Chapter 4 Table skittles - devil among the tailors • hood skittles • table manufacture • last known daddlums table • lost Norfolk skittles •


Chapter 5 Quoits - medieval origins • gambling • spectator sport • the 'short game' • the 'long game' • horseshoes • quoit grips • Wilkinson Sword championships • Childwall Quoiting Club, Liverpool • Darlington Quoit Club •


Chapter 6 Ring games - rings • ringing the bull • indoor quoits • Suffolk quoits • caves •


Chapter 7 Cue games - billiards • snooker • bagatelle • John Thurston • Thomas Padmore • bar billiards • pool •


Chapter 8 Bowling games - flat green bowls • crown green bowls • Old English bowls • distance bowling • road bowling • table bowls • pétanque • marbles •


Chapter 9 Bat and trap - trap ball • tip cat • trib and knurr •


Chapter 10 Pushing and shoving - shovel board • jeu de fer • shuffleboard • shove penny • shove ha'penny • push penny • Purbeck board •


Chapter 11 Pitching and tossing - pitch penny • gnurdling • leathers • pitchin' in t'pot • pitch penny • toad in the hole • la grenouille •


Chapter 12 Throwing and cobbing - pea throwing • wellie-wanging • Stroud brick and rolling pin throwing • clog cobbing • black pudding throwing •


Chapter 13 Twisting and spinning - twizzler • twister • Norfolk wheel • village roulette • put and take •


Chapter 14 Table football - sokaball • sokit • foosball •


Chapter 15 Rifle shooting - pub leagues • Devizes and District Miniature Rifle League • Lord Ednam Air Rifle League •


Chapter 16 Racing - beer barrels • wheelbarrows • woolsacks • straw bales • coal carrying • man v horse • ferrets •


Chapter 17 Dominoes - origins • French prisoners of war • popular games • national championships • Anglo-Caribbean league •


Chapter 18 Board and dice games - merrills • nine men's morris • shut the box • crown and anchor • backgammon • poker dice •


Chapter 19 Card games - cribbage • euchre • crash • phat • all fours • poker •


Chapter 20 Pub quizzes - 1946 beginnings • Bootle league 1959 • over 200 quiz leagues today • second most popular pub activity after darts •


Chapter 21 Spoof and tippet - guessing and bluffing •


Chapter 22 Dwile flonking - drivellers • swadgers • Michael Bentine • nurdling • Amos Thirkle •


Chapter 23 Eating and drinking - stinging nettle eating • biskeys and treacle • elver eating • black pudding eating • pie eating • Pork Pie Appreciation Society • yard of ale • pub crawls • Karl Marx • pipe smoking contests •


Chapter 24 Lost games - bagatelle pin board • conger cuddling • knur and spell • nipsy • peggy • billets • bumble puppy • nine holes • Trou Madame • lawn billiards •