Sunday, 10 May 2015

Gate Inn, Awsworth, Nottinghamshire

The drinking corridor at the Gate Inn
Junction 26 of the M1 is probably best known to us 'Midlanders' as the (in)famous IKEA junction. The heavy industrial past of the area around the Erewash Valley may not be immediately obvious to visitors now, but it's still possible to get a taste of it in some of the areas largely unspoilt 'locals' pubs, of which there are thankfully still quite a few.

Pubs like the Gate Inn at Awsworth, a classic village local built to serve the needs of the local mining (and brewing!) community. A pub rich in heritage and a haven for local tradition, as well as being an award-winning outlet for local and national real ales. It's also yet another example of a pub rescued by enthusiastic licensees following years of neglect and under-investment by a large-scale brewer.

When local brewers Hardys & Hansons sold out to Suffolk super-regional Greene King, the historic Kimberley Brewery, and latterly much of its pub estate, became surplus to requirements. The Gate Inn closed for a time, and that might well have been that had it not been for the enthusiasm and drive of Kim Boldock and Stephen Fox, a couple who saw a future for the pub where the out-of-touch bean-counters at Bury St Edmunds clearly couldn't.

It's an all-too familiar tale, depressingly so given the number of well-loved and important community pubs that lumbering giants like Greene King still own. The sadness turns to anger when accountant-run businesses like this refuse to give people like Kim and Stephen a chance, preferring to sell their assets off to developers, ending any chance that their own failures might be turned around (as with the New White Bull at Giltbrook for example). It seems there's a limit to how many success stories like the Gate the big-boys can stomach.

And the Gate Inn is very much a success story. Since reopening in 2010, Kim and Stephen have made a special feature of their real ales, taking advantage of the large cellar at the pub and a growing demand for characterful craft-brewed ales. The total for different beers which have passed over the bar reached the 1,000 mark just three years after re-opening, the ever-changing beer range inspiring locals to brand the recently refurbished front bar (below) 'The Sweet Shop'!

It's not just about the beer though. The Gate Inn is the kind of traditional multi-room boozer that lends itself well to a wide range of social activities, ensuring the pub remains at the very heart of the community it serves. The patio beer garden has had an extensive makeover, with a rooftop terrace adding to the summer potential. Inside is a work in progress, but already many of the facilities have been brought up to modern standards, all the while with an eye to retaining the essential heritage of the building, no IKEA-inspired makeover here! A quiet snug exists to the left of the entrance, the hallway forming an increasingly rare example of a traditional drinking corridor. Plans for the future include opening up long-closed fireplaces, a 'new' room created where an old room once existed, and generally restoring the interior to how it would have been in its prime.

Prior to Kim and Stephen arriving at the pub, the Skittle Alley had been converted to a smoking shelter. Responding to requests by local Long Alley Skittles players, the alley has now been reinstated, and thanks to other alterations at the pub, is now effectively an indoor alley. This means that play can comfortably continue year-round, the local team playing in the Nottingham League, and Border Skittles League which is drawn from venues with covered alleys in both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Already there's a skittles cup at the pub, proudly displayed in the spacious trophy cabinet mounted above the heads of the lucky regulars in the 'Sweet Shop'.

Skittle alleys are, and certainly need to be, versatile spaces. The Gate Inn already has a well-appointed function room, but pub skittle alleys of all types often fulfil this purpose. The length of an alley also makes it an ideal venue for the little-known pub sport of shooting.

Competitive small-bore rifle shooting was actively encouraged as a sport toward the end of the 19th century, largely as a result of the poor standard of shooting observed during the Boer War, and continues in many leagues throughout the country to this day. Bell Target and paper target shooting even occurs within the public areas of some pubs, with special arrangements of steel pipes and automatic target changers to facilitate a match safely.

The Shooting Gate Airgun Club is a self-contained competitive shooting club which meets on Sunday evenings in the skittle alley of the Gate Inn.

Tradition of a different kind finds a home at the Gate Inn, being the meeting place for the local Black Pig Border Morris side.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Three Hinckley Pubs

The entries for Hinckley in my 1979 copy of CAMRA's Real Ale Guide to Leicestershire & Rutland give a clear indication of the stranglehold Burton brewers had on the towns many pubs. Most were owned by Marston's, with the mighty Bass conglomerate providing the only other choice in town. The later 80's edition of the guide reads much the same, and I recall with some fondness the (relative) excitement of finding a pint of M&B Mild at the now closed Castle Tavern when the Leicester CAMRA branch were in town.

Hinckley now has its own CAMRA branch, and thankfully things have moved on a bit since then pub-wise. Which is not to say there isn't still plenty of Marstons beer about the town (Bass now seems to have become a rarity), with the lower strength Marston's Bitter still a good drink in my view. The national Wetherspoon chain helped break the mould, and since then there has been a slight, but welcome relaxation of the Burton monopoly in the town.

The former Skittle Alley at the Railway Inn
The Railway Inn (above) has certainly benefited from this recent relaxation, and is now in the hands of the excellent Steamin' Billy Brewery Co. The Railway was a popular Marston's house in its day, but had fallen on hard times despite the obvious catchment of rail passengers from the station across the road. This decline in 'railway pubs' and 'station hotels' seems to be a feature of many towns, the pub closest to the station so often a terrible disappointment to travellers where it could, and certainly should be one of the best. Quite why this might be is a mystery to me, but in the right hands many of these unofficial station buffets have been very successfully revived by forward thinking owners, and such is the case with the Railway Inn.

If I'm honest, the decor of the Railway's lounge bar doesn't appeal to me, but the bar is a real delight, and it's great that the multi-room layout has been retained and even expanded under the current owners. The bar manages to achieve a thoroughly traditional feel whilst being light and airy, bright and inviting to all. It makes waiting for a train a real pleasure, which is exactly what a station pub should do. The bar features a Darts Board, and there are regular Poker Nights on Sunday. Sadly the skittle alley, possibly the last of its kind in Hinckley town, has now been converted to dining.

The wider Hinckley area has a number of pubs which are listed by CAMRA as having important heritage interiors. This includes two in the town itself, one of which is the excellent Greyhound (above & below), located at the top end of the town.

The Greyhound has always been a treat for lovers of good pubs, retaining its traditional multi-room layout of three rooms radiating from a central servery. But like the Railway, the Greyhound had been allowed to whither on the vine by owners Marston's. Quite why Marston's are still in the pub trade is beyond me, they seem to have little idea or interest in the future of their ever-shrinking pub estate. Thankfully, there are still a few in the licensed trade who take a keen interest in our pub heritage and the unique culture which surrounds it. People like local pub hero Louise Lavender who now runs the Greyhound free of Marston's disinterest and neglect, and has set about revitalising the pub as a true asset for Hinckley drinkers.

It's a quiet oasis from the busy high street, a pub for conversation or quiet contemplation over a pint and the newspapers. The front bar area has a Darts Board, but sadly the skittles are long gone from the Greyhound.

A short walk out of town brings you to the Holywell, a pleasant enough 1920's Marston's pub, but one which is currently 'between licensees' so perhaps not at its best. A large, busy, one-room pub with all the usual pub game staples, including Darts and Pool, and the relative rarity of a traditional Skittles Table.

The pub was until recently a stalwart of local league skittles play, but currently finds itself without a home team. The Skittles Table is available for casual play, but usually resides in the marquee at the rear of the pub and requires moving indoors by the staff. Not such a big job given that this old 'Peppers' table has been augmented with a sturdy set of wheels.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Hillmorton, Rugby, Warwickshire

Land-locked Warwickshire is almost unique as a county in boasting three very different pub-based skittles traditions. Only neighbouring Leicestershire can compete for overall skittling variety, with three of its own skittle games as outlined in a previous post on this blog.

To the south-west of Warwickshire the West-country tradition of Alley Skittles prevails, sharing league play with pubs and clubs in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire where the game is widespread. In the south-east of the county bordering Oxfordshire, the traditional pub game of Aunt Sally holds sway. Aunt Sally is a skittles game in all but name, albeit one where the wooden 'pins' are thrown at the 'ball'! The table skittles game known as Devil Amongst The Tailors, still played at league level in parts of Staffordshire, may well have featured to the north of the county at one time, but it's the more common Northamptonshire version of table skittles which brings the Warwickshire total to three.

The eastern edge of Warwickshire around the town of Rugby borders both Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, so it's perhaps no surprise that this part of the county shares a Table Skittles tradition with its near neighbours. Indeed many of the venues for the game in and around Rugby share league play with those just over the border near Lutterworth, and presumably the same can be said for venues in Northamptonshire's Daventry area. Rugby town centre has a handful of pubs and clubs where a skittles table can be found, but it's in the villages surrounding the town that the game is still relatively common. The nearby village of Hillmorton is a good example, a residential suburb of Rugby which could probably be considered a stronghold of the game, there being a table in virtually every pub and club.

Most of the pubs in Hillmorton are located on or near the busy High Street, the Stag & Pheasant takes a little more finding. A classic village pub of some age and character, located a short walk from the main road and now surrounded by modern housing to the north of the village. The pub is close enough to the Oxford Union Canal to attract visitors in the summer, but this is essentially a cosy two-room locals pub with a strong gaming element. Trophies for Darts are displayed around the bar, and there's an adjoining games area which features a Pool Table and vintage W T Black & Son Skittles Table.

The Skittles Table is shown here 'parked' out of the way to allow space for Pool play, but a clue to its normal playing position can be seen in the metal grills across the windows to the right. The netting 'hood' at the back of a Northamptonshire skittles table is designed to catch errant cheeses during a game, but despite this they often go astray. High-velocity plastic skittles and cheeses can do a lot of damage to a window, even occasionally to those toiling in the 'woodyard', hence the protective grill over the window. A steel Oche or Mott is used in these parts, with Mens and Ladies competition in the thriving Dunchurch & District League.

The Bell Inn (below) on the main road through Hillmorton is a pub that really impressed me. Though I'd have to say that first impressions were I'd maybe come to the wrong pub! Turn right from the front entrance as I did, and you'll find yourself in a smart refurbished lounge/restaurant, really not the kind of place you'd expect to find the rattle and thud of skittles play. The restaurant is clearly a major part of the business plan for the Bell, along with the excellent family-friendly garden to the rear, but what sets the Bell Inn apart from so many recently refurbished pubs is that it retains a thoroughly traditional bar and games area, for which you need to turn left at the entrance.

By retaining two distinctly different rooms rather than the increasingly common knocked through and blandly refurbished lounge-bar, there remains a space for everyone to enjoy the pub whatever their taste. There also remains space for Darts, a Pool Table, and another beautifully maintained Skittles Table.

The games area is located around a corner of the main bar, keeping the noise of play to a sensible level for drinkers. In this way, the locally important game of Table Skittles, as well as other popular  and sometimes noisy pub games have been accommodated rather than ousted as they are in so many modern refurbishments.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Bulls Head, East Leake, Nottinghamshire

Other than the tiny South Notts League and the larger Derby/Notts Border League, the Nottingham Skittles League covers the bulk of competitive Long Alley play in the Nottingham area. The Winter competition, which is drawing to a close as I write this, operates over two leagues with around a dozen teams in each. At first glance these might seem healthy numbers for a local skittles league, but when examined more closely the teams and alleys which make up the league are seen to be spread over quite a wide area.

This wide geographical spread has become quite common in traditional pub game leagues. As more and more pubs and clubs are refurbished or closed down, skittle alleys are inevitably lost. The teams and players which are the lifeblood of league play may still be willing, but can often struggle to find a home alley within reasonable distance of 'home'. Of course some players and teams throw in the towel at this point, but those which remain find they have to travel ever further to fulfil league commitments. This often marks the beginning of a steady decline for traditional games leagues, and has certainly led to a good few folding in recent years.

Often it's clubs rather than pubs that are the stronghold of league skittles play now. Not because clubs have fared any better than pubs as far as closures are concerned, more that they're less likely to convert their alleys to other use, games being such an important part of the social club offering. As far as I can tell, clubs make up around half of the venues in the Nottingham Skittles League, and those pubs which have retained their alleys and are still active in league play are now pretty thin on the ground.

The Bulls Head at East Leake represents a relatively far-flung outpost of the Nottingham league, located as it is almost in the neighbouring county of Leicestershire. This is definitely the Nottinghamshire game though. The distinctive shape of the pins, the large wooden balls, and the loose metal 'foul throw' sheet set in front of the frame mark this out as the more northerly of the two Long Alley Skittles traditions.

A former Home Ales pub, the Bulls Head remains a solidly traditional village boozer, and a relatively early addition to the local council register of Assets of Community Value. This register serves to recognise facilities and services within a community that deserve special protection from inappropriate development. The kind of rapacious development that has done for so many rural and urban community pubs in recent years, often aided and abetted by the pub and brewing companies which own them but have little or no interest in their estate other than the bottom-line of property management.

The lease on the Bulls Head has been on the market for some time now, a community asset waiting for the right people (at a sensible price!) to take it forward and secure its future for the community it serves.

The skittle alley is a small but important part of what makes the Bulls Head a true community asset. A purpose built affair to the rear of the pub, not particularly pretty on the outside it's true, but tidy and functional within. Nottingham's long-closed Home Ales brewery certainly recognised the value that the local game brought to their beer and pub business, including Long Alleys in the design of many of their new-build pubs of the post-war years. The Home Ales estate effectively passed out of local ownership in the 80's following its purchase by Scottish & Newcastle. The Bulls Head is now in the hands of the mighty Heineken empire, whose commitment to community locals, and the local games which are such an important part of pubs like this, remains to be seen.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A Compendium of Pub Games Images - Pt. 24

The Tobacco trade of the post-war years had very strong connections with the licensed trade. Judging by the huge amount of tobacco and cigarette advertising which appears on items associated with the pub, a trip to the local seems to have been as much about smoking as it was drinking for many. The pub was certainly seen by the tobacco industry as the ideal place to push their brands to potential customers.

The various brands of Wills Tobacco seem to crop up more than most on the ephemera of the pub trade. A popular 'smoke' no doubt, but also very active advertisers of their wares. Cribbage Boards, Darts Scoreboards, Ash Trays, Match Strikers, Mirrors, and Domino sets like the one shown here, all carried advertising for their Capstan Full Strength, Woodbine"Star", and Pirate brands of cigarettes and rolling tobacco.

Even before the recent ban on smoking in public places, the paraphernalia of the tobacco trade had largely fallen out of favour with all but the most avid collectors. But some of these items are attractive (even useful) in their own right, particularly given the current vogue for all things 'vintage'. These early 20th century Bakelite Dominoes certainly fall into this category, redolent of an earlier, albeit more smoky age, and still eminently usable for a game of Fives & Threes down the pub. These Dominoes would have originally come in a similarly branded tin, and of course all manner of branded Cribbage Boards like the ones shown here would have been available for scoring a game, all designed to keep the Wills brand in the public eye.

Recently re-opened following a gap of over a hundred years, the Red Lion is a welcome addition to the beer scene of Evesham in Worcestershire. The Red Lion is located in the very centre of town, and has the look and feel of one of the larger micro-pubs. It's a quiet drinkers pub during the daytime, with most of the chat centred around the bar where beers from the local Cannon Royall Brewery and others provide much of the interest. Traditional games don't feature as prominently as they do in other Evesham pubs, but I did notice a good Shove Ha'penny tucked away at the rear of the bar. You'll have to bring your own coins for a game though, as there don't seem to be any available at the bar.

Collectors of Put & Take spinners are truly spoilt for choice, such is the vast array of different forms that this simple gambling game comes in. Brass, Bone, and Ivory examples are all reasonably common, though only brass ones seem to be manufactured now. Six or eight-sided, numbered or lettered in numerous different languages, and with many quirks and subtle variations adding to the seemingly endless variety. The example shown here is an 'Odds On' spinner, based on one of the pub-goers favourite sports, horse racing. It features the names of six famous winners, with a separate rotating section to generate the odds ('DISC' is for a disqualified horse).
The sheer quantity of these spinners which still exist suggests that they would have been found in the pockets of pretty-much everyone with a penchant for casual or career gambling at one time. They've now pretty-much disappeared from use, principally due to the lucrative trade in 'rigged' or 'loaded' Put & Take spinners which were advertised alongside the ordinary versions in certain specialist publications. A subtle difference in weighting, or a spinner that was slightly off-centre were all that was needed to shift the odds in favour of those in the know. Eventually, it got to the point where so many of these dodgy spinners were in circulation that confidence in the pukka items evaporated, and so Put & Take, and other similar games of chance, fell out of favour amongst gamblers. Licensed betting and gaming has now largely taken gambling out of the pub and into the bookies or casino, and it's doubtful you'd ever see a Put & Take or Odds On spinner in serious use now.

The bar-room game of Ringing The Bull is rarely seen these days, and even where a good example does exists, as here at the Duke of Wellington in Norwich, it's likely to be infrequently played.

The idea is to swing the tethered metal hoop, often a genuine old Bull Ring, in a wide arc so that it catches on the wall-mounted hook. It's a tricky feat, and perhaps the best opportunity to fully appreciate the skill involved is when the locals play, and makes it look easy as they invariably do.

The big problem with Ring The Bull as a pub game, and no doubt the reason so many have now disappeared, is the space it takes up in what may be a busy bar or dining space. I know of a few examples of Ring The Bull which now rarely get played, such is the demand for space in the smaller drinking and dining spaces which are a feature of the more traditional pubs where the game is still found. The Duke of Wellington was in the middle of an extensive refurbishment when I visited, but the pub has plenty of space within, and the future of this rare game seems assured.

A blackboard in the bar of backstreet local The Beehive in Norwich promises Darts, Crib, and Pool. The Pool Table is located upstairs, the thoroughly traditional public bar the ideal place for a game of Cards or Darts.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Kings Head, Norwich, Norfolk

Several English cities either lay claim to, or have been conferred with the status of 'Capital of Beer'. It's a subject that beer enthusiasts love to debate, often with strong views and partisan feeling directing the discussion. Derby, Sheffield, and York are certainly strong contenders, but it's perhaps Norwich that has the widest popular support, a claim enhanced by the pioneering and popular 'City of Ale' event which is now an annual fixture of the UK beer scene.

What perhaps gives Norwich the edge over other notable beery destinations is the sheer variety and number of excellent pubs within the city limits, albeit considerably down in numbers from the time when Norwich boasted 'A church for every week of the year and a pub for every day'. It's still possible to get an idea of just how many pubs Norwich would once have had by glancing down at the pavement as you preamble between those that remain. The site of many lost pubs has been recorded in bespoke paving slabs like the one shown here, a small but admirable record of Norwich's past.

The City of Ale website acts as a pretty good starting point for exploring the pubs and bars of Norwich, but don't attempt to visit them all in a day! Even a weekend would be a struggle, and besides, with pubs as good as the Kings Head which I've featured here, it would be wrong to rush the experience.

The Kings Head was probably my favourite of several pubs visited over the course of a long weekend recently. It's the kind of pub best appreciated over the course of a few hours, accompanied by a few pints of the excellent beers and cider available. That way you'll get the chance to settle in and allow yourself to be drawn into the ebb and flow of the place, the local chat, the essential pubbiness which is sadly lacking in so many pubs now.

The front bar (above) is wonderfully traditional, a quiet retreat from the bustle and commerce of Magdalen Street with its numerous antiques emporiums. A great place to read the papers, shuffle Dominoes, or simply perch on a bar stool and engage with the locals. The sun streams in through leaded and etched glass windows, illuminating a beer list fit for a long afternoon session. Of course afternoon drinking lends itself well to traditional pub games, and the Kings Head comes well equipped for play.

Norwich has become one of the minor hotbeds of Bar Billiards play in recent years, with a small but thriving league based around a half dozen pub venues in the city. The Norwich Bar Billiards League grew out of an informal inter-pub competition between two Norwich pubs less than ten years ago, one of which was the Kings Head. It's now expanded to ten teams playing over two leagues, with the Kings Head 'A' team the current Division 1 champions.

The Bar Billiards table is located in the larger back bar of the pub, and is a beautifully maintained and 'floodlit' four-pin table manufactured by Alfred Sams & Sons of Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. Note the holes for storing cues under the slate bed, a distinctive feature of these highly regarded tables.

A clue to the presence of a Shove Ha'penny at the pub is this small table, positioned hard up against a wall in the back bar, and with a line worn on the paintwork from the wear and tear of regular use. Hanging on the wall behind the bar counter is the board itself, a set of coins and chalk attached ready for play. It's not that unusual to see a Shove Ha'penny in a pub these days, but perhaps more surprising is that this board is still in fairly regular use by the locals.

Norwich's credentials as one of the finest cities for beer and pubs is well founded. The modern beer revival and craft beer scene is well established, but so too is the very best of traditional beer and pub culture, embodied in truly great pubs like the Kings Head.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Pitch Penny

George Green displays the now lost Pitch Penny bench in the bar of the Plough, Little Downham, Cambridgeshire. This image is reproduced with the kind permission of John Clarke of the Little Downham Community Archive
Traditional pub games are found throughout the British Isles. Some such as Darts, Dominoes, and Pool could rightly be considered to be national pastimes, albeit played to a bewildering array of different rules and conventions. Others, such as Aunt Sally, Pushpenny, and the numerous variations on the theme of Skittles are more regional, sometimes even local to a particular town or county. The more local a game is, the more interesting it is in many ways.  The bar-room staple of a Darts Board is unlikely to stir much interest from visitors to a pub, whereas a Sussex Toad in the Hole or a game of Aunt Sally in progress certainly would!

A region or local area which can justifiably claim to have its own unique pub gaming tradition, is something the locals should be proud of in my view. Yet so few pub-goers seem to be even aware of these unique regional specialities these days. Often the more unusual local games are kept out of sight, only really known to the locals, and sometimes taken for granted to a degree bordering on neglect. Rarity like this can certainly be interesting to the enthusiast like myself, but sadly it can often contribute to the decline, even the eventual death of a pub game.

The Pitch Penny Settle at the Coach & Horses, Tilney St Lawrence near Kings Lynn
The Eastern counties of England, and particularly those which make up the Anglian region, can lay claim to some truly rare and local pub games. Sadly this includes many which have either disappeared from pubs, such as the Suffolk version of Indoor Quoits, Norfolk Table Skittles, and Four Pin Skittles; or cling on as rare curiosities such as Caves, the Norfolk Twister, and the game featured in this blog post, Pitch Penny.

Pitch Penny is such a simple, home-spun game that it has never been 'manufactured' to my knowledge, and has the feel of a genuine rural curiosity. A farming pastime from an age when a visit to the pub was a much-needed release from the day-to-day agricultural labour. A real piece of rural social history in fact.

It's perhaps hard for us to understand how important the local pub would have been in the days before cars became affordable, and popular entertainment was beamed directly into our homes. In the relatively isolated rural locations of the Eastern counties, gaming at the pub would have been one of the few affordable social pleasures available to a man, a trip to the town or city largely restricted to market days and the pursuit of rural commerce. It's within this context that a game which simply involved tossing coins or other discs into a hole bored out of a bench or settle became popular, perhaps even common in village pubs throughout the Eastern counties.

The Pitch Penny game as it's usually found at the Coach & Horses
Very few of these old games survive now, but a good example can be found at the Coach & Horses, Tilney St Lawrence in Norfolk. The pub stands isolated on what would once have been a busy road into nearby Kings Lynn, a farmers bar and latter-day roadhouse largely bypassed by both now. The interior features a pair of very old high-backed settles which help give the otherwise modernised bar a cosy and genuinely historic feel. It's on the now cushion-covered seat of one of these settles that the rare Pitch Penny game can be found. The game is sadly not in use at the present time owing to a lack of suitable coins and the upholstery on the bench, but dare I say if you brought your own coins (see below), the licensee might be persuaded to bring it back into use during quieter times!

When stripped of its seat cushions, the Pitch Penny game is revealed in all its play-worn simplicity. A semi-circular hole at the rear of the seat surrounded by a battered protective layer of lead sheeting. The seat itself has been altered or repaired at some point, incorporating a separate piece of timber, presumably following many years of aerial bombardment from heavy coinage. Below is a rudimentary drawer to catch the 'holed' coins during a game, a feature of all Pitch Penny benches it seems.

The game itself was not usually played on a points scoring basis, rather the aim was to be the first to 'hole' all of their coins either as a singles or team game. Coins used seems to vary, but the old (and increasingly expensive to obtain) 18th/19th century 'Cartwheel' pennies were often favoured, indeed discs of a similar size are still used in Sussex for the 'pitching' game of Toad in the Hole. The weight and size of these coins are ideal for games like this, landing with a solid 'thunk' on the surrounding lead rather than pinging off and disappearing in the nooks and crannies of the bar.

The Jackson Stops Inn at Stretton in Rutland represents one of the most westerly examples of a surviving Pitch Penny bench, and has already featured on this blog. Located in the cosy snug adjacent to the fire, and known locally as Nurdles, the game is still in occasional use including for an annual 'World Championship'.

The Pitch Penny Bench at the Golden Cross, Clee Hill, Shropshire. A game far from its original home, but a must-have part of the licensees extensive collection of traditional pub games