Friday, 5 April 2013

A Vintage Pushpenny Board

Pushing Pennies on a Saturday afternoon in the bar of The George, Ashley, Northamptonshire

The game of Pushpenny differs markedly from its more common sidekick Shove Ha'penny in that the boards used for play seem never to have been manufactured. This means that no two Pushpenny Boards will ever be quite the same, in fact they can vary considerably in design and the all important spacings and measurements. The Pushpenny shown here is one of the oldest I've come across, and despite being purchased in Stamford, Lincolnshire, it differs in several respects to the boards currently in use in the local Stamford League.

The most obvious difference is the overall size. This is a large piece of Mahogany even by the standards of the Stamford league where boards are commonly longer than a standard Shove Ha'penny. The run-in is deeper than usual, the playing surface that little bit wider, and perhaps most important of all, the bed depth is significantly shallower than a Stamford board. This all adds up to a particularly difficult board to play, particularly as the surface has been polished to an exceptionally smooth finish, requiring the lightest of touch to avoid overshooting the board.

The original varnish/lacquer which would have originally covered this piece of Mahogany can clearly be seen in this image, and is a good indication that this piece of wood had a very different life before being recycled as a pub game. Only the playing surface and semi-circular end zone has been stripped and polished back to the bare wood. Also of note is the smaller semi-circle above the ninth bed, presumably a scoring option but one which I've yet to find rules for. On this board I've decided to use this additional 'bed', which is quite difficult to score in, as a kind of Joker. Landing a penny in the semi-circle gives the player the opportunity to score once in any bed of their choice.

The three holes shown here are repeated at the other end of the left-hand edge, and may well have been where a pair of hinges were originally located. Perhaps this piece of Mahogany was originally a cupboard door or desk top. Perhaps a cabinet maker may have a better idea. Whether the end piece of wood was contemporary with this is hard to tell. It has been very firmly jointed to the board with tongue-and-groove, and there are useful indentations for pennies and chalk on either side.

The chalk scoring areas are very unusual, being made from strips of inlaid slate screwed onto the surface. This is a feature I've only very rarely seen, and marks this out as being quite a highly crafted board, certainly on a different level to the usual manufactured or home-made pub boards.

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