History of skittles

The following extract was printed in The City of Hereford Guide for 1969. It was in circulation with some teams about two years ago and I thought it deserved to be more widely read. We hope to add to it in the near future with a summary of the last forty years. Of course I am too young(!) to be able to write it myself so we have asked a 'volunteer'!

"Such is the interest in 'pub games' in Hereford that a full programme of inter-pub and club competitions continues each year in the traditional games of darts, dominoes, quoits, cards (Phat and Cribbage) etc. One of the most popular games to be played is skittles – the nine-pin variety and as it is not nationally popular as say darts, it deserves a section to itself.

Organised skittles as an indoor sport has been played continuously since 1902 when the Hereford Times presented a trophy for competition to the Hereford Skittle League. Prior to that there is plenty of evidence that skittles, then known as 'bowls' was well patronised. An old notice board found in 1955 exhorted patrons to pay for games before leaving the saloon – the winner to pay the marker one halfpenny per game. Bowlers had to give way after three games if others were waiting or to add to their numbers. If ten or more persons were waiting only singles were allowed to be played, and a single game consisted of three bowls, ties being decided by one bowl each. Tossing was not allowed neither was betting, and participants were requested not to use foul language, but to conduct themselves in a gentlemanly manner.

Nowadays 42 alleys in 39 pubs and clubs provide the venues for games in which 96 men's teams and 26 ladies' teams – a total of some 1,500 players – compete in their respective leagues. Indeed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings throughout the winter will witness games being played, Friday being the principle night when all alleys are engaged.

Besides the League competitions there are front-pin and league knock-out cup competitions as well as singles and pairs championships. Representative games are played by the Men's League with Worcester and Gloucester forming the Three Cities Association, and further games are played against Stroud, Cheltenham and Nailsworth in the West Midlands Front Pin League.

During the summer interest continues in a league involving some 80 teams of reduced strength.

In 1962 the Hereford Times again showed keen interest in the Men’s League by donating a Charity Challenge Cup to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the League, since when nearly £1,000 has been raised for local charities."