A History of Pub Games + Make your own Miniature Dolls House Table Quoits

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26 August 2013
imports_HAC_miniaturebilliardtable_61497.jpg Miniature Billiard table by Mick Roper
Jane Harrop looks at the fascinating world of pub games with full instructions to make your own Table Quoits ...
A History of Pub Games + Make your own Miniature Dolls House Table Quoits Images
The first public houses (pubs) were taverns selling locally brewed alcohol and food during the time of the Romans and it is thought they offered games to patrons, like draughts. As we have seen from the earlier articles in this series, the origins of games date back even further to ancient times.

Pubs are historically the focal point of many small communities and whilst many games are not specifically pub games, their association and longevity in providing sociable and recreational activities has ensured their close connection. Pub games/sports are now considered a traditional pastime involving local competitions and national leagues. 

There are literally hundreds of pub games, many very similar, but with regional variations. Gambling is closely connected, in particular board and card games. I’ve taken a selection of the most well know and popular pub games to examine in a bit more in-depth.


Dominoes have to be one of the most well known pub games. The first tile games date back to early civilization and were carved out of stone, as well as more exotic materials like ivory and ebony. The game of dominoes, most probably a descendant of dice, is thought to have been invented in China during the twelfth century when tiles were carved out of bone. There is some debate as to whether the European game which evolved during the early eighteenth century was independently created or originated from the Chinese version. ‘Domino’ is the French word for a priest’s winter hood which was black on the outside and white on the inside, hence the black and white tiles.


Darts is one of the most popular pub games and records show that men and boys in Ancient Egypt threw darts at blocks of wood. The ends of tree trunks were also targets, with the tree rings creating divisions for scoring. It is assumed that as the wood dried out cracks developed, creating segments which provided the forerunner of the dartboard. Early dart boards in pubs were made from elm or poplar wood and were susceptible to drying out and cracking and therefore had to be soaked overnight by landlords. Clay has also been used for dartboards, but the most successful and hard wearing dartboards were made during the 1930s when compressed bundles of sisal fibres created more or less self-healing boards.

Devil among the tailors

Whilst we are on the letter D, a mention must be given to ‘Devil among the tailors’, a table top skittles game, with the aim of knocking down skittles using a ball attached to a chain and swinging it around the post. In 1783 a group of tailors rioted after a production at the Theatre Royal in Haymarket, London, because they thought the play had insulted their profession. Soldiers intervened and reportedly brought the riot under control by using a technique like a ball crashing through a group of skittles. Full instructions for making this game are shown in my Toys and Games book.


The origin of the game of skittles is closely associated with the game of lawn bowls. It has many variations including nine pins which began in medieval Germany where it was particularly popular. My version of this game is simply made from stained 16mm wooden single columns, available from Cornwall model boats (www.cornwallmodelboats.co.uk). The ball has been made from a 6mm diameter unstained wooden bead which has had its hole filled with a cocktail stick and has then been sanded and stained. Many pub games are indoor, a but another well known pub skittle game which is played outdoors is ‘Aunt Sally’ with the simple aim of knocking off a wooden aunt sally doll off a post by throwing wooden sticks at it without hitting the post.


Quoits is a pub game played outdoors during the summer and inside in the winter. Most historians link the games origins to throwing horseshoes at a pin in the ground, however, as we have seen with nearly all the games we have looked at so far, its origins probably date back before horseshoes were even made. Make a tabletop version of the game from the following instructions. If you don’t want to make the game from scratch it is available in kit form from my website, www.janeharrop.co.uk

Shove ha’penny

Another popular indoor table top pub game is shove ha’penny, traditionally played with half penny coins. The aim of the game is to land a ha’penny coin between two horizontal lines. The lines are grooved to allow a straight edge to be run through it and if it touches a coin it isn’t within the winning bed.  The blackboard on each side allows players and teams to record their points. The game descended from shoffe-grote, played during the fifteenth century with Edward IV groat coins.

Cue and ball games

This billiard table was made by our editor Lucie's dad, Mick Roper

Before we finish we have to mention cue and ball games. Traditionally billiards, bar billiards, snooker and pool have been played in pubs for decades. Billiards appears to be the forerunner of this type of game and was originally closely associated with croquet and played on a lawn during the fourteenth century. A century later a table top version was invented and green fabric was used to represent grass and holes were cut out of the table top. There have been many variations of the game since, one of which evolved in India in 1875 by British Army officers adding coloured balls to their billiard table. During one such game, it is believed that Sir Neville Chamberlain called his opponent a ‘snooker’ when he failed to pot the ball, providing us with the worldwide professional game we know today.


You will need:
From 1/16” (1.5mm) thick white wood
• 1-1/2” x 1-1/2” (38mm x 38mm) for base
• Two 1-5/8” x 1/8” (41mm x 3mm) for long frame
• Two 1-1/2” x 1/8” (38mm x 3mm) for short frame

• Red, green, black and white thick paper
• 3/8” (10mm) length of 1/16” (1.5mm) dowel for post
• Wood stain
• Tacky glue

Step 1

  • Take the red paper and accurately cut out two 1-1/2” x 1-1/2” (38mm x 38mm) squares.
  • Repeat the procedure and cut out one green square.
  • Take one of the red squares and find the centre by marking as shown.
  • Pierce or drill a small hole through the centre.
  • Repeat the procedure with the base wood piece and set aside.

Step 2

  • Take the remaining red square, find the centre point as before, and then use a compass cutter to cut out and remove a 1-3/8” (35mm) central hole.
  • Work on a self-healing cutting mat to keep the paper more secure as it is cut.

Step 3

  • Repeat the procedure with the green square, this time cutting out and removing an 11/16” (17mm) central hole.

Step 4

  • Stain the wooden pieces and leave to dry.
  • Starting with the full red square, layer and secure the paper pieces together as shown, with the pencil lines facing downwards, on top of the base piece.

Step 5

  • Stand the short frames on their narrow edge and glue against opposite side edges of the base piece.
  • Repeat the procedure with the long frame pieces.
  • Insert and glue the dowel post into the centre of the board, enlarging the hole if necessary with a small drill.

Step 6

  • Securely glue the white paper to the black paper and once dry, cut out 11/32” (9mm) circles with a 1/4" (6mm) central hole following previous instructions.
  • The game requires four discs; they must land white side up to score!

© Jane Harrop 2013

This feature was originally published in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine. If you like making miniatures, why not buy yourself a copy of the magazine. Or better still take out a subscription so you never miss an issue. For fans of Facebook and Twitter, or to email, print or comment on the feature, please use the buttons above to share with your friends.

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