Aunt Sally

Aunt Sally is played by players throwing batons at a wooden skittle known as a doll and goes back at least as far as the 17th Century. It may have been introduced by Royalist soldiers during the English Civil war when Charles set up court in Oxford. It is one of those pub games which is played only in a very confined locale and hardly at all outside of this area. In the case of Aunt Sally, the location is Oxfordshire and despite being restricted only to pubs in and around Oxford it is a very popular game indeed which is taken very seriously by regulars and for which there are a number of leagues of some longevity.

There are two 14th century manuscripts which show a game called club kayles (from the French "quilles" or skittles) which depict a skittles game in which one skittle is bigger, differently shaped, and in most cases positioned so as to be the most difficult to knock over. The throwers, in the pictures, are about to launch a long club-like object at the skittles underarm. Aunt Sally appears to be a development of skittles whereby this "Kingpin" became the sole interest of the game and the other skittles were dispensed with.

An alternative theory ascribes Aunt Sally as a development of a game which was essentially a humane version of a barbaric blood sport called "throwing at cocks". In this horrible pastime a cock was tied by one leg to a stake in the ground and the participants would then pay for a turn at throwing a "cok-steles" (small club) at the bird. Whoever killed the bird got to take it home for dinner. If the bird's leg was broken, the sad creature would be supported on sticks until the bitter end. Joseph Strutt noted in 1801 that humane versions of this had been seen as fairground amusements wherein the cock was replaced by a wooden replica and people paid a small sum to attempt to hit it. He thought that this had died out but this theory believes it persisted and became Aunt Sally.

In Aunt Sally, the single white stubby skittle, about 6 inches high and 2 and 3/4 inches in diameter, is called "dolly" and the round-ended projectiles, of which there are six, are 18 inches long, 2 inches in diameter and are called "sticks". The doll is positioned on top of a hollow rod (the "iron") driven into the earth so that the top is two and a half feet above the ground and the players throw the sticks at it from behind a line known as the "hockey" which is 10 yards from the iron. Each turn consists of six throws and a point is only counted as long as the stick hits the doll before the iron. Normal league play has two teams each consisting of eight players and three legs or "horses" are played. Each horse consists of each member of each team having one turn so that each team makes 48 throws. It is believed that the record for a horse stands at 40 so it can be seen that hitting the doll is quite tricky.

Where to buy

Masters Games has Aunt Sally equipment for sale.


The Chipping Norton League (submitted Edward Churchill, July 2000)

The Bell - Chipping Norton
The Bird in Hand - Newbold on Stour (2 teams)
Bishops Blaize - Burdrop
The Black Horse - Shipston-on-Stour
Chandler Arms - Epwell
The Cherrington Arms - Cherrington
The Churchill Arms - Paxford
The Coach and Horses - Shipston-on-Stour (2 teams)
The Farriers Arms - Todenham
The Fox Inn - Broadwell
The George Hotel - Brails
The Golden Ball - Lower Swell
The Horse and Groom - Oddington
Howard Arms - Illmington
The Oxford House - Chipping Norton
The Pear Tree - Hook Norton
The Plough - Kingham (2 teams)
The Red Lion - Little Compton
The Red Lion - Chipping Norton
The Tavern - Chipping Norton
The Wellington - Moreton-in-Marsh

Royal British Legion - Chipping Norton
Norman Knight - Whichford
Royal British Legion - Kingham

Abingdon and District


If you want to submit a pub to this list, please just email me:

The Albion Tavern (Hook Norton), 90 Burford Road, Chipping Norton
The Bell (Morland), 21 Standlake Road, Ducklington
The Black Horse, Gozzards Ford, Abingdon, Oxon, OX13 6JH, Tel. 01865 390530 (Submitted Jan 2001 by Russell Worsley)
The Carpenters Arms (Morrells), Jericho
The Carpenters Arms (Morrells), Newlands, Witney
The Chequers at Dorchester on Thames, Oxon (submitted May 2000 by Andrew Graham)
The Chequers Inn, Berrick Salome, Oxfordshire (submitted Jan 2000 by Geoff Williams)
The Chester Arms (Pubmaster), Chester Road, East Oxford
The Cricketers Arms, Littleworth
The Donnington Arms (Greene King), Howard Street, East Oxford
The Elephant and Castle (Free House), Bridge Street, Bampton
The Exeter Hall, Oxford Road, Cowley
The Fishes (Morrells), North Hinksey Village
The Five Bells, Witney
The Folly Bridge Inn (Wadworth), Abingdon Road, S. Oxford
The Fox (Morrells), Stanton Harcourt
The Fox and Hounds (Morrells), Abingdon Road, S. Oxford
The Fox, Great Barrington
The Friar (Arkells), Marston Road, Marston
The General Elliott (Morrells), South Hinksey
The Isis Tavern (Morrells), Iffley Lock
Joiner's Arms, Bloxham (submitted Feb 2000 by Ewa Opalinska)
The Jolly Postboys, Florence Park Road, Cowley
The Jubilee Inn (Wadworth), Market Square, Bampton
The Kite Inn (Morrells), Mill Street, New Osney
The Lamb, Filkins
The Lord Kitchener (Morrells), Curbridge
The Ox Inn (Morland), Vineyard, Abingdon
The Peyton Arms, Stoke Lyne, Oxon (submitted May 2000 by Andrew Graham)
The Plough Inn, Garsington, near Baldon, Oxfordshire
The Plough, Alvescot
The Plough (Courage), Long Wittenham
The Plough, Great Haseley (between Thame and Wallingford). (submitted November 2000 by Brian Smith)
The Queens Head, Eynsham, Oxfordshire (submitted Dec 2000, Ed Hollingshead)
The Red Lion, Faringdon
The Romany Inn (Free House), Bampton
The Nuffield Arms, Littlemore Road, Cowley
The Seven Stars, Baldon, Oxfordshire.
The Shelley Arms (Halls), Cricket Road, East Oxford
The Somerset (Banks's), Marston Road, Marston
The Strickland Arms (Free House), 11 Witney Road, Ducklington
The Swan (Free House), Acre End Street, Eynsham
The Three Horseshoes, Witney
The Vine Inn, 16 Abingdon Road, Cumnor
The Volunteer, Faringdon
The White Hart, Headinton, S. Oxford, Oxfordshire
The White Hart, Minster Lovell
The White Hart (Morland), Newland Street, Eynsham
The Woodstock Arms (Morrells), Summertown
The Red Lion (Hook Norton), Cattle Market, Chipping Norton


Cricketers Arms (Morrells), Temple Road, Cowley
Nelson (Mr Q's), Between Towns Road, Cowley

A large number of these pubs (mainly the ones with the brewery in brackets) are from the Pubs of Oxfordshire section on the website.of one Colin Batchelor of Oxford University - clearly a dedicated researcher.

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