Table Skittles - History and Useful Information

Devil Amongst the Tailors Hood Skittles Devil Amongst the Tinkers Rules Pubs Where to buy

Table-top Skittles History

There is no mystery about the origin of the various games of table-top skittles shown on this page - they are miniaturised forms of the larger pub game of Alley Skittles or Nine Pins. For more information on the these origins including the history of Skittles and where to buy and play Alley Skittles, please see the Skittles page. Alley skittles itself splintered into a number of regional variations and, since a skittles alley takes up a large amount of valuable floor space in a pub, in some areas varieties that did not require alleys at all appeared. Most of these amounted to table-top, miniaturised versions of the alley game and several games of this type are still well-known and popular today.

Devil Amongst the Tailors

The most famous of table-top skittles games is indisputably the game known as Devil Amongst the Tailors or Bar Skittles or Table Skittles or Indoor Skittles.

JFRMTableSkittles2.jpg (35548 bytes)

This distinctive game appeared in the 1700s and was cleverly miniaturised so that no throwing strip was required at all - the nine pins standing on a square table were knocked down by a ball which was swung around a pole, instead.

Table Skittles

In 1783, some theatre-goers and tailors rioted at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket over a play that the tailors thought insulting. The Dragoons were called in to stop the riot which they did in such an enthusiastic way that their method was compared to the wooden ball ploughing through Table skittles by the local press. After this incident Bar Skittles was often referred to as 'Devil amongst the Tailors'.

Shown to the left is a modern commercial version of Table Skittles from Masters Games. To the right is a children's version of Table Skittles bought in the 1970's. Author's collection.

Hood Skittles

WHoodSkittles.jpg (31036 bytes)Hood Skittles is a miniaturised version of Old English Skittles (please see the Alley Skittles page for more information on this venerable game) in which cheeses are thrown at pins on a table about 8 feet away. It is extremely popular Northamptonshire and well known in Leicestershire, Bedfordshire and surrounding counties. Confusingly, in the East Midlands, the came is always referred to as Table Skittles while outside this area, it is not well known and Table Skittles tends to mean the smaller game described in the previous section.

The surrounding leather bound and cushioned sides of the table offer the option to bounce the cheese off them before hitting the pins thus obtaining angles not possible in other games while the hood prevents wayward cheeses and pins flying off into other parts of the pub. Most people who've played consider Hood Skittles to be one of the most enjoyable English pub games around so it would be well worth popping into a pub featuring the game if you ever have the chance.....

There are two varieties of the game. The more well-known Northants Skittles features stubby bomb shaped skittles while Leicester Skittles has taller pointy topped skittles with a kingpin. There are other minor differences in the size of pin position and cheese but ostensibly the games are pretty similar.

To the left is a modern Hood Skittles table made by a traditional games maker from Leicestershire. To the right are the tall pointy skittles and Lignum Vitae cheeses of Leicester Skittles with the kingpin clearly shown. Also shown is an example of Northants Skittles ready for play, courtesy of Paul Kirkby of the Shuckburgh Arms, Northamptonshire.

Daddlums is a game similar to Hood Skittles in which the cheese is normally thrown so that it lands near the front of the table and then slides forward until it strikes the skittles. The table is smaller than that of Hood Skittles, from which it is presumably derived and it is only known to be played in one pub in Kent.

Devil Amongst the Tinkers

A table-top game played with tops and skittles is popular in North America where it has apparently been handed down the generations for more than a century.

Little is known about the history of this game. However, although virtually unknown in England today, two source indicates that it was played in England in the latter half of the nineteenth century. One old game was apparently made in France in 1850 and it's English owner referred to it as "Devil amongst the Tinkers". In America the game is often simply called "Skittles" although one proponent calls it "Racketeer", a name probably invented by his father. Although it isn't known what the correct name is, "Skittles" is clearly both inaccurate and confusing. "Devil amongst the Tinkers" would fit very neatly as a sister game of Devil amongst the Tailors but more evidence needs to be found before any conclusions can be drawn.

If you know anything about the history of this game or have a picture of an old table, the author would be very grateful to hear from you.


Description and rules for Devil Amongst the Tailors, Hood Skittles and Daddlums are available for free from Masters Games

Where to Buy Table Skittles

You can buy a Table Skittles (Devil amongst the Tailors) game from Masters Games. Full size Skittles sets are also for sale.


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

Table Skittles

The Plough, Blundeston, Suffolk
The Potteries, Staffordshire
The Royal George, Birdlip, Gloucestershire
The Windged Spur, Ullenhall, Redditch, Worcestershire
The Man of Iron, Stapleford, Nottinghamshire
The Exeter Arms, Uppingham, Leicestershire
The King's Head, Navenby, Lincolnshire
The Crabtree, Raintree Road, London W6
The Bell, 661 Staines Road, Bedfont, Middlesex
The Star Inn, Ashton under hill, Evesham, Worcestershire 01386-811325 (submitted John Crowther, Feb 2000)
The Shuckburgh Arms, Stoke Doyle, Oundle, Northants (submitted Andy Keeling June 2000)

Hood Skittles

The Boat Inn, Stoke Bruerne
The Live and Let Live, Harpole, Northamptonshire
The White Horse, Wymington, Rushden, Northamptonshire
The Plough, Langford, Bedfordshire
The Ongley Arms, Eyeworth, Bedfordshire
The Swan, Newton Bromswold, Rushden, Northamptonshire
The Salutation, Blunham, Bedfordshire.
The Exeter Arms, Cardington, Bedfordshire.
The Plough, Felmersham, Bedfordshire
The Blue Bell, Easton on the Hill, Stamford, Lincolnshire.
The George Hotel, Weldon, Corby, Northamptonshire
The Bull's Head, Broughton Astley, Leicestershire
Ye Olde Plough, Bolnhurst, Bedfordshire
The White Horse, Lowick, Northamptonshire
The Prince of Wales, Upper Dean, Bedfordshire
The Manchester Arms, Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire
The New Inn, Sandy, Bedfordshire
The Talbot, Gretton, Rockingham, Northamptonshire.
The Staff of Life, Mowsley, near Rugby, Warwickshire.
The Shuckburgh Arms, Stoke Doyle, Oundle, Northants (submitted Andy Keeling June 2000)


The Vigo Inn, Fairseat, Sevenoaks, Kent
The Horeshoes Inn, Alby, near Erpingham, Norfolk

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