1893 text

The game of shovelboard was played by two players (each provided with five coins) on a smooth heavy table. On the table were marked with chalk a series of lines, and the play was to strike the coin on the edge of the table with the hand so that it rested between these lines. Shakespeare uses the expression “shove-groat shilling,” as does Ben Jonson. These shillings were usually smooth and worn for the convenience of playing. Strutt says (“Sports and Pastimes”), “I have seen a shovel-board table at a low public house in Benjamin Street, near Clerkenwell Green, which is about three feet in breadth and thirty-nine feet two inches in length, and said to be the longest at this time in London.”

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

5 Annotations

George Tyler  •  Link

The game played with coins was known as shove ha'penny. Shuffle board was played with pucks that were propelled by sticks on on smooth floors and more recently on the decks of passenger ships.

Mary  •  Link

There is also the similar, Dutch game of sjoelbak

(pronounced roughly "shoolback)played with wooden pucks (1-inch thick wooden discs)on a long (about 2 metres) narrow board. The board has sides about 5 cm high to keep the pucks within bounds. One end (where the player stands) is open and the other is divided into 4 narrow alleys, each accessed by an opening cut in a 'bridge' that spans the whole width of the board. These openings are only slightly wider than the diameter of the discs. The object is to slide the pucks up the board into the alleys, each alley having a different value and score, from 1 point to 4 points. It's an excellent family game, as young and old can play together on more-or-less equal terms.

This game is also known in England, though not widely so.

Deborah Murphy  •  Link

Dutch Board Game

Jesse  •  Link

Today there's paper football 'in which a sheet of paper folded into a small triangle is slid back and forth across a table top by two opponents' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_football . I can recall playing it in the late sixties during school lunch breaks on the smooth plastic coated tables. I was surprised it was so easy to find on the Internet and apparently still popular in this day and age of portable electronic games &c.

Paul Dyson  •  Link

A variation (?English) used to be Matchbox Rugby, played with an empty matchbox, pushed or flicked along the table in an attempt to score a "try" (3 points when I played it) by bringing the box to rest in a narrow area at the opponent's end, whereupon an attempt was made to add a goal (2 pts) in the same way as described in Paper Football. Matches used to be so many minutes "each way", usually about enough to fit in a game or two during school break. Health and safety considerations, smoking bans etc have probably killed the game off.

Shoveha'penny could also take the form of a simple version of table soccer, using larger coins (halfpennies in old money) as players and a smaller one (a sixpence) as the ball, the object being to score in a small goal by taking turns to push the halfpenny with an implement such as a comb so that it propelled the "ball" at a suitable angle, on principles similar to pool or snooker. To the English small boy of the fifties/sixties this opened up many possibilities of team names, leagues, prizes and above all something to do in rainy lunchtimes.

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.


Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.




  • Apr