Book Review - Played at the pub - The pub games of Britain by Arthur R Taylor

Played at the PubPlayed at the pub - The pub games of Britain by Arthur R Taylor

PHS member Arthur R Taylor has been researching pub games for nearly forty years and has recently published his ultimate work on the subject Played at the Pub – The pub games of Britain.

Arthur’s first excursion into pub games publishing was Pub Games (St. Albans: Mayflower Books) in 1976. Sixteen years later ‘son of Pub Games’ was published in the form of The Guinness Book of Traditional Pub Games (Enfield: Guinness Publishing, 1992), a massively expanded and extended version of his earlier book with much more information and many more illustrations and photographs. But Played at the Pub, quite honestly, kicks both of them into a cocked hat.

Over the years Arthur has travelled the land (and other lands too) researching, playing games and expanding his knowledge. After four decades of research into hundreds of pub pastimes he now takes us all on his marvellous journey of discovery.

His subjects range from the immensely popular pandemic game of darts through skittles and quoits, ring games, bowling games, games where you shove something, games where you push something else, games involving throwing, cobbing (that’s clog cobbing of course), spinning and twisting and ends up with the modern craze for pub quizzes and the most recent ‘traditional’ game of dwile flonking.  (I had no idea how many different types of skittle games there were/are and Arthur doesn’t think he’s found them all yet.) 

There is a very poignant chapter titled ‘Lost games’ where Arthur bemoans the loss of once popular pub pastimes including ‘Knur and Spell’, ‘Nipsy’, ‘Peggy’ and ‘Lawn Billiards’. How I would love some PHS members to write and inform Arthur that these games are not lost, not ‘merely resting’ but still being played in some out of the way public houses just waiting to be rediscovered. Talking of lost (or nearly lost) ironically, the book launch for Played at the Pub was held in August at the Freemason’s Arms, Hampstead in the last surviving skittle alley in the capital (see photo).

Played at the Pub is a unique work. In it Arthur has preserved for posterity details of numerous games that have now disappeared from pub bars and back yards and rigorously researched many others (still played) so that their true origins (and how to play them) are permanently recorded. Without Arthur’s research much of the information would undoubtedly have been lost. This book, which is lavishly illustrated, is clearly a labour of love but it is also the definitive work on British pub games.

And, by the way, when I wrote ‘ultimate’ earlier in this review I could well be wrong. I understand that Arthur’s research continues apace and that he is currently working on a new book in which he majors on skittles.   Perhaps this is the start of a whole new series!

My recommendation then is...


Played at the Pub – The pub games of Britain is published by English Heritage (as part of its Played in Britain series, edited by Simon Inglis). It costs £14.99 and is available from all good bookshops and via


  • Diary Dates

    What we're doing and when we're doing it. You might even find a date or two for your diary from other like-minded groups. More details can be found by following the link below.

    Continue Reading »

  • Mail List

    Not sure if you want to be a full member yet? Why not sign up for our occasional newsletter, no obligation, no pressure! More details can be found by following the link below.

    Continue Reading »

  • Membership

    Becoming a member of the Pub History Society is a great idea. You'll have access to all of our back issues of our newsletter and even a downloadable bibliography should you need it. More details can be found by following the link below.

    Continue Reading »