The Old Shove Halfpenny Board

Years ago I didn’t know that most pubs kept a “shove halfpenny board” but when I was ten I had no idea what it was all about. So it was somewhat of a surprise when, one evening, Dad came home with a board tucked under his arm. I guess he must have picked it up from one of the Bric-a-brack shops in Upper Street. We three boys thought it was probably some sort of decadent gambling apparatus and were very keen to know what it was really. Of course we had all enjoyed the occasional card games as a family, but this board promised a further pleasures. After tea that night the board was placed on our front room table and Dad produced a tin of talcum powder from one jacket pocket and five halfpenny pieces. They had clearly been smoothed on one side of each coin against a sheet of “emery paper”. He also produced as well a stick of French chalk, which I had never ever seen before.

The board made of straight grained wood had clearly been planed smooth with some craftsmanship. Dad explained that this was a game for two people taking turns alternatively, trying to project a halfpenny from the four inch palm board. Each of the halfpennies were supposed to hang just over the edge of the palm board. So with the heel of our palms we projected the halfpenny towards any one of the nine segmented horizontal win zone areas. The halfpenny had to be clearly within the score zone, between the nine sections, not touching or going either over the furthest line or touching the line below the win zone.


The board itself was about two foot long by about just over a food wide and apart from the palm board area and the nine win zones, there was a dead zone where coins projected beyond the ninth horizontal were deemed as lost to that player for that attempt. The dead zone was in the shape of a semi-circle with a metal guard to stop any coins from flying off the board altogether.

My two older brothers persuaded Dad that they should play first and Dad agreed provided that whoever won the first game, by getting one halfpenny into each of the winning zones, the winner would play me. He went on to say they either he or Mum would act as the referee and Peter’s initial was put on one side of the board and Coli’s on the other side; if they said a coin had been placed absolutely correctly in any of the winning zones then one chalk mark would be placed under the initial of whoever made the winning push with any coin.

After many months we all became proficient at placing the coins in or near the win zones but with an extra amount of skill it was in the rules that if a coin was near to a win like a shot in billiards you could cannon the near coin with another of yours and so with a gently nudge you could push your near shot from a nearly won to a certain win, if you played the shot correctly.

I never knew what ever happened to that old board that gave us so much pleasurer, but the other day Jan was chatting in the office and she was saying how much fun she had had as a girl playing on the shove-halfpenny board that her Dad had made. Just a couple of days later one of our residents (who deals in antiques and other curios) came across such a board and bought it for us. It was only £28.00.


A Shove Halfpenny Board


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