Skittles (sport)

From Academic Kids

Skittles is a centuries old European target sport, from which Ten-pin bowling in the United States, and Five-pin bowling in Canada are descended.


In the United Kingdom

Skittles remains very popular in the pubs of England and Wales, though it tends to be found in particular regions, not nation-wide. It is perhaps most common in the south west counties of Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire.

Skittles takes place in a long narrow building known as a skittle alley, that contains a single set of nine skittle pins.

The pitch, like the pins and the rules, varies according to region, but is between 21 feet (6.4 m) and 36 feet (11 m) long to the front pin.

The balls are traditionally made of hardwood, often lignum vitae, though rubber balls may sometimes be found. They are between 4 inches (100 mm) and 6 inches (150 mm) in diameter, and have no finger holes. The player usually has a choice of sizes. A sloping wooden ramp along the side of the alley is often used to return them to the players.

Pins are vertical lengths of wood - traditionally from the wood of a cider apple tree in the west country, or sometimes synthetic materials. They are between 6 inches (150 mm) and 16 inches (400 mm) high, weigh up to 3 kg, with height, shape and weight all varying by region. The central pin (or sometimes the front pin) may be larger or differently shaped in some games. The pins are always arranged in a diamond pattern:

                                 *   *
                               *   *   *  
                                 *   *

Usually three balls are thrown, and any pins that have been knocked down but that remain on the pitch are removed between throws. If all the pins are knocked down, they are put back - by a person known in some regions as a stickerup - so the maximum score is 27 (3 x 9) - though again this varies.

Generally the ball is thrown to roll along the floor, but in some regions it is bowled rather like in cricket, either with or without a bounce - though with an under-arm swing action. Each player may have up to 12 turns (or hands) during a match.

Midlands variation

In the Midlands, a cheese - an oval ended log - is thrown through the air instead of using a ball.

Table skittles

A table-top version of the game also exists, in which a ball about the size of a golf ball is used, attached by a chain to a vertical pole, allowing it to be swung through the air in an eliptical manner to strike the pins.

London skittles

A skittles game using nine pins (made of hornbeam) and a "cheese" (made of lignum vitae). The disc-shaped cheese is thrown at the pins using a swinging motion whilst stepping forwards. After an initial throw, the remaining pins (a "broken frame") may end up in a variety of formations - each of which has a distinctive (and usually London-based) name, such as a London Bridge or a Portsmouth Road. Knocking down all the pins at once is known as a floorer and is highly respected. A player who manages to throw three floorers in succession is lauded.

Whilst it was once a popular game played in pubs all over London (generally sited by the river), it is now only played at two venues: one in Hampstead and one in Norbury. The origins of this skittles game are vague, but it is thought by some to have been started by Dutch sailors, possibly playing on the decks of moored barges.

See also

External links

London Skittles club in Hampstead. Site features videos of the game being played (


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