Pub-goer Prince Charles is new darts champion

By Caroline Davies


Prince Charles wants to save this traditional British pub game that started in England in the Medieval times when soldiers fired arrows at the bottom of wine barrels. The pilgrims, travelling from England, popularised the game in America and then the British Empire spread it around the world. Henry VIII also loved the game.

The Prince of Wales yesterday threw his support behind the Save Our Darts campaign highlighted by The Daily Telegraph to prevent the demise of the game.

The Prince of Wales doing his best to keep the darts tradition in pubs going.

Waving a set of darts, he told publicans at a reception at Clarence House: "I'm doing my best to keep the darts tradition going."

His comments follow a survey revealing that the game is under threat from the rise of the gastropub, where leather sofas are more likely than darts areas.

Prince Charles was celebrating his Pub is the Hub campaign set up five years ago to encourage initiatives to save the rural pub.

At least three rural pubs a week were disappearing, and in urban areas that figure was as high as 10, he said. Some, he added, were reinventing themselves as "gastropubs - whatever that is - and which I have only just discovered seem to be threatening the future of pub darts".

"It's a rather a worry," he added, brandishing his darts before his 200-strong audience. "I was given these the other day. And I have to say I'm getting rather good at darts," he joked. "Except my younger son is a great deal better. I'll leave you to guess why."

The Pub is the Hub initiative aims is to keep villages thriving by using pubs for the "co-location" of other threatened services - for example post offices. In other cases the initiative has helped villagers band together to buy their local.

One example is the Church House Inn in Bollington, Cheshire, where a dozen regulars stumped up 5,000 each to take on the lease. It has diversified to such an extent that the local vicar holds services there on main feast days.

Prince Charles, it seems, has tried his hand at darts before.

"He joined our darts team, albeit just for one game," said Bryan Pearson, one of several regulars who saved the Dyke's End pub in the Cambridgeshire village of Reach.

The prince, meanwhile, pledged to keep his hand in. "I promise to visit some more of your premises in the future," he told the landlords, "thus allowing me to have a go on some of your dartboards".



Darts began in Medieval England. Historians surmise, because they don't know for certain, that those teaching archery shortening some arrows and having their students throw them at the bottom of an empty wine barrel.

The fact that the bottom of an empty wine barrel was used is a clue to how the game developed into a pastime. It is thought that the soldiers took their shortened arrows with them to the local drinking establishment to both exhibit their skill and have fun at the same time. When the bottoms of wine barrels proved to be inconvenient or in short supply, some inventive dart thrower brought in a cross-section of a moderate sized tree.

The "board" provided rings, and when it dried out, the cracks provided further segmentation. This cracked and dried board began to evolve into what we think of as the current dart board.

A game as fun as darts could not be hidden from the upper classes and they soon put their own stamp on the game. The oft married Henry VIII was reputed to enjoy the game immensely. So much so, that he was given a beautifully ornate set by Anne Boleyn.

Like much of American History, the roots of darts in America can be traced to the Pilgrims. These hardy colonizers were reputed to have played the game on the Mayflower as it made its ocean crossing. It was then played avidly in America whenever leisure time was available.

However, darts remained largely an Anglo-American sport until the Victorian age when it was spread world-wide by the great expansion of the British Empire. It seems that the "sun never set on the British Empire". At the same time, there was never a time when a dart was not in the air. Many native populations were exposed to the game and found enjoyment in it.

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