A few things you (probably) didn’t know about the sport of darts
The King and Queen had played a game of darts in the Slough Community Centre in 1937 and caused a sensation. It made front-page news on Britain’s national daily papers and the country was darts-struck.
Women especially enquired about how they could play this ‘royal’ game and the darts craze led to darts saloons appearing in the capital and even invitations to ‘Darts and Dancing’ in Mayfair were not unknown.
The country, albeit momentarily, was engulfed in this new fad. Dartboard and dart manufacturers could hardly keep up with demand. Darts was being played simply everywhere – or so it seemed.
The truth was that darts wasn’t being played everywhere. In fact in two major cities and one major town the game of darts was banned.
The town of Huddersfield had banned darts years before under some obscure Public Health Act which gave absolute power in matters relating to games on licensed premises to the local justices.
Some publicans managed to avoid the ban by installing dart games which involved throwing darts with rubber suckers on the end, but somehow, and not surprisingly perhaps, it just wasn’t the same and didn’t really catch on.
The licensing justices of Liverpool and Glasgow imposed a ban on darts and other pub games a few months before the game’s popularity was boosted by the ‘royal’ match. Their reasoning was quite clear. Despite the levels of drunkenness falling all across the nation since the end of the Great War, the level remained very high in these two cities.
The Burgh Licensing Court in Glasgow in 1939 decided to ban ‘all kinds of games’ on the grounds that they encouraged drunkenness or more especially what they termed ‘ne’er do wellism’.
The Glasgow and District Licensed Trade Defence Association appealed and within a few months the ban was lifted for some games, dominoes included, but not darts.
The Liverpool justices were just as strict as those over the border and protestations reached as far as the House of Commons. A. P. Herbert, MP defended darts’ case in Parliament, but even he, an avid supporter of pub games and a keen skittle player, was not able to convince the Home Secretary that the ban should be lifted.
The ‘craze’ for darts was ended by Adolf Hitler and the game would have to wait another thirty-five years or more before the profile was raised as high – or even higher.
The ban on darts in both Liverpool and Glasgow stayed in place until after the end of the Second World War. However, by 1949, the city of Liverpool had become a ‘hot bed of darts’ and in the early 1950s Glasgow hosted the first ever darts championship of Scotland.
© 2007 Patrick Chaplin
The ban on darts in Huddersfield was lifted early in the 1940s. For more information about darts in that town today click here.