English Boys' Clothes: Activities--Games


Figure 1.-- One game not played in other countries was the annual conker fights each Fall. Notice how one boy holds his conquer still while the other boy prepares to give it a good whack. This seems to have been a uniquely British game. Each boy developed his own system for hardening the shell of his conker and kept careful count of the number of victories. This photograph looks to have been taken in the early 1950s.

British boys played many of the same games European and American boys played. A wide variety of popular games were played by children throughout Europe with minor differences. Games like tag, hide-and-go seek, thre-blind-mice, and many more were played throughout Europe. There were many rhyming games. The rhymes might be different, but the games were often the same. There were also some destinctive loval or regional games. One game not played in other countries was the annual conker fights each Fall. This seems to have been a uniquely British game. School boys devery Fall would ready their new conkers. Many activities were temporary fads, but some like yoyos occassional reaapear. Racing toy cars like the boys here, probanbly in the late 1930s was popular at this school. Modern boys like eadio controlled cars. Many games were more popular with boys than girls or visa versa. Often the younger boys played the games popular with the girls.

Specific Games

British boys played many of the same games European and American boys played. A wide variety of popular games were played by children throughout Europe with minor differences. Games like tag, hide-and-go seek, threr-blind-mice, and many more were played throughout Europe. There were many rhyming games. There were also some destinctive local or regional games.

Conkers

A annual ritual streaching centuries are the Fall conker fights. This seems to have been a uniquely British game. School boys devery Fall would ready their new conkers. This appears to be a game not played in other countries. It does appear to have been carried to some former British colonies. A HBC reader from Australia tells us that remembers conker fights as a boy. Conkers were always popular in the autumn and everybody would have their own secret recipe for making theirs harder and more impervious to shattering.

Electronic games

First appearing in the 1980s, electronic games have become a passion with many boys. They appear to be less popular with girls.

Play acting action games

English kids played all kinds of play acting action games. Interestingly, the themes sound destinctly American. I think a lot of this was driven by the movies and now TV--especially Hollywood films. Red Indians and cowboys were even popular in Germand before, during, and after the War. An English reader tells me, "We played a lot of these action games. They included bandits, cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, and war. We played them all. Boys still do. If you got shot (or possibly tommahawked, then you had to pretend to be dead. You could not come alive again unless you were touched by a team member. We called this a tig. It was FBI after we saw the James Stewart film 'The FBI story'. You'll be pleased to know that as a kid we reenacted the Battle of the Little Big Horn in a part of town called the Yellow Hills. Afraid Custer lost the battle. Those were the days." Notice there was nothing like Vikings, King Artur and the Round Table, or Saxons and Normans. At least on English reafer tells me that some biys did play knights. "We did have knight combat play. We had games about Knights. This was after school lessons about medieval England. Made more gloeious after watching Knights of the Round Table. The eldest and wisest member of the group would be King Arthur. First we young page boys had to be knighted.This involved lots of sword play. We made shields and swords out of wood. Swords were also bought from toyshops but soon broke in combat. If we had no swords we made them from plant stalks or found long pieces of wood. We fought all day and defended the realm from invaders and userpers. There was Robin Hood that was a continuation be could fight to defend Maid Marian's honour and battle the rich to give to the poor. In the evening we went home for the knights banquet of chips and fried egg and custard pie and orange juice and a cup of tea. Then bed to dream of more glorious battles to right the wrongs, fight dragons ( This was an angry guard dog called 'Scotty'and rescue fair maidens ( the fair Bettyill )."

Marbles

We know that shooting marbles was popular in England, but we have few details at this time. We do not know when marbles first became popular. We suspct that there were some social class conventions. In all the public school (meaning exclclusive private school) stories we have read, we have bot noted marbles being played. We do know that the world's long running reguar marble matches are held in England. Interestingly, marbles appear to have been used to help sell boys clothing. A HBC reader reports, "I found a clear glass marble approximately 1.25 inches in diameter. A metalic tab in the center reads as following: 'Samuel Brothers 50 Ludgate hill London boys suits size 16-45 Pattent'. If you could give me an idea of its age it would appreciated." Hopefully some HBC readers will be able to date this marble and advertising appraoch. HBC would guess the early 20th century, but we do not have any information to confirm this.

Rhyming games

There were many rhyming games. The rhymes might be different, but the games were often the same.

Sports

No country is more important to the development of modern sports than England. Many sports have English origins (rugby footbal, soccer, cricket, and hockey). These sports were spread around the world because of the importance of the British Empire so that now England often looses international competitions to its former colonies. Ctricket is very popular in South Asia and the Caribbean, Rugby is very popular in Ne Zealand and Fiji. American has developed some important sports, some based on English influences (baseball and football) and others entirely unique (basketball). As boys got older sports became increasingly important. And here the most important sport was football. Cricket was a distant second. I think games were earlier more important with boysz. Perhaps because of the media, sports have become important for younger boys as well.

Tag

Tah was a prenial favorite at school and home. We note that some American schools are banning tag. I'm not sure if that is the case in England An English reader writes, "We had far less play equipment at break times than children have available today. At primary games like hop scotch or circle games would be played but tag and stuck in the mud were more usual."

Fads

Many activities were temporary fads, but some like yoyos occassional reaapear. Racing toy cars like the boys here, probanbly in the late 1930s was popular at this school. Modern boys like radio controlled cars. But this appears to be more a toy than a game.

Age

Games such as tag and hide and seek were favourites up to quite an 'old' age. An English reader writes, "I don't think we had quite the sae concept of street cred or having to appear cool. British Bulldog was a favoured game if we could play it without one of the softer teachers stopping us. It can get rather rough, especially when played with large numbers and on concrete. The idea is for one person to be "on"; when they shout British Bulldog everyone else lined up at one end of the playground has to run past them to the other end without being grounded (backside on the floor). Anyone caught joins the middle until there is only one person left to face the gauntlet. Brilliant fun even if it did leave you with cuts, grazes, bruises and sometimes torn uniform (which would lead to a painful backside if you were unluky!)."

Gender

Many games were more popular with boys than girls or visa versa. Often the younger boys played the games popular with the girls.

Play Streets

England omce had what were called play streets. We have a photoigraph of Cleminsion Street in Salford during 1928. This is an example of aplay street that weree established in msny English cities at the time. The photo shows lots of children playing there. They are clearl enjoying themselves. Some children are in a group playing hop scotch; others are likely to be skipping. Other children are riding bikes and tricycles. A group of boys are having fun taking it in turns to ride a peddle care. I expect the young boy in thee driving seat is having most turns. He is likely to be the owner of this magnificent toy. And they are all playing quite safely. What is striking about the picture is that the children look so happy. The boy on the right is grinning like a Cheshire cat. They are playing happily in the street. They do not fear the arrival of motor cars. In fact there are none in the street. The children are unlikely to meet with a traffic accident on this particular summers evening or any other evening for that matter.







HBC






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Created: November 19, 2003
Last updated: 11:13 PM 5/25/2013