Latest from Peter Berthoud

Skits: Produced c 1884 by Jaques & Son, 102 Hatton Garden, London

25-February-2022 15:03
in Games
by Peter Berthoud

A beautiful antique card game by one of my favourite London Makers, Jaques & Sons, London. 

BOX - “Skits: A Game of the Shires”

Each of the forty old counties of England  has two cards, the first has an outline shape of an historic county and is numbered; this number corresponds to the map of England on the front of the box. The second card has a  caricature picture drawn within that county’s outline, accompanied by a limerick or other humorous rhyme concerning its inhabitants.

CARDS - Westmorland

The aim of the game is to play all one’s cards along a route from Cumbria (1) to Cornwall (40) in either direction. I have put the full rules below. The rules also have a note about the scale used.

Here are the cards for the counties that surround, have been subsumed by or nibbled at by present day London.

CARDS - Hertfordshire

32 Hertfordshire

Good people of Hertford take care,
Don’t visit the shows at your fair;
There Medusa is shown,
And she’ll turn you to stone,
If once in your face she can stare.

CARDS - Essex

31 Essex

An Essex tar fell in the fight;
In death he grasped his colours tight.
Though torn they be with shot and shell,
We’ll keep them still, and guard them well.

CARDS - Kent

34 Kent

Said this jolly old sailor of Dover,
“In this boat with my pipe I’m in clover;
While my puffs to the lee
Curl away o’er the sea.
I dream of fierce battles now over.”

CARDS - Surrey

30 Surrey

Cried a parent of Guildford “we’ll try
A game with this ark;” “But oh my!
If the animals wild
Should escape” said his child,
“They’d eat a small boy such as I.”

CARDS - Berkshire

26 Berkshire

The famous old woman who lived in a shoe.
Is now tranquil in Berks, for she’s nothing to do.
Her troublesome children have left her alone,
And in London they’ve all set up shoes of their own.

CARDS - Buckinghamshire

28 Buckinghamshire

In the old famous county of Bucks
A lion went hunting the ducks;
But on meeting the drake,
Cried “I’ve made a mistake,
This bird my enjoyment obstructs.”

CARDS - Middlesex

33 Middlesex

“Walk up and see Vanity Fair,”
Cried a clown, “if you’ve money to spare
’Tis the best London sight,
And your heart ’twill delight.”
But it isn’t all gold that is there.

Rules of Skits

Rules of Skits

Skits Back of Card

Almost all of old Middlesex became part of the County of London in 1889 following the Local Government Act of 1888. This is one clue to the dating the game. Other clues can be found by comparing adverts from the backs of rules in other games of the time. By comparing and cross-referencing these adverts I have dated the game to circa 1884, this is an earlier date than is mostly given.

A complete set should have 80 hand-coloured, square-cut cards with a light green back, rules and box. The cards measure 3” x 2 1/4”.

World of Playing Cards have images of many more of the counties in their article on the game by the late Rex Pitts







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