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  • Writer's picturePeter Berthoud

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

Updated: May 24, 2023

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

Skits: A Game of the Shires box
Skits box

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.

Lancashire card featuring a Lancashire Witch

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.

Hertfordshire card featuring Medusa

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.

Essex card featuring a sailor clutching the flag

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.

Kent card featuring a sailor in a boat with his pipe

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.”

Surrey card with a toy ark

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.”

Berkshire card with the famous old woman who lived in a shoe

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.

Buckinghamshire card featuring a lion hunting ducks

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.”

Middlesex card with a poem about Vanity Fair

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

Skits rules page 2

Green Backed Skits Card
Green Backed Skits 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 light green or cream coloured backs, 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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