Do you remember Dadlems day?
I was contacted last year by Trisha Robynns with a newspaper article about the game of Dadlems in Leigh. Trisha runs a blog site: http://tonbridgepeoleandancestry.blogspot.co.uk. The article “Dadlems day is but once a year” appeared in the Kent and Sussex Courier on 29 December 1950:
For nearly one hundred years the game of dadlems has been played at the Brickmakers Arms, Leigh. But it is only played once a year, on Boxing Day. On Tuesday the dadlems board was produced for one game and then restored to its cupboard for the rest of the year.
The origin of dadlems is obscure and apparently it is now only played at Leigh. Basically the game resembles skittles, as heavy pieces of metal have to be bowled over on a hard wooden board. This year’s champions at Leigh were Mr A Friend and veteran player Mr A Denton.
Although the game attracted nearly 30 people on Boxing Day, one of the players, Mr A Baker, does not believe that dadlems would be popular all through the year “At one time it must have been a popular game – but nowadays I think it would be called too noisy,” he told the Courier. “People seem to prefer darts”.
I researched a little more, but only managed to find a few mentions of the game. In the Courier, 23 December 1949 “Dadlems … and the game will start” reported on the forthcoming game at the Brickmakers and a further article on 30 December 1949 wrote:
For one year Mr A E Denton and Mr S Brooker will reign as the undisputed dadlems champions of Leigh. On Boxing Day the old traditional English game of dadlems was played at the Brickmakers Arms, Leigh and Mr Brooker and Mr Denton were the two winners. “They ought to be the winner, too. They are two of the oldest people who took part”, commented a losing player …. “The Overseas Tourist Association were interested in our board which must be one of the oldest in England” said Mr W Seal. “Dadlems came before the games of rings and darts and they were interested in the board for that reason. But I couldn’t arrange for a large dadlems board to go up to London” he said.
Every Boxing Day at the Bricklayers’ Arms, Leigh a battered board is unearthed and the game of dadlems is on. Perhaps you have never heard of it. How is it played?
The answer is
Stand where you like.
Throw as hard as you like.
But mind the pictures on the wall!
That’s dadlems and Leigh men in the picture show you how it is done.
The picture of the players follows the article, but no one is named. I have this picture if anyone can identify the players.
The game also warranted a mention in The Scotsman on 16 July 1949: “Mell and Dadlems” where it talks about the game of Paille Maille, from where we get the name Pall Mall. At the Freemason’s Arms Inn on Hampstead Heath the chairman of the Travel Association was formally reopening the game. It reports that experts at old Inn games came from Sussex, Surrey and Kent to demonstrate to tourists such rural delights as “Dadlems” – a form of skittles; “Toad in the Hole” played at Clandon, Surrey and “Bat and Trap” from Canterbury, to name but a few.
Does anyone in Leigh remember playing Dadlems, or the board, or where it might be now – or how to play the game?
Joyce Field (Dec 2017)
The game of Dadlems is mentioned in the following articles, photocopies of which are in the Leigh Historical Society Archives under “Sport”:
Kent and Sussex Courier: 23 December 1939; 30 December 1949; 29 December 1950
The Scotsman: 16 July 1949