We have a mission: to follow the route of an old 1940s board game around Great Britain, sticking to the instructions as closely as we possibly can. Along the way we will look at the history of the places we visit, with a particular focus on how things have changes since the tour was created around 70 years ago. Let’s start with a bit of explanation first:
My mum had kept from her childhood a board game called Tour of Great Britain. Players had to move around the board as if following a tour around the country, starting and ending at the Houses of Parliament in London. My wife and I came up with the idea of how much fun it would be to do the route for real, but before we could do that we needed to find out a little bit more about the game itself.
All my mother had kept was the board itself, so we were missing the game instructions. This would be important as there would obviously be more information in the instructions about what we were supposed to do on the tour. After much searching I managed to track down a complete game for sale on Ebay, and snapped it up. The box revealed that the full title of the game was Coaching Tour of Great Britain. So from the word go, we knew that although we were going to follow the rules as closely as possible, we could not be completely strict about this – we were not going to ride round the country in a coach and horses for two reasons (1) it would take forever and (2) we are not millionaires. Also in the box were the original instructions, the board in amazing condition, far better than my mum’s board, and even the original dice (sorry, I know it’s “die” but can we just dispense with that and accept that the English language has moved on, as it always does!)
Pinning down the date of the game is tricky. We will look at that later in this article and also something of the history of Chad Valley, who made the game.
So we will be following the route and writing about our adventures and any interesting historical information that is appropriate for each location. There will be a photo of the game board at each location. The locations are of course some of the most important sites in the country, at least from the perspective of the game creator in the 1940s.
This is quite an undertaking and will be an occasional feature of the blog for a long time to come. We can’t do this all in one hit. Whilst that is theoretically possible, the route includes 55 locations, with a total mileage of somewhere in the region of 3000 miles (Google maps plots all the locations at 2940 miles). Maybe we could do that all in one go comfortably in six months, keeping it as an enjoyable and unrushed experience, but we can’t be travelling the country for six solid months due to work commitments and, again, not being millionaires. So we will be following the route in sections for now, as and when we can. Maybe one day in the distant future we could retire and buy a mobile home, and do it all over again in one hit!
Dating the Game
It would be nice if there was a date on the box or the board, or even the instructions, but no such luck. So we will just have to try to work that out.
The game was made by Chad Valley. Around 1830, British printer Anthony Bunn Johnson branched out into making simple games for children. His sons continued the tradition, setting up Johnson Brothers in Birmingham, which made a far greater range of games. The popularity of the games eventually prompted the brothers to start up a purpose-built factory on a larger site. A suitable location was found on the outskirts of Birmingham, and the building was named Chad Valley Works, due to its position in the valley of the river Chad.
The brothers began to include the factory name on their games, which achieved sufficient brand recognition amongst the public for the games to carry the branding of The Chad Valley Games. This was simplified to Chad Valley on some products from around 1920.
In 1938 Queen Elizabeth, the wife of George VI and mother of the current Queen, awarded the royal warrant to Chad Valley. The Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret owned some Chad Valley toys, and the Queen allowed the company to make dolls based on the princesses.
This gives us our first clue to the date of the game, because it includes the royal warrant, so it cannot have been made before 1938. We can also work out a latest possible date, because in 1952 Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne, and Chad Valley changed the wording of the warrant to Toymakers to H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. However, the game has the earlier wording, Toymakers to Her Majesty the Queen. So the game had to be made some time between 1938 and 1952.
From this point we have to make a best guess. My mother was given her game as a child and based on her age and how old she thinks she was when given the game, her copy of the board almost certainly dates from the late 1940s. The game was likely in production for a few years in any case. The shortage of raw materials to manufacture good quality games such as this during the war years makes the late 40s even more likely. So we can safely take a guess at somewhere in the region of 1948 without fear of being more than a couple of years out either way.
If any readers have any information that will help date the game more accurately that would be great!
Let’s start with a simple list of all the locations on the board, including everything. That means the specific locations on the squares on the board, plus anything pictured around the board and any illustrated locations. Where the locations are on squares, I have included the number of the square in brackets:
Houses of Parliament, London (start and end)
HMS Victory, Portsmouth Dockyards
The Hoe, Plymouth
St Ives (20)
Stevenson’s Menai Bridge (47)
Gretna Green (65)
The Forge Gretna Green
Tam O’Shanter Inn Ayr
Forth Bridge (84)
Sir Walter Scott’s Monument Edinburgh
Durham Cathedral Sanctuary Knocker
Old Walls and Minster York
Great Yarmouth (110)
..and then back to London.
But that’s not quite the whole story, because the game comes with instructions. So, for example, we don’t just have to visit Dover, but have to travel there via the old Roman road Watling Street, look through a telescope at the coast of France, and throw a six (and yes, we will be taking the original dice [“die” if you insist] that comes with the game and rolling it when instructed at the locations!).
So we have our plan:
(1) Visit every location on the board, either illustrated on one of the squares.
(2) Follow all the instructions that are included with the game.
(3) Photograph the game board at every location.
(4) Investigate the history of each location.
(5) Make a comparison between each location today and how it would have appeared to a tourist at the time the game was made (late 1940s), where appropriate.
The game comes with instructions, so there are some very specific things we need to do at each location. So here is a detailed rundown of each location we need to visit, in the correct order, with everything we need to achieve at each location, the exact wording of the instructions, plus the mileage covered.
No. 1 London
Instructions: ‘The capital city of Great Britain.’
To do here: Visit the Houses of Parliament, as illustrated.
No. 2 Dover
Instructions: ‘You have just travelled via part of the great Roman highway, Watling Street. Remain here looking at the coast of France through a telescope until you throw a six.’
Running Total: 76
To do here: Travel via Watling Street. Look at France through a telescope. Throw a 6.
Illustration: Beachy Head
Running Total: 148
No. 7 Portsmouth
Instructions: ‘Miss one turn whilst you look over Nelson’s ship “Victory”.’
Running Total: 220
To do here: Visit the HMS Victory. Visit the Portsmouth Dockyards, as illustrated.
No. 8 Salisbury
Instructions: ‘Visit the Cathedral and from the spire admire the view of the river Avon and the old town. Take a trip to the ancient temple of Stonehenge, then have another turn.’
Running Total: 292
To do here: Visit Stonehenge (en route to Salisbury). Visit the Cathedral. View the river Avon and the old town from the spire (?!)
No. 9 Bournemouth
Instructions: ‘Miss a turn whilst you take a sea trip round the Isle of Wight.’
Mileage: 30 (not including Isle of Wight trip)
Running Total: 322
To do here: Take a sea trip around the Isle of Wight.
No. 13 Exeter
Instructions: ‘Visit the ancient Cathedral and Guildhall, then take another turn.’
Running Total 408
To do here: Visit the Catheral. Visit the Guildhall.
No. 16 Plymouth
Instructions: ‘Here Drake played his famous game of bowls. In 1620 the Mayflower set sail for New England. Raleigh, Drake and Captain Cook all sailed from Plymouth on their voyages of exploration. Go on to the first space, past St. Ives.’
Running Total: 453
To do here: Visit the Hoe, as illustrated.
No. 19 Penzance
Instructions: ‘Miss two turns whilst you go by steamer to visit the Scilly Isles.’
Mileage: 78 (not including Scilly Isles trip)
Running Total: 531
To do here: Visit the Scilly Isles (by steamer)
No. 20 St. Ives
Instructions: ‘Buy some pictures painted here then take another turn.’
Running Total: 540
To do here: Buy some pictures painted in St Ives.
No. 26 Wells
Instructions: ‘Visit Britain’s oldest known cavern, Wookey Hole, then pay a visit to Cheddar Gorge. You lose your way in the caves. Throw six before getting away.’
Running Total: 713
To do here: Visit Wookey Hole. Visit Cheddar Gorge. Get lost in the caves. Throw a 6.
No. 31 Oxford
Instructions: ‘Explore the many architectural masterpieces of this Cathedral city and University town, then go on four spaces.’
Running Total: 808
To do here: Explore the “architectural masterpieces”.
No. 36 Gloucester
Instructions: ‘Visit the Cathedral, then take another turn.’
Running Total: 856
To do here: Visit the Cathedral.
No. 41 Pembroke
Instructions: ‘Miss a turn whilst you sketch Pembroke Castle.’
Running Total: 1009
To do here: Sketch Pembroke Castle.
No. 45 Carnarvon
Instructions: ‘Look round the castle then pay a visit to the summit of Snowdon. Take another turn.’
Running Total: 1160
To do here: Visit Carnarvon Castle. Visit the summit of Mount Snowdon.
No. 47 Menai Bridge
Instructions: ‘Miss a turn whilst you admire Telford’s suspension bridge and Stevenson’s tubular bridge leading to Anglesey.’
Running Total: 1168
To do here: Visit Telford’s Suspension Bridge. Visit Stephenson’s Menai Bridge.
No. 48 Holyhead
Instructions: ‘in the Isle of Anglesey. Make a tour of the docks and then take another throw.’
Running Total: 1190
To do here: Tour the docks.
No. 52 Crewe
Instructions: ‘Don’t change here, have another turn.’
Running Total: 1298
To do here: Get out as soon as possible.
Illustration: Edale Derbyshire
Running Total: 1338
No. 55 Blackpool
Instructions: ‘Miss a turn whilst you visit the Pleasure Beach, Tower and Winter Gardens.’
Running Total: 1416
To do here: Visit Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Visit Blackpool Tower. Visit the Winter Gardens.
No. 59 Leeds
Instructions: ‘Make an escorted tour of one of the cloth mills before taking another turn.’
Running Total: 1501
To do here: Take a guided tour of a cloth mill.
No. 62 Windermere
Instructions: ‘Miss a turn whilst you tour the Lake District.’
Mileage: 79 (not including the “tour”)
Running Total: 1580
To do here: Tour the Lake District.
No. 64 Carlisle
Instructions: ‘Have another turn and you will be across the Border.’
Running Total: 1624
To do here: Cross the border. Visit Hadrian’s Wall (as illustrated)
No. 65 Gretna Green
Instructions: ‘Miss a turn whilst you visit the famous Forge, scene of many elopement marriages.’
Running Total: 1634
To do here: Visit The Forge.
No. 67 Motherwell
Instructions: ‘Stay here for a game of golf on the Wishaw course and then return to 62 Windermere.’
Running Total: 1706
To do here: Play golf on Wishaw Golf Course. Go back to Windermere.
No. 70 Ayr
Instructions: ‘Miss a turn whilst you visit the Brig o’Doon and the Tam o’Shanter Inn of Robert Burns fame.’
Running Total: 1755
To do here: Visit the Brig o’Doon. Visit the Tam o’Shanter Inn.
No. 72 Glasgow
Instructions: ‘Enjoy yourself seeing the sights and go forward to Inverness.’
Running Total: 1794
To do here: See the “sights”.
Illustration: Loch Lomond
Running Total: 1827
Illustration: Loch Oich
Running Total: 1927
Illustration: Loch Ness
Running Total: 1953
No. 76 Inverness
Instructions: ‘The capital of the Highlands. You must throw six before you can tear yourself away from the lochs and mountains.’
Running Total: 1967
To do here: Throw a 6.
No. 82 Aberdeen
Instructions: ‘Explore the banks of the Dee, visit Balmoral Castle, then take another turn.’
Running Total: 2071
To do here: Explore the banks of the River Dee. Visit Balmoral Castle.
No. 84 Forth Bridge
Instructions: ‘Miss a turn whilst you wonder how long it takes to paint this wonderful structure.’
Running Total: 2190
To do here: Think about how long it takes to paint the bridge.
No. 85 Edinburgh
Instructions: ‘(‘Auld Reekie’) Just enjoy yourself wandering round this capital so full of fine views, buildings, monuments, then take another turn.’
Running Total: 2199
To do here: Visit Sir Walter Scott’s Monument (as illustrated). Wander around the city.
No. 88 Durham
Instructions: ‘Visit the magnificently situated Cathedral and High Force, the waterfall on the river Tees. Throw a one before leaving here.’
Running Total: 2338
To do here: Visit Durham Cathedral. View Durham Cathedral Sanctuary Knocker (as illustrated). Visit High Force on the river Tees. Throw a 1.
No. 92 York
Instructions: ‘Have another turn after visiting York Minster and walking around the old City Walls which command such a good view.’
Running Total: 2415
To do here: Visit York Minster. Visit the old city walls.
No. 96 Sheffield
Instructions: ‘City of Steel. Buy yourself a new penknife “Made in Sheffield”. That will cost you one turn.’
Running Total: 2475
To do here: Buy a penknife made in Sheffield.
No. 100 Birmingham
Instructions: ‘The home of the famous “Chad Valley” Toys. Take a trip to the factories at Harborne to see how toys in cardboard, wood and plastic are manufactured. Take another turn.’
Running Total: 2566
To do here: Visit the Chad Valley factory at Harborne. See how cardboard, wood and plastic toys are made.
No. 103 Stratford
Instructions: ‘Miss a turn to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and Memorial Theatre on the banks of the Avon.’
Running Total: 2605
To do here: Visit Shakespeare’s birthplace. Visit the Memorial Theatre.
No. 106 Peterborough
Instructions: ‘Have another turn after visiting the Cathedral.’
Running Total: 2692
To do here: Visit Peterborough Cathedral.
No. 110 Great Yarmouth
Instructions: ‘Miss a turn to wander round the docks, and go for a steamer trip on the Broads.’
Running Total: 2791
To do here: Wander around the docks. Take a steamer trip on the Broads.
No. 113 Cambridge
Instructions: ‘Another beautiful University town. Take a conducted tour of the colleges, but you must now throw exactly two to land you back once more in London.’
Running Total: 2874
To do here: Take a guided tour of the colleges. Throw a 2.
Finish Line Houses of Parliament
Total mileage: 2940
In the next post we start our tour!
The article above first appeared on our sister site Windows into History. All future instalments of our “Board Game Tour” will now be chronicled in the Junkyard. RP
Read next in the Junkyard: Board Game Tour of Britain: London