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Family History in Objects: Cribbage Board; Bamboo Shaker; 1914 Christmas Box; Victorian Miniature Coin Box

Family history is important to me. I have cherished objects which hold stories, historical events and so many memories.

Inherited History

Objects handed down from grandparents to parents to children often come with stories, with connections to so much history. Have a little peek at my family through some of my possessions; this time, a cribbage board and several other objects.

These objects live together. They always have and they always will, down through the generations.

Cribbage Board

Cribbage, or Crib, is an ancient card game. I’m not an enthusiastic card player but I enjoy this one, for two reasons: one, because my Mum taught me and it reminds me of her; two, this bewitching board is asking to be used. Most card games don’t have boards of any sort, but a cribbage board is an essential way of scoring this game, and this one’s a joy to use.

It is one of the finest I’ve seen and was one of my mother’s treasured possessions. Made of mahogany with a pierced brass surface and brass pegs for scoring, it now graces my sideboard. The wood has a few nicks and some obvious patina, showing that it was loved and used often.

When young, I regarded it as a toy, having no idea how the game itself was played. The shiny brass top and pegs were demanding attention and who was I to refuse? Four pegs, one each for hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades, stood on tapered supports, to fit into the holes in the brass surface. Elegant, reflective, cool to the touch, they were irresistible.

Father and Daughter Sharing Time

Mum often referred to her memories playing crib with her father, my sweet Granddad who died when I was five. I have vague memories of him, mostly that he was quiet and gentle, but also that I sat on his knee whilst he smoked his pipe and blew smoke-rings for me! I don’t think anyone was aware of passive smoking in those days (mid 1950s). I do know that he and Mum were close and she missed him terribly. I don’t think she was particularly close to her mother, who was pleasant enough but not forthcoming with affection.

Mum and I played now and then but not so much in her later years. She lost the will to enjoy herself when my Dad died. Now the board is used occasionally and even a look at it recalls happier days with them both.


I have no idea where this bamboo sleeve came from but my mother had it along with the crib board. What better dice-shaker could you have? Bamboo is of course naturally hollow. This one has an inverted domed base and depicts a carved scene of rowers in a boat, with people in an elevated covered area, all surrounded with foliage. In the centre, three people are playing a board game, which leads me to believe this was made for dice. I wish I knew who the carver was or where it came from. To me, it looks Chinese. Maybe you know? I’d love to find out.

Christmas Box

Though not normally associated with a cribbage board, this Christmas box has, for as long as I remember, been the keeper of the playing cards (and other things too, as we’ll see later).

In October 1914, Princess Mary, King George’s 17 year-old daughter, the Princess Royal, launched an appeal to fund sending a Christmas gift in a box to each serving soldier on the Western Front, to boost morale. Over £150,000 were raised, a substantial sum in those days (our crowd-funding is nothing new!). Officers were to receive silver boxes, other soldiers had theirs made of brass. Each one contained a Christmas card and a photograph of Mary, an ounce of tobacco, a packet of cigarettes in a yellow monogrammed wrapper, and a cigarette lighter, as well as some chocolate and maybe sweets of some variety.

On the lid of the box is an image of the Princess, various military decorations, lozenges with ‘Imperium Britannicum’ (top), Christmas 1914 (bottom), and, clockwise from top left, Belgium, Japan, Russia, Montenegro, Serbia and France.

The boxes were to be for ‘every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front’ but this was extended to all ‘wearing the King’s uniform on Christmas day’. 400,000 were delivered by Christmas day, but delivery to all was not completed until 1920! I can’t help but think how many sailors and soldiers died serving their country before their boxes arrived. On the other hand, those who received theirs must have been so happy to have something from home and an obvious recognition of their service.

Victorian Miniature Coin Box and Mini Coins

This miniature coin box has no connection whatsoever with the crib board or the Christmas box other than it too was inside that box when it came into my possession. I was fascinated to find the mini coins of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and four of their nine children.

I have to get hold of a magnifying glass to look at these little coins - they’re barely a centimetre across and the writing is not easy for my old eyes!

These wonderful little pieces of history are said to have been designed by Joseph Moore and produced in 1848/49 and some years after. I presume they were produced for collectors of royal memorabilia.

The coins in my miniature represent these four children:

  • Albert Edward, Prince of Wales 1841-1910 (later Edward VII)
  • Princess Alice 1843-1878
  • Princess Helena 1946-1923
  • Princess Louisa, Duchess of Argyle 1848-1939

Not only did I learn more about Queen Victoria’s children, but also about their own exploits and titles. Albert Edward, their first-born boy, was to become Edward VII, who reigned from 22 Jan 1901 - 6 May 1910, so just over 9 years, a comparatively short reign, especially to that of his mother! Alexandra of Denmark was his wife and George V was his son.

Victoria and Albert's 9 Children

  • Princess Victoria, Princess Royal 1840-1901
  • Albert Edward, Prince of Wales 1841-1910 (Later Edward VII)
  • Princess Alice 1843-1878
  • Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh 1844-1900
  • Princess Helena 1846-1923
  • Princess Louisa, Duchess of Argyle 1848-1939
  • Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught 1850-1942
  • Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany 1853-1884
  • Princess Beatrice 1857-1944

Deck of Cards

Deck of 52 cards (sometimes there are 2 jokers as well)

Deck of 52 cards (sometimes there are 2 jokers as well)

Rules of Cribbage

To return to the Crib board, many of you probably know how to play but here’s a summary of the rules.

Cribbage is played with a fifty two card pack, Aces being low. Each round in the game is scored and the scores are counted on a cribbage board, keeping score by using the pegs (for two players, you have two pegs each which make scoring easier as the back one can jump the front one, so ensuring that you can check that you’ve counted correctly!).

The cards are cut, the player with the lowest card deals six cards each, the other player goes first. Each player must count his hand, and crib (extra points), aloud and announce the total. The first player to get 121 points, to the end of one side of the board and back again, wins. The central holes are used to keep a tally of each player’s games, if you wish.

I found out about an interesting, extra protocol for the game. If one player overlooks any score, the opponent may say "Muggins" and then score the overlooked points for himself. For experienced players, the Muggins rule is always in effect and adds even more suspense to the game.

I’m not going into all the detail here but although it can sound complicated it’s quite easy to play once you get the hang of it. If I can manage, anyone can!


I’m hoping that my children will be happy to inherit these objects as they tell so many stories, not only of family but of background history.


© 2020 Ann Carr