Darts has had lots of references to the medieval times from archers, crossbowmen and spear throwers shortening their weapons into small darts. References to Henry VIII a Tudor King of England receiving a set of ornamented darts for use for games from Anne Boleyn isn’t exactly true. Yes, Henry did receive such a gift however, these were short throwing spears not used for games.
The medieval ship the Mary Rose has also had references to darts, however, the darts in question here are more like a javelin that had a large feather fletching. All of these were weapons and not used for the games of darts we see today. Although some may say they could have been shortened to be used in a game this is extremely unlikely as the point on such a throwing weapon was rather large, too large for the spear, dart to be shortened into a dart to be used within a game. The length of these spears, javelins did however vary and the fletching’s seen on the throwing dart is designed to keep the dart true in flight. Hence, should the dart hit the rigging in flight the deflection still kept the dart in its pointed direction. Many of these throwing darts were recovered from Mary Rose and these would have been thrown from the ship at the enemy forces at the time.
The throwing dart in medieval times could be thrown further using a throwing string. A notch at the rear of the spear/dart could accommodate a short string that would be held at one end by the thrower to launch the spear /dart into the air. This gave the thrower approximately 50% further throwing distance.
Henry VIII darts are small throwing spears, something that would have been thrown from horseback into wild boar or pigs and not used for a target game. Although these shortened spears could kill directly it is more like to injure or create a wound that would not heal rendering the prey into submission.
Shorter weighted spears / weighted darts were also thrown from battlements onto attacking forces. These again would have been either fully cast-iron metal or a cast iron metal tip with a wooden and feather fletched tail like a shorter bow arrow or crossbow bolt but with a much heavier tipped end.
Direct evidence for hand throwing darts into a target for a game or practise has been hard to find, although we do know archers used a straw or wooden target that featured concentric circles to help improve their accuracy. The same, but smaller wooden target boards used in early throwing dart games and are still made today. It is assumed that darts as a game may have its origins from these times, with the possibility of beer barrels being made into the target as a social bit of entertainment, with bung or cork being used as the main object to hit. This, however, is conjecture and fits nicely into the development of the sport, and we cannot say for sure this was the case.
Shortened bow arrows or crossbow bolts are the most likely forerunner of the modern dart. However, as a game, darts were first made from wood with a metal point with a fletched feather flight. In some cases, the wooden dart was given extra weight using a lead insert. This made the dart point end heavy or in some cases, a lead/metal strap was added to the barrelled area of the dart. The colour variation in the earlier darts would have been used as a weight indicator as well as just a decorative addition to the wooden dart.
Although references are made darts first being used from the medieval time when Bowman would use a shorted arrow to use as a throwing arrow into a wooden target the modern game stems from France.
Darts, known in France as 'Flechettes' (meaning 'small arrow') consisted of a short dart thrown into a target with concentric rings. The original darts were made from wood. They had a metal point and the flights were made from bird feathers mainly turkey feathers.
Darts historian Patrick Chaplin said there is good evidence to support the English game of darts originated at the fairground. His research says that darts is not unique in this as other pub games such as Skittles and Aunt Sally also have historic links to the old English fairs (Fayres). It seems these games were popular and as the fair left town, some of the games remained or a version of the games remained.
The fairground style dartboard was designed to make the game look easy than it actually was to win a prize, so the likelihood that the segment section of the dartboard stem from these early fairground boards mid-19th century.
Although no resemblance to the throwing dart game we see today, Puff and Dart was another forerunner of a target sport involving a dart propelled via a blowpipe. This was not only a parlour game (house game) but also mentioned in ’Lawful Games on Licenced Premises’, 1904. The target was a board would have been concentric circles and not the segmented target area we are more used to seeing today.
The board would have been made from softwood and painted with three or four different coloured circles with a bullseye in the centre.
England’s pubs took to darts in a big way and dartboards and games were devised. Each region would have their own board design, however, most had some form of segmented circle target area. In to increase difficulty, additional scoring areas were added notably the double ring which would normally be situated on the perimeter of the circle ring. However, on the Tunbridge dartboard this area scored triple and a different area was used to score doubles! (See regional dartboards section)
The treble ring as we see it today on a modern dartboard was introduced 1920’s, however, it wasn’t an instant success. The dartboard was known as the ‘London’ or ‘Clock’ dartboard. Strange to call it a clock dartboard when it had twenty segmented areas. The more common dartboard at the time would have been the Yorkshire dartboard. This dartboard consists of twenty scoring areas, a single bullseye and a doubles ring. Why the London dartboard was an instant success is unclear, however, some may have thought a fluky dart could score a lot more than the opponent may have liked but today this board has become standard.
So, a single, double and treble! Why not have a quad scoring area? Well, this has already been done a maximum of a three-dart score of 240! Meaning a 7 dart 501 could be achieved. The dart and dartboard manufacturer Harrow’s introduced such a dartboard. It was known as the Quad 240, sadly no longer made. It did, however, gain some prestige with TV tournaments and some can still be viewed on YouTube.
(Pictures show an old fairground dartboard)
Read more about regional dartboards under the Dartboard section of this website.
A commonly asked question is why are the numbers on a dartboard arranged as they are and who first thought the number sequence up?
I have a page dedicated to this question because it has been a debate for many years. In short two main people feature Brian Gamlin and Thomas William Buckle. Many references give the accreditation to Brian Gamlin who supposedly was a carpenter who lived in Bury, Lancashire in the 19th century. I have lived in this area for over 25 years and done a bit of digging and cannot find any reference or censors naming this man. I even had the local newspaper involved at one point to try and find descendants to no avail. The man cannot be traced.
Thomas William Buckle on the other hand was a wire maker and dartboard maker. He certainly made the Yorkshire dartboard and with some claims from his son he is the more likely candidate for this accolade.
Read more about the Dartboard numbers and if they are set at the optimum positions here.
Picture Thomas William Buckle - Dr Patrick Chaplin Darts Archive - Used with permission
There are also separate sections on regional dartboards and the games that are played on them.
If you want to learn a bit more about darts and flights then explore the website further and here you will find the development of darts and dart flights from feathers, paper, plastic through to other materials such as nylon and modern plastics.
An additional section is also available on the dartboard development from wooden, to sisal and the soft-tip darts.
The game of darts is played and enjoyed by millions of people in UK pubs and clubs and by millions more across the World. The game has come from the humble roots of the tap and public rooms of the traditional English pub on to the international stage and is regularly televised to millions across the World.
In 1978 the first World Darts Championship was organised by the British Darts Organisation and sponsored by Embassy tobacco. The winner Leighton Rees from Wales received a trophy and a cheque for the sum of £3,000.
Prize money has since increased considerably in the game of darts, and the winner of a major competition can expect to pick up a very attractive amount of money. Take for example the 2019 PDC World Championship, a losing first round player receives £7,500 , the competition winner £500,000. One of the biggest contributors to the rise in prize money in such competitions has been as a result of increased lucrative sponsorship deals.
Since 1978 the game has grown into one of the best-loved and viewed sports on television. It has made many darters into household names here are just a few:
John Lowe three times world champion, John Part three-time world champion, Martin Adams three times world champion, Eric Bristow five times world champion, Raymond van Barneveld five times world champion & Phil Taylor sixteen times world champion.
In March 2005 the 'game' of darts was recognized by 'Sports England' as a sporting activity which could pave the way to the sport featuring in future Olympic Games, however, I still feel we are a long way from that day.
Darts is one of the fastest growing sports in Holland, Germany, China and Asia. Over a third of the Dutch population watched Raymond Van Barneveld become the first Dutch player to take the world darts title in 1998; he has since won the title a further four times 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007 (PDC World Darts Championship). Raymond beat the reigning champion Phil Taylor 7 sets to 6 and a sudden death leg in the final set. The famous Bull up for the right to throw first will long be remembered as Phil hit an outer Bull Raymond asked for the dart to be left in the board as he used it to push his dart into the centre Bull. Since then the Bulling up procedure in the PDC events has changed. All darts are removed before the opponents throw. Raymond now equals Eric Bristow's achievement but still trails Phil Taylor's staggering sixteen world title victories.
The prize fund over the years has steadily increased, with players playing for £500,000 first prize in 2019 PDC World Darts Championships. This is a far cry from the first World Championships prize of £3,000. The sports prize money continues to grow making a few of the current player's millionaires.
In December 2007 PDC World Darts Championship moved to the Alexandra Palace. The Alexandra Palace is affectionately known as the 'Ally Pally' and was the stage set for the world renowned 'News of the World Individual Darts Tournaments'.
The New of the World Darts Tournament was probably one of the hardest dart events to win with a best of three legs format throughout the competition, including the final. Legendary dart player Bobby George managed to win this event twice and on one occasion Bobby didn’t lose a single leg throughout the tournament.
In 2001 the BDO introduced a Ladies World Darts Championship which was won by England’s Trina Gulliver MBE. Trina has won this event for seven consecutive years and made the final yet again in 2008 and 2009 but only to lose to a new up and coming star Anastasia Dobromyslova from Russia in 2008 and Francis Hoenselaar from Holland in 2009. In 2010 Trina again regained the title beating Rhian Edwards from Wales 2-0 she then repeated this feat in 2011 again beating Rhain Edwards by the same margin 2-0. In 2016 Trina won the World Darts title yet again making her the most successful ladies darts player in the World, a record-breaking Ten World Titles. Trina has been awarded the MBE for services to darts and charitable fundraising.
Anastasia moved to the PDC late 2008 and played in a preliminary qualifying round for the PDC World Darts Championship 2009. She lost to Dutchman Remco van Eijden 5 legs to 3. She also tried to qualify for the 2010 championship but failed. Anastasia moved back to the BDO late 2010 / early 2011 and in 2012 she won BDO / WDF Ladies Worlds Darts Championship for the second time and then again in 2013.
In 2007 the PDC introduced the first Youth World Championship. This event was won by Arron Monk who beat Michael van Gerwen 6 - 4 in the final. It wasn't until 2015 when the BDO followed suit and introduced its own Youth World Championship. It was sixteen-year-old Colin Roelofs from the Netherlands who became the first victor beating seventeen-year-old Harry Ward from England 3 - 0. Harry, unfortunately, didn't win a single leg in the final however I am sure we will be seeing a lot more from all of these youth players in the future.
Lisa Ashton from Lancashire, has since been a dominate in the ladies game, winning in 2014, 2015, 2017 and again in 2018.
In 2010 Russ Strobel submitted to the Darts Australia a new recommended dartboard height for Wheelchair users. The height Russ has come up with is 137cm to the centre Bull. The height was based on the perceived origins of the standard hanging height of the standard clock dartboard. It is said the average height of a man in the England UK was 5’8” around 1920’s, the height of the centre bullseye of a standard board. Modern adjustments make that 173cm. Russ has taken this analogy and worked out what the height would be should a man of 5’8” (173cm) be sitting in a wheelchair. His exact figure came out to be 136.5cm however as Russ explained the addition of 0.5cm would make the recommended wheelchair dartboard height easy to remember 137cm (wheelchair) - 173cm (Standard). The concept of the new height for Wheelchair uses was accepted by Darts Australia and in 2012 was also accepted by the World Darts Organisation. More about Disability Darts can be found on this website.
On this site, you will find a brief history of this intriguing sport along with all the information you will need to set up the dart board and organise darting events. You can also learn how boards are made using sisal (a material used in rope making) and how dart weights, lengths, shafts and flights can alter the flight of the dart.
The site also features traditional games played on today’s standard dartboards and UK city dartboards; The Yorkshire and the Manchester log-end to name just two. You can download rules and many games from here as well as those all-important checkouts.
You will also find practise routines to improve your accuracy and scoring consistency as well as information about maintaining your dartboard and darts. There are also many dart related links to professional dart organisations, manufacturers, suppliers, professional dart players and other UK local dart leagues. My thanks go to them for their help and support in building this site.
I hope you enjoy the site your feedback is always welcome and if you like the site please inform others.
Darts501 was established in 2004 and from its humble beginnings and a few makeovers the website has had over well in excess of 11 Million viewers and the increasing trend continues. In 2018 the website attracted a conservative 1.5 million, however, with more people opting not to have their visit to this website recorded this figure is vastly undervalued. Thanks to all that visit and keep calling back to see regular updates.