Who Invented Darts? Their History And Origins

Darts and their history

Listen to this article. There has been a lot of stuff said and written about dart history, but finding out what is true and what isn’t is the true struggle game.

But, while talking about the history of darts it is a well-known fact that darts basically originated from England. People of England used to play darts in pubs and bars and it has been played there for the last 100 or more years till now.

The very modern darts were made/invented by a carpenter named Brian Gamlin, in 1896, Lancashire. However, the dart history goes way further back than this. Historically, darts were first played by the military in the medieval era to pass the leisurely time. in easy words, it was first played in the early decades of the 14th century.

Dart History In Their Earliest Days

Dart History and their Origins | No 1 Best Dart Game Source
Dart History and their Origins | No 1 Best Dart Game Source

Darts is quite an old game, around 700 years old. But historically the game has been around in different forms longer than 700 years. There are several stories and statements, but some facts are accepted by almost all historians.

First, all historians agree on the fact that the game originated from England in the 1300s during the medieval era.

The next fact on which most historians agree is that the game started within the military as a pastime game.

It is said, that during battles when soldiers were bored they used to play a game like darts to kill the boredom. They would compete with each other by playing a game in which sharp objects i.e. spearheads etc. were thrown towards a target, usually an upturned wine cask. Even the officials encouraged the soldiers to play this game as this played a role in improving their throwing skills.

With time the game became so known among soldiers that they started competing in order to prove their stamina and mettle. And the wine casks were replaced with tree trunks which were sectioned and were used as the target in the game.

When the game reached this point it became a necessity to form a proper set of rules for it. Moreover, the tree trunk was more reliable than the wine casks because it was now easier for the players to keep a record of their skills.

Today, the dartboard design that is used for playing, was initially derived from the natural growth rings of the tree trunks. Over the years, darts changed in several different ways, it wasn’t until the nineteenth century when the game started to take the shape that is present today.

The Journey Of Dart History From Royal Courts To London Pubs

Darts became popular around the world very fast. And this fact is not much of a shock for a person who plays darts. The game is a combination of simplicity, a proper set of rules, hidden tactical, and depths of mechanics.

Dart is simple when it comes to the setup required for it and one doesn’t require a specific body shape, flexibility, or training to play this game, which makes it more accessible. This simplicity played a major role in the spreading of this game all around Britain. It spread so much that it even reached the nobles and they also started taking part in playing darts.

Dart History and their Origins | No 1 Best Dart Game Source Royal Court
Dart History and their Origins | No 1 Best Dart Game Source Royal Court

Even King Henry VIII played darts with a darts set that his second wife Anne Boleyn gave him as a gift. You can guess how other nobilities would have played darts after watching the king play the game. An extra bit of information here is that the nobilities liked to use smaller darts than the ones used by common people.

Darts changed and developed a lot during the 19th century, several versions of the game came and went away. Until the 19th century, the game was still unnamed and unconsolidated. Several different sets of rules and scoring systems were being used all around the nation.

Whilst in the 1800s, the game achieved momentum and also got popular more than ever before. With this high popularity rate innovation also arrived and the first scoring and numbering system of the darts game developed.

Many different people are claimed to be the inventor of this numbering system, and it is really hard to know which claim is the right one. Although in 1896, when Brian Gamlin, a carpenter from Lancashire really did invent the numbering system.

This development in the darts game was maybe the most impactful development. After the numbering system was introduced the game gained more popularity and many more people started playing the game. Soon the game was recognized as a sport.

The numbering system in modern dartboards is like this:


The arrangement of numbers might seem like it’s random, but actually, it is a number order that was meticulously picked in order to provide the game with a specific depth and fairness.

We must admit that a genius designed this whole numbering system. If you see the numbers carefully you will know that the closely related numbers are the farthest from each other.

This genius design doesn’t let the players enjoy “lucky hits” and ruin the fun of the game. The only things that can help you win are skills and accurate shots. As a matter of fact, wrong shots are actually punished by this specific arrangement of numbers.

For example, if you aim for 20 and then throw the dart carelessly, your dart will most probably land on a 1 or 5.

Twentieth-century darts

In the twentieth century, the darts game faced a lot of controversies, according to some historical events it is also evident that once a pub owner had to show up in court because he allowed the customers to play darts in his pub.

Dart History and their Origins | No 1 Best Dart Game Source London Pub
Dart History and their Origins | No 1 Best Dart Game Source London Pub

The argument raised was that darts were a game of chance and such games were banned at that time. the story also states that Mr. Annakin appeared in the court with a dartboard in his hands.  Mr. Annakin was known as the best player of darts in the town, and while several magistrates tried to land their darts in the single 20 and a clerk was also asked to emulate the feat, ironically only one dart stayed on the dartboard. And of course, later the case was dismissed.

The popularity that darts enjoyed in the twentieth century is worth mentioning. By 1920 darts were being played in almost every pub and bar all across England. Only a few darts and a dartboard was required to play the game.

In the 1920s the first well-organized darts championship was held. In 1924, the National Darts Association was established. In 1939, the number of participants that signed up for the yearly News of the World Championship reached 3,00,000 people.

During the Second World War, darts gained much more popularity and achieved a higher level. Once again the military troops were playing darts for passing time.

All the armed forces, including the navy, army, and the air force were granted darts in their sports pack and everyone saw the game being played by soldiers whenever and wherever they found some rest from the terrors of war.

During the same time, the soldiers from America started adopting and disseminating the game even in their own country.

It was between the years the 1950s and 1960s when darts were seen as a sport of significance in several organized plays all around the country. Later, the NDAGB (the National Darts Association of Great Britain), took over the duty of setting and organizing darts games and leagues at local and national levels.

In 1936, people saw darts being played on their TV set for the first time, although the audience was very less in amount. But by 1972, the number of audiences peaked, when News of the World Individual Darts Championship got aired on TV.

By the 80s, famous darts players achieve much fame, and names like, Wilson, Lees, Lazarenko became the hot topic of discussion among darts lovers.

Dart Today

In 1992 the very first organizational split of the darts took place. Several high-profile players were not happy with the national championships and their way of running, due to which the British Darts Organization had to be parted.

After this splitting, the World Darts Council was formed which is also known as the Professional Darts Corporation, today.

These two darts organizational bodies worked tremendously to help darts reach the functional sport level. Now, High Caliber championships are held every year, which also includes a World Championship.

Today, darts is one of the most popular games around the world, the high-level tournaments are broadcasted live on TV along with several sponsorships and million-dollar campaigns.

70 countries are today the members of the British Darts Organization and almost millions of players play darts on daily basis today. There might even come a day when darts will be included in the Olympic sports. Despite the long dart history has developed a lot with so many hurdles in its ways.

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