Olympic Games – Close to Home

A confession – I didn’t watch any live Olympics this year… I am interested, just not quite enough, your typical armchair spectator. Nonetheless, as you will know from one of my old posts (check it out!) I do like international events. So here’s my latest find from the Bloomsbury Ephemera Fair:

image of board game of Olympic Games, showing a variety of sports and 60 spots to land on. Print pasted on cardboard. Landing spots in yellow, olympic sports in various colours.

The board is rather cheaply made (quite flimsy card with the game pasted on). It was made in 1938 – probably in support of London’s bid for the 1944 Olympics. London was selected in 1939 but for obvious reasons there were no 1944 Olympics.

It a

photo of 2 player figurines made from cardboard. one red on light blue background, one dark blue on light blue background. Cardboard disc is stuck in wooden implement.

It should have 4 players – I only have 2 of them. And you will need one die.

As you can see, the game was ‘Made in England’ and ‘Ilex- Series’ was definitely made by R Turner Ltd. The company was based in Stoke Newington, London (at least in the 1930s and 1940s) – not very far from where I currently live. There is hardly any paper-trace of the company, except a listing as exhibitor in the 1947 British Industries Fair catalogue:

Manufacturers of Chess and Draught Boards, Backgammon, Chessmen, Cribbage Boards, Ludo, Halma, Snakes and Ladders, Tiddleywinks, Lotto, Solitaire, Pocket Chess, Draughtsmen, Darts, Table Tennis, Dominoes, Dice Cups and Kindergarten Games of Every Description. (Olympia, 2nd Floor, Stand No. J.2316)

I’d like to think that this may have counted as a ‘Kindergarten Game’!

introductory text to Olympic Games board game from 1938
Not that difficult to follow – strange how Germans are mentioned alongside Romans and Greeks – it might explain why the game didn’t become a best-seller….
rules for 'olympic games' board game by R Turner Ltd. Ilex-Series, 1938
Come on – give it a go!

I was very pleased to find that the building in which this and many other games were produced still exists – at least it did in 2009/10. There was even a company called Ilex Works (gaming software) based at the same address, admittedly short-lived (2017-2019). A music band has taken the name and thus continues carrying the baton or eternal flame for ‘Ilex Works’.

Ilex Works (1900), Northwold Rd, Stoke Newington
Photo courtesy of Nick Morrison who owns the copyright – Flickr handle: scotch_egg

I am very grateful to Nick Morrison (scotch_egg), and Fin Fahay – both on Flickr – for kindly allowing me to use their photos of the building / entrance respectively.

photo by Fin Fahey of entrance door to Ilex Works in Stoke Newington, London. Taken in 2009
photo courtesy of Fin Fahey (who owns the copyright) – you can find him on Flickr
1938 games box cover: drawing of imagined olympic opening ceremony with UK team leading. various countries flags around the stadium
Box cover – showing the UK leading the procession of olympic teams

Have a great week – more about Olympics in 2024 – here’s a hint what that post will be about 🙂

set of four Mongolian stamps for 1964 Tokyo Olympics depicting show-jumping, running, gymnastics and javelin

4 thoughts on “Olympic Games – Close to Home

  1. What a great find! Quite a lot of activity for one board game. Cool photos of the building where it was manufactured. (I didn’t watch any live Olympics this year either.)

  2. I love the game, thanks for the post !

    A funny touch that the makers suggest “interested onlookers may take a share by betting” (!) Different times morally haha but now I think of it snakes & ladders would maybe be more fun with a bet on the side … or… Monopoly with real money ??? !!

Leave a Reply