Falling Dominos Lost Beyond the Floor

These dominos were found at the Oatlands Goal, under the floor boards in the Gaoler’s Bedroom. There were four dominos found altogether, from two different sets with two different dates. The first set is made from bone and ebony with red lines and black dots; there are three of these dominos and they date from 1700 to 1800.

During the 17th and 18th centuries dominos appeared in Europe and were originally made from animal bone, including ivory, which was quite expensive. The holes of the domino were drilled into the rectangles of animal bone and were then inlaid with pieces of ebony. Many domino sets were handmade during this time by French prisoners of war and also by sailors, who used whatever resources were on hand (Domino Play 2013). The interesting fact about the date of the first set of dominos from Oatlands is that the Gaol only opened in 1836. This means that the set may have been brought with a prisoner or by the Gaoler before the Gaol opened.


Dominos made from bone and ebony with a red line pattern, made from 1700 to 1800

The second set is made from bone, ebony with a brass pin; this single domino is dated from 1800-1855.  In the 19 – 20th centuries dominos were made from narrow pieces of bone that were glued together and fixed with a brass pin in the centre; these were called spinners. In 1855 Frenchman Charles Lepage invented plastic and dominos became much cheaper and quicker to produce (Domino Play 2013).

These two different types of domino may have belonged to the Grover family and/or the Pegus family. The Grover family lived in the Gaol from 1838 to 1840 and the Pegus family from 1841 to 1858.

A bone and ebony domino with a brass ‘spinner’ made from 1800-1855

A bone and ebony domino with a brass ‘spinner’ made from 1800-1855

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