Friday, 17 May 2013

Snookerette - The Gedney Hill & District League

The external signage on the Black Bear in Wisbech advertises the pub game staples of Pool and Darts, no surprises there, but notice also that something called Snookerette is on offer at the pub. Now that's a game that not many will have heard of, although locally it's quite common, played as it is in a league of up to nine venues in the Gedney Hill & District League. So what might Snookerette be?

As you'll see from the image below, which was taken in the single large bar of the Black Bear, Snookerette is in fact the same (or very similar) to the much more commonly found, and almost universally named game of Bar Billiards. So why the curiously different name in this small part of Lincolnshire?

The cue game that we now know as Bar Billiards was effectively an import from continental Europe in the early part of the 20th century, where the game was known in the french speaking regions as Billard Russe, or Russian Billiards. The London firm of William Jelkes was the preferred manufacturer of the initial crop of tables in this country, and since a more palatable, less 'Soviet' name for the game was needed, Bar Billiards was chosen. More crucially, the name was also registered for use by Jelkes alone. The game proved to be popular, and inevitably a number of other manufacturers began to produce their own tables, often subtly different in design or dimensions, and all by necessity bearing a different trade name. The company of Alfred Sam's & Sons of Hertfordshire produced a four pin table (most are three pin models), and it's this model which is now found throughout the Gedney Hill & District league. Sam's appear to have chosen the name Snookerette for their tables.

Time has moved on since the early days of the game, and the term Bar Billiards is now almost universally used. But for some reason, the name Snookerette has persisted in the Gedney Hill area (and possibly elsewhere), such that you will be politely corrected by the locals if you make the mistake of referring to the game as Bar Billiards!

Match nights in the Gedney Hill & District League are usually on Thursdays, and there are Summer and Winter leagues, the latter slightly better supported. Needless to say, the tables are available for play outside of league match nights.

All the tables in the local Snookerette league carry the logo of the now defunct National Bar Billiard Association. The All England Bar Billiard Association now regulate the game, though the Gedney Hill & District Summer and Winter leagues are not affiliated to this body.

The Butchers Arms is located in one of the more attractive Fenland villages of Parsons Drove. The bar is a traditional drinking and gaming space with ample room for both Pool and Snookerette tables. The pub also acts as the unofficial licensed clubhouse of the adjacent Parsons Drove Bowls Club. The many trophies on display in the bar include the magnificent Shield shown below, which is still in use, with some of the older badges being replaced with new winners names when necessary.

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