Sunday, 30 June 2013

A Collection of Billiards & Snooker Images

Very many of the grand urban pubs built around the turn of the century would have included a dedicated Billiards Room in their layout. The game was enjoying a surge in popularity prior to the war years, and breweries were keen to include the game in their pub designs. Almost all of these have subsequently been converted to more profitable use, with Snooker and to a lesser degree Billiards, almost exclusively club games now. A full size Billiards Table is therefore a rare thing to find in a pub these days, and it's perhaps even more surprising to find a fully functioning vintage table in a 1930's estate pub.

Northfields in Stamford, Lincs, is quite a large pub, and like many similarly located estate pubs has struggled for trade in recent years. Sadly, being surrounded by housing is no guarantee of custom in the 21st century, but under new management the Northfield is making good progress in getting back to where it should be. The various pub game teams are being re-established, and there are even plans to reinstate the old Skittle Alley at the rear of the pub in time.

In common with other manufacturers, Burroughes & Watts ceased production of Billiards tables during the war years. Materials became increasingly hard to come by, and with so many men enlisted for the war effort, the game would presumably have been much less played anyway. They continued to refurbish tables until the closure of the company in 1967, making it hard to date Billiards tables like this even when bearing an original label. Old Billiards tables like the one at the Northfield are predominantly used for Snooker these days. The older game of Billiards has largely retreated from view, though it's still played at the amateur level.

The windows shown in the image above are located on the first floor of the currently closed Bush Inn, Worcester. This pub's closed status is all the more sad since it has been listed on CAMRA's Inventory of Heritage Pubs due to its largely unspoilt interior. The Billiards Room was functioning as a large dining area up until the pub closed in 2010.

E.J. Riley were one of the longest lasting of all the British Cue Sports manufacturers, which presumably explains why there are still so many Riley branded items such as this Billiards Scoreboard still to be found, including many still being used in Snooker halls and clubs.

Billiards as a game has been largely superseded by Snooker (and latterly Pool), but has never entirely disappeared at the amateur level. It's perhaps hard to fully appreciate how good a game of Billiards can be in skilled hands, given that only three balls are used on such a large table. For a good understanding of how the game is played I would recommend this 30 minute video of an exhibition match on the English Amateur Billiards Association website.

I'm not aware of any pubs in Leicester which still house a full size Billiards Table. This is hardly an unusual situation. In most parts of the country the games of Snooker and Billiards are firmly rooted in the club scene where the space and funds are more readily available to maintain what are often vintage tables.

Snooker in Leicester is played in two divisions of the Leicester & District Institute Snooker League, split between specialist Cue Sports clubs such as Rileys and Willie Thorns, and the larger trades, social and political clubs, including the tables shown below at the Nottingham Oddfellows Club on Belgrave Gate, Leicester.

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