Saturday, 1 August 2015

A Miscellany of Bar Billiards Pubs

A recent informal Poll on a well known social-media platform asked what kind of things people would like to see in their ideal pub. Needless to say the top answer was a wide range of high quality beers and/or ciders, in fact for some the beer seemed to be the only thing worthy of consideration! Perhaps not too surprising given that most respondents were either CAMRA members or other non-affiliated beer geeks.

I was pleased to see that pub games featured in some of the replies, with Bar Billiards more often than not the game of choice. I did find this slightly surprising given that a Bar Billiards Table is a rare sight in a pub now, though it wasn't so long ago that the game was relatively common. I certainly recall playing it throughout the 80's, and CAMRA pub guides of the time seem to indicate that the game was much more widespread than it is now.

Perhaps it's this fond memory of a pub game from our youth that explains why Bar Billiards featured so highly in the poll, or perhaps I'm simply underestimating the popularity of the game now. Certainly there are a few areas of the country where leagues exist for the game, and tables, though not exactly common, can be found relatively easily by those in the know. In other parts of the country a Bar Billards table is a rare sight indeed. The East Midlands counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire & Rutland have to my knowledge barely a dozen pub venues for the game between them.

Not all of the tables shown below are played in league competition, but wherever a Bar Billiards table does exist in a pub, it seems to attract a great deal of attention from both curious newcomers, and those of us who remember the game from our misspent youth.

The table shown above was recently restored to the Grainstore Brewery Tap in Rutland. Fully refurbished, and a welcome sight in the hop-strewn bar of a pub which is handily placed adjacent to Oakham rail station. This is one of only two tables I'm aware of in Rutland, the other being at the Old Pheasant, Glaston.


The Bar Billiards table shown above is in the lounge of the Rose Inn, Nuneaton, a town I've struggled to find really good pubs in on recent visits. The Rose is perhaps the pick of the bunch at the moment, a good honest two-room Marston's house on the edge of the town centre, and famously the venue for the first AGM of the nascent Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA). Games are a major feature of the Rose's success, with Darts and Pool available for play in the front bar (left), and league Dominoes a feature of the plusher lounge bar.

There are several venues in Norwich with Bar Billiards tables, and a thriving league has developed for the game in recent years. League play is one of the surest way to ensure the survival of traditional pub games like Bar Billiard, and a city the size of Norwich, endowed as it is with such a healthy number of well-supported pubs, lends itself well to the development of a small league like the Norwich Bar Billiards League.

A visit to the Golden Star in Norwich is recommended if only to admire the largely unspoilt front bar of the pub which retains many heritage features, details of which can be found on CAMRA's inventory of Heritage Pubs. Tucked into the corner of the adjoining back bar is the vintage Alfred Sam's & Sons Bar Billiards table, a fine piece of gaming heritage which is in regular use at the pub.


Tommy n said...

There is a small league here in South Suffolk which has ten teams (7 pubs) but there are a few more pubs with tables and not teams. I guess there must be over 10 pubs with tables with in a 10 mile radius of Sudbury. I play for Mill green pirates at the Edwardstone White Horse. The last few years the Weatherspoons in Sudbury has hosted the world championships. It's a great pub game as it takes up about 1/3 of the space as a pool table and is a real point of interest.

Mark said...

Thanks for that, I've added the webpage to my listing.

John Penny said...

Tommy that's great news! I had no idea that 'Spoons had any inclination to do games-related stuff. I wonder if they have taken over any pubs where there was/still is a nascent skittle alley? Mark and myself would be most interested in further developments in any area - and keep up the good work yourself.

Tommy n said...

Spoons don't actualy have any tables. They have space for about 12 tables so hold the championships once a year. I've ne er entered myself as I'm not very good but it's a popular competition.

Christopher Cass said...

To clarify some comments made by Tom N, as committee member of Sudbury & District Bar Billiards League and Chairman of the Suffolk Bar Billiards Association we, the SBBA, host annually The East Anglian 4-Pin Bar Billiards Open and not the World Championship. The Open is sponsored by Specflue Ltd and The Grover & Allen (Wetherspoon's) kindly allow us to install 8 hired tables for the weekend of the Tournament. 64 entrants compete for the title 32 from Suffolk & Norfolk the remaining 32 from Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. 1st round winners compete to conclusion for the Open Cup and the 32 1st round losers compete for the Plate Competition. The management and staff of The Grover & Allen Sudbury give us their full support and I think it's fair to say they enjoy the weekend as much as we do and over the 2 years we have run the tournament in Sudbury we have raised well over £1000 for our adopted charity Suffolk Family Carers.

Sammie mortimer said...

This is wonderful to see! I grew up with both my parents playing for Redhill and district and I miss the buzz. When I was old enough I'd sub in for the January doubles and the occasional summer appearance. I'm now looking for a league in croydon as that's where I'm based. If anybody hears anything is love to hear from them :)

Mark said...

Best place to search for tables and leagues is here Sammie: