you look in the background of many of the photographs of the leading players of
the late 19th and early 20th century, you will often see
furniture like nothing available today. This Billiard room furniture often
contains cues, balls, scoreboards and all-manner of interesting devices, nooks
and crannies. In this piece, I will attempt to reveal a little more about these
items of memorabilia and hopefully make you a little more aware of how to
recognise them in the future.
Looking in a little more detail at cue racks for
example, you may well have your own small collection of cues, or an extensive
selection. Either way, you will no doubt want to keep them well cared for
and shown to their best advantage. For those of you fortunate enough to have
your own Billiard or Snooker room, a cue rack or stand is a must, but even if
you don't have your own room with a table, a nice period stand is the ideal way
to display your prized possessions to great effect.
Racks and stands have been made in many forms over the years, from richly
decorated cupboards to simple wall brackets that hold a small number of
Besides the many commercial racks and stands available from the top companies,
such as Burroughes & Watts, Thurston, and E J Riley, many of the large
country houses in the past sought the services of the top cabinet and furniture
makers operating at the time to produce their Billiard room furniture.
course most of the items made for the gentry rarely come on the open market,
when they do they command high prices, so unless we are extremely lucky we mere
mortals have to be content with our commercially made stands to show off our
prized cue collection in.
Bearing my previous comments in mind, I will cover
just a few of the basic commercial types. These are the ones that you are
likely to come across. If I were to attempt to describe the many variations
made over the last hundred years or so, I would need several pages to do them
of the nicest in my view is the free-standing revolving type offered by
Burroughes & Watts around the latter part of the 19th and early
20th centuries, (Photo
1). This example is made to hold twenty-one cues, although I have seen
smaller fifteen cue versions, and larger stands for twenty-four cues. This
variety of cue rack stands about 44 inches (1.1 metres) high, It will be made
from mahogany and has brass and ivory clips around the top section. Later
models had ebony rollers in place of the ivory, some of them had a circular top
section and holes instead of clips, a little like the non-revolving type
mentioned below. Also produced was a version which stood on three curved and
carved legs raising the bottom part of the rack off the floor by some twelve
inches, an example of this type can be seen in photo 2.
second example (photo 3) also free-standing is a non-revolving type and has
holes in the top disk in place of the metal clips. The disadvantage is that the
cues have to be lifted out vertically which can be rather awkward unless you
have high ceilings, rather than being able to be pulled away from the stand as
in the previous type with clips. This one again is made from mahogany, it holds
twelve cues and stands approximately thirty nine inches (just under a metre)
third example (photo 4) although free-standing is made to be stood against a
wall. It's back and base are made from mahogany with a cast iron top "gate
system", segmented bottom tray and lions paw feet. It dates from slightly later
than the other two and stands about thirty-nine inches (1 metre) high. The top
part is made similar to a turnstile in that as the cue is pushed in the
four-pronged wheel rotates around to accept and hold the cue.
Example number four (photo 5) was probably custom
made for a large country house and is possibly a one off, it is made of oak and
stands approximately 63 inches high (1.6 metres), with a base diameter of 30
inches (76 centimetres). It holds only nine cues, which may seem surprising due
to its enormous size. It has a lectern style scoreboard and life Pool
marker board on the top which has a small cupboard on the back to hold the life
Pool and Billiard balls. This wonderful cue stand is part of the collection of
Mr Peter Clare of the Thurston Company.
simple wooden rack, (photo 6) is also part of Mr Clare's collection and is made
of mahogany and holds twelve cues. It is fairly basic in it's design in
that it has two strips of wood with twelve holes in each with a further blank
strip to house the butts, these are held together by two vertical posts at the
ends. This is typical of the many cheaper racks that would have stood in the
clubs and pubs rather than private billiard rooms
simplest way of storing and displaying cues it to use a wooden batten attached
to the wall with a series of clips on it. A more elegant option (photo 7) is to
use a cast iron top section similar to the one on the previous rack, the ones
illustrated have rubber wheels to hold the cues in place rather than the
turnstile gate but work equally as well.
comments, questions or queries about cue stands are welcome, and I will be
happy to give advice or valuations.
thanks to Mr Peter Clare of Thurston for his help, and allowing me to
photograph some of his collection.
David Thomas Lyttleton