Harris Cast Iron Tables
In 1998 The Norman Clare Heritage Collection, had donated to it,
a most exciting new piece for the collection. It is a cast iron
framed full size billiard table.
The end rail showing the business
address as -
3 Pall Mall Place London; Harris & Sons Patent
The legs of the table have built in
screw adjustment toes and are rather spindly looking but the frame
and top of the legs have nice patterns in the casting
The story of how it came into the
collection started with a phone call to Peter Clare, Norman's son,
from Frank Sandell, who is a well known Snooker Coach and Billiards
& Snooker specialist based in Worthing. He had been contacted
by a family living just near Worthing, about a billiard table
stored in their house that they had brought over from their
previous home in Ireland.
Frank examined the table and to his surprise found that the
table frame was not wooden but was in fact cast iron. This really
meant that the table would, sadly, not play to the standards
expected and required for the modern game. The owners wondered what
would happen to this unique table and Frank not having space for it
then thought of the Norman Clare museum at Thurston's in Liverpool.
Frank, who knew from a visit that there was information on cast
iron tables and that Norman had always wanted one for his
Norman had wanted a Marsden & Safley, a Liverpool
business, cast iron table frame and had not been aware of any other
manufacturer. Norman, before he started collecting, had turned down
the chance of a Marsden & Safley table which not only had a
cast iron frame but also incorporated a 'concrete' bed.
A Marsden & Saffley cast
iron frame - note the Liver Bird in the end rail
We believe the table was made, based on its design and some of its
known history, in the late 19th Century. The information that the
manufacturer - Harris & Sons, 3 Pall Mall Lane, London, is
taken from the casting on one of the end rails of the frame. The
Hopkins family who donated the table were also able to provide
information based on what they were able to glean from relatives on
one of the previous owners.
Peter Hopkins provided the following information. His family
acquired the table in the late 1980's when they purchased
Ballyneale House in Ballygarry, Co. Limerick. There was a note on
the table indicating that it had been in two other large country
houses in the Limerick area. It also made mention that the table
had come back to Ireland from India!
When Mr. Hopkins was showing the house in Limerick to an old
relative of the family who had previously owned the house in the
1920's, the relative , who happened to be a priest, recognised the
table and confirmed that is was his belief that the table had come
back to Ireland from India.
Once the table was erected and put on display in the museum
it was decided that Thurston 'Adamant' cushions would be used,
rather than the cushion which came with the table, so that they too
could be displayed. Thurston 'Adamant' cushion were their answer to
the steel block cushion. Thurston incorporated a piece of slate
into the body of the cushion to give it weight.
Cross section of an 'Adamant'
In 2006 Peter Ainsworth was able
to do further research and provided the following information as
well as providing a copy of an advert from the 'Times' dated 9th
Daniel Harris was a Dublin manufacturer who was also operating
in London at least from 1865 when he occupied premises at 257
Oxford Street. The following year he moved to 3 Pall Mall Place,
the address on your table. At this time they were advertising as
just "D. Harris," with the "Son" first appearing in 1870. I'm not
sure when the left London, my last reference comes in 1877 and I
pick them up again in Mary Street, Dublin in 1924. After
this, I can find nothing further about them.
This article is not one of Norman Clare's , the report of
the billiard table being rediscovered and brought to the Heritage
Collection appeared in Pot Black magazine in May 1999.
Some further information on Harris tables
In January 2010 Gerard Kearney, an 'old' friend of Norman's,
whose business is the long establish Irish Billiard (Snooker)
Company of Long & Co. based in Cork. Mr. Kearney got in touch
to let us know about some other Harris tables that he had recently
The first being a 9ft x 41/2 ft., which has a cast iron frame
very similar in style to the full size one that is in the Heritage
collection,. Mr. Kearney set up the table and refurbished the
cushions and brass work.
As you can see this frame only has
only the D. Harris name but has both London and Dublin cast into
the end rail, whereas the full size in our Collection has the
address in London as well. It probably indicates that the 9ft.frame
is somewhat older that the full size. Also note that the cushion
plate does state D. Harris & Son. The fact that the cushion
plate has the D. Harris & Son on it indicates that Harris
worked on the table at a later date, perhaps they put new rubber
into the cushions?
The next table that Mr. Kearney work
on is most unusual. This Harris table was 8ft x 4ft and only has
corner pockets! Mr. Kearney had worked on the table back in the
1980's. Quite how anyone plays any form of Billiards on this table
is something of an enigma. Peter Ainsworth's researching this
question was aware of some American tables being produced and noted
that some tables in America were made in the period 1863-69 at size
6ft x 12ft with only four pockets followed between 1869-1873 by
tables size 5 ½ ft x 11ft again with only 4 pockets and that from
about 1873 table size 5ft x 10ft were made as carom tables (i.e.
Without pockets). So from this Peter Ainsworth feels that the table
must be pre 1873 when the fashion for 4 pocket tables died out in
The casting and decoration on the
end rails is basically the same as the prevoius 9ft table.
The final Harris table was offered to
Mr. Kearney, and as it was a sound solid timer frame rather than a
cast iron, he has taken it into stock to renovate and to be able to
offer a good quality local made made table to a discerning
customer. This table has a D. Harris & Son plate on the
Some pictures kindly supplied by Mr.
Peter Ainsworth for his help and
© E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.
2018. © Peter N. Clare 2018
Reproduction of this article allowed only with the permission from
E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.
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