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.

Cast Iron Billiard Table end rail

The end rail showing the business address as -
3 Pall Mall Place London; Harris & Sons Patent

Billiard Table Cast iron leg

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 collection.

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.

Marsden & Saffley Billaird table

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.

Adamant Billiard Cushion

Cross section of an 'Adamant' cushion

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 February 1870.

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.

Harris advert

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 worked on.

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.

Harris Billiard Table

Cast Iron Billiard Table.

CIMG1226 

CIMG1225

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 America.

CIMG1232

The casting and decoration on the end rails is basically the same as the prevoius 9ft table.

Four pocket Billiard 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 frame.

CIMG1242

 

Acknowledgements -

Some pictures kindly supplied by Mr. G. Kearney

Peter Ainsworth for his help and information


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© 2010 E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. - All items displayed are from the N. Clare collection unless otherwise stated. Reproduction of article allowed only with permission from E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.

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