Bar Billiards Ltd.
Bar Billiards (Sometimes known
as Russian Billiards) and Bar Billiards Ltd. part in its introduction into the
2013 Peter Clare with the help of Peter Ainsworth put together a an
all too brief history of Jelks. As a result Ivor Champion
(bar-billiards.com) spotted the scan of the Jelks 'Automatic Table'
(Bar Billiard table) and contacted Peter. Ivor who has a long
association with Bar Billiard Tables felt that the picture was one
of the earliest examples of a British made Bar Billiard
Note the table wasn't call a Bar
Billiard Table & the square mechanism plate and rear mounted
scoreboard also indicates it is an early table
As a result of the conversation it was
decided that some further history of the tables be recorded. So a
meeting was arranged with people involved with the promotion and
servicing of BB Tables, this was arranged for April
the meeting were Richard Gibbs, who had owned Bar Billiards Ltd for
a number of years and had taken it over from its founder David
Gill. Terry Hughes who started work with the company on a 6 weeks
trail and was there for forty years. Ken Hussey was with Bar
Billiards Ltd until the business ceased and is now active with
BAPTO. Ivor Champion, who learnt the trade at Bar Billiares |(Kent)
Ltd and now restores B. B. Tables, and Peter Clare of E.A. Clare
& Son Ltd. , made up the group.
introduction of the game of Bar Billiards into the U.K. Is fairly
well documented in that David Gill had been visiting Northern
Europe in 1934, some say on a walking tour others on a bicycle
tour. He had observed the game Billiard Russe being played in
Europe and thought it would work in licensed premises in the U.K.
When he came home he worked with Mr. S.W.M. Jelks to produce a
British version of the table that Gill had seen on his travels. The
first Bar Billiard table installed was in the 'Rose & Crown' in
Elham nr. Canterbury in early 1934, there is a plaque in the pub
recording this fact.
picture of the Jelks table at the start of the article is not
called a Bar Billiard Table so it is believed to be from about
1934.The front plate of the mechanism is square probably a French
made mechanism. Could it be that the business set up by Gill - Bar
Billiards Ltd had the rights to the descriptive name? Interestingly
the other firm that made Bar Billiard Tables Sams Bros Ltd. Didn't
call them Bar Billiard tables. As shown by the tables listed in
their catalogue sent out in 1935.
Domestic Table Top models were
'Free play' version
Recognisable as a Bar Billiard Table and
the price was a 'CASH' price!
By 1936 the name Bar Billiards was
recognised as shown by the newspaper articles which reported the
first ever Bar Billiard tournament held in Newbury in February
1936. The reports state that there were 32 local teams and the
finalists were the 'Two Brewers' and the 'King Charles', with the
'Two Brewers' winning the cup, which had been donated by Bar
Billiards Ltd. ( of the two articles the one from the Licensed
Victuallers has the correct story about where the game was seen but
attributes it to the wrong person. Mr Dixon was the organiser Mr.
Gill was the person who introduced the table to the U.K.).
Interestingly the report also states that - "the contest was not
held under the auspices of the National Bar Billiards Association
the newly formed controlling body of the game, it was conducted
under the rules of that Association.
It can be seen that the game developed
quickly and the licensed premises were the target customers. During
the meeting it was mentioned that by the late 1960's early 1970's
Bar Billiards Ltd had over 2000 tables out at pubs via the
breweries on a shared basis.Such was the demand for table, that
sometime the wait for an installation could be as long as 6
months!! It was obviously a popular game as in the 1970's Oxford
district had 9 divisions with 111 teams.
The popularity seems to have been
highest and most significant in the South (East & West) of
England and the Channel Isles. Although North Companies such as Ashcroft
Clare ,both based in Liverpool, listed bar Billiard tables in
Page from a 1953 E. A. Clare
page from 1959 Ashcroft
It is interesting that both these
northern businesses offered Bar Billiard Tables as the game was
never as popular north of Birmingham as it was in the South of
Initially Bar Billiards Ltd. was owned
jointly by David Gill and Jelks. Harry Gipps (Richard's father)
worked for the business from the start and the game , which was not
expected to last more than a few years! In the 1950's Harry Gipps,
who had kept the firm going through the war years, whilst also
running a lime quarry, purchased the shares owned by Jelks in the
1950's and continued to run the business with David Gill. (Note
Jelks ceased trading in 1958 , which would fit with the H.Gipps
purchase of the Jelks shares. -See the Jelks article).Richard Gipps returned from
travelling overseas in 1969 and joined the business to learn the
trade so he could take over its running. At that time Bar Billiards
Ltd was based at 122 Nine Mile Ride in Finchampsted.
In 1973 the business purchased Heath
Works in Ascot, just across the road from the Ascot racecourse.
Some pictures of the building as it was in 1973 are shown
The breweries were the main customers
for the Bar Billiard Tables and the new site proved to be useful in
allowing Bar Billiards Ltd. to promote the game by hosting 'Brewery
Day' during the Ascot Races, as the picture illustrates
At the height of the Bar Billiards boom
Bar Billiards Ltd had some 2100 tables out in brewery sites in
Southern England. The game also proved to be popular in the Channel
Isles where there is still a strong following of the
In the 'history of Bar Billiards in
Jersey' they note - The game was introduced in 1933 when George
Jeune, the landlord of Caeserea, imported four tables. By 1962
Jersey had over 50 tables with competitions being organised by two
Bar Billiards Ltd exhibited both Bar
Billiard Tables and Pool Tables at the Lords exhibition in 1979.
The pictures below show the stand.
Not only was 1984 Bar Billiards
50th anniversary but they also rebuilt and extended
their Heath workshop premises. For their 50th
celebrations the Gill and Gibbs families were presented at their
celebration with a trophy as a memento of the event.
The building of the extension was also
captured by Richard Gibbs
Some internal pictures of the Heath
Works with staff and it can be seen that UK pool tables were
becoming an important part of the business.
Sales leaflet circa 1990
In the late 1980's Richard and his
sisters bought all the Gill family and their own parents shares and
they continued to run the business until they sold in in 2006.
sadly a few years later the business ceased to trade.
Additional Bar Billiards information
The Rules of the Game
In the 1960 the game became popular
around the Caribbean in fact E.A. Clare had a major export of their
tables to Guyana. The picture shows some of the tables being
prepared in their St. Anne Street workshop-
Some examples makes and models of Bar
Billiard Table -
Jelks table made mainly of Ash
with octaganal legs. Sometimes called threepenny bit
copyright Ivor Champion
E.A. Clare & Son table circa 1960, narrow width Picture copyright Ivor
An early Oak E.J. Riley complete with
Picture copyright Ivor Champion
Fairly early Sams table there are four
holes in the cushion body for storing the cues. Picture copyright Ivor
At its height Bar Billiards Ltd. had 2100
tables out on shared basis
Bar Billiards Ltd. sold in 2006 and
ceased trading a couple of years later
See Jersey BB association
©2015 Peter N. Clare
& E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. - reproduction of any part of this
article only allowed with permission of the author Peter N.
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