J. Ashcroft & Co
Part of the History of Billiards & Snooker
In May 2009 Peter Ashcroft the great grandson of the founder was
able to provide a great deal of the background information, as well
as pictures, used in this article. Peter Clare the compiler of the
article is very grateful for the help and information provided by
Additional pictures and information are from the
Billiard & Snooker Heritage Collection.
E.A. Clare & Son Ltd., the business which
acquired the J. Ashcroft & Co. Billiards & Snooker
interests from Peter Ashcroft in 1987, when he retired, and ensures
the survival of this famous Liverpool business name by keeping it
alive in the Liverpool Telephone directory and on the normanclare
web site in the article on the history of E.A. Clare & Son and
now with its own brief history.
Ashcroft's trade mark taken from
a 1935 catalogue
James Ashcroft founded
the business in 1865 and the first premises were in Houghton
Street, Liverpool ( The Liverpool Radio City tower is in Houghton
In 1872 he moved premises to 36
Victoria Street. It is perhaps worth mentioning that some of the
written history that appears in early J. Ashcroft & Co.
catalogues states that the business was founded in 1869 but
generally the 1865 date seems to be accepted.
In 1884 he moved the
business in to purpose built premises at 37 Victoria Street and the
following drawing and report was published in "The Builder" in
In the 'Liverpool
Legion of Honour' published in 1893 the following entry was made
concerning the founder James -
In 1886 at "The
International Exhibition of Navigation - Travelling, Commerce and
Manufacturing" James Ashcroft was awarded a Gold Medal for
Excellence of his Billiard Table.
(The medal held by the Billiard
& Snooker Heritage Collection and is on display in the
James Ashcroft was
succeed by his son John and he help develop Ashcroft into one of
the recognised leading Billiard Houses of the Country making high
quality tables. Even today an Ashcroft table is recognised as a
well built sound table. The strength of the business can be seen by
the building they had had constructed but the style and quality of
the catalogues produce during this period.
The above picture is of
the front cover of the Ashcroft catalogue circa 1905 and within are
pictures of models of their tables from simple 'Club' models to
carved and veneered masterpieces.
Model No. 8- an
example of more basic design - note the shell design on the leg
squares this pattern was also incorporated on the Ashcroft
Model No. 28 a more
elaborate table - for the discerning gentleman!
Delivering tables is
still quite a difficult job with almost a tonne of slate plus all
the frame and cushions. E.A. Clare who was apprenticed with John
Ashcroft's sons Harold and James tells of pushing a cart from
Liverpool to Southport (probably somewhat exaggerated!!) to deliver
a table. However this early picture of an Ashcroft van shows that
they quickly invested in 'modern' transport.
It is just possible to read
J.Ashcroft, Billiard Tables, Victoria Street on the side of the
John Ashcroft is
seated in the middle
(It would be
interesting to know if anyone can name the other people who are in
this picture, which we believe is from the early 1900's? If anyone
can please use the contact button and let us know) Further
research shed some light on the picture as will be seen from the
two picture below which confirms the date as 1911 and the Billiard
Player with the cue across his chest is no other than Fred Lindrum.
The man standing between the two Billiard players can be seen again
in the following picture, is he perhaps his manager?
The wording on
the postcard reads -"To My Dear Friend Yours Always Fred
Lindrum Liverpool 12.12.1911"
The following pictures
of the Ashcroft works we think are from the period in the late
1930's or during the WWII years as the polishing shop shows women
working at the benches. The drawing of the building is shown so
that the floor the workshops were on can be highlighted.
All the machines
such as the circular saws were belt driven from one main overhead
axle. The windows in the back ground indicate that this picture was
taken looking towards Victoria Street and the design of the window
frames can be seen in the picture of the Ashcroft
Another view of
the wood machine shop looking in the opposite direction
The assemble and
finished area taken looking toward Victoria Street. Harold Ashcroft
is standing in the centre of the picture. Peter Ashcroft tells that
his bench where he did his five year apprenticeship can be seen in
in the foreground on the left - he must have been on a tea
room and as mentioned the fact that two ladies are working there
would seem to indicate that the picture would have been taken in
the early 1940's
The wood store,
which was situated on the roof of the Ashcroft building. The idea
of using the roof to store the timber had been part of the original
Ashcrofts not only
manufactured tables but offered a full service of fitting out a
Billiard Room and promoted this service in their catalogues.
As full size billiard
tables required large rooms which were not readily available in
most houses Ashcroft even offered Billiard Rooms.
Also novel ways to
store tables out of sight when not in use (see also the Article
on unusual installations).
John Ashcroft and
John Ashcroft died in
1928 and it is to be noted that his position in the City of
Liverpool and in the Billiard trade meant that reports of his death
were published both locally and in the Billiard press of the
The report in
"The Billiard Player" February 1928 and below the report
from the local newspaper
this period had the early history printed in the inside front pages
along with a picture of their premises in Victoria Street,
The business then
passed to Johns sons' Harold & James who continued the business
and sadly in 1954 at the age of 56 James dies leaving the business
to be run by Harold and his son Peter.
and his son Peter
Peter Ashcroft joined
the business on leaving school at 16 and so as an apprentice learnt
all aspects of the trade.
an example of the
Ashcroft Trade mark that the used on all their products
In the 1950's there was
much interest in Billiard / Snooker tables for the Home and
Ashcrofts produced a specific catalogue to promote their tables.
The note on the front cover is quite interesting, It reads -
The only mental and physical recreation with sustain interest _
Billiards in the Home - ensures pleasure and happiness. An
'Ashcroft table guarantees this'. [Perhaps the government
should be promoting this idea in 2009 and try and get people off
The association between
Bowling Green Bowls and Billiard / Snooker firms is again shown by
Ashcroft catalogues dedicating a couple of pages to Crown Green
bowls, the version of the sport played in the North West North East
Being an astute
businessman Peter appreciating that the business did not require
the full use of the building in Victoria St. rent off the ground
floor area to Slingsby as well as other floors and moved the shop
and office to the basement - this showroom was shown in the
catalogues of the period.
developed the business by setting up an "Automatics" side based on
his dealing with the club trade from the work done with them from
Billiards and Snooker. The catalogues included the machines
The Billiard / Snooker
roots were not forgotten as shown by the help given to running the
1966 World Snooker Championships. These were hosted by the
Lancashire Billiard Traders Association in St. Georges Hall,
Liverpool. John Pulman beat Fred Davis 5-2 and the local newspaper
published the picture below.
L - R
(E.A. Clare & Son), John Pulman, Bill Howitt (referee), Fred
(J. Ashcroft & Co.)
St. Georges Hall in
Liverpool was recognised as a major host for top class Billiards /
Snooker events and Ashcrofts had installed tables for such matches.
The picture below is of a game between Joe and Fred Davis in
Joe is at the
table, on the scoreboard can clearly be seen the J. Ashcroft name
and the banner at the back of the Hall indicates that the
Lancashire Billiard Trader Association was also involved. It is
interesting to see the size of the crowd which goes to show the
following that the sport had.
[Peter Ashcroft recalls that
after the afternoon session Joe had complained that the table
required attention, he hadn't played well but by the time the
evening session had finished and the room was warmer Joe had been
able to demonstrated his skill and congratulated Peter on the
Other top professionals
such as John Spencer also played on tables installed by Ashcrofts
Peter Ashcroft, John
Spencer, Ron Archer; Ron Archer, Cliff Boult (Ashcrofts
In the 1960's Peter decided to move
the showroom back to the ground floor and ensure and refitted the
displays for both snooker / billiards and club games as well as the
automatic side of the business.
The 1963/64 catalogues lists not
only Billiards & Snooker but darts, table tennis, bowls,fruit
machines and tombola - a full service to the Club trade.
A view from the G.P.O. Building
opposite (The GPO building is now the back section of the Met
View across Victoria St. showing
Cumberland St. The Ashcroft clock can clearly be seen
Cumberland St. showing the side
entrance and where the hoist was for taking items into the factory
section of the Ashcroft Building
In the mid 1960's there was a moved to
re vamp the style of Snooker / Billiard tables and the pages from a
catalogue of the time shows the Ashcroft version of a 'box' in
design as well as the developments in the automatics side of the
In the 1986 Peter Ashcroft was making
plans to retire and as there was no family members following in his
footsteps he decided to sell his interests to the other long
establish Liverpool business of E. A. Clare & Son. So it was
that in 1987 the two business made the following announcement.
As stated at the start of this article
the J. Ashcroft & Co. name lives on in Liverpool not only in
the local telephone directory but in the offices at 46/48 St. Anne
Street and now in this article on the Billiard & Snooker
Heritage site. The recognition of the quality of Ashcroft tables
also lives on which can be seen by the fact that when a business or
person is selling an Ashcroft made table they ensure that the name
is the first thing mentioned in the advert. An example from the
Thurston web site is shown below.
Thurston have a range of antique
Ashcroft tables ready for restoration as well as a antique Billiard
Tables by other recognised manufactures such as Orme & Sons, E.
J. Riley, Thos. Padmore and Burroughs & Watts.
Thurston also have a new tables of
their own manufacture for Snooker, Pool and Billiards as well as a
full range of quality accessories at very competitive prices.
Just contact the Sales department on
0870 607 1336
email - firstname.lastname@example.org
visit the e-shop at - www.thurston.co.uk
Acknowledgements - Special thanks to
Peter Ashcroft who kindly supplied many of the pictures and kindly
allowed their use in this article.
©2009 Peter N Clare / E.A. Clare &
Son Ltd. This aritcle can only be reproduced with the permisssion
of E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.
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