J. Ashcroft & Co

Part of the History of Billiards & Snooker in Liverpool

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 Peter Ashcroft.

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.

J. Ashcroft & Co

 Ashcroft trade mark

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 Street).

James Ashcroft founder of the Billiard Co.

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 1883.

Ashcroft Building, Victoria Street, Liverpool

Ashcroft Building write up 1883

In the 'Liverpool Legion of Honour' published in 1893 the following entry was made concerning the founder James -

James Ashcroft

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.

Ashcroft Billiard Table medal

(The medal held by the Billiard & Snooker Heritage Collection and is on display in the collection)

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.

Ashcroft Billiard Catalogue 1905

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.

Ashcroft Billiard Table model No. 8

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 building.

Ashcroft Billiard Table model No. 28

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.

J. Ashcroft vehicle

It is just possible to read J.Ashcroft, Billiard Tables, Victoria Street on the side of the van

John Ashcroft with Fred Lindrum

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?

Lindrum ; Fred (1911) Liverpool Group

Fred Lindrum

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.

Ashcroft Building

Ashcroft Billiard machine shop

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 building.

Wood working shop Ashcroft

Another view of the wood machine shop looking in the opposite direction

Ashcroft Billiard assembly shop

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 break!!

Ashcroft polishing room

The polishing 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

Ashcroft wood store

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 design brief.

Ashcroft Billiard Room 

Ashcrofts not only manufactured tables but offered a full service of fitting out a Billiard Room and promoted this service in their catalogues.

Ashcroft portable Billiard Room

As full size billiard tables required large rooms which were not readily available in most houses Ashcroft even offered Billiard Rooms.

Raising & Lowering of a Billiard table

Also novel ways to store tables out of sight when not in use (see also the Article on unusual installations).

John Ashcroft

John Ashcroft and his wife

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 time.

Billiard Player 1928

The report in "The Billiard Player" February 1928 and below the report from the local newspaper

John Ashcroft

Catalogues from this period had the early history printed in the inside front pages along with a picture of their premises in Victoria Street, Liverpool.

Ashcroft Billiard catalogue 

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.

Harold & Peter Ashcroft

Harold Ashcroft 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.

Revised Ashcroft Trade Mark

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 couch!!]

Ashcroft catalogue page

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 England.

                         Ashcroft Crown Green Bowls

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.

Ashcroft Snooker showroom

Peter Ashcroft 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 offered.

Ashcroft Fruit / Poker 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.

John Pulman & Fred Davis Snooker professionals

L - R

Norman Clare (E.A. Clare & Son), John Pulman, Bill Howitt (referee), Fred Davis,

Peter Ashcroft (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 1949.

St. Georges Hall, Liverpool, Snooker match

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 table!!]

Other top professionals such as John Spencer also played on tables installed by Ashcrofts for events.

John Spencer Snooker Champion

Peter Ashcroft, John Spencer, Ron Archer; Ron Archer, Cliff Boult (Ashcrofts sales manager)

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.

Ashcroft Snooker catalogue

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.

Ashcroft shop Victoria Street, Liverpool

A view from the G.P.O. Building opposite (The GPO building is now the back section of the Met Quarter)

Ashcroft building and their clock

View across Victoria St. showing Cumberland St. The Ashcroft clock can clearly be seen

Ashcroft factory entrance

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 business.

Ashcroft Snooker table

Clubmaster Snooker Table

Ashcroft amusement machines

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. -

 merger Ashcroft and E.A. Clare

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.

Ashcroft La Art Noveau model Snooker table

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 - thurston@eaclare.co.uk

 visit the e-shop at - www.thurston.co.uk

phone - 0151 482 2700

Acknowledgements - Special thanks to Peter Ashcroft who kindly supplied many of the pictures and kindly allowed their use in this article.

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©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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