Past Master No.13 April 1984
J.P. as he was
frequently called. was born in London on 24th September 1859. Very
little is recorded of his boyhood but we know he spent many years
as a billiard coach with Messrs. Burroughes and Watts Ltd. and
played in the B. & W. tournaments at The "Royal Aquarium"
making a name for himself with a break of 282 in a "Spot" and
"Push" barred match during, 1878.
Throughout his life he
was very well known as a professional player and although he never
achieved great success his name is still well known to present day
players. Some of whom boast that they are the proud owners of a
"Mannock" cue, and as can be seen from the reprint taken from the
abridged list of patents dated 21st January 1891. He actually
patented a cue of special design which he claimed was constructed
.... "To prevent making "miscues" especially in the masse
stroke!!... but I am afraid that this particular design of cue has
The picture of the cue plate is
the cue model No.9 as described in the 1953 Burroughes & Watts
catalogue and is the cue sort after by collectors. From the plate
it is probably safe to assume that it is not made to the 1891
patent. This cue has a steamed pear wood shaft unlike most cues of
that period which had ash or maple shafts.
Mannock was always trying to increase
the popularity of billiards and during October, 1881 he
experimented with a "Four-Pocket" Billiard Table at the Hotel
Victoria playing games of 400 up against Tom Taylor and until the
standard table was stipulated by the Billiards Association in 1892
he always had a "Championship Table" in his billiard rooms with 3
inch pockets and at about this time he also experimented in a game
in which, whenever the red was pocketed off the billiard spot it
was then placed on the centre spot. Clearly a forerunner of the
restriction which was later placed on spot strokes.
Major Broadfoot only mentions Mannock
once in his book "Billiards" published in 1896 saying that he was
.... "A player who would have come to prominent notice long ago if
he had appeared more in public"....
He made a short visit with Dawson to
Australia and hew Zealand returning, in 1899 when he tried to
introduce another novelty calling the game "Descriptive Billiards"
in which the player had to declare the object of each stroke in
Mannock contributed articles to the
Billiards Association magazine "The World of Billiards" from the
first weekly issue dated 14th November 1900 until completing the
series in the issue dated 8th April 1903. Following which the
articles were all brought together in his book entitled "Billiards
Expounded" Volume I published in 1904. 'there is a 2 page review of
the book in the World of Billiards dated 24th February 1904. There
is a two page review of the book in the "World of Billiards" dated
February 1904 ending with the words ..., "Let all billiard players
read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the outcome of J. P.
Throughout this period Mannock was
regularly advertising his services - giving lessons and exhibitions
at The Billiard Rooms with seven first class table (including two
standards), under his management at the Hotel Victoria -
Northumberland Avenue, London.
According, to another report in the
"World of Billiards" dated 12th February 1902 Mannock was also the
proprietor of "The University Billiard Rooms" in Cambridge where a
match of 500 up between himself (received 100) and F. Bateman took
place on the Thursday of the previous week. Bateman winning by 157
points. Mannock, evidently played regular exhibition matches during
the early part of 1902 - matches being played in Manchester and at
"The Three Rabbits Hotel" Romford Road, against Inman when playing
level games of 150 - up it seems that Inman was the winner. During
the same period Mannock (received 100) played W. Spiller in a match
of 750 up at the Black Horse Hotel, Rathbone Place and won by 250
Readers will recall from the earlier
past masters articles (No. 6 - Charles Lawson and No. 7 - W.H.
Stevenson) the long arguments which took place between these two
players concerning, the 1903 Championship over the dated - venue -
choice of table, etc. and it is therefore of considerable interest
to note that the players agreed without any difficulty that J. P.
Mannock would be the referee and that this appointment gave general
satisfaction as he had been actively concerned with drawing up the
current code of rules.
The next news article I have traced
concerning Mannock is recorded in "The Billiard Monthly" of 15th
January 1911 which reports that .... "By the kind initiative and
efforts of J. P. Mannock" a professional players benevolent fund
was brought into being at the recent Christmas Eve dinner at the
Bedford Hotel, Tottenham Court Road (he was the proprietor of the
billiard rooms at this hotel) which was supported by the leading
professional players at that time including Stevenson - Diggle -
Reece - Harverson - Cook - Lovejoy - Mack - Elphick - Sparrow and
Harwood. Peall was absent through illness and Aiken had been
delayed by a railway accident whilst travelling South in the
He evidently had the right idea of how
the players should appear in public as in the "Billiard Monthly" of
September 1912 Mannock advocates the adoption of a correct
"Billiards Costume" or style of dress for professional players - he
evidently realised the importance of good appearance and
showmanship when playing before the public and it is perhaps
interesting to hear the favourable compliments currently expressed
concerning the appearance of the present day professional players
who are seen by millions of viewers on television.
During April 1913 at his Bedford Hotel
billiard rooms he promoted a Billiards handicap in which entry was
confined to players qualified to receive no more than 100 points
start in 500 up from the Amateur Champion - this was won by a
Mr.G.. Sutcliffe (receive 80) who defeated F. Wagstaff (receive
135) by 39 points.
Now there are gaps in the available
sources of news as the "World of Billiards" ceased publication in
April 1905 and the "Billiard Monthly" in my library covers the
period 1910 until the outbreak of World War l in August 1914. So it
is not until the "Billiards Player" commenced publication with the
issue dated December 1920 that further research becomes possible,
and by this date Mannock would be 60 years of age. News is somewhat
scarce ... ( in the May 1923 issue of 'Billiard Player' shows
him playing a young lady professional - information and picture
added to Norman's article)
....... until October
1923 when evidently there was considerable sympathy amongst the
billiards public for Mannock when it was reported that his
"Unfortunate Circumstances" resulted from a great injustice when he
was deprived. without compensation of his business at the Victoria
Hotel by the War Commandeering necessities of the government and so
a Mr. Gask initiated an appeal on behalf of the J. P. Mannock
Testimonial Fund with a target of £1000 ( a large figure in 1923 )
it being said that .... This would be not a penny too much".... as
" Nobody deserved better of the whole game of billiards than the
genial, J.P. who was always doing good turns for others and had
played no small part in bringing billiards to the wonderful status
it enjoyed to-day".... £300 was soon remitted to the Sporting Life"
and during November 1923 A BIG Week of entertainment by sporting
celebrities playing every conceivable type of game on a billiard
table took place at Burroughes & Watts Hall and a team match
took place on November 17th at the Holborn Billiard Hall owned by
Burnley Billiard Works, when jockeys (including Steve Donaghue)
played the Racing Press and by the time the "Sporting Life"
organised another weeks entertainment during -
February 1924 also at
Burroughes & Watts Hall the target of a full £1OOO was reported
to be "Well in sight" but no mention is made of the Professional
Players Benevolent Fund launched by Mannock himself in January
Evidently Mannock used
his testimonial to good effect as later the same year - during,
October 1924 he opened the "Mannock Billiards Club" at 117 Great
Portland Street - with a membership subscription of 3 guineas (£3.
3s. 0d in 'old money') per annum. It evidently became the
focal point for billiards as by December 1924 the Billiards Control
Club transferred its headquarters to his club where it was reported
that the usual competitions would be played.
A few months later he
must have been wanting to raise funds as he published an
advertisement on page 30 of the "Billiard Player" dated February
1925 saying ... "J. P. Mannock will be pleased to accept a Partner
(either working or not) in his new club 117 Great Portland Street.
The club now has a membership of 70 and is fully licensed, open to
inspection any time - capital required £650.00. Evidently business
was not too good as by the following month in order to encourage an
increase in membership he announced that the annual club
subscription had been reduced from 3 guineas (£3. 3s. 0d) to one
guinea (£1. ls. 0d).
A further indication
that his club was not proving to be very successful is evidenced by
the need to increase his income by an advertisement published in
the "Billiard Player" of May 1925 announcing that .... "J, P.
Mannock (author or Billiards expounded) teaches daily at Burroughes
& Watts, 19 Soho Square"... One might have expected him to be
giving these lessons in his own club.
It is also perhaps of
some interest to learn that J. P gave lessons to Sir W. S. Gilbert
of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. Evidently Sir. W.S. Gilbert had an
injured thumb and so Mannock provided him with a special metal
fitment to enable him to make a bridge. During the late 1920's
Mannock's book "Billiards Expounded" was published in serialised
form month by month over a period of 34 months in the "Billiard
Player" concluding in June 1930 and at the end of each article
there was a small advertisement indicating that Mannock was giving
billiard lessons daily at Burroughes & Watts Hall by which time
he would be 70 years of age but so far my researches have not been
able to reveal how - when or where he died, but no doubt I will
come across this information during, some of my future researches.
However, in an article written by W. J. Peall in 1934 he described
Mannock as "The Greatest Billiard Coach" saying also that he could
spin a yarn far and away better than any professional player. I
have also come across an article written by Sydney Lee published in
the -Billiard Player of April 1940 in which Sydney Lee says that he
began playing as a boy and was encouraged by his father and taken
in hand by J. P. Mannock.
At this point my "Past
Masters" No. 13 had been concluded and in keeping with a promise
made some six months earlier I sent a copy to Mrs. J. Evans of St.
Albans - a grand daughter of J. Ps who has now very kindly provided
the following additional interesting information.
A Certified Copy of his
Marriage Certificate shows that he married Alice Anne Cooke at the
Islington Register Office on 1st January 1886 and that his father
was a journalist (he later became a Fleet Street Editor) That he
had two brothers, Michael and Edward. Michael was also a lesser
known Professional Player, and Edward was the father of Major
Edward Mannock V.C. the famous World War I fighter pilot who was
credited with 73 enemy aircraft. Mrs. Evans was also able to send
me a photocopy of a 1914 Christmas card sent to J. P. by Sir Arthur
and Lady Conan Doyle - Sir Arthur being one of some 50 famous
people - mostly members of the nobility including Sir Thomas
Lipton, Signor Marconi and others who are shown on his stationary
as being his patrons / pupils, together with a photocopy taken from
the "Sporting Life" dated 30th November, 1932 reporting the death
of Mr. J. P. (Jack) Mannock at his home in Finchley at the age of
73 and describing him as one of the outstanding personalities of
This information also
enabled me to trace the report of the passing of J. P. in the
"Billiard Player" dated January 1933 in which Mr. Harry Young in
writing a tribute to him mentions that he had enjoyed the benefit
of a good education and spoke French fluently - with a smattering
of other languages.
Watts were mentioned quite often in this article and readers might
be interested in the following concerning that Company. In 1967 the
trading interests of Burroughes & Watts was taken over by
Rileys who then traded for some years as Riley-Burwat. The Soho
Square Matchroom also closed in 1967. The two pictures give some
additional information concerning these events.
© Norman Clare 1990. © E.A.
Clare & Son Ltd. 2018.
Reproduction of this article allowed only with the permission from
E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.
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