The British Factory House - Oporto

Thurston Table in The British Factory House (A Feitoria Inglesa -Porto)- Oporto, Portugal

A Feitoria Inglesa Porto

A model of The British Factory House (A Feitoria Inglesa)
The Billiard Room is situated on the top right of the building.

In 2014 we received an enquiry from The British Factory House in Oporto to renovate their 'Billiard'  table. After some emails to and from asking questions and receiving pictures it became obvious that this was an early example of a  Billiard table.

The Billiard Room

The Billiard Room

Marked in the picture is the Thurston Marking Board and the Thurston Ball &  Pool Money Receiver. These were sold as seperate units as shown in the picture taken from a Thurston catalogue circa 1890
Tco MB_1890


The Billiard Table

The cushion plates help indicate the age -

Chusionplate Cath

The Catherine Street address meant that the table was pre 1901 (Thurston moved to Leicester Square in 1901) and the plate on the other end referring to Patent No. 1480, we believe refers to the patent for vulcanised rubber made by Thurston in 1845.   So we knew we were dealing with a table that was at least 115 year old and was possibly older.

Cushion Plate Patent

On examining the pictures of the table it became clear that little or no recovering or renovation work had been carried out since it was installed. It had the built up strip rubber in the cushions which was covered both in the billiard cloth as well as the white linen under cloth.

As it was realised that the work would not just be fitting new rubber and recovering the bed and cushions but would require some serious wood work on the cushions to be able to fit modern rubber some local help by way of a wood workshop would be required. Mike Atherton the Thurston Works manager volunteered to carry out the work and so flew out to Oporto with his tool kit and with the cloth and parts required in April 2015.

During the renovation work he took several pictures that showed interesting features he discovered for example :-
The following picture shows part of the cushion rubber support which indicates that the last time the cushions were worked on was October 1887.

Date October 1887

In the picture below you can see the rubber strips that made up the cushion rubber and also the round shape to the nose of the rubber unlike the 'L' section rubber used today.

strip Cush Rubber

Another picture set is a view of a corner pocket before the work was carried out and as you can see the table can not have been played on for many years!

Corner pocket bag type pocket net

When Mike was on site he sent back a picture of the number stamped on the cushion and also the table frame number to see if we could find them in our old foreman's table book or in our old Ledgers.

Cushion Number
The cushion number 4050 was stamped into all six cushions and was different to the table number. However this sort of thing is recorded in the foreman's note book were a few entries show that cushions with a different number to the frame went with the table frame numbered.

Billiard Table Frame number

The frame number was clearly stamped on the top of the leg square along with, we presume, the table makers initials.

Although the earliest date in the foreman's note book is December 1896 along with a table number 5936 meant that we could not trace the actual manufacturing date. We do have Sales Ledgers prior to 1886 they are for British Sales not export as the Export Sales Ledger were lost when Thurston Leicester Square premises were bombed in 1940.

So trying to date the table is a little difficult, if we are correct in the patent on the cushion plate referring to vulcanised rubber cushion being 1845 and the Foreman's note book earliest entry in late 1886. Along with the thin, 1inch (25mm) thick four section slate bed, it points to its age being closer to 1845 than the cushion recovering date of 1887. Our best guess is that the table is circa 1850.

The renovation work carried out by Mike Atherton, Thurston's Works Manager, required all his knowledge and skills built up from his many years experience both in the factory and on the road as a service fitter. The cushions had to be adjusted to take the modern rubber, so the cushion blocks had to be adjusted to allow for the original nose projection. The height of the cushion also had to be adjusted so that the balls would strike the cushion correctly. The cut for the pockets had to match the original so that the point of fall stayed the same. So this meant that the middle pockets with the pocket plate set quite far forward would mean that it was more difficult to pot a ball in the middle pocket that on a 'modern' table.

Mike's Work Bench

Work in progress

The pictures below show some of the work that Mike had to undertake to achieve the full renovation of this early Billiard Table.

Cushions Old Cloth off

The Old cloth and undercover being removed. The old tacks were 'reluctant' to be removed!

Original cushion lining

The shape of the 'old' original cushion block shown once the rubber was removed


New cushion blocks shaped
New profiling of cushion blocks - New timber glued into position to ensure correct projection of cushion rubber.

New Rubber Fitted

New rubber fitted - ready for the next task before recovering in Billiard Cloth

Billiard Table Refurbished 

 The finished job - ready for play.

Snooker rails were fitted rather than bag pocket nets so that the balls, particularly from the middle pockets, could more easily be collected. Notice that the table now also sits on a carpet square. Mike help with the fitting by removing the slate bed so the frame could be lifted and then replaced onto the carpet.

It was with surprise and pleasure that in January 2016 an email was received from Rui Coelho which had attached a translation of this article and so with his permission that translation is shown here -

The British Factory Oporto

 Image 2_R

Image 3_R

Acknowledgements :-
Pictures   -  The British Factory House & Mike Atherton
  Catalogue picture from the Snooker Heritage Collection                                  Translation of article into Portugese and additional picture -Thanks to Rui Coelho

© E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. 2018. © Peter N. Clare 2018
Reproduction of this article allowed only with the permission from E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.

phone - 44(0)151 482 2700

email -

eshop -