John Bennett & Company

John Bennett & Company


It should be noted that the majority of the information in this article is from the book 'Billiards & Snooker a Trade History' complied by J.R. Mitchell, which was published in 1981. The J. Bennett company history was written by John K. Bennett, the fifth generation in the business, for the book.

However, research done by Peter Ainsworth, using newspaper adverts indicates that John Bennett's 'history', which does admit that the Company's early years are shrouded in mystery. may have dates and addresses mixed up!

John Bennett & Company :- by John Bennett

In December, 1941, and incendiary raid on London completely destroyed the John Bennett & Co's building at 120 Newington Causeway, London SE1. All existing records of the Company were lost until an extraordinary incident in 1963 brought to light some of the Company's early history.

In September 1963, a man walking down a street in Lambeth, noticed an unopened letter laying on the pavement. The envelope bore a Victorian penny stamp postmarked London, W.C., and dated October ,1893.It was addressed to an insurance company. the finder, opened the letter , written as it later turned out by the founder's son, from John Bennett & Co. of 35 Surrey Street, Strand, W.C. Enclosed was a Coutts cheque made payable to the Insurance Co. for the renewal of fire insurance.

Research was carried out and Coutts the bankers confirmed that they had a customer , John Gibson Bennett (who died in 1899), and the London County Archives show that 35 Surrey Street, Strand, was destroyed by fire in June 1898.

The letter had a heading showing the firm was founded in 1821. It carries the Royal Coat of Arms and "Tables for India and the Colonies not affected by variations in climate".

 Research by Peter Ainsworth into cushion plates has the following observation with regard to the founding date of 1821.

 1863 1877


The early years of the Company's existence are shrouded in mystery, fires of 1898 and 1941 have been so destructive. However tables are continually been discovered bearing the Surrey Street address. The significance of the Surrey Street address is that these table were manufactured between 1821 and 1898. My father, John Gibbons Bennett (1885-1965) told me that the writer of the letter found in the Street was his great uncle John Gibson Bennett (1816-1899). We have no information about the founder's birth and death dates.

It is known that after the 1898 fire the business moved to Vincent Square, London, SW 1. I understand that it was carried on by my grandfather, John Samuel Bennett, but he died prematurely in 1899, the same year as my great uncle. From then the business was run by my grandmother, and my father, who was then 14, left school to join her. It seem most of the responsibility was shouldered by the trusty foreman fitter and it was he who taught my father all the practicalities of the trade. My father, who was a very fine craftsman and a perfectionist, in turn passed his knowledge on to me.


Peter Ainsworth research into Bennett's  cushion plates makes the following observation

 1898 1917


The Company did not stay at the Vincent Square address very long. Soon after the turn of the century it moved to 120 Newington Causeway, London, SE1, and my grandmother continued to hold the reins until her death in 1918, shortly before I was born. The Newington Causeway premises provided living accommodation as well as shop and office, with the workshop and stables at the rear. Not long after W.W 1 ended the rear part of the premises was redeveloped and the need for work premises became essential, 35 Rockingham Street, which was only 600 yards away, was taken and it provided room for a garage, warehouse, workrooms. Machine shop etc..

In 1920 a subsidiary company, Grosvenor Billiard Halls Ltd, was formed. This company ran five Billiard Halls - in Hackney, Canonbury, Watford, Islington and Highbury. Everyone of these was destroyed during W.W.II.

In 1931 The London County Council acquired 35 Rockingham Street for redevelopment as council flats, so the works were moved again, this time to 8 Rockingham Street, which were more convenient and modern.

In 1941, 120 Newington Causeway was destroyed in the December fire bomb raid. The heat from the fire was so intense that even the billiard table slates were turned into dust and nothing was salvaged. Struggling to continue with reduced staff and supplies in wartime conditions, my father turned a small corner of the workrooms into a shop and partitioned of another bit as an office so the business continued from 8 Rockingham Street. It was not until 1952 that suitable premises were found, nearby, and then 49 Newington Causeway was purchased and we were able to recover and expand. Rockingham Street was subsequently compulsorily purchased as part of the 'Elephant Scheme' and the site became part of the new Ministry of Health building.

Peter Ainsworth research into Bennett's  cushion plates makes the following observation

1945 1952

John Gibson Bennett my father, died in 1965 and the business was carried on by myself, John K. Bennett.


Front cover of Bennetts 1966 Accessories catalogue

R 1966 Acc Cat Front

R 1966 Inside Front

 Inside 1966 Accessories Catalogue mentioning death of John G. Bennett


Another forced move took place in 1967, when London County Council compulsorily purchased 49 Newington Causeway and the Company moved to 157-163 Old Kent Road. The larger premises enabled considerable expansion to take place. In 1967 the Company took over W. Stevens & Sons, who had themselves absorbed R. Stevens & Sons.


R 1968 Front

Front Cover of 1988 Accessories catalogue

R 1968 Acc Cat Inside 

 Inside Front of 1968 - showing incorporation of W. Stevens & Son Ltd.


R 1968 Cat Back Page

Back cover of 1968 catalogue


Peter Ainsworth research into Bennett's  cushion plates makes the following observation

 1952 1982

In 1974 the Company acquired the 'traditional' side of Mister Billiards business, took over additional workshop in Streatham High Street, and with an enlarged board embarked on a new era. (Interesting that John Bennett adds a confidential note in a letter to Bob Mitchel, complier of the book 'Trade History' That as a result Bruce Donkin & Bill Hamson, their office staff and fitters are joining me, and that an announcement will be in the next Snooker Scene)


R 1977 Accessories Cat 

Front cover of 1977 Accessories catalogue


Peter Ainsworth research into Bennett's cushion plates makes the following observation

1976 1982

R 1978 Price List

1978 price list to be used in conjunction with illustrated catalogue No. 7722


The Business was acquired by E.J. Riley in 1979 and continued in the Old Kent Road until 1982 when those premises were closed and the name disappeared.

However in 2006 The John Bennett Billiards Ltd name was reinstated

Acknowledgements :-

Peter Ainsworth ( Cushion Plates and research into the information)

Book - Billiards & Snooker a Trade History Complied by J.R. Mitchell

Snooker Heritage Collection for the Accessories Catalogue pictures


© Peter Ainsworth 2023 -© Peter Clare 2023

 Reproduction of this article allowed only with the permission


© E.A. Clare & Son Ltd -2023