Tom Taylor & John North

PAST MASTERS NO'S 8 & 9 - (August 1983)

So far in the series of "Past Masters" nos. 1-7 we have researched and recorded the achievements and biographies of all the Champion Billiard Players of the 19th Century. Commencing with Edwin (Jonathan) Kentfield, who assumed the title in 1825, retaining it until 1849, when he failed to accept the challenge of John Roberts Senior. Who in his turn then assumed and held the title until he was defeated by W. Cook, in the first actual match for the Championship title in 1870. Following which the title sometimes changed hands several times in the same year.

During the 75 years from 1825 to the end of the century, there were only two "runners up", who never ultimately gained the title themselves, namely T. Taylor, who was defeated by a margin of only 90 points in 1000 up by Joseph Bennett in 1881, and J. North, who was beaten by nearly half the game in a match of 9000 up by Charles Dawson, in 1889. (Actual scores 9000 to 4715). So before we move into the present century I have thought it worthwhile researching the careers of Taylor and North, although as they never became the Champions themselves. Very little information about them has been recorded. Fortunately however, we do have their photographs, and brief details of their careers from Dawson's Book. "Practical Billiards", published in 1904.

Tom Taylor Billiard Professional

Tom Taylor

Tom Taylor was born on 27th January 1852, and came to notice shortly before his 22nd birthday by making a break of 435 (including 137 spots), in a match against S.W. Stanley, at the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Holborn, London, during December of 1873. A few years later in 1877, he beat Joseph Bennett by narrow margins in two games thus demonstrating his skill, and ranking him amongst the best players, as Joseph Bennett had previously won the Championship title in 1870. Bennett also won the title again in 1880, thus Taylor must have been amongst the best players of this period.

Taylor also defeated many other well known players, including Peall, on 14th February 1883, winning by 967 points in 2000 up, with a break of 455. Amongst other notable achievements, he made a break of 538 when playing against Roberts Junior, at the Bridge House Hotel, on 14th October 1884. The following year playing against Roberts at the Royal Aquarium, he made breaks of 616-441-630 and 344. Even so, despite a start of 3000 points in 10,000 up, he lost the match by a margin of 1663 points. His largest break was achieved during November 1885, when he made a break of 1233, whilst playing against J. North. It must of course be remembered, that all these breaks included "spots", which were permitted at the time - his largest "spot barred" break, being 433, also against North on 7th November 1889.

Finally Taylor surprised both himself and the spectators at the Royal Aquarium on 24th April 1891, actually he was playing a game of only 600 up, when he got the balls jammed into a corner pocket opening, and then running to game with a break of 373 unfinished, he was requested to continue finally taking the break to 1467, with a total of 729 cannons.

It is recorded that he visited America in 1893, but apart from the fact that he arranged a match to take place in London between F.C. Ives of Chicago and John Roberts, we have no further information about this visit, and from this date forward, although still playing in public he devoted his time mainly to teaching others how to play.

J. North Billiard Professional

J. North

John North was born in Bristol in 1857, and according to Major Broadfoot, possessed a high reputation in Wales and the Western Counties, before coming to notice at the age of 26 years when on 1st January 1883, he played against a very well known Scottish player namely, J.G. Sala, at the Woolsack Hotel in Manchester, although he lost this match by 41 points in 1000 up. Shortly afterwards however, he made his first appearance in London, where he was joint winner of an American Tournament at the Albert Club, tying for the first prize with John Roberts Junior. Major Broadfoot, in the Badminton Library "Billiards", says that North never fulfilled his early promise, although when at his best he was a fine player, his style was never a pretty one, and was terribly ugly and jerky when out of form.

In 1884 he was decidedly defeated by Peall, when after receiving a start of 200 points in a match of 2000 up, he lost by 1217 points, however, he was more successful on other occasions, and won the American Tournaments of 1884 and 1885, and when playing against Roberts during November of 1885, in a match played with a limit of 100 successive spots, he made his largest break of 1066. In January of 1886, in spot barred match of 5000 up, he avenged his previous defeat at Peall's hand, winning by a margin of 572 points, having been more than 700 behind earlier in the game.

He made a number of notable breaks including a break of 361 in a spot barred match against Roberts. His best break during a spot barred match was 464, when playing against Peall on 9th January 1891, in Thurston's original Catherine Street Match Hall. At this period he was considered to be the second best player, and it is said that Dawson owed much of his improvement to playing so many matches against North, during the 1891/92 season.

J North Billiard player

John North

North won the Billiards Association Handicap Tournament in 1901, but by this time he was neglecting the game, and only playing in occasional matches and tournaments.

He unfortunately died as the result of a traffic accident, when alighting from a tramcar at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Hampstead Road, when he was knocked down by an omnibus, and died in University College Hospital, the next day, 12th July 1902.

Taylor and North were both on the original Committee of the Billiards Association, when it was established in 1885, when the official rules of billiards were first prepared and published. Their presence clearly indicating that they were both considered to be amongst the first rank of professional players of that period.

Thurston Standar Billiards table signed by North

The picture of the letter from the Billiard Association of Great Britain & Ireland signed by the leading players shows J. North's signature.


© 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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