G W Ellis - Ivory Turner

G. W. Ellis Ivory Ball Turners


In September 2023 after Mrs. Gibbs (nee Ellis) had seen a repeat of the BBC programme "Flog it" which feature a visit by the presenter Paul Martin to the Snooker Heritage Collection. She phone in to say that she had some interesting items concerning Ivory Billiard Balls. Her father and grandfather had been in the business of working with Ivory and had produced and renovated Ivory Billiard Balls.


She kindly donated the information to the Collection as she was pleased that a history of Billiards & Snooker existed and wanted the items she had from her farther to be part of that collection. She had put together a brief history of the family business as follows :-




Founded in 1885 by George Ellis (1847-1911) and his eldest son George William Elhanan Ellis (1868-1952).


Robson's Directory of 1886 and 1887 record George Ellis, Turner, at 78 Blythe Street, Bethnal Green Road, Bethnal Green, London.


However, by 1890 George William E. Ellis is recorded as living, and indeed marrying in Stratford, Although his father, George, continued to live in Bethnal Green until his death in 1911.


The 1891 Census shows G.W. And his wife , living at 152 Major Road, Stratford, but, by 1894, when his second daughter was born he was living at 3 Selby Road, Leytonstone.


Kelly's directory for 1899-1900 shows him at 37 Union Road, Leytonstone, where he advertises as an "Ivory and Hardwood Turner". The 1902-1903 Directory lists him as a "Billiard Ball Manufacturer", and by the 1906 Directory he had moved across the road to 140 Union Road (now Langthorne Road), Leytonstone, from where the work continued to 1953. The family lived in the house until sometime during the 1st W.W., when they moved to Vicarage Road , Leyton, and later to Broadmead Road, Woodford.


A brick built 2 storey workshop was erected at the bottom of the Garden at 140 Langthorne Road, sometime around 1912. Working premises prior to this are unknown, but probably took place in the shed in the garden! In earlier years the machinery was driven by a gas engine, although later an electric motor was installed . Certainly in later years the 'workshop' contained several lathes, two circular saws, and a cupboard with a gas ring, where the necessary 'brewing' for dyeing (the ivory) was done. (Hearsay ;- George William's wife used to but offcuts of red material from the Army & navy stores for the red dye!)


George William was joined in turn by his son William Stanley Elhanan (1902-1953), when he left, aged 14, Leyton County High School (then in Connaught Road). William Stanley took over the business in January 1928 when G. W. retired, although he did continue to assist from time to time. William Stanley moved back into 140 Langthorpe Road after his marriage in 1933 and remained there until his , early death in 1953.


William Stanley's letterhead describes him as a Billiard and Bagatelle Ball Manufacturer, and Ivory, Hardwood and Mathematical Ivory Handle Turner.

WSE 1948001

William Stanley buffimg Billiard Balls circa 1948 


With William Stanley, the fifth know generation of turners, came a craftsman of the highest order. Already turning collar studs by the age of eight or nine, he reached the perfection of the ancient craft

- as mentioned by two of his customers following his early death in 1953.

William Stanley buffimg Billiard Balls circa 1948


"One might say that your husband was almost the last of the London Ivory Turners and easily the best. His work was was always so perfect and he took pride in it too (F. Friedlein & Co. Ltd.)


"I feel that I have lost a personal friend and the Ivory trade in addition has lost a Craftsman that cannot be replaced" (C H Harris of H. Harris, St Ives, Cornwall)


Unfortunately will William Stanley's death the business closed, as he son William Malcolm Elhanan was only 8 years old at the time.


Muriel Gibbs (nee Ellis) May 1994


Below are the two letters sent to Mrs. G.W. Ellis on her husbands death.

Letter 1953005

 Letter 1953004



The article below is from a The Express & Independent - a Local Newspaper in about 1948

Article 1948002

Note in the penultimate paragraph in the article the mention of a 'meal from ivory' which is again mentioned in the next article!!

Article 1948003 

Not sure if it really sounds something you would want to try !!!


Also donated, along with the papers, to the Snooker Heritage Collection were a couple of sets of Ivory Billiard balls and a picture of some items turned from Ivory along with example of items turned fro wood.

Ivory Items 001

Examples of turned Ivory items


R Ivory Balls IMG_2700

M Ivory Billiard IMG_2702


The two sets of Ivory Billiard Balls

Chalk Holders IMG_2701 

Turned wooden chalk holders

 More Turned Items IMG_2703

 Turned Items 1 IMG_2704

Examples of turned wooden items



Thanks to Mrs. M Gibbs and W. Malcolm Ellis for donating the items to the Snooker Heritage Collection.


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


Shop on line at


 Frame (1)(3)

©2023 E.A. Clare & Son Ltd © 2023Peter Clare