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Very Rare table find in Essex circa 1800 to 1830s

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  • Very Rare table find in Essex circa 1800 to 1830s

    On my rounds as a Billiards fitter , I was asked to look at a number of Tables in the essex area for a large organisation with over 60 establishments containing either a pool table to full size snooker tables , in one establishment , I came upon a very rare to find table .

    It was a Full size Gillows table manufactured before 1830 , having slender legs with thin side frame , on one end of the frame was carved Gillows with a number of the table , on the other end was an ivory John Thurston badge .
    on closer inspection underneath , I found it had a three section bed .
    This table was once a three sectioned wood bed with horse hair and felt stuffed cushions .
    At a later date John Thurston modified the table to have a three section 1 inch thick slate bed , the horse hair stuffed cushons where converted by having wood blocks and rubber attached to them , bringing the table upto a more modern type table of that time , this work would have been carried out in the 1830s when thurston started to use slate for the first time .
    John thurston was an aprentice at Gillows before he started up in the billiard buisness for himself , he was the first to use slate on a Billiard table .
    Gillows later became Waring and Gillows .

    Gillows tables in their original condition with wood beds and Horse hair can fetch upto £100.000 . and only an hand full exist . I have only seen three including this one .

    This one would prob raise above £30,000 to £50,000 at auction when fully restored .
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Geoff Large; 20th August 2010, 10:14 PM. Reason: Add photo
    [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

  • #2
    Like finding a jewel!

    GEOFF...
    That is very very cool!
    Thank you for sharing your discovery.
    Did you take any photos you could post?


    Cheers!


    =o)

    Noel

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by noel View Post
      GEOFF...
      That is very very cool!
      Thank you for sharing your discovery.
      Did you take any photos you could post?


      Cheers!


      =o)

      Noel
      I did not have a camera with me at the time of inspection , but if we get the work , you can be sure that I will take some photo's , in the meantime you can see a photo of a gillows table on Hamiltons web site although they have it listed as victorian it cannot be as victoria did not become queen until June 1837, just google picture of gillows billiard table . that one is circa 1820 , around the same period of the table I inspected .
      Last edited by Geoff Large; 28th May 2010, 04:37 PM.
      [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

      Comment


      • #4
        Here are a few Photo's as promised of the Rare gillows table , I have added 5 to my original first post too , just click on thumb nails to enlarge .

        note, the cushions have had a plug glued into the original bolt hole , this is where it would have been bolted to original 3 section wood bed , the bed has been replaced by thurston by a thin 3 section slate bed of 1 inch , the bed is 12 ft x 6 ft 1.5 inch wide , screwed down to the frame and head of rebated screw filled over with plaster of paris .
        you will notice that the cushion polished cappings are also thin and have a bead edge just before cloth starts , a common sign that the cushions are very old , and some old thurston tables have this also .
        the pocket plates are top plate type .
        Carved into the end of the Frame is the gillows name and number of the Furniture piece , Gillows was also a great Cabinet maker and I think this is a number for this piece of furniture and not a table number .
        Thurston has put an ivory plate on the no 4 spot end cushion , I am sure 100upper could maybe date the plate , this will then give an indication when thurston added the slate bed and put rubber on the cushions in place of the layered felt lint with horse hair stuffing .

        Geoff
        Attached Files
        [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

        Comment


        • #5
          A few more Picture's , the label reads Miss Gladstone, Witham , (thats witham in kent I think about 40 mile away from where it is now ) the 26-483 is not a date but maybe a job number from Thurston or a removals Firm's job number ? , note how the moulding on the slender side frame also continues around the curved barrel shape of the upper leg , also the back of the leg remaines barrel shaped and is also polished , this table has avery nice veneer of Flame mahogany , some people use this veneer to make fiddle's ( violin's ) and is often called Fiddle back mahogany .
          the frame work is also solid mahogany a very expensive wood in the early 1800s .
          The frame bolts are not like normal slotted bolts , in that they do not have a continuous slot , but more of an insert for a large screwdriver rather than a brace and bit . the tiny knee panels are much smaller than my hand , these slot into the barrel top of the leg and hide the frame bolts .
          the cushions would have had buttons to hide any cushion screws or cushion bolts , but as you can see from the upper first photo's the later bolt holes are into the cushion moulding , so would make fitting buttons to cover these bolts very hard to do .
          Attached Files
          Last edited by Geoff Large; 20th August 2010, 11:18 PM. Reason: more information
          [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Geoff Large View Post
            Here are a few Photo's as promised of the Rare gillows table , I have added 5 to my original first post too , just click on thumb nails to enlarge .

            Thurston has put an ivory plate on the no 4 spot end cushion , I am sure 100upper could maybe date the plate , this will then give an indication when thurston added the slate bed and put rubber on the cushions in place of the layered felt lint with horse hair stuffing .

            Geoff
            The Thurston's plate on this table provides several specific dates, which I suspect will not help to answer your question. Specifically:

            - The "Perfect" cushion was introduced in 1884.
            - Thurston became a limited company in 1896.
            - and they moved to Leicester Square in 1901.

            The ivory plate is therefore without doubt, Edwardian, as presumably is the cushion rail to which it is attached. So it would seem that the table has undergone more than one modification in its history.

            For those who don't know, Gillows were founded by Robert Gillow c.1730 in Dame Street, Lancaster, as a cabinet maker, exploiting the trade from the West Indies colonies, importing the exotic "Spanish" mahogany wood which grew there, together with rum and sugar, and shipping back finished items of furniture which were much in demand by the rich plantation owners. A neat circular trade route which made them a lot of money. Lancaster at this time was a major trading port on the West coast of England.

            They didn't start making billiard tables until about 1765, and Robert Gillow's eldest son, Richard (1733-1811) credited by some sources as being the first maker of the English (as opposed to French) billiard table. However, it was never more than a sideline for them although they did continue making billiard tables for just over a hundred years, at the modest rate of about 15-20 a year.

            The history of Gillows is not easy to follow, and new records and archives are regularly uncovered which keep academics at work writing new books on the company, which are always popular in the furniture trade. They were quite shy about identifying their work in the early days and if any dealer can buy an anonymous piece of Georgian furniture and subsequently attribute it to Gillow, they can usually put a zero on the asking price.

            In the early days, all manufacture was done in Lancaster, and when the London shop was opened they shipped the pieces down there for assembly and finishing, a bit like a flat-pack you would buy today. There is a bit of conflicting evidence as to when the workshop in London actually started making billiard tables in their own right, but it would probably have been not too much earlier than the time that John Thurston claimed to have been their apprentice.

            Around this time they also took to stamping their furniture "GILLOWS" and "LANCASTER" These were two separate stamps so could appear together or alone. The next style of stamp is "GILLOW" (without the "S") with 2.5mm letters which would have appeared early to mid-nineteenth century. This gave way to "GILLOW & Co" in 3mm letters which was seen in the second half of the century. Hidden away, you can also often find a pencil signature of the tradesman responsible for making the piece. This might help to date when the frame of the table was made.

            I must say that carving their name on a massive relief plaque is somewhat out of character. The reference to "GILLOWS" would suggest an early date, however, I would be a lot happier to see a hard-stamp on the frame which confirms this. A thought crosses my mind that this may have been made for an exhibition and the carved number is a catalogue number, but as the exhibition circuit didn't really kick-off until 1851, this might be a bit speculative.

            Bearing in mind that Gillows would have used slate in the construction of these tables from the time that the innovation became popular, c.1845, you can say that anything which originally had a wooden bed was probably made earlier than this date.

            When such a table would have been converted to slate is another question. Bearing in mind that the frame of this table would not have taken the weight of a slate much above one inch, it comes down to a date when these had been totally discarded by the billiards trade and were no longer available. I would personally put this date as late as 1870, right at the end of the period when Gillows were making tables themselves. On this basis, the conversion could very well have been done by Gillows. Early Thurston slates of this thickness (from 1842) would have been fixed with brass dowels to prevent movement; not sure whether being screwed to the frame excludes them as the supplier. Contrary to popular belief, although Thurston's were commercially producing slate beds from about 1836 they had actually sold only a handful until the technology for extracting and transporting slate made its use economically viable in the early 1840s, so even Thurston were making wooden bed tables at this time.

            Finally, I have an interesting description of how Gillows constructed their billiard table cushions in 1769 which were made from folded strips of "flannel." These were applied in layers, "with each added strip narrower than the one beneath. When the whole was covered with taut canvas, and that with superfine green cloth, the balls would rebound nicely." Between nine and eleven strips would have been used. Contemporary references tell me that they would have used about 4,500 tacks in the fitting of cloth and cushions to a full-sized table, so there should be plenty of holes in the woodwork!
            Last edited by 100-uper; 21st August 2010, 12:48 PM.

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            • #7
              Many thanks Peter for the much required information on gillows table's . and the history of the Thurston plate , I think the cushions are original to the table , and it would have had a rerubber around 1884/1901 by Thurtson going by thurstons plaque .
              but the table I think is around at least 1830s .

              I would however question the slate fixing as just dowled fixing , Brass dowling would just be a location of the two faces butting upto each other and the dowls fitting into brass holes inlet into the next slate .

              I have worked on a very early thurston table which had inlets cutt out of the under frame where a screw was put up at angle the under part of the slate at the screw point was drilled and dowled , this was Thurstons way of securing slate to frame , the brass dowled joint is still used today , but is not a way of securing slate to frame .
              1 inch slate is very light and could be moved if leant upon , so I think some slates had screw down from above the slate through the slate and into the frame work to prevent movement .
              and some in Thurstons early table's case used the under frame screw up method into wood dowl inlets drilled into the underside of the slate , thus preventing the need to fill over any let in screws as you would have with the top down screw method of gillows .

              I have come across the Gillows stamp on a 10 ft table that was in an old ambulance station , the table was not very atractive though and had been messed around with too much .

              Yes I found the Carved Gillows plaque with number on the frame an oddity as I have never heard or come across this before either by eye or by picture , But I have only worked on 3 Gillows tables before . and I take youre point as the table could have had it's Wood bed replaced by Gillows themselves with thurston being involved just with a rerubber towards the end of the 1800s .
              why it has no Gillows stamp on the cushions and frame is questionable , but maybe with the large wooden plaque on one end they may have thought why bother stamping if the large name plate is on the table .
              the table though is of Giillows design of that period .

              There is not a lot of information around on Gillows tables in picture form , and with these photo's , I think I have increased the pictorial knowledge further for future referance .

              Have a look at these further photo's , note that the third photo is of the end profile of the cushion , in my other photo's of the cushions it is not noticable that the profile of the upper capping slopes away so sudden , making the top capping very thin , and note also that the top plate is very close to the cushion cloth , some of the cappings are broken near to the pocket plates making cloth rentention in the cushion slips not good , these old tables just cannot cope with very hard shots into these pockets without possible wood damage , I am amazed that the original brass pocket plates are still intact after 170 years of use .
              I have instructed the owners of the tables worth and recomended Bonhams as apossible auctioneer's they have certain sales dedicated to Gillows furniture . , I feel that in its present use only further damage will result .
              it could do with a complete refurbishment of the table , new blocks and rubber , all woodwork repaired and stained plus re french polished , new Billiard Bag nets in place of the snooker rail nets and new leathers .
              plus those horrible rest hooks taken off the side frame .

              Peter if the photo's are any good for youre book please use them .

              *** I must point out to other readers that modern tables have thick heavy slates and do not require securing to the frame by screws of any kind , the wieght is enough to just keep them there , brass dowls locate them together to stop any sidways or upawards/ downwards movement between the joints , and wood linings are screwed around the perimeter of the slate , this lining is what the cloth is tacked to .***

              Geoff

              a bit of further information I have thought about re reading the thread . and thought a full explanation is required

              If you look at further pictures no3 of end profile of the cushion , the cushion design is very early 1800s, the thurston plaque was added later at around 1900 when they rerubbered the cushions as it is just that a cushion advertisment not a makers plate , the end profile is not what an edwardian cushion would look like .
              the edwardian cushion would have had a flat top capping and would have been much wider , the pocket plate would be set further back , and no doubt by the time the thurston plaque was fitted , concealed pocket plates would have been the prefered pocket plate not top plates .
              At Elston and Hopkin we used to put our plaque of The Empire match cushion on the other end to makers plaque .and many other firms do it too like burrouighs and watts Arrowflight plaque or the speedy reliable cushion , or in this case the Thurston Perfect cushion , this makes new owners of the table think that the rerubber plaque is the maker when it is not 100% sure , if the makers plaque is missing then we go on leg design or stamps on the woodwork , not the rerubber plaque .
              therfore I am 100% certain that the cushion raile are original to the time period of the frame and have just been modified by block and Re rubber , and not some added improvement cushions added in edwardian or even late victorian times . the end profile is as stated very very ealry design of 1800s .
              Attached Files
              Last edited by Geoff Large; 25th August 2010, 08:40 AM. Reason: more information
              [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

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              • #8
                this is the best bit of reading i have seen on tsf yet very interesting stuff thanks geoff and 100 uper.

                Comment


                • #9
                  What an interesting thread & what a collective knowledge too.
                  With the account of Gillow's & the link with Waring I wondered if the contributors know of any billiard table makers that ventured into cabinet/funiture making or visa versa. The other question that occured to me were any legs & frames constructed by cabinet makers who supplied them to table makers who may have bought them into their works for specialist completion such as the addition of slates & cushions?

                  As it sounds as if there is a book being prepared by one contributor could I ask what topics are being looked at & if this might be published in the near future. Just from the information in the thread it sounds as if it might be very interesting book indeed to those interested in the historical aspects of tables.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by cuerack View Post
                    What an interesting thread & what a collective knowledge too.
                    With the account of Gillow's & the link with Waring I wondered if the contributors know of any billiard table makers that ventured into cabinet/funiture making or visa versa. The other question that occured to me were any legs & frames constructed by cabinet makers who supplied them to table makers who may have bought them into their works for specialist completion such as the addition of slates & cushions
                    Many tradesmen in cabinet making and carpentry would have made the transition into table makers . Thurston himself would have been trained at Gillows as a Cabinet maker .

                    Robert Gillows himself was originaly a Ships Carpenter .
                    As 100/upper has said Gillows billiards manufacture was a just a side line for them making around 15 to 20 per year for 100 years , so only around 1500/2000 in existance , and it was one of his son's who takes credit for the first English sized and designed billiard table .
                    Gillows main manufacture was furniture made from the spanish mahogany from the west indies, cuba ,honduras etc , and there are a few large homes today that boasts a fine collection of their work for public display , they also fitted out ships .
                    They where also the first manufacturer of the sought after antique Davenports , so named after a client .
                    Every now and a again Bonhams Auctioneers have a Gillows auction as a specilist day .
                    although some Gillows pieces can sell for Thousands , if you look on ebay there are a few lower priced examples of chairs writing desks etc ,but I know of one auctioneer estimating two matching 1830s card tables at over £55.000 .
                    Taking that as an example of his work of that time , a full sized billiard table converted to slate bed would be around the same price if renovated , with the wood beds selling for far higher .
                    they are highley sought after by antique and billiards collectors , one reason being they are the basis in design apart from the wood bed , for every table made since .

                    Geoff
                    [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Great article Geoff, the pics were wonderful, also congrats Peter on a brilliant reply.
                      Keep up the good work.
                      G.
                      When you but cheap... You buy twice !

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        You'll have to get Geoff across to look at one of those Irish "ironclad" tables sometime. That would be an interesting one!

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                        • #13
                          Gerard has told me about them Peter but I have never seen or worked on one before , I will tell you of a funny story though about a fitter I used to work with who was a small stockey fitter but very strong , he was working on one of these 1 inch slate bedded tables in a club , I was on the next table .
                          as he had secured his first 3 tacks at one end of the bed cloth , he pulled at the other end to get tension , and the whole end slate lifted up where he has tacked at the other end , the slate linings where not full lenth ones and this meant the slates where just pinned together not secured to frame or next to each other , the surprise on his face as he nearly turned the whole end slate over on the frame was very amusing .
                          the same fitter also was pulling a bed cloth on when his feet slipped on the polished floor and he disapeared under the frame , his head hit the floor and he was out cold for a few mins , I was at the other end with my head down and heard the noise , l looked up and thought he had left the room ...lol
                          [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

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                          • #14
                            The Rare gillows table is now up for sale , all proceeds to charity , it will be interesting to see what it goes for .

                            link below .

                            http://gclbilliards.com/very-rare-gi...sale-in-essex/

                            Geoff Large
                            www.gclbilliards.com
                            [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

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                            • #15
                              This has been a Great article Geoff, i have really enjoyed it well done and thanks

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