Cue Racks and Stands




If you look in the background of many of the photographs of the leading players of the late 19th and early 20th century, you will often see furniture like nothing available today. This Billiard room furniture often contains cues, balls, scoreboards and all-manner of interesting devices, nooks and crannies. In this piece, I will attempt to reveal a little more about these items of memorabilia and hopefully make you a little more aware of how to recognise them in the future.

Looking in a little more detail at cue racks for example, you may well have your own small collection of cues, or an extensive selection.  Either way, you will no doubt want to keep them well cared for and shown to their best advantage. For those of you fortunate enough to have your own Billiard or Snooker room, a cue rack or stand is a must, but even if you don’t have your own room with a table, a nice period stand is the ideal way to display your prized possessions to great effect.

Racks and stands have been made in many forms over the years, from richly decorated cupboards to simple wall brackets that hold a small number of cues.

Besides the many commercial racks and stands available from the top companies, such as Burroughes & Watts, Thurston, and E J Riley, many of the large country houses in the past sought the services of the top cabinet and furniture makers operating at the time to produce their Billiard room furniture.

Of course most of the items made for the gentry rarely come on the open market, when they do they command high prices, so unless we are extremely lucky we mere mortals have to be content with our commercially made stands to show off our prized cue collection in.

Bearing my previous comments in mind, I will cover just a few of the basic commercial types. These are the ones that you are likely to come across. If I were to attempt to describe the many variations made over the last hundred years or so, I would need several pages to do them justice.

One of the nicest in my view is the free-standing revolving type offered by Burroughes & Watts around the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, (Photo 1 and illustration 1 below). This example is made to hold twenty-one cues, although I have seen smaller fifteen cue versions, and larger stands for twenty-four cues. This variety of cue rack stands about 44 inches (1.1 metres) high, It will be made from mahogany and has brass and ivory clips around the top section. Later models had ebony rollers in place of the ivory, some of them had a circular top section and holes instead of clips, a little like the non-revolving type mentioned below. Also produced was a version which stood on three curved and carved legs raising the bottom part of the rack off the floor by some twelve inches, an example of this type can be seen in photo 2.

The second example (photo 3) also free-standing is a non-revolving type and has holes in the top disk in place of the metal clips. The disadvantage is that the cues have to be lifted out vertically which can be rather awkward unless you have high ceilings, rather than being able to be pulled away from the stand as in the previous type with clips. This one again is made from mahogany, it holds twelve cues and stands approximately thirty nine inches (just under a metre) high.

The third example (photo 4) although free-standing is made to be stood against a wall. It’s back and base are made from mahogany with a cast iron top “gate system”, segmented bottom tray and lions paw feet. It dates from slightly later than the other two and stands about thirty-nine inches (1 metre) high. The top part is made similar to a turnstile in that as the cue is pushed in the four-pronged wheel rotates around to accept and hold the cue.

Example number four (photo 5) was probably custom made for a large country house and is possibly a one off, it is made of oak and stands approximately 63 inches high (1.6 metres), with a base diameter of 30 inches (76 centimetres). It holds only nine cues, which may seem surprising due to it’s enormous size. It has a lectern style scoreboard and life Pool marker board on the top which has a small cupboard on the back to hold the life Pool and Billiard balls. This wonderful cue stand is part of the collection of Mr Peter Clare of the Thurston Company.

The simple wooden rack, (photo 6) is also part of Mr Clare’s collection and is made of mahogany and holds twelve cues. It is fairly basic in it’s design in that it has two strips of wood with twelve holes in each with a further blank strip to house the butts, these are held together by two vertical posts at the ends. This is typical of the many cheaper racks that would have stood in the clubs and pubs rather than private billiard rooms

The simplest way of storing and displaying cues it to use a wooden batten attached to the wall with a series of clips on it. A more elegant option (photo 7) is to use a cast iron top section similar to the one on the previous rack, the ones illustrated have rubber wheels to hold the cues in place rather than the turnstile gate but work equally as well. 

Any comments, questions or queries about cue stands are welcome, and I will be happy to give advice or valuations.

My thanks to Mr Peter Clare of Thurston for his help, and allowing me to photograph some of his collection.

David Thomas Lyttleton