J P Mannock



Past Masters number 13
J P Mannock

J P as he was frequently called. was born in London on 24th September 1859. Very little is recorded of his boyhood but we know he spent many years as a billiard coach with Messers Burroughes and Watts Limited. and played in the B & W tournaments at The “Royal Aquarium” making a name for himself with a break of 282 in a “Spot” and “Push” barred match during 1878.

Throughout his life he was very well known as a professional player and although he never achieved great success his name is still well known to present day players. Some of whom boast that they are the proud owners of a “Mannock” cue, and as can be seen from the reprint taken from the abridged list of patents dated 21st January 1891. He actually patented a cue of special design which he claimed was constructed . . . “To prevent making “miscues” especially in the masse stroke!! . . . but I am afraid that this particular design of cue has not survived!

Mannock was always trying to increase the popularity of billiards and during October, 1881 he experimented with a “Four-Pocket” Billiard Table at the Hotel Victoria playing games of 400 up against Tom Taylor and until the standard table was stipulated by the Billiards Association in 1892 he always had a “Championship Table” in his billiard rooms with 3 inch pockets and at about this time he also experimented in a game in which, whenever the red was pocketed off the billiard spot it was then placed on the centre spot. Clearly a forerunner of the restriction which was later placed on spot strokes.

Major Broadfoot only mentions Mannock once in his book “Billiards” published in 1896 saying that he was . . . “A player who would have come to prominent notice long ago if he had appeared more in public”. . .

He made a short visit with Dawson to Australia and hew Zealand returning, in 1899 when he tried to introduce another novelty calling the game “Descriptive Billiards” in which the player had to declare the object of each stroke in advance.

Mannock contributed articles to the Billiards Association magazine “The World of Billiards” from the first weekly issue dated 14th November 1900 until completing the series in the issue dated 8th April 1903. Following which the articles were all brought together in his book entitled “Billiards Expounded” Volume I published in 1904. There is a two page review of the book in the “World of Billiards” dated February 1904 ending with the words . . . “Let all billiard players read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the outcome of J P Mannock’s labours” . . .

Throughout this period Mannock was regularly advertising his services – giving lessons and exhibitions at The Billiard Rooms with seven first class tables (including two standards), under his management at the Hotel Victoria – Northumberland Avenue, London.

According, to another report in the “World of Billiards” dated 12th February 1902 Mannock was also the proprietor of “The University Billiard Rooms” in Cambridge where a match of 500 up between himself (received 100) and F Bateman took place on the Thursday of the previous week. Bateman winning by 157 points. Mannock, evidently played regular exhibition matches during the early part of 1902 – matches being played in Manchester and at “The Three Rabbits Hotel” Romford Road, against Inman when playing level games of 150 – up it seems that Inman was the winner. During the same period Mannock (received 100) played W Spiller in a match of 750 up at the Black Horse Hotel, Rathbone Place and won by 250 points.

Readers will recall from the earlier Past Masters articles (No. 6 – Charles Dawson and No. 7 – H W Stevenson) the long arguments which took place between these two players concerning, the 1903 Championship over the dated – venue – choice of table, etc. and it is therefore of considerable interest to note that the players agreed without any difficulty that J P Mannock would be the referee and that this appointment gave general satisfaction as he had been actively concerned with drawing up the current code of rules.

The next news article I have traced concerning Mannock is recorded in “The Billiard Monthly” of 15th January 1911 which reports that . . . “By the kind initiative and efforts of J P Mannock” a professional players benevolent fund was brought into being at the recent Christmas Eve dinner at the Bedford Hotel, Tottenham Court Road (he was the proprietor of the billiard rooms at this hotel) which was supported by the leading professional players at that time including Stevenson – Diggle – Reece – Harverson – Cook – Lovejoy – Mack – Elphick – Sparrow and Harwood. Peall was absent through illness and Aiken had been delayed by a railway accident whilst travelling South in the Scottish Express.

He evidently had the right idea of how the players should appear in public as in the “Billiard Monthly” of September 1912 Mannock advocates the adoption of a correct “Billiards Costume” or style of dress for professional players – he evidently realised the importance of good appearance and showmanship when playing before the public and it is perhaps interesting to hear the favourable compliments currently expressed concerning the appearance of the present day professional players who are seen by millions of viewers on television.

During April 1913 at his Bedford Hotel billiard rooms he promoted a Billiards handicap in which entry was confined to players qualified to receive no more than 100 points start in 500 up from the Amateur Champion – this was won by a Mr G Sutcliffe (receive 80) who defeated F Wagstaff (receive 135) by 39 points.

Now there are gaps in the available sources of news as the “World of Billiards” ceased publication in April 1905 and the “Billiard Monthly” in my library covers the period 1910 until the outbreak of World War l in August 1914. So it is not until the “Billiards Player” commenced publication with the issue dated December 1920 that further research becomes possible, and by this date Mannock would be 60 years of age. News is somewhat scarce . . .

Norman Clare

© 1990 Norman Clare / 2018 E A Clare & Son Limited
Reproduction of this article allowed with permission from E A Clare & Son Limited