Kentfield and Carr



Past Masters 1
Edwin Kentfield and John Carr
Painting of Kentfield in the Billiard & Snooker Heritage Collection

The first player who can be looked upon as the Professional Billiards Champion must be Edwin (sometimes also called Johnathan) Kentfield of Brighton, although the names of other good players, such as a Mr Bedford and a Mr Pratt are mentioned in early writings, there does not seem to be any indication that they could be looked upon as professionals i.e. players who earned their livelihood solely as Billiards Players.

There was however, a Mr John (better known as Jack) Carr who some might consider to be a Professional player, but without wishing to be unkind, we might perhaps refer to him as the first “Hustler”, as although he earned his livelihood as a player and Billiard Room Keeper, he was an inveterate gambler who had a rather “sharp” approach to business matters.

Carr was the Billiard Marker at Mr Bartley’s Billiard Rooms at Bath. Mr Bartley himself was able to place the red ball on the centre spot on the table and then screw the White Cue Ball “in off Red into a centre pocket. Mr.Bartley passed on his skill to his Marker, John Carr, showing him how the stroke was achieved by striking the cue ball off centre, and so Mr Bartley is looked upon as the inventor of “side” and “screw”. 

Carr became even more skilful than his Master and amazed the Billiard Room patrons to whom he explained that it was necessary to use his special “twisting chalk” which he then sold to them in small boxes at the then very high price (during the 1830’s) of Two shillings and sixpence (12 1/2p per box.

Carr was backed to play any player for 100 Guineas (£105 – again a huge sum at the time) a side – The challenge was accepted by Kentfield, but Carr became ill and the match never took place, so Kentfield claimed the title of “Champion” and held it for 24 years until he avoided a challenge for the title which was then taken over by the well known John Roberts Senior.

When Kentfield first began to play Billiards, the tables and equipment were very primitive – the cushions were stuffed with horse hair or list – the beds were made of wood, the balls were made of Ivory and the cloth was very coarse, and so it.was a case of playing against the equipment as well as the opponent. 

As a Professional player, Kentfield co-operated with Mr John Thurston, who introduced all the major improvements in the construction of Billiard Tables that still exist to this day.

Norman Clare

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