J.P Mannock

Past Master No.13 ­ April 1984


Mannock professional billiard player

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 Messrs. Burroughes and Watts Ltd. 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 Billiard Cue Patent

Mannock Anti Grip Billiard cue

Mannock Burroughes & Watts 1953

The picture of the cue plate is the cue model No.9 as described in the 1953 Burroughes & Watts catalogue and is the cue sort after by collectors. From the plate it is probably safe to assume that it is not made to the 1891 patent. This cue has a steamed pear wood shaft unlike most cues of that period which had ash or maple shafts.

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 2 page review of the book in the World of Billiards dated 24th February 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 table (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 Lawson and No. 7 - W.H. 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 ... ( in the May 1923 issue of 'Billiard Player' shows him playing a young lady professional - information and picture added to Norman's article)

Mannock Miss R. Roberts

....... until October 1923 when evidently there was considerable sympathy amongst the billiards public for Mannock when it was reported that his "Unfortunate Circumstances" resulted from a great injustice when he was deprived. without compensation of his business at the Victoria Hotel by the War Commandeering necessities of the government and so a Mr. Gask initiated an appeal on behalf of the J. P. Mannock Testimonial Fund with a target of £1000 ( a large figure in 1923 ) it being said that .... This would be not a penny too much".... as " Nobody deserved better of the whole game of billiards than the genial, J.P. who was always doing good turns for others and had played no small part in bringing billiards to the wonderful status it enjoyed to-day".... £300 was soon remitted to the Sporting Life" and during November 1923 A BIG Week of entertainment by sporting celebrities playing every conceivable type of game on a billiard table took place at Burroughes & Watts Hall and a team match took place on November 17th at the Holborn Billiard Hall owned by Burnley Billiard Works, when jockeys (including Steve Donaghue) played the Racing Press and by the time the "Sporting Life" organised another weeks entertainment during -

Man _jockeys _reduced

February 1924 also at Burroughes & Watts Hall the target of a full £1OOO was reported to be "Well in sight" but no mention is made of the Professional Players Benevolent Fund launched by Mannock himself in January 1911.

Evidently Mannock used his testimonial to good effect as later the same year - during, October 1924 he opened the "Mannock Billiards Club" at 117 Great Portland Street - with a membership subscription of 3 guineas (£3. 3s. 0d in 'old money') per annum. It evidently became the focal point for billiards as by December 1924 the Billiards Control Club transferred its headquarters to his club where it was reported that the usual competitions would be played.

A few months later he must have been wanting to raise funds as he published an advertisement on page 30 of the "Billiard Player" dated February 1925 saying ... "J. P. Mannock will be pleased to accept a Partner (either working or not) in his new club 117 Great Portland Street. The club now has a membership of 70 and is fully licensed, open to inspection any time - capital required £650.00. Evidently business was not too good as by the following month in order to encourage an increase in membership he announced that the annual club subscription had been reduced from 3 guineas (£3. 3s. 0d) to one guinea (£1. ls. 0d).

A further indication that his club was not proving to be very successful is evidenced by the need to increase his income by an advertisement published in the "Billiard Player" of May 1925 announcing that .... "J, P. Mannock (author or Billiards expounded) teaches daily at Burroughes & Watts, 19 Soho Square"... One might have expected him to be giving these lessons in his own club.

It is also perhaps of some interest to learn that J. P gave lessons to Sir W. S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. Evidently Sir. W.S. Gilbert had an injured thumb and so Mannock provided him with a special metal fitment to enable him to make a bridge. During the late 1920's Mannock's book "Billiards Expounded" was published in serialised form month by month over a period of 34 months in the "Billiard Player" concluding in June 1930 and at the end of each article there was a small advertisement indicating that Mannock was giving billiard lessons daily at Burroughes & Watts Hall by which time he would be 70 years of age but so far my researches have not been able to reveal how - when or where he died, but no doubt I will come across this information during, some of my future researches. However, in an article written by W. J. Peall in 1934 he described Mannock as "The Greatest Billiard Coach" saying also that he could spin a yarn far and away better than any professional player. I have also come across an article written by Sydney Lee published in the -Billiard Player of April 1940 in which Sydney Lee says that he began playing as a boy and was encouraged by his father and taken in hand by J. P. Mannock.

At this point my "Past Masters" No. 13 had been concluded and in keeping with a promise made some six months earlier I sent a copy to Mrs. J. Evans of St. Albans - a grand daughter of J. Ps who has now very kindly provided the following additional interesting information.

A Certified Copy of his Marriage Certificate shows that he married Alice Anne Cooke at the Islington Register Office on 1st January 1886 and that his father was a journalist (he later became a Fleet Street Editor) That he had two brothers, Michael and Edward. Michael was also a lesser known Professional Player, and Edward was the father of Major Edward Mannock V.C. the famous World War I fighter pilot who was credited with 73 enemy aircraft. Mrs. Evans was also able to send me a photocopy of a 1914 Christmas card sent to J. P. by Sir Arthur and Lady Conan Doyle - Sir Arthur being one of some 50 famous people - mostly members of the nobility including Sir Thomas Lipton, Signor Marconi and others who are shown on his stationary as being his patrons / pupils, together with a photocopy taken from the "Sporting Life" dated 30th November, 1932 reporting the death of Mr. J. P. (Jack) Mannock at his home in Finchley at the age of 73 and describing him as one of the outstanding personalities of the game.

This information also enabled me to trace the report of the passing of J. P. in the "Billiard Player" dated January 1933 in which Mr. Harry Young in writing a tribute to him mentions that he had enjoyed the benefit of a good education and spoke French fluently - with a smattering of other languages.

Burroughes & Watts were mentioned quite often in this article and readers might be interested in the following concerning that Company. In 1967 the trading interests of Burroughes & Watts was taken over by Rileys who then traded for some years as Riley-Burwat. The Soho Square Matchroom also closed in 1967. The two pictures give some additional information concerning these events.

Riley Burwatt 1967

Soho Match at closing of Burroughes & Watts Hall


© Norman Clare 1990. © E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. 2018.
Reproduction of this article allowed only with the permission from E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.

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