Victorian Mahogany Life Pool & Billiards Scoreboard with Ball Cupboard by George Wright & Co, London
A mid-Victorian mahogany life pool and billiard scoreboard with glass fronted ball cupboard by George Wright & Co of London.
This magnificent and early example of a life pool and billiard scoreboard is comprised of a billiard score marker with brass runners above and below and square sectioned, painted score indicators which allow for scoring up to 100. These are manoeuvred by means of an ebonised turned knob to the right hand side of the board.
To the centre section of the board is a blackboard with twelve wooden slides with painted colour indications for the purposed of playing life pool. The player would be allocated a coloured ball and the slide would be pulled out to reveal three stars which indicate that player’s number of lives during the game. The player would cue their coloured ball into another player’s colour with the hope of potting their opponent’s ball. Each time a player’s ball is potted, they lose a life and the slide is pushed in to cover one of the stars. When only one player remains then the “pool” is claimed by the winner. The game was a popular betting game during the nineteenth century and got its name from the pool of money that was collected at the start of the game. The stars that slide out from the inside of the slide were an additional twist to the game where a player could buy back into the game by adding an additional wager and regaining a number of lives. Numerous different rules exist around life pool but the star is considered only available if a certain number of people are playing. I have seen this as low as six but in this instance, Wright had manufactured the board to allow for the star to be available for play when using up to eight players. This is the reason the star does not appear in the final four slides of the right hand side of the board.
Below the board is a superb mahogany ball cupboard which has a glass fronted and hinged bottom opening door revealing a three sectioned cupboard fitted out with twenty eight separate ball cups.
The company of George Wright & Co was founded in 1868 and were initially based at 162 & 164 Westminster Bridge Road where they seemed specialised in the manufacture of billiard dinner tables. These rare tables had an ingenious mechanism to allow for the raising and lowering of the legs to ensure that, “the sitter had no inconvenience to the knee in sitting at the table”. By 1876, the company had expanded their footprint and were now advertised as trading from 158 – 162 Westminster Bridge Road and is referred to as Geo Wright & Co. According to their advertising, the company had Royal Appointment to the King and Queen and also to the Prince of Wales. In addition, the company seem to have been regular attendees at the various world exhibitions that were commonplace during the nineteenth century and the company’s advertisements proudly attest to having won twenty one prize medals and and two gold medals by 1900.
It is thought that the founder George Wright retired in 1896, leaving the business to his brother Henry Wright. George Wright went on to become a brick manufacturer and a Justice of the Peace and Alderman to the County of Middlesex. He was knighted in 1926, a year before his death. The company however, continued and during the Edwardian period had moved to new premises on Argyle Street in London and had further premises in Manchester on Mosley Street. By the late twenties, the business was facing financial difficulties and was subsumed in 1928 by Orme & Sons Ltd. Orme were themselves merged with Burroughes & Watts shortly afterwards.
This scoreboard is a rare early survivor from this quality manufacturer. Given the trading dates written on the board, it is possible to date the piece to between 1868 (when the company was founded) and 1876 which was the point where Wright expanded the premises to incorporate number 158 Westminster Bridge Road.