Johnathon_Thurston_BilliardShopMention the name Thurston today and it’s all about that North Queensland Cowboys Rugby League star Johnathan and his immortal skills when carving up a football field.

JohnThurstonBut in the early 1800s it was a different story.

The name John Thurston was associated with carving up a Pool Table.

John Thurston (1777-1850) is recognised as the grandfather of Pool Table.

In 1826 he built the first pool table using slate as the bed which is still used today.

Up until that time, pool table beds were made of wood. Thurston’s dislike of the warping tendency of wood and general playability prompted him to look for another material.

Slate was cheap, in abundance and offered a much smoother surface while it’s weight made for a far sturdier table. The rest is history.

Billiard Shop Pool Tables are all slate beds which come with a life-time guarantee.

Thurston’s slate beds were manufactured in four or five parts and held together by a tongue and groove. The final process was sanding a precise flat finish.


Historic Billiard Table with wooden bed

But his innovation didn’t stop there. He was also the first to build in rubber cushions.

The rubber came in strips and were glued together to make the cushions which previously were filled with either horsehair or stuffed with felt.

The discovery of ‘vulcanisation’ by Charles Goodyear in 1839 made for further advancement in this production process.

These initial rubber cushions were raw by today’s standards but further research by Thurston’s company resulted in a more accurate deflection angle and less prone to temperature changes.

During this time, Thurston became the first person to mass produce and distribute Pool Tables and was accordingly announced as the exclusive Royal Purveyor of King George IV (died 1830 – heart attack), his successor and the last King of England, William IV (died 1837 – heart attack) and then with Queen Victoria.


The Thurston Billiard Table factory

Of interest Queen Victoria was William IV’s niece who had no surviving legitimate children. He did have 10 illegitimate children – eight of those with actress Dorothea Jordan. Hmmm!

When John Thurston died in 1850, his legacy had well and truly been established.

The business which started out in the Furniture manufacturing trade in 1799 continues today.

Before the factory was destroyed during the London bombing raids during WWII, there was a Championship room which hosted regular leading tournaments.

Australian great Walter Lindrum was just one of the many high profile players that visited.


Henry Alcock

It’s interesting to note that it wasn’t long after Thurston began producing slate beds that it was also being done in Australia. The new innovation spread worldwide very quickly.

In the 1850s, Dublin born Australian immigrant Henry Alcock began producing slate tables in Melbourne.

Alcock overcame initial supply problems by purchasing the homes of early settlers in


The Thurston Billiard Table factory

Collingwood whose homes were built entirely of slate.

It goes to show just how much history there is in the game of Pool or Snooker for that matter.

To say there is history in tables is an understatement.

But one key asset of the slate Pool Table will always remain. It brings family and friends together.

So next time you see today’s Johnathan Thurston run around a paddock for the Cowboys, Maroons or Kangaroo’s cast your mind back to when another John Thurston held court.

Let the good times roll.


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