SamsBros . Its part in the Bar Billiard story

Whilst trying to research the history of Bar Billiards and its origins three U.K.  business names come to the fore. Bar Billiards Ltd, Jelks and Sams Bros. These three business are the names originally associated with the introduction of the game of Bar Billiards into the U.K. Both Jelks and Bar billiards Ltd. have been covered in other articles but Sams story has not.

SamsAtlasFactory Hoddesdon
Sams-Atlas factory at Hoddesdon - 1980

Interestingly both Sams Bros. & Bar Billiards Ltd. claim to have been the first to introduce Bar Billiards to the U.K., with similar stories of seeing the tables in Northern Europe. Sams didn't call their tables Bar Billiards until (perhaps) the name became associated to the the game. There was always an argument between Sams & Bar Billiards as to who introduced the game to the U.K.!! Other companies used other names such as Snookerette and Russian Billiards.
Pictures in the Sams Bros 1935 catalogue show that they offered a range of tables that we would recognise as Bar Billiard tables.

Sambros BBT1935

Sambros BBT1935

Sambros BBT p 8_1935

Whilst doing some of the research into the game Peter Clare was introduced to Denis Brisley, who had joined Sams 1967 as Sales Manager later becoming its Managing Director . After leaving Grays in 1983 Dennis stayed in the industry first with Playday then with Sussex Bar Billiards before finished his career at Bar Billiards Ltd. in 2005.  So  Dennis was able to provide some interesting information about bar billiards and especially some history of Sams Bros. which had been published in a U.K. Sports Magazine in May 1980.A period when small snooker tables sales were booming. The basics of that article follows with additional information that Dennis was able to supply.

Sams _Atlas _Ron & Dennis

The original Sams Bros Ltd. was founded by two brothers in 1919. The trade name SAMBROS was registered in 1948. By 1980 Sams was part of the Grays empire and was run by Dennis Briesley, Managing Director, and Ron Sams, son of one of the original founders and  consultant to the business.
Initially the company manufactured just tennis, badminton and squash raquets and only started to make billiard/snooker tables , the product they are so well know for, later in the company's history. Ron Sams also ran J. B. Halley & Co. Ltd. that specialised in Golf equipment.

Grays took over Sams Brothers in 1969. At that time Sams had themselves been negotiating to take over a company - Atlas Ltd., a company which specialised in minature billiard/snooker tables. A year after Grays had bought Sams they took over Atlas and amalgamated the two companies to form Sams-Atlas Ltd.
During its history Sams has produced a wide range of product lines associated with sport and leisure. Other ventures the company has been involved with, before being taken over, were bar billiard table manufacturing plant in Jamaica.
Dennis was able to tell us that the factory in Jamaica was set up in the late 1950's and assembled over 2000 bar billiard tables and over 1000 bar billiard tables were exported from their U.K. Factory.

Apart from their main product line of miniature billiard/snooker tables Sams-Atlas also make miniature pool tables and bar billiards tables, the latter mostly for pubs and clubs. They also operate a renovation service for bar billiard tables and often get tables back that they made more than 30 years ago.
Dennis was also able to advise that Sams ran a operating division supplying bar billiard tables to sites on a shared basis. These tables were the 'league' tables and were the wider models.

Also in the article it mention that up to the late 1970s Sams -Atlas made all their own Billiard/Snooker balls. This side of the business had been part of Atlas but accoriding to the article it was the cost of the raw material, which was in rod form, andso resulted in a large amount of wastage that resulted in this part of the manufacturing business coming to an end.

Dennis was also able to passed on that when Sams bought out Jeffery Bros in the 1980's that there were 4 crates of  containing some 5000 to 6000 IVORY BALLS in Jeffery Bros. City Road building, which were at that time basically worthless!

Sams made and supplied Bar Billiard Tables for some of the better know names in the Billaird Trade such as Thurston and E.J. Riley. These would have been the narrower tables as the wider ones were for operators and use in the bar Billiard Leagues.

The early Bar Billiard clocks used by Sams were sourced from France but Ron Sams then had their clocks made in a local engineering business. When demand fell for the clocks the
person (Mr. Heathersedge) with  the knowledge to make the Bar Billiard clocks had moved to the Isle of Man where he continued to make them for a few more years.

Mr. Dennis  Briesley - providing much of the background information
Harpers Sports article 29th May 1980
Snooker Heritage Collection - Samsbros early catalogue

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