James Ashcroft’s contribution to sport was not on the field or track but in the workshop. In 1865 he founded a Liverpool business which for over a century would produce some of the finest billiard tables in the country. In expanding his business he also bequeathed a fine city centre building which stands to this day.
His original workshops were in Houghton Street but he later moved to 36 Victoria Street and then in 1884 to a new purpose-built workshop and showroom at 37 Victoria Street, named Ashcroft Buildings. The excellence of his products soon established his reputation and in 1886 at "The International Exhibition of Navigation - Travelling, Commerce and Manufacturing" James Ashcroft was awarded a Gold Medal for Excellence of his Billiard Table. Many pictures of world and other billiard and snooker championships reveal that Ashcrofts were a table of choice, endorsed by many of the sports leading lights. Antique Ashcroft tables are still mucg sought after and can fetch as much as £10,000.
In the 1890s James Ashcroft purchased a famous oak tree which stood on the banks of the River Dee in the grounds of Eaton Hall, Chester. The tree, having survived for centuries, was blown over in a winter gale and Ashcroft’s judicious use of the timber it provided the legs for 115 billiard tables.
The business stayed in the Ashcroft family until 1987 when it was acquired by E A Clare and Son, another well-known Liverpool manufacturer. Arthur Clare, founder of the business, had served his time as an apprentice in Ashcrofts before being sacked in some disagreement with the owners.
At the time that James Ashcroft’s first son, John, was born in 1864, he and his wife Jane were living in Scott Street, West Derby Road L6 (now demolished). The 1886 Gore’s Directory shows that James Ashcroft was living at Clifton Villa, 24 Halewood Road, Gateacre L25. He later lived at Cressington House, Knowsley Road L19. He died at Cressington House on 6th April 1903 aged 67.
Ashcroft's home c.1886
Ashcroft's home from late 1880s to his death in 1903
Ashcroft's purpose-built premises opened in 1884.
An obituary notice from the Liverpool Journal of Commerce 8th April 1903
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