In our latest club feature we take a look at the potted history of 147 Club member Harborne Tenants’ Snooker Club – with our thanks to Keith Butler for providing many key details…
Harborne Tenants’ Snooker Club dates back to 1908 when a “capital billiards room” was an integral part of the Social Club and Institute for the Moor Pool estate in Harborne, a Birmingham suburb.
The Moor Pool estate had been established in 1907 by John Sutton Nettlefold, who was part of the Guest Keen Nettlefold family (GKN). The estate was designed and constructed as a response to the overcrowded urban dwellings of the time.
Between 1907 and 1912, around 500 houses were built to provide residents with green spaces, fresh air, the ‘Moor Pool’ fishing pond, allotments, children’s play areas as well as community and sporting facilities. One of the first facilities provided was the social club and institute which included the aforementioned “capital billiards room”.
Over time the social club was complemented with the addition of tennis courts, a bowling green and a skittles alley. In fact the skittles alley is the oldest surviving of its kind.
In 1910, the community hall and estate office were built around a newly formed village green. As part of this development, the billiards room (containing three billiard tables) was relocated and this is where Harborne Tenants’ Snooker Club remains to this day.
Little of the club’s history is known; we know in the early 1910s the club was reserved for women to play billiards up to 5pm each day but after that there is a gap in the club’s history between the wars.
We do know from the impressive club trophy that in the 1946/47 season the first recorded club handicap competition was held and won by a H. L. Hodges and this competition and the trophy are still competed for today. Mark Sheppey has won the handicap a record twelve times and four-time winner Graham Dent is the current holder.
The club was featured in the Birmingham Post and Mail in 1953 along with an article about the estate but no formal records survive other than the trophy which contains the names of the club handicap winners. Much more recently, the club featured in the August 2023 edition of Snooker Scene.
The billiards room has changed little over the years; the original three Padmore tables remain and although not the original lighting, the old style shades over the tables help provide illumination. Perhaps a more unusual feature is the pulley system at the ends of each table for the dispensing of chalk!
Although the club was originally founded for the residents of Harborne and the Moor Pool estate, today the club is open to all and has members who travel from Redditch, Balsall Common, Tamworth and Walsall.
The club has many long-standing members; eleven who have been members for over 20 years which includes two who joined the club over 50 years ago! One of those two, Derek Massey, has also served on the committee for 53 years!
Mark Sheppey is the current club Chair and has served on the committee since 1986. He says: “We are a friendly community-based snooker club open to all and we provide good-quality billiard tables for the use of our members. We have members of all levels of ability, from 100 break players to those just starting their snooker journeys.
“Some members like to play in our internal competitions, some members like to practise on their own and other members just play casual frames with friends, but the club is open for anyone to join and enjoy.”
In recent years the club has undergone a mini-revival with the introduction of a series of 6-reds handicap competitions and social evenings that offer the members a chance to play competitive snooker in a friendly social environment, mixing with other members from all ages and backgrounds.
Membership numbers have increased, participation in the annual handicap has risen (around 32 entries), a club ladder league has just begun and there has been enough renewed interest to be able to organise several group coaching sessions with WPBSA coach Andrew Highfield.
There has even been a revival of billiards, the sport the club was originally founded for. Indeed, some of the current members intend to enter the EPSB’s English National Billiards Championship later this season.
Harborne Tenants’ joined the EPSB’s 147 Club in 2022, explains club treasurer Keith Butler, commenting: “We wanted to be part of the wider snooker community and support the national governing body in our own small way.
“We are a small community-based billiards and snooker club with three tables so the club qualified for the silver membership. As a result of joining we are included in the official online ‘club finder’, we have adopted the EPSB’s Code of Conduct and receive the monthly email newsletter. In fact, we always ensure the newsletter is forwarded to our members as we know from positive feedback that the members enjoy reading it.
“As treasurer, I will be hoping to make use of the 147 club’s supply partner offers and hopefully reduce the club’s outgoings. We know times are hard following on from austerity, the covid pandemic and now the cost of living crisis, but we also know our membership offers great value for our members who enjoy playing at this historic club.”
Going forward the club is exploring new ways to engage local communities with a view to increasing player participation and membership numbers. There is the possibility of working with the EPSB to run a junior snooker playing programme and possibly being a (joint) host of an EPSB Open Series event!
Whatever future initiatives the club undertakes, as it has done for over 115 years, Harborne Tenants’ will continue to offer its members a friendly, relaxed atmosphere in which to play the sports of billiards and snooker.
To find out more about the club click here
To join the 147 Club click here