This magnificent, award-winning Australian billiard table is among the most important ever created in the vast British Empire and has an impressive royal provenance. Crafted of beautiful and highly valued Australian blackwood by master carver George Billyeald and accompanied by its matching scoreboard, this table was showcased in numerous international exhibitions, including the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, held in London in 1886. The table is listed in the official Colonial and Indian exhibition catalog as "127. HULBERT, BENJAMIN, Sydney. - Billiard Table and Fittings, made from Colonial Blackwood, embellished with carvings of Australian ferns, &o." Recognized as perhaps the foremost example of Australian woodcarving, this set was subsequently taken to Buckingham Palace, where it was admired by Queen Victoria and used by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. In fact, the Royal family even offered to purchase the table, but the offer was refused! Few billiard tables have been so widely admired, and even fewer by such majestic persons as the British Royal Family.
This hand-carved table was made in Sydney for Benjamin Hulbert, who owned a furniture manufacture in Ulladulla, New South Wales, Australia. Two grand carvings occupy places of privilege in the table's design, highlighting its significance as a major work of the realm. On one end of the table is the crown, motto and triple-ostrich feather emblem of the Prince of Wales, almost certainly placed in honor of the state of New South Wales, where the table was crafted, as well as of the future sovereign. On the opposite end is the circular crest featured on the flag of New South Wales. Filled with such symbolic carvings, this table is a truly spectacular tribute to this illustrious area.
The table is also a true tour-de-force of artistry. It is adorned on all sides with exquisitely carved panels dedicated to the history and natural wonders of Australia, and of the state of New South Wales, in particular. Ten large panels form the basis of this outstanding design. Scenes depicting events in the history of the young country are rendered in intricate detail, from exploring the bush to gold miners panning for gold. Also depicted are Australia's native Aborigines. Australia's flora and fauna are duly represented throughout the table's design, as well. Floral borders, depicting a different flower, frame each panel and extend to the table's frieze. Smaller panels also display high relief carvings of the country's native plants, such as different varieties of ferns, and Australian wildlife is depicted in panels showing a kookaburra killing a snake, a kangaroo and a pack of native canines known as dingoes. The exceptional high-relief carving even includes the lifeless form of a horse, extending horizontally several inches from the table. Tying together this fascinating design is a stunning grapevine motif, also carved in high relief, which adorns each of the table's sturdy legs. This tour-de-force of furniture artistry sits on feet of solid brass, while the pockets were crocheted by Hulbert's wife.
Accompanying this magnificent table is its original scoring board, which makes this table an even more outstanding example. This impressive board not only keeps score, but also has slots for placing bets and a special cupboard for storing cue chalk and balls, and features a matching grape motif.
Originally from a Nottingham lacemaking family, George Billyeald moved to Lane Cove, Sydney, Australia, and began the two-year process of hand-carving this table. A highly distinguished carver, Billyeald worked for Anthony Horderns, once the largest department store in Sydney, for 21 years. In New Zealand, he went on to create the most intricate carving in the interior of St. Mary's Cathedral in Christ church and the Otorohanga Public Hall.
After its world tour, the table was displayed at the Auckland Exhibition, held at the Auckland Domain, the city's oldest park, from December 1913 to April 1914. It was later acquired by Mr. C. R. Rainger. According to a 1934 newspaper article, Mr. Rainger permitted it to be shown at the Melbourne Centenary Exhibition of that same year.
The table and scoreboard are accompanied by letters of authenticity, dated 1981, from Wayne James, Mr. Hulbert's great-grandson.
Table: 79¼" wide x 149½" length x 341/8" high
Scoreboard: 485/8" wide x 115/8" deep x 47½" high