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A glance at the development of billiards into the game we know today

Have you ever played a game of billiards?

We often read about our heroes leaning over the billiard table while whinging with mates. It was during the Georgian era when the game as know it today developed. Lucky for our heroines, this was a gender-neutral game ladies would have enjoyed playing, as well, right alongside the gentlemen.

To start us off, however, is it billiard or billiards? Billiards refers to the game itself. When describing a component and using the word in its attributive form or as a modifier, the word should be singular: billiard room, billiard ball, billiard table, etc.

While the origins of billiards stretches back to the 15th century as an indoor version of croquet, the game we know today did not develop until the 18th century with changes in rules, the switch to a cue stick from a mace, the addition of the leather tip and use of chalk on the cue stick, the changeover from wooden balls to ivory, the cushioning of the sides and use of green baize on the table, etc.

If we approached a billiard table prior to the Georgian era, the table and components would have looked considerably different, as would the rules. It looked and was played like an off-the-floor version of croquet rather than the billiards we know today.

The new version became so popular during the Regency, it could be found across the continent, 800 public billiard rooms in Paris alone. Billiards even made it across the pond into America, where it was adapted with new rules, new table design, and more, all to develop the American version: Pool.

Where could our heroes play a game? If they lived in or near London, just about anywhere. Labourers would have chosen one of the public billiard parlours (those who lived in the rural countryside would have been hard pressed to find a billiard parlour, sadly). Any gentleman with membership to one of the London gentlemen’s clubs could pop in for a game since most clubs had a billiard parlour. The well-to-do would have had a billiard room of their own, complete with custom table and ornately inlaid cues, as well as a mace or two should their guests prefer to play in the old style.

If you have a chance, check out the post on billiards from The Regency Redingote:

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