Highwic's Billiard Table returns to Highwic House after more than 40 years.

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Billiard table back on the rebound - by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga

An old but not so familiar friend has returned to Highwic, the historic Newmarket mansion cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

A full-size 12-foot by six-foot billiard table which once belonged to the original owner and builder of Highwic, Alfred Buckland, has been returned to its original location in Highwic’s Billiard House.

It has been over 40 years since the table last graced the heritage property.

“For years we’ve had to explain to people that there was once, in years gone by, an actual billiard table in Highwic’s Billiard House,” says Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Property Lead Auckland Elton Fraser.

“Now people can see the table for themselves.”

The table, cues, scoreboard and cue rack – all original – were removed from the house by descendants of Alfred Buckland when Highwic was sold to Auckland City Council and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (now Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga) in 1977.

Highwic Billiard Table
Highwic’s billiard table has returned to the Billiard House after over 40 years. Photo by Guy Quartermain.

The table and associated items eventually ended up with descendant Graham Roy who passed away in 2022, and were subsequently purchased privately with funds from the Hudson Bequest. The bequest was set up in 1991 following the death of another Buckland descendant, Mrs Doris Mary Hudson, who had allocated money to be used for special projects relating to Highwic.

Built by Alcock and Co in Melbourne betwen 1860 and 1890, the table has a registration mark recording it as number 922 and is known as a Canted Leg Model. Alcock and Co is still making billiard tables today.

“The billiard table was possibly acquired by the Buckland family as early as 1884 when the billiard house was extended,” says Elton.

“Prior to this the billiard house was much smaller and possibly used by Alfred Buckland as an office.”

The billiards scoreboard was hung in its original location above the Billiard House fireplace last year. Restoration of missing and damaged parts of the table were carried out by another veteran company, Barton McGill – a New Zealand firm that has been in the blilliard table business since 1892. The table was unveiled in March 2024.

It seems that playing billiards was very much a Buckland family pastime with a number of the historic cues engraved with the initials of family members including Malcolm Buckland, Alfred Buckland and one with the letters ‘MJ’ – for Matilda Jane Buckland.

At times the billiard table was used for non-sporting purposes – with one occasion being particularly memorable.

“Family history records that after Alfred Buckland died in June 1903, his coffin was placed on the billiard table so that those wishing to pay their condolences could do so without disturbing the family in the house nearby,” says Elton.

“A number of accounts suggest that many people from Auckland and further afield came to see Alfred prior to his funeral at St Marks church in Remuera. It is this story that may have given rise to some people referring to the Billiard House as the ‘chapel’.”

Although the billiard table has been fully restored and is in excellent condition for its age, there are no current plans for people to use it.

“Although the billiard table seems fairly robust, it is also a historic artefact which needs to be cared for appropriately,” says Elton.

“Visitors to Highwic are now able to enjoy the Billiard House much as it was when Alfred Buckland was alive – but unfortunately they won’t be able to pick up a cue and play a few frames!”

For more on Newmarket's history, click here.