Unusual Billiard Tables
Days of Old No 8 - (June 1984)
More Unusual Billiard
(Some additional more recent information and
pictures have been added to Norman's original article)
Our regular readers will recall that in the
September 1983 issue of "Cue World" some very unusual billiard
tables made during the mid 19th Century by Eugene Magnus (see Days
of Old No.7) which were made entirely from slate were described
and illustrated, and now after further research five more unusual
billiard tables are the subject of this article.
During the entire known history of the game of
billiards there have always been enthusiasts who have tried to
invent and introduce variations in the design of tables. In fact
some variations which have been recently reported as new ideas are
in fact very, very old.
collection has originals of this advert
One example is the recent press report
announcing the introduction of a circular billiard table. However,
far from being new, such a table was advertised as long ago as 1826
as will be seen from the accompanying photograph of a page in
Pigots Directory of that year, and as our readers will observe it
was called "The Chinese Billiard Table" - so much for the jokes
which have been passed down about such tables for over 150 years.
Note the "Flowery" language of the day by which John Thurston -
"Most respectfully invited the nobility and gentry to inspect his
new Chinese billiard table .... chiefly intended for the amusement
of the ladies". You will note that these tables are offered in
sizes 6ft. .7ft. 8ft 9ft. and 10ft. diameter - which makes one
wonder which cloth mill manufactured billiard cloth 10 feet wide!
(cloth for billiard / snooker tables is usually only about 76
Note - Only 6 legs on this full
size Marsden & Saffley Billiard Table frame whereas a
traditional frame constructed from wood has 8 legs
Just over 100 years ago
during, the period 1877/1880 Messrs. Marsden & Saffley of
Liverpool were producing some very unusual billiard tables. The
under-framing and the six legs being made entirely of cast iron -
the details being clearly visible in the accompanying photograph
taken from one of the sales leaflets of that time - note the "Liver
Bird" part of the Liverpool city coat of arms is cast into the end
rail. (see also 'Other Articles' -
Cast Iron Billiard Tables) The beds of these
tables were made in the form of cast concrete slabs with tongued
and grooved joints locked together by means of long bolts going
right through slabs Nos. 1 and 2 and also through Nos. 5 and 4
engaging into nuts set into the No. 3 centre slab, thus bolting the
whole of the bed rigidly together. A complete concrete bed is on
display in the Billiard & Snooker Heritage Collection at our
Liverpool offices. Unfortunately, years ago before the writer
started the museum collection the cast iron under-frame was sold
for scrap iron as being of no commercial value whilst some other
sections of concrete beds were used to repair the cellar floors.!
Fortunately, however and original illustrated sales leaflet still
survives and is on display listing the following claims to
1. The strongest (table) made
2. The beds are always dry - therefore no hot
3. Therefore the cloth retains its green
4. Dowels (in the slate beds) entirely
5. Durability of cloth double,
6. Fastest table on records
7. Lighter by 5cwt than slate tables,
8. Cheaper by 10% than slate tables.
The sales leaflet then lists some 16 testimonials
and newspaper reports dated between the years 1877/80 and with a
comparison of running speeds of "The best" London tables -
Manchester tables - Liverpool tables and finally showing Marsden's
tables as giving the best performance! The table being greatly
admired at the Agricultural Hall exhibition in London 1879 with an
appreciation by John Roberts Snr.
This table is on
display in the Billiard & Snooker Heritage Collection and has
also been displayed at the Heritage Room, Sheffield, during the
World Snooker Championships. Our records show that this table was
made by Thurston's in 1908 and the ledger entry has a pencil
drawing which seems to indicate that it fitted into the bay window
of the room it was originally installed in.
shows a 'Carom' version (no pockets) of the octagonal
During the early years
of the present century Thurston's introduced another very unusual
billiard table this time of octagonal design (see accompanying
photograph and the diagram) the table having eight straight
cushions - the 2 "side" cushions being longer than the others -
note - the 6 pockets all have the appearance of "middle pocket
openings" being set into the straight sections of the cushion
rails. The table was described as having ... "The eight wide angles
of an octagon giving unlimited scope for ingenious cannon play"...
and.... "The game being full of scientific possibilities enables
the ladies to meet their menfolk on more equal terms by reason of
the great variety of possible strokes"
- I am not sure I understand these selling
points. A few of these tables are still known to exist one in
Australia - a second in South Africa an another somewhere in East
Anglia (The table in the collection was collected by N. Clare
and his son Peter from East Anglia).
Also during the first decade of the 20th Century
another attempt was made to introduce another unusual billiard
table by "The Oval Billiards Co." (Orme & Sons the billiard
table manufacturers of Manchester being the actual proprietors). As
the name implies this table was in fact Oval measuring some 10ft. 8
¾ in. long by 7ft. 3 ¾ in. wide. The accompanying illustration
published alongside this article is a photograph of an original
sales leaflet in the possession of the writer passed down from his
father E. A. Clare who during the period 1903 to 1912 was the
Practical Manager and Billiard Fitter based in Belfast for Orme
& Sons Ltd. who were very well known manufactures of billiard
tables at that time, but now, unfortunately no longer existing.
Note the pre Word War I price of £105.00 - this would be about
£3500.00 or more in today's values. I remember my father telling me
that he sold several of these tables but they were not successful
and were later sold off at give away prices of £5.00 each. Some
years ago - before the writer had established the museum of
billiard antiques in Liverpool he had the opportunity of acquiring
one of these tables when taking over the stock in Trade of
Fitzpatrick and Longley the Sheffield Billiard Table Makers - but
it was left behind as being valueless rubbish! So a bit of
billiards history was lost.
A short article in a magazine,
June 1937,about the 'Oval Table'
It is not surprising that circular and old tables
were not successful as it was clearly impossible to accurately
judge the angles of rebound of the balls off the cushions. My
father, however, told me that some of the professional players of
those days amaze spectators by thieving "Cannons" with the cue ball
rebounding off several cushions before making the final contact. He
explained that these strokes were "Designed" by placing the players
cue ball and one object ball anywhere on the table and playing a
hard forceful shot - then wherever the cue ball came to rest the
second object ball was placed at that position - the cue ball and
the first object ball were then placed in their original positions
and the same stroke repeated - thus scoring the amazing "Round the
Coming nearer to the present days during 1930
Thurston were once again responsible for introducing another
unusual billiard table. The original idea was developed by a Mr. R.
S. Goddard of the then very well known suppliers of slate beds to
the trade, the intention being that enthusiastic billiard players
could practice their shots on this M.I.P. table, (the initials
standing for Multum in Parvo - Much in Little) which measured only
6ft. 1 ½ in by 4ft. 6in. and yet provided all the principal shots
of a full sized 12ft. table. As can be seen from the illustration
the table had 3 baulk lines complete with half circles, 2 corner
and 2 middle pockets. Mr. Goddard had apparently evolved the idea
after watching the leading professional players and It was also
claimed that you could play snooker on the M.I.P. billiard Table.
Instructions for snooker using only 5 red balls were published
stating that the 5 red balls should be arranged to form a pyramid
behind the pink spot - I do not know how you can make a pyramid out
of 5 balls!!
now has an example of a Thurston MIP table on display
The Reverend Hall - Yarn M.A. a
leading member of the B. A. & C. C.( Billiard Association
& Control Council) of that time wrote on 18th May 1930 - I
have played billiards and snooker on the M.I.P.. Table and it is
certainly the best undersized table upon which I have ever played.
It is the only small table I know upon which actual practice has
not been wasted when the players changes over to a full sized
table. It is near to perfection as possible The good player since
he has standard cushion - cloth - pockets and balls can Top of the
table play, Nursery Cannons, Middle Pocket "Losers" are all waiting
for his cue". The M.I.P., table was also recommended by Walters
Lindrum, Joe Davis, Tom Newman and Clark McConachy !!
two pages from
the 'Billiard Player' magazine giving information on the MIP
In the long, run, however, as in many other walks
of life that which seems to many to be a good idea - does not find
ready acceptance by the public at large and all five of these
unusual billiard tables have failed and completely disappeared from
"The World of Billiards and Snooker"
information added to the article - As Norman said at the start of
his article people try to invent or should we say re-invent
billiard / Snooker / Pool tables and here are a few more recent
examples of such inventions-
This table was
advertised in October 1986
shaped Pool Table was advertised along with the 'Round' Pool Table
in July 2000 and in December 2008 there was an article in a local
Liverpool paper about a Pub called the 'Madhouse' in Margate, which
has one of the 'L' shaped tables.
In February 2018 Will Wherton emailed
the Snooker Heritage website to ask if we had any rules for the
circular Pool table pictured above as he had just finished
refurbishing one. He had found it in a skip and thought it would be
a feature at the Pontins Holiday Village at Brean Sands in
Somerset. Sadly we were not able to provide any rules but Will was
kind enough to send a couple of pictures of the refurbished pool
© Norman Clare 1990. © E.A.
Clare & Son Ltd. 2018.
Reproduction of this article allowed only with the permission from
E.A. Clare & Son Ltd.
Please do not hesitate to ask should need any
advice on snooker, billiards or pool or wish to make a purchase.
Thurston has the most comprehensive range of tables and accessories
vist our e-shop -www.thurston.co.uk
to contact us by phone
0151 482 2700
email - firstname.lastname@example.org
copyright E.A. Clare
& Son Ltd 2009. & 2011
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