Marsden & Saffley Cast Iron Billiard Table

MARSDEN & SAFFLEY Cast Iron Billiard table

If you have looked at the article under the heading Norman's Lectures call the 'The Construction of a Billiard Table' you will have read a brief paragraph, shown below, on the Marsden & Saflet Cast Iron Billiard Table.

"Billiard Tables were also made in Liverpool during the second half of the 19th century by a firm called Marsden and Saffley, in which the under-frames were entirely made of Cast Iron. These tables stood on 6 legs only, and I have with me an actual photograph of one of these under-frames, and you will note the Liver Bird borrowed from the Liverpool Coat of Arms has been cast into the end rail. One of these tables existed in the Tate and Lyle Staff Recreation Club in Liverpool until a few years ago, when on our advice it was scrapped.(Norman later regretted that he had obtained the table for his collection. In 1998 Norman's son Peter was delighted to accept a donation of a cast iron table frame to the collection. However it wasn't a Marsden & Saffely but from a London firm called Harris & Sons)

Marsden & Saffley Cast Iron Frame

Picture shows the under cast iron under-frame of a Marsden & Safley Billiard table   Note Liver Bird motif cast into end rail

I also have with me for your inspection a Sales Leaflet published by Marsden and Saffley, containing testimonials as to the quality of their Billiard Tables, and so it is that you will note their tables were also fitted with patent composition beds. In these days we would in fact call them "Concrete" beds. You will note that they claim that wooden frames and slate beds are now entirely superseded, only the wooden cushion rails being retained.(We have a concrete bed from this period in the collection, which we believe came from a Marsden & Saflfley table. It was found in the old Ashcroft & Co. premises in Victoria Street, Liverpool .The bed has another unusual feature in that the sections have tongue and grove joints and bolts that go through from the end slates to the middle slate to 'bolt' the bed together)"

The latest development is that in September 2013, an email was received from Mr. Bailey, who lived in Cheshire. He had found the 'Snooker Heritage' web site when searching for information on his Marsden Table and so got in touch with Peter Clare. It transpired that the Bailey family had the table in store at his home and as he was wishing to downsize was wanting to sell the table. Peter and his colleague Mike Atherton went to see the table and check it was actually a Marsden cast iron frame, Mr. Bailey had already assured Peter that the table had the Liverbird on one of the end rails the other end rail had a plaque confirming the makers with the number 18, so it is safe to assume that this was the 18th fame made by Marsden & Saffley.

The table was examined and all the parts were there although rather than a composition bed it had at some time been fitted with a slate bed. It was agreed that the table could be collected and displayed at the Thurston showrooms in Liverpool until a buyer could be found. So a few weeks later the table was collected and brought to back, to its home City, Liverpool.

As it was the first time such a table had been seen a trial run at assembling the frame was undertaken and it was like a giant maccano set and as it had been stored for a few years a few sprays of WD40 were required!

Marsden & Saffley frame trail assembly

As we were not convinced that the composition bed, which would have made the table more originally correct, that we have on display is actually level it was decided that the slates that had been with the table would be used. If we had used the composition bed no one would have been able to see its unique features. Which are tongue & grove joints between the sections and the fact the the sections are bolted together. In their sales leaflet (shown at the end of this article) in the third paragraph under the 'Details' they describe their 'patented Composition Slabs'.

Once we knew were all the bolts fitted the table was installed in the Liverpool showroom. It will be used for anyone trying out cues from the extensive range that Thurston stock.

Marsden & Saffley Billiard Table ready for the cushions

Billiard table ready for the cushions to be fitted

Marsden & saffley Table ready for play

Marsden & Saffley Billard table now on display in Liverpool at THURSTON showroom

Marsden end panel

The end rail plaque showing the Marsden name and we presime that this table was the "18th" table that they had made. 

Marseden Liver Bird

The other end rail had the Liver Bird plaque

Marsden _cropped


The above picture was taken professionally and shows the table off in all its glory. Any one visiting the Thurston Showrooms to buy a cue will currently be trying it out on this table!!

The the Marsden & Saffley sales leaflet circa 1880 is quite interesting and list a number of testimonials as well as where they exhibited their table.

Marsden & Saffley sales leaflet page 1page

Front cover - Page 1

|Marsden & Saffley sales leaflet page 2

page 2

MS_page 3-R

page 3

Marsden & Saffley back cover of sales leaflet

page 4 -back cover of sales leaflet

Many thanks to Mr. Bailey for loaning us this unique and rare table. Should anyone be interested in making an offer for the table please use the contact form on this site.

In 2018 a relative of Thomas Saffley provided some background information on Mr. Saffley and also a picture of the gentleman. He was a farmer's son who came from a small village in Dimfrieshire. He headed to Liverpool in his mid 20s (around 1850) and became a bolt manufacturer with Marsden.

Thomas Saffley

Thomas Saffley


also see the information on the Harris Cast Iron framed table in the collection

© E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. 2018. © Peter N. Clare 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 available.

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