John Roberts Billiard Hall token

Photo: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service CC By SA2.0
Object type: Token
Period: Modern
Primary material: Copper alloy
Date found: 02/09/2023
Location: Wakefield, Yorkshire


A 20th century token for John Roberts Billiard Rooms in Vicar Lane, Leeds. Although it’s a modern artefact these sort of finds often provide an interesting insight into social history. It’s good to see the interest shown and the research undertaken by the FLO who recorded it, Amy Downes. She said on her twitter page “We make exceptions to record young finds that name individuals because of the potential for archival research“.

Vicar Lane Billiard Rooms

Below is a photograph showing the Billiard Saloon boasting of its 47 tables, which is an indication of the popularity of the game at the time.

John Roberts Billiard Saloon, Vicar Lane, Leeds

Although the photograph is undated the PAS record gives some clues to the date: the building was erected in 1902 and the “J Robert billiard room” appears in the 1910 Trade Directory but not in the 1917 edition.

The PAS record says “ The billiards rooms may have been associated with, or named after John Roberts Jr who died in 1919

The entry for John Roberts in the 1911 England and Wales Census has his Occupation as PROFESIONAL BILLIARDIST and his Industry as BILLIARD SALOONS and so it looks pretty certain that this John Roberts was the man behind this saloon.1

John Roberts Jnr

John Roberts was born in 1846 in Manchester, the son of a famous billiard player2. John would go on to be the leading billiards player for several decades around the turn of the century and was the person that introduced snooker to this country.3

John Roberts Jnr from his book Modern Billiards published in 1902

John had a remarkable career. He won his first cash prize at billiards in 1864, at the age of 18 and was still playing and winning prizes up to a few years before his death in 1919.

He toured abroad to including eleven tours of India, three to Australia, two to America and six to South Africa. In India he was even appointed Court billiard player to the Rajah on a salary of £500 per year.

In 1878 he founded the firm of John Roberts and Co., Billiard Table Manufacturers in Bombay.

He would often play games where he gave his opponent a considerable start. Even when he was “retired” he is said to offer any players a start of 9000 points in games of 24,000 up, saying he wished his opponents would play better.4

Roberts v diggle


  1. John Roberts Jnr – Wikitree
  2. Modern Billiards by John Roberts Junior, 1902
  4. John Roberts Junior –