Minor Pieces 13: Henry Francis Limpus and Edward Griffith Brewer

Continuing my series of articles on members of Twickenham Chess Club between 1880 and 1906, I consulted the 1882 edition of the Chess player’s Annual and Club Directory, edited by W R Bland.

This confirms that the club was established in 1880, met at the Town Hall, had 60 members, the entrance fee and subscription were both 5s. It’s not clear whether these were the same or different. £1 in 1882 is equivalent in purchasing power to about £123.40 (source: £1 in 1882 → 2021 | UK Inflation Calculator (in2013dollars.com)), so, both in terms of subscription rates and number of members, not a lot different from today’s Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. It did, however, meet in a larger and more prestigious venue.

We have two names, a President and a Secretary. Let’s see what we can find out about them.

There’s no other evidence I can find about the chess career of Henry Francis Limpus, Vicar of this parish: it’s quite likely that, as a prominent member of the local community, he was little more than a figurehead. He was, however, an interesting and rather controversial chap, so worth a quick detour.

Born in 1831, Limpus was, as well as being a clergyman, an organist and composer (spoiler alert: other organists and composers may be featured in this series), as were his father and brother, both Richard Davidge Limpus. Richard junior founded the Royal College of Organists.  Henry Francis Limpus was a Minor Canon at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle before being appointed Vicar of Twickenham in 1874. He hit the headlines three years later when the bell-ringers went on strike after he refused them permission to ring three peals in honour of the opening of the Orleans Club for working men. This, then, was the man who became the first President of the first Twickenham Chess Club.

But worse was to come. In January 1884 he was up before the Church Commissioners accused of drunkenness.

The accused is well known as a composer of sacred and secular music, and has held the living of Twickenham for ten years. He is charged with having, in the diocese of London, on divers occasions, and particularly on Sunday, the 11th of November, 1883, been in a state of intoxication. On that day he was absent from both the services at his church, and in the evening was seen in the public highway, at three different times by different people, in a state of hopeless intoxication, between the hours of five and half-past eight.

He also, twice a widower, appeared to have some sort of relationship with three young sisters named Jessop, and was engaged to be married to one of them.

He was found guilty and suspended from his post as Vicar of Twickenham for three years. Nothing further was heard from him until four years later, when he resigned from his post.

How long did he remain President of Twickenham Chess Club? Was this a man you’d want as your president? At present, anyway, we don’t know the answer to that question.

Some of his children were interesting: the oldest son of his first marriage, Arthur, had a successful career in the Royal Navy, becoming the Admiral Superintendent of Malta Dockyard.

One of the sons of his second marriage, Alban, had a very different career as, along with his brother Bernard, he was a theatrical impresario, staging, for example, the plays of Noel Coward.

Henry did marry a third time, in 1891, not to any of the Misses Jessop, but to a young lady almost 40 years younger than him. His life ended just 18 months later, at an address in Balham.

That’s enough of Henry Francis Limpus, except to note that his most ambitious musical composition was a cantata entitled The Prodigal Son. Perhaps it should have been The Prodigal Father instead. And also to note that, as someone with a fondness for the bottle, it was only appropriate that he should have a friend named Brewer.

It is to E G Brewer that we should now turn our attention.

Edward Griffith Brewer, (first?) Secretary of Twickenham Chess Club, had been born in Cadgwith, on the Lizard peninsula, right at the southern tip of Cornwall, in about 1836. His wife, Carlota, was, unexpectedly, Mexican, but seems to have gone to school in Cornwall. They married in 1863, and, at some point between 1868 and 1870,  moved into Batcombe Lodge, now 57 Popes Avenue Twickenham, which had been constructed by local builder Abraham Slade in 1862.

Batcombe Lodge Source: Google Maps

Edward was by profession a Patent Agent and Civil Engineer. By 1881 he was in 1 Clifden Road, Twickenham (we’ll meet another Clifden Road resident in a later article), but, by 1882 he seems to have crossed the river to  Horkesley, Sheen Park, Richmond, which may well be the rather splendid red brick house at 140 Sheen Road at the corner of Sheen Park. He seems to have been a wealthy and successful man, does Edward.

By 1891, though, he was back at Batcombe Lodge (perhaps he’d leased it out) where he remained for the rest of his life, dying in 1904.

It looks likely that, unlike George Edward Norwood Ryan, he was more of a social player, as his name doesn’t appear in any match or tournament results, but he retained his club membership and in 1894 was listed, along with Ryan, as one of the club’s two Vice-Presidents.

Edward and Carlota had nine children, the most interesting of whom was their eldest son, Griffith Brewer (1868-1948).

Griff joined his father’s patent agent business, and also shared his interest in engineering, developing a particular passion for patents relating to aeronautical engineering. In 1891 he made his first balloon flight, and by 1906 was taking part in balloon races. His wife, Beatrice, was the first woman to cross the English Channel in a balloon. In 1908 he met Wilbur Wright in France and was invited to take a flight with him, making him the first Englishman to fly in an aeroplane.

Sadly, I can find no evidence that he shared his father’s interest in chess.

For further information about Griffith Brewer:
Griffith Brewer – Graces Guide
Griffith Brewer, A Friend of the Wrights (wrightstories.com)
Griffith Brewer, Balloonist, Aviator and First Briton to Fly – Twickenham Museum (twickenham-museum.org.uk)

 

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3 thoughts on “Minor Pieces 13: Henry Francis Limpus and Edward Griffith Brewer”

  1. Fascinating article, thank you.
    As a side note, Griffith Brewer married Beatrice Hilda Swanston, daughter of Clement Tudway Swanston, junior, the owner of Holly House, Twickenham. Her father died in 1879 and left Beatrice his estates at Forton and Cowes in Hampshire. Holly House, which had passed to Beatrice’s eldest brother, Clement, was demolished in 1905 to make way for housing in Queens Road and Sherland Road, Twickenham; Beatrice married Griffith the next year. I don’t know if they met over a chess board but it was obviously a good match.

    1. PS Have inadvertently passed on a mistake taken from the Twickenham Museum entry for Griffith Brewer (note to self: always check your facts). Griffith and Beatrice married in 1895 at Holy Trinity Church, Wimbledon.

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