Category Archives: English

Minor Pieces 45: Jessie Helena (Hume) Cousins

You might have noticed that all the Minor Pieces to date have featured gentlemen. The main reason, I suppose, is that most of them have been about members of early chess clubs in the Richmond and Twickenham area which specifically advertised as being for gentlemen. No ladies, and certainly no plebs.

Here’s Twickenham Chess Club, for example, although a slightly later report of a Richmond Chess Club AGM mentioned that they had a couple of lady members: seemingly social rather than match players.

But there was also a very popular and successful Ladies Chess Club founded in London in 1895. We’ll meet some of their members in future articles. In 1904 the first British Championships incorporated a Ladies Championship. It’s clear that round about 1900, although the majority of competitive players were, just as today, male, chess for ladies was also thriving. It will be interesting to find out who they were and how (and why) they played the game of queens as well as kings.

But first you might have spotted one of PGL Fothergill’s Staines and Ashford teammates in a recent article.

Middlesex Chronicle 14 February 1914

The Staines team playing Kingston featured not just Mrs Cousins but Miss Hume as well.

She was still playing after the First World War, when Staines had possibly been renamed Ashford and District.

Richmond Herald 12 November 1921

Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Henry Bennett (1853-1925) had been born in Cork and spent his career in the Indian Army Medical Service, also serving in Afghanistan. His gallantry didn’t extend to letting his lady opponent win the game.

 

So, who was Mrs Cousins and what was she doing in a man’s – sorry, gentleman’s – world?

She was born Jessie Helena Hume in St Marylebone on 28 June 1866, so she was in her 40s and 50s when playing in these matches. Her father, Charles Dobinson Hume, was a clerk working for the local government board, whose work involved with the Poor Law would take him to Ashford, Middlesex. Her mother, presumably, was Catherine Austen Mary Bailey, whose second name suggests her parents may have been Janeites. Although Jessie’s birth was registered (as Jessie Helen) with the surname Hume and mother’s maiden name Bailey, her parents weren’t married at the time, and were living separately in 1871, Charles with his parents and Catherine working as a bookkeeper, described as a servant to an accountant. They only married – in Richmond – in 1872 (with Catherine’s name given as Kate), at which time they moved to Ashford. I haven’t yet been able to locate Jessie in the 1871 census as either Hume or Bailey – she may well have been living with relations. Once Charles and Kate had tied the knot, four more daughters arrived: Mabel in 1874, twins Edith and Sophia in 1876 and finally Isabel in 1877.

I can’t find any immediate connection with the Scottish born problemist George Hume.

I presume Jessie learnt chess from her father, although he doesn’t seem to have been a competitive player. Miss Hume in 1914 would have been one of her sisters: Sophia had married by this point, but Mabel, Edith and Isabel were all unmarried and living at home with their widowed mother, so it might have been any of them. It’s both strange and annoying that, in those days, ladies’ names were given only with a title, not an initial.

Jessie had married Thomas George Cousins in Staines in 1893: they went on to have five children between 1895 and 1909: Dorothy, Sydney, Lillian, Dennis and Margaret. Thomas would have known his father-in-law through work: he was the Relieving Officer for the Guardians of the Poor of Staines Union – the workhouse. His job would have involved assessing the needs of the poor in the area and providing for them to the best of his ability.

At some point she took up correspondence chess. Thanks to Gerard Killoran for sending me this game, taken from the Weekly Irish Times (21 August 1909). Her opponent appears to have been Arthur Patrick Morgan (1864-1918), a school inspector. Jessie played the first part of the game very well, but unfortunately missed the opportunity to win the exchange on move 35. The newspaper commented: A well played game by “one of the gentler sex”. All through most interesting, but Mr Morgan had the most experience. The ending is rather unexpected. Click on any move for a pop-up window.

It’s not yet clear when Staines Chess Club was founded. I can’t find any earlier mentions than this 1913 match against Windsor, but it’s quite possible the relevant local newspapers aren’t yet available online.

Windsor and Eton Express 22 November 1913

Today, I’d imagine a female chess player would feel insulted and patronised to be discussed in that way, but I suspect that, in those very different times, Mrs Cousins was more likely to have been flattered and amused.

The selectors must have been impressed with her speedy victory, as, a few months later, she was promoted to top board in this match against Thames Valley.

Middlesex Chronicle 24 January 1914

CF Cromwell must have been a misprint for Cecil Frank Cornwall: he was a pretty strong player so it was no disgrace to lose to him.

Just as Richmond Chess Club staged matches between the residents of Richmond and Sheen, so Staines (now Staines and District) Chess Club staged matches between the residents of Staines and Ashford. In this wartime match, Jessie’s sister (the same one as above?) and husband were both successful. Did she, I wonder, teach her husband how to play?

 

Middlesex Chronicle 06 May 1916

Their Club Secretary, Montague Francis Cholmeley, from the family of the Cholmeley Baronets, don’t you know, was born in what was then Madras in 1856 and died in Staines in 1944. Not many people outside the area know that Staines was the home of linoleum for more than a century from its invention in 1860, and the Staines Linoleum Company employed Monty, a solicitor, to deal with their legal affairs. I’m not sure who the other Mr Cholmeley was. His only brother was in India. It might, I suppose, have been his son Humphrey Jasper, home on leave from the trenches, where, on 15 July the same year, he tragically lost his life in the Battle of the Somme. I assume the Mikado was a restaurant: it would have been a very short walk from where, a few years later, the Misses Ada and Louisa Padbury would be juggling running their own restaurant with bringing up their young niece. Yes, you’ve heard the story before, and you’ll hear it again as well.

I’d imagine, then, that at some point fairly soon after this match the club moved down the road to Ashford, the home town of its stronger members, changing its name in the process, taking us to 1921, when we saw Jessie Cousins playing in a match against Richmond.

Also in 1921 she played on board 183 for the North of the Thames in a 400 board megamatch against the South of the Thames: you can see the full score here. You’ll note that the two players immedately above here were Staines/Ashford colleagues. There are some great names on both sides in this match, including the subject of the next Minor Piece. I should perhaps look in more detail another time: meanwhile there’s some background information here.

Richmond, as we’ll see, faced competition in the area from new clubs in Twickenham (you’ll recall the previous Twickenham club had moved to Teddington and changed its name to Thames Valley), Barnes and Kew. I’ll tell you more about the Barnes Village chess club next time, but in the inter-war years they played regular matches against Ashford.

This, from 1929, is the last mention of Mrs Cousins I’ve been able to find.

Richmond Herald 09 March 1929

You’ll see that both teams fielded a lady, and they just missed each other by one board: Miss Hooke (in 1929 ladies were still not allowed initials) was playing for Barnes Village along with GA Hooke. You’ll find out more about the Hooke family very soon.

The 1939 Register records Thomas, Jessie and their unmarried daughter Dorothy living at 18 Fordbridge Road, Ashford, Middlesex, which is where Jessie died on 23 August 1948 at the age of 82. I haven’t found any records of any of her children playing competitive chess.

Jessie Helena (Hume) Cousins was a lady who, for almost two decades, was successful in the, then as now, male dominated world of suburban competitive chess. She was clearly a more than competent player as well, probably around 1800 strength by today’s standards. Her story should be an inspiration for any girls and women wanting to take up competitive chess today.

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Minor Pieces 44: Henry Jones Lanchester

Richmond Herald 22 April 1899

You might have seen this in the previous Minor Piece. Consider for a moment the Thames Valley team. There on board 6 or thereabouts is Arthur Coward, father of Noël. A board (or possibly two) below him is Mr HJ Lanchester, another man with an interesting family. (I note, en passant, that Augustus Campbell Combe on board 10, a Stock Exchange Clerk, was Wallce Britten‘s brother-in-law.)

Henry Jones Lanchester was an architect and surveyor, born in Islington on 5 January 1834, so he was 65 at the time of this match.

He lived at various addresses in London before moving to Brighton in about 1870, where he worked on the Stanford Estate and Palmeira Mansions. But he was badly affected by the property slump of the late 1880s and moved back to London with his family, settling in Battersea, not far from Clapham Common.

The good news for Henry was that he now had more time to play chess and immediately joined Balham Chess Club, where he won 2nd prize in their 1888-89 tournament and played on a high board for them in matches against neighbouring clubs as well as being selected to represent Surrey in county matches.

By 1895 he’d moved to a house called Salvadore on Kingston Hill, and the 1901 census found him at Ripley House, Acacia Road, New Malden, on the same estate as Richmond top board IM Gavin Wall, not to mention David Heaton. Living close to the station, it would have been easy for him to catch the train to Teddington to play for Thames Valley Chess Club, unless he preferred a ride in one of those new-fangled motor cars.

But Thames Valley wasn’t his only chess club: he was also playing for Surbiton. Here he is, in 1901, taking second board in two matches and gallantly agreeing a draw against Mrs Donald Anderson of the Ladies Chess Club in a favourable position. Mrs Anderson (née Gertrude Alison Field) won the British Ladies Championship in 1909 and 1912, so this was a good result.

Surrey Comet 16 February 1901

In 1903 he had a wasted journey to Richmond as, all too typically for the home club at the time, two of their players failed to turn up. Didn’t they have any social players there to fill in? Fortunately, our excellent match captains are far better organised today.

Surrey Comet 24 January 1903

By the middle of the decade he had returned to Sussex, settling in Lindfield, near Haywards Heath, whose chess club he promptly joined

Here’s a 1906 match card.

Mid Sussex Times 20 November 1906

I’m not sure why both teams scored a Handicap point on board 7, but there you go.

Haywards Heath’s top board, Dr Charles Planck (no relation, as far as I know, to Max), was a doctor and psychiatrist running the local lunatic asylum, a type of institution with which Lanchester, as you’ll find out later, had had previous experience. He was also one of England’s leading problemists, having co-authored, back in 1887, a book called The Chess Problem with fellow problemists Henry John Clinton Andrews, Edward Nathan Frankenstein and Benjamin Glover Laws. Another spoiler alert: read on for a very different Frankenstein.

Henry Jones Lanchester also played correspondence chess, playing for Sussex in matches against other counties. He died at his home in 1914, on his 80th birthday.

Here’s a game from one of those correspondence matches. His opponent was born Emily Beetles Nicholls in Guildford in 1872. Her father, Edward, was high up in the Inland Revenue and seemed to move around the country a lot. Click on any move for a pop-up board.

Probably not a game which showed him at his best. The Vienna Game is devastating against an unprepared opponent and his natural third move just leads to a lost position, 6. d5 would have been much better than Mrs Bush’s e5, which allowed Henry back into the game. (Thanks to Brian Denman for sending me this, which was published in the Lowestoft Journal (23 Jan 1909).)

Here, then, was a man who must have played chess all his life, but, it seems, only took up competitive chess on his retirement (or perhaps semi-retirement) from his career as an architect and surveyor.

For further information on Henry Jones Lanchester:
Wikipedia
Grace’s Guide (also links to his sons)

He must also have taught his children chess. Some of them had very interesting lives.

Henry had married Octavia Ward, a mathematics and Latin tutor, in 1863. Their children were Henry Vaughan (1863), Mary (1864), Eleanor Caroline (1866), Frederick William, known as Fred (1868), Francis, known as Frank (1870: his twin brother Charles didn’t survive), Edith, known as Biddy (1871), Edward Norman (1873) and George Herbert (1874). Henry junior became, like his father, an distinguished architect. Mary and Eleanor both became artists. Edward emigrated to New Zealand, later moving to Australia and earning a living as a signwriter.

The other three brothers, Fred, Frank and George, were a lot more interesting.

Fred Lanchester was one of the most remarkable engineers and inventors of his time. In 1888 he took a job with a gas engine company in Birmingham, and, in his spare time, started working on designing motor cars. In 1895 he completed a four-wheeled vehicle powered by a petrol engine. In between his work and his vehicle, he also found time to play chess. Here he is, playing on top board for his local club, Olton (near Solihull), with his brother Frank, clearly an inferior player, on bottom board.,

Birmingham Daily Post 19 February 1895

In 1898, he won a game in a simul against the leading West Midlands player of his day, George Edward Horton Bellingham. You’ll notice an incorrectly initialled mention of our old friend Oliver Harcourt Labone.

Birmingham Daily Gazette 02 November 1898

According to his brother George he also beat none other than Emanuel Lasker in a simul.

Fred Chess notes LAN-1-1-48

Source: https://www.lanchesterinteractive.org/grandmaster-fred-checkmates-champions-international-chess-day-2022/

However, George’s account doesn’t tally with any of the Lasker simuls given by Richard Forster in his definitive list here.

1 Mar 1897 Birmingham 31 26 3 2
2 Mar 1897 Birmingham (consultation) 6 6 0 0
1 Dec 1898 Birmingham, Central C.C. 25 13 9 1 Various games were adjudicated, two left undecided.
23 Nov 1900 Birmingham, Temperance Institute c10 c10 0 0 Vlastimil Fiala in the Quarter for Chess History, no. 6/2000, pp. 382f. claimed a score of 25 wins, but it was not possible to verify this score indepedently. The Cheltenham Examiner, 28 November 1900, indicated “less than a dozen” and the Birmingham Weekly Post, 1 December 1900, spoke of “a meagre attendance”.
17 Mar 1908 Birmingham C.C. 28 23 3 2

In December 1899 Fred, Frank and George created the Lanchester Engine Company to build and sell motor cars to the general public. George was also a brilliant engineer, while Frank was the sales manager. For several decades Lanchester was one of the most famous makes of motor car in the country.

Frederick William Lanchester (Wikipedia)

The name Lanchester was commemorated in 1970 with the creation of Lanchester Polytechnic, now Coventry University.

Perhaps the family’s achievements, especially those of Fred, are unfairly forgotten today. They certainly deserve to be remembered as pioneers of the early motor car industry. It’s good to know that Fred was also a pretty good chess player.

For more information on the Lanchester brothers:
Wikipedia (Fred)
Wikipedia (George)
Wikipedia (Lanchester Motor Company)
Lanchester Interactive Archive

Their sister Edith (Biddy) was another matter entirely.

Biddy became a socialist and suffragette, living ‘in sin’ (as they used to say) with a working-class Irishman named James ‘Shamus’ Sullivan: the couple both disapproved of the institution of marriage.

Horrified by this, in 1895 her father and brothers kidnapped her and sent her to the lunatic asylum (it’s now, famously, The Priory) on the grounds that only an insane person could possibly become a socialist. The asylum could find nothing wrong with her and released her a couple of days later. In 1897 she became Eleanor Marx’s secretary. The job didn’t last long as Eleanor committed suicide the following year. Perhaps Biddy and Eleanor also played chess: I’d imagine Biddy learnt the moves from her father and brothers, and Eleanor usually beat her father (Karl, of course) at chess.

Biddy and Shamus’s first child, a son called Waldo, was born in 1897. He became a famous puppeteer, founding the Lanchester marionettes, a puppet theatre which ran from 1935 to 1962.

Their second child, a daughter whom they named Elsa, was born in 1902. Elsa took up dancing as a child, then worked in theatre and cabaret, also obtaining small roles in films.

In 1927 she married the actor Charles Laughton and, after playing Anne of Cleves to his Henry in The Private Life of Henry VIII, the couple moved to Hollywood where Elsa found fame in 1935 for her starring role in The Bride of Frankenstein. (Be careful not to confuse her with Miriam Samuel, the bride of the aforementioned Edward Nathan Frankenstein.) Elsa continued to perform on the silver screen, mostly in cameo roles, up to 1980, including playing Katie Nanna in Mary Poppins.

Elsa Lanchester (Wikipedia)

Of course, there’s something you all want to know. Did Elsa, like her grandfather and uncles, play chess. Why yes, she certainly did. VIctoria Worsley’s recent (2021) biography, Always the Bride, tells of her playing chess with a friend on a car journey in 1936. Chess wasn’t her only game, either. Here she is playing draughts against Charles Laughton.

As Elsa’s grandfather played chess on the adjacent board to Noël Coward’s father, you might also want to know whether they ever appeared in the same film. Sadly not, although Coward provided some dialogue for the 1957 Agatha Christie adaptation Witness for the Prosecution, starring Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich along with Laughton and Lanchester. (Elsa won a Golden Globe award for the Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.)

More about Biddy and Elsa:
Wikipedia (Biddy)
Wikipedia (Elsa)
IMDb (Elsa)

This was the life and chess career of Henry Jones Lanchester, a man who shared a mutual friend with Frankenstein, and whose granddaugher was the Bride of Frankenstein. Henry was also the head of a remarkable chess-playing family, pioneers in both motoring and movies.

Sources and Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk
Wikipedia
Grace’s Guide
IMDb
Lanchester Interactive Archive
Other sources mentioned in the text

Richard Forster: Lasker’s Simultaneous Exhibitions. www.emanuellasker.online (2022).

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Minor Pieces 42: Thomas Francis Lawrence Part 2

We left Thomas Francis Lawrence in 1901, living in Westminster with his mother and brother, and now established as one of England’s leading players, having won the prestigious City of London Chess Club Championship on five occasions and represented his country in the Anglo-American cable matches.

In 1901-02 William Ward won the City of London Club Championship for the first time, with Lawrence in second place. He won the title back the following year, his sixth victory.

In 1902 Lawrence was appointed chess columnist for The People: his columns are exemplary for the time, including, as was standard, the latest chess news, a recent tournament game and a problem along with lists of those who had submitted correct solutions to the previous week’s problem. Along with his work for the Prudential and his regular chess playing commitments, he must have been pretty busy.

Star of Gwent 24 January 1902

He didn’t play in the 1901 cable match, but in both the two following years he was on top board against the great Harry Nelson Pillsbury, drawing both games. Here’s the 1903 game: click on any move for a pop-up board.

It was common at the time for clubs to open their season with a novelty match. Richmond Chess Club, as we’ve seen, staged matches between the residents of Richmond and Sheen. Some clubs played matches between smokers and non-smokers, or, in this case, married men against bachelors, and in 1903 Thomas Francis Lawrence was on top board for the singletons against the illustrious veteran Joseph Henry Blackburne.

Greenwich and Deptford Observer 16 October 1903

Here’s the ‘capital game’. Blackburne’s loss, according to Stockfish, was caused by trading bishops on move 22, allowing the white knight into play.

Sadly, shortly after this game his mother, Esther Jane (Izard) Lawrence, died at the age of 70, necessitating Thomas’s withdrawal from the City of London Club Championship, in which William Ward took the title for the second time. The burial record confirms that at some point after the 1901 census the family had moved from Westminster to 132 Palewell Park, Mortlake (it would now be considered East Sheen), one of the area’s most desirable roads, close to Richmond Park.  Esther was buried at St Mary the Virgin Church Mortlake, also the burial place of Queen Elizabeth I’s astrologer John Dee.

It’s worth a look at Rod Edwards’ retrospective ratings for 1903 at this point. Lawrence is ranked 54th in the world, with a rating of 2423. You’ll see Atkins (2542) and Burn (2540) ranked 13th and 14th, and then a gap to Blackburne (2451), Michell (2428) and Lawrence. Two distinguished veterans, then, and three up-and-coming young players.

In 1904 a major chess tournament took place in Cambridge Springs, a small town in Pennsylvania noted at the time for its mineral springs. The world’s leading players were invited to take part, and it was perhaps surprising for several reasons that Thomas Francis Lawrence was one of the participants. Apart from having a busy life, his seeming modesty and lack of ambition made him an unlikely choice: indeed, he was the only one of the eight European participants with no previous experience at this level.

Here’s a group photograph with Lawrence third from the right at the back.

Cambridge Springs 1904. In front: Barry, Napier, Showalter, Mieses, Fox, Píllsbury, Chigorin, Delmar and Marshall. Behind: Schlechter, Hodges, Helms (organiser), Janowski, Marco, Lasker, Lawrence, Cassel (organiser) and Teichmann.

And here he is again (on the right on the fourth row down) in this rather wonderful tournament souvenir.

The players and organisers of Cambridge Springs 1904, created for Isaac Rice by the noted New York artist, Franz Frenzel (From top to bottom:) H Helms, H Cassel, J Redding, W Van Antwerp, C Schlechter, FJ Marshall, Em. Lasker, M Chigorin, J Mieses, G Marco, I Rice, D Janowsky, JW Showalter, AB Hodges, AW Fox, HN Pillsbury, TF Lawrence, WE Napier, R Teichmann, H Ridder, E Delmar, J Barry

Lawrence scored 5½/15, about par for his (hypothetical) rating, but it could easily have been much better.

In Round 2 he could have obtained good winning chances against Delmar by trading queens on the right square instead of weakening his pawn formation. In Round 5 he lost on time in a winning position against Fox. In Round 8 he had a big advantage from the opening against Barry.  In Round 10 he made an elementary one-move blunder in a drawn rook ending against Lasker. In Round 11 he missed a win against Chigorin, and then, it appears, agreed a draw after his opponent made a losing blunder. In Round 15 he took a draw by repetition in a winning endgame against Showalter.

A score of 9 rather than 5½ would have been a great success, so what, I wonder, went wrong? The pressure of the big occasion? Lack of experience at this level? Nerves? Poor clock handling? There were other lessons to be learnt: while he did well with black, his play with the white pieces was often uninspiring: he was comprehensively outplayed by Janowski, Marco, Schlechter and Hodges.

His game against Napier demonstrated that, given the chance, he was a strong attacking player.

Although Pillsbury was mortally ill with syphilis, it was still no mean feat to bring off a tactical finish against his old cable match opponent.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Cambridge Springs there’s a new book coming out later this year which sounds well worth reading. This website is also informative.

It was at this point that we first met him in our previous instalment, giving a simul at Richmond Chess Club in October 1904.

Did he, inspired by his participation at Cambridge Springs, take part in more tournaments?

The answer is ‘No’. He didn’t take part in the next three City of London Club Championships. The Anglo-American Cable Match didn’t take place, for various reasons, for three years between 1904 and 1906, so, it seems that, at this point, he was playing very little chess. Perhaps he had other things on his mind.

Perhaps he had a young lady on his mind. Take a look at this.

Here he is, aged 35, tying the knot with 21-year-old Mary Campbell Glover, on 18 April 1907, in St Botolph’s Church, Aldersgate, right by the Barbican and very near St Paul’s Cathedral. There are a few mysteries. We know his family owned a property in East Sheen at the time (as you’ll see shortly) but his address was given as Charterhouse Square, close to St Botolph’s. Perhaps he had a London pad, conveniently situated a few minutes’ walk from the new Prudential headquarters in Holborn.

Mary’s father, George Glover, was an insurance clerk and chess enthusiast: he and Thomas knew each other from the Insurance Chess Club.

There are a couple of interesting things to point out. Look at it more closely.

Look closely at Henry’s Rank or Profession. Biscuit Manufacturer? I’m not sure. When Thomas was born he was living in Velsen, where the North Sea Canal was being built. Was he manufacturing something to do with canals? Or did the construction workers need a supply of freshly baked biscuits? Any idea?

There’s something else strange. It was customary (and probably still is) to add ‘deceased’ under the father’s name in marriage registers, and, if you look at the complete page, you’ll see several examples. Thomas’s late mother Esther had claimed to be a widow on the census records between 1881 and 1901, but here’s her son implying that Henry was still alive. It was very common at the time for women who had split from their husbands to describe themselves as widows so perhaps that’s what had happened. Or perhaps Thomas had no idea whether or not Henry was still alive. Perhaps the omission of the word ‘deceased’ was just an oversight.

He had in fact returned to chess a few weeks before this happy event, taking part in the 1907 cable match, where he drew with the splendidly middle-named Albert Beauregard Hodges.

Later in the same year he returned to tournament play in the City of London Championship, taking the title for a seventh time just ahead of William Ward and George Edward Wainwright a 1-2-3 for Richmond and Twickenham chess.

He didn’t take very long to dispose of Rudolf Loman, a game which followed his game against Barry from Cambridge Springs for the first 14 moves.

This was to be Lawrence’s last appearance in the City of London Club Championship, but he continued to play club chess, both for Ibis and for the central London club Lud-Eagle, and county chess for Surrey. He was also a popular visitor to many London clubs, giving simultaneous displays and playing consultation games.

He also continued to play in the Anglo-American Cable Matches, drawing with Hermann Helms, who repeated moves in what, according to Stockfish, was a winning position, in 1908. Helms would go on to have a long and distinguished career as a chess promoter and journalist, being involved in organising the great New York tournaments in 1924 and 1927, and helping the young Bobby Fischer in 1951. Lawrence drew with his old rival John Finan Barry in 1909 and with Hodges again in 1910. In the final match, in 1911, he played a controversial game against Albert Whiting Fox, which I’ve annotated for the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club website here. It’s well worth your attention.

This left his final record in the cable matches: played 10, no wins, six draws and four losses: perhaps slightly disappointing given his strength. Maybe the format didn’t bring out the best in him.

Meanwhile, Thomas and Mary had wasted no time at all in starting a family. A daugher, Margery (known as Peggy) was born in Mortlake just nine months after their wedding, on 28 January 1908, and baptised at St Botolph, Aldersgate on 28 March 1908. A year later, Joyce was born in Mortlake on 3 February 1909 and baptised at St Botolph on 1 May 1909. In the same year, on 23 December 1909, Ruth followed, but she was baptised on 10 April 1910 at Christ Church East Sheen, close to their family home. This is just a few yards from Sheen Mount Primary School, whose former headteacher, Jane Lawrence (no relation as far as I know) promoted chess very strongly: her pupils there included future IMs Richard Bates and Tom Hinks-Edwards.

It was at 132 Palewell Park that the census enumerator found the family in 1911: as you’d expect, Thomas, Mary and their three daughters were at home, along with Ellen Lloyd, a domestic servant, and Helen Wapshott, a nurse employed to care for the young girls.

The following year the family would be completed with the arrival of a son, named Roger Clive Lawrence, born on 12 November 1912, and baptised at Christ Church on 12 February 1913.

Earlier in 1912 the British Championships had taken place in Richmond, and the local club, of which Lawrence was now President, was involved in the organisation, but he wasn’t to be persuaded to play.

The opportunity to compete again on the international stage came knocking again the following year, when he was selected to travel to The Hague to play two matches against a Dutch team. His opponent here was Arnold van Foreest, great great grandfather of Jorden, Lucas and Machteld.

Their first game resulted in an exciting ending in which both players had advanced connected passed pawns. Lawrence eventually came out on top, as you can see here.

He scored a quicker win in the return encounter when his opponent miscalculated the tactics on the open e-file.

Club chess was curtailed during the war, and, with a growing family, Thomas Francis Lawrence had other demands on his time. He did, however, continue writing in The People up to January 1916. Here, he proposed the abolition of adjudications.

More than a century on, we haven’t progressed very far. Even today, the January 2022 Rules of Play on the London League website still allows for adjudications. Lawrence must be turning in his grave.

He still seems to have been playing occasional club chess: in December 1919 Ibis welcomed a visiting team from Hastings, with Lawrence drawing with MCO co-author Richard Clewin Griffith on top board.

By 1921 the family had moved just round the corner, to 92 East Sheen Avenue, backing onto the house across the road from their previous address. Thomas was by now a Principal Clerk with the Prudential Assurance Company Limited, Mary and their four children were also at home, as was Helen Wapshott, a nurse a decade ago but now a general domestic servant.

Lawrence retained his interest in the game for the rest of his life. He still played occasionally for Ibis, in 1925 losing rather horribly on top board against George Marshall Norman in one of the regular Hastings v Ibis matches.

At some point in the 1930s Thomas retired from his job with the Prudential and retired to Comp Corner Cottage, Wrotham, Kent (between Sevenoaks and Maidstone), now a Grade 2 Listed Building, where, in 1939 he was living with Mary, Ruth and two of Mary’s unmarried sisters, Louisa and Charlotte, the latter of whom was employed as a schoolmistress teaching domestic subjects.

His great-niece Jill recalled visiting him at Comp Corner. There were always huge jigsaw puzzles on a huge table in the house in Comp Corner, Wrotham, Kent. Tom was very clever, wealthy, occupation unknown, believed to have been South-East chess champion. Well, he was seven times champion of the City of London Chess Club, which was very much the same thing, as most of the strongest players in the South East took part.

The family finally moved to Storrington, Sussex in about 1950, where he died on 25 January 1953 at the age of 81. Here’s his obituary from the BCM: I presume FAR was Frank Rhoden.

Several mysteries remain. After a recent post on the English Chess Forum, Sussex chess historian Brian Denman contacted me with this message, repeated here with his permission.

The following story will probably have not surfaced for over fifty years. The Worthing Gazette of 27.7.1966, which had as its chess columnist Leslie A Head, reported that thirteen years previously the Worthing CC had in its possession one of the most famous trophies in the history of British chess. The Ibis Challenge Trophy was once the championship trophy of the City of London CC and was won outright by T F Lawrence in 1898. About sixteen or seventeen years ago Lawrence had come to live in Storrington. He invited David Armstrong and the columnist to play him an occasional game. On one of these visits he showed the trophy, which consisted of a set of large ivory chessmen and board. The next time that the columnist heard about the trophy was in January 1966, when a reader, who insisted on remaining anonymous, informed him that the trophy had been presented to the club by his widow. The club minutes in fact recorded that in March 1953 the trophy had been presented to the club by the widow on condition that, if the club parted with it, it should be to a person interested in chess. At that time the committee could not decide how to use the gift and the matter was left in abeyance. Head commented that the club might have held a Lawrence Memorial Tournament or displayed the trophy at Annual General Meetings. In a follow-up article in the Worthing Gazette of 10.8.1966 Head mentions that Eric Chettle, secretary of Worthing CC from 1955-59, remembers the trophy being in the club’s cupboard. The club wrote to Jacques and were told that the set would be worth £60, though the firm no longer made them. Mr Chettle said that he had sold it to a Chichester player for £18 or £20. The columnist commented that it was very sad that this priceless and historic trophy had been hidden away in a cupboard unrecognised and unappreciated until it was sold for a few paltry pounds. He asks why there was such secrecy over the sale. The Worthing Herald of 3.10.1958 mentions that a fall in the club’s membership had caused anxiety and the set had been sold for £20 to ease the club’s balance. One wonders if the set still exists.

There seems to be some confusion with regard to this trophy. I suspect that the BCF obituary was incorrect: my guess is that the Ibis Trophy was originally the Mocatta Trophy, which Lawrence won in 1898 for his third successive victory in the City of London Club Championship. He then donated it to the Ibis Chess Club, whereupon its name was changed. When they no longer had use for it, it returned to Lawrence’s possession, and was then passed onto Worthing Chess Club by his widow after his death in 1953. Anyway, if anyone has any idea what happened to it after it was sold to the ‘Chichester player’, do please get in touch.

There are two other mysteries as well: I still have no idea who exactly his father Henry Lawrence was. I’m also interested in what happened to his brother. He had three Christian names: Henry Arthur Edward, although he seemed to vary their order, so it should be relatively easy to track him down. We can pick up his birth in Velsen in 1873, and see him living with his mother in London in 1881, 1891 and 1901, up to her death in 1903, but after that the trail goes dead. I can find no marriage or death records with those three names in any order, nor any information on online family trees. Again, if you can help with either Henry, father or son, I’d love to hear from you.

What should we make of Thomas Francis Lawrence as a chess player? He was clearly very talented but his games don’t make a particularly strong impression today. With more ambition and perhaps a wider opening repertoire (I don’t think his predilection with the Spanish Four Knights helped very much) he might have reached grandmaster level, but he didn’t play a lot at the top level and seemed to have had other priorities – work and family – in his life. Nevertheless, wins against Pillsbury and Blackburne and draws with Lasker and Chigorin are not to be sniffed at.

More than that, he comes across as a genuinely nice and modest person. Returning to the BCM obituary: ‘a kindly man, and always willing to give courteous advice to young chess-players seeking his aid’. A fine and fitting epitaph, I think. I’m very proud that Thomas Francis Lawrence was one of my predecessors as President of Richmond (& Twickenham) Chess Club.

Sources and Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

Google Maps

chessgames.com

MegaBase

The City of London Chess Club Championship (Roger Leslie Paige)

British Chess Literature to 1914 (Tim Harding)

British Chess Magazine 1953

English Chess Forum

Chess Notes (Edward Winter)

BritBase

Gerard Killoran

Brian Denman

Hastings Chess Club website

Cambridge Springs 1904 website

 

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Minor Pieces 41: Thomas Francis Lawrence Part 1

Surrey Comet 22 October 1904

TF Lawrence (not to be confused with TE Lawrence, and certainly not with DH Lawrence) was one of that group of strong amateurs (about 2400 on retrospective ratings, so FM/IM strength by today’s standards) who were active in English chess in the years leading up to the First World War, all of whom are virtually forgotten today, and several of whom had connections with the area around Richmond, Twickenham, Kingston and Surbiton.

I’ve already featured two of their number, George Edward Wainwright and William Ward, here. Now it’s time to investigate the life and games of Thomas Francis Lawrence.

Let’s start by crossing the North Sea to visit a place very familiar to all chess fans: Wijk aan Zee.  Before 1968 the tournament took place 5 km inland, in the city of Beverwijk. Immediately south of Beverwijk is the municipality of Velsen, divided by the North Sea Canal.

This canal was constructed between 1865 and 1876 to improve access from Amsterdam harbour to the North Sea. The chief engineer was John Hawkshaw and the contractors were Henry Lee & Sons of Westminster.

It was in Amsterdam, at some point between 1866 and 1870, that the marriage between Henry Lawrence and Esther Jane Izard was recorded. Our man Thomas Francis Lawrence was born in Velsen on 2 March 1871, and another son, Henry Arthur Edward Lawrence, followed on 8 August 1873.

Why were Henry and Esther in Velsen? Were they involved in the construction of the canal in some way? At the moment, I don’t know for certain. I can certainly identify Esther Jane Izard, who was born in Cheltenham in about 1834, although by 1841 her mother, Elizabeth, was a widow working as a laundress. I have no idea at all who Henry was, though: no one in his family seems to know and, as he had a fairly common name, there’s no way of finding out.

We can pick the family up in the 1881 census, living at 37 Henry Street, St Marylebone, which has been renamed Allitsen Road: you’ll find it in St John’s Wood, just north west of Regent’s Park. Esther, a widow, is working as a dressmaker, and her two sons, Thomas and ‘Edward’, are both scholars.

By 1891 they’ve moved to 32 Great George Street, which runs from St James’s Park to Big Ben and Westminster Bridge, with Downing Street just a stone’s throw away.  Esther is now a housekeeper (which could mean all sorts of things) and her younger son, now named ‘Henry E A’, is a Solicitor’s Clerk. Thomas isn’t at home: I haven’t yet been able to locate him. It’s quite possible he was abroad at the time.

Thomas Francis Lawrence didn’t come from a chess playing background, and it was only round about this time that he learnt the moves. This didn’t prevent him becoming recognised, within only a few years, as one of the strongest players in London. His name first appeared in the press in 1893, playing for the City of London Club, and for the South of England against the North. He entered the City of London Club championship in 1893-94, sharing first place in his section, but losing the play-off against the eventual winner of the championship, Herbert Levi Jacobs. The following year he made the final pool, and in 1895-96 he won the Gastineau Cup for the first time. It wouldn’t be the last.

In 1895 he made the news playing a six-board blindfold simul match against Arthur Curnock (also mentioned in the above clipping), winning two games (scores available online) and drawing four.

This game was published in the Chess Player’s Chronicle on 16 October 1895, with White’s name being given as I Passmore and no venue. It’s reasonable to assume that the initial was incorrect and this was Devon born music teacher Samuel Passmore, and that the game might well have been played in the City of London CC Championship.

The fascinating Max Lange Attack was very popular at the time, and here White’s 23rd and 24th moves each cost half a point, as he’d missed Lawrence’s rather unusual winning coup. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window.

In 1896, playing on top board for the City of London Club against the Divan Chess Association, he found himself facing none other than the great Emanuel Lasker.

Morning Post 18 May 1896

Here’s the game: you’ll see that Mr Lawrence totally outplayed his illustrious opponent, and was still winning according to Stockfish in the final position, where he was about to reach a queen ending with an extra pawn.

Perhaps Lasker had underestimated his opponent, but to go from learning the moves to outplaying the world champion in only a few years is a pretty impressive performance, I think you’ll agree.

Thomas won the City of London Championship again in 1896-97 and, for a third consecutive time, in 1897-98. At that time the winner received two trophies, the Gastineau Cup and the Mocatta Trophy, a full size Staunton ivory set and board, with silver mounts and inscriptions, valued at 16 guineas. The deal was that if you won the championship three times you got to keep the Mocatta Trophy in perpetuity, so the set and board was his.

In this game he demolished his opponent’s French Defence.

In this game from an inter-club match he took advantage of his opponent’s misplaced queen.

The City of London was not Lawrence’s only club. He was also representing Ibis, which tells us that, like Charles Redway, he was working for the Prudential Assurance Company.

Unsurprisingly, he soon came to the selectors’ attention, and in 1897 was chosen to play board 4 in the second Anglo-American Cable Match, where he lost to Boston lawyer John Finan Barry, miscalucating a tactical variation and losing a couple of pawns. He didn’t play the following year, but in 1899 again went down to the same player, being outplayed in a minor piece ending.

In 1898 Cassell’s Magazine ran a feature on amateur players at the City of London Chess Club, including this photograph of Thomas Francis Lawrence playing Henry Holwell Cole. (Thanks to Gerard Killoran for posting this on the English Chess Forum here.)

Here’s the accompanying pen-picture of Lawrence.

In 1899 he was invited to take part in a major international tournament that was due to take place in London. It was clear that he was considered a player of considerable potential who would benefit from crossing swords with the world’s finest. Even up to a couple of days before the first round it was hoped he would take part, but in the end he decided to reject the offer: I have yet to discover why. An even later withdrawal was Amos Burn, who stated that he was dissatisfied with the general arrangement of the tournament and with the supercilious treatment he received from some members of the management team.

In the 1898-99 edition of the City of London CC Championship Lawrence failed to retain his title: it was Herbert Levi Jacobs who had his name inscribed on the Gastineau Cup for the second time. One of the other players in the final pool was the novelist Louis Zangwill.

He was back on top in 1899-1900, though, with a score of 14½/17, a point ahead of William Ward, with the rest of the field well behind.

In April 1900 the City of London Chess Club ran an invitation tournament in which their leading members were pitted against leading foreign-born masters resident in London. Teichmann won with 9½/12, just ahead of Gunsberg and Mason, who shared second place, William Ward had an excellent result, just another half point behind. Lawrence finished on 50%, scoring 5/6 against the bottom half of the field, but only 1/6 against the top half. Not a bad result, and exactly as expected according to retrospective ratings, but neither did it suggest that he was ready to take on the world elite. In fact, looking at his games, you’ll have to admit he was lucky to score as many as he did: most of his wins came from opponents blundering in good positions. Here’s his best effort from this tournament, against Dutch organist Rudolf Loman.

A third cable match defeat, against Philadelphia building contractor Hermann Voigt, reinforced the suggestion that he was a strong amateur at this point in his career rather than a player of genuine master standard.

Lawrence’s style usually tended towards the safe and solid, but he clearly kept up to date with opening theory and favoured the sacrificial Albin-Chatard Attack against the French Defence. Here’s an example from the 1900-01 City of London Championship, against Canadian born doctor Stephen Smith, with a bonus game in the annotations. Alas, Smith and Jones indeed!

Lawrence was successful again in this event, getting his name on the trophy for the fifth time in six years. This time he notched up an impressive 19½/21, with Jacobs two points behind and Ward another point adrift.

By then it was time for the census enumerator to call round again. He found the Lawrence family still at 32 Great George Street, with not much changed from the past decade. Esther was still there, and still a housekeeper. Thomas and his brother, this time recorded as ‘Edward H A’, were both at home, and both working as clerks.

The association with Richmond isn’t obvious at this point: you’ll recall that in 1904 he claimed to have been associated with the club for some years, but in 1901 he was still in Westminster, although the District Railway would have taken him there reasonably quickly. He would have had friends there, from the City of London Club, and also Charles Redway from the Ibis Club.

What happened to Thomas Francis Lawrence next? Did he make the great leap forward to become a world class player? Did he continue his relationship with Richmond Chess Club? You’ll find out in my next Minor Piece.

 

Sources and Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

chessgames.com

MegaBase

The City of London Chess Club Championship (Roger Leslie Paige)

English Chess Forum

Chess Notes (Edward Winter)

BritBase

Gerard Killoran

Brian Denman

 

 

 

 

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Minor Pieces 40: Peter Shenele

Back in 1975 I played in a weekend tournament celebrating the centenary of Kingston Chess Club. I’m still in touch with two of my opponents, Kevin Thurlow and Nick Faulks, today. They both post regularly on the English Chess Forum and I also see Nick at Thames Valley League matches between Richmond and Surbiton.

Kingston are in the early stages of preparing celebrations for their 150th anniversary in 2025, and asked me if I’d seen anything confirming 1875 as the year of their club’s foundation.

Well, there are all sorts of questions concerning, amongst other things, continuity, but I’ll leave that for another time. The Surrey Comet and Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette (which carried a lot of chess news) for those years have been digitised, but searching for ‘chess Kingston’ doesn’t come up with anything. There are some earlier matches in which clubs in the area played competitions including chess along with other indoor games, but nothing obvious concerning 1875. Having said that, the OCR search facility is far from 100% accurate, so I’d have to look through all the papers for that year to check I hadn’t missed anything. The nearest I’ve found so far is this, from 1881.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 01 October 1881

We have three names here. Most important, for my Kingston friends, is that of Mr J Bartlett, President of Kingston-on-Thames chess club. I consulted the 1881 census which lists a number of J Bartletts in Kingston,  but none of them seem to be obviously presidential material.

I suspect the annotator was FC (not JC) Burroughs: Francis Cooper (Frank) Burroughs (1827-1890) was a Surrey county player, a solicitor by profession. He never married and had no relations with the initials JC.

As Mr Burroughs’ initials appear to be incorrect, it’s entirely possible that Mr Bartlett’s initial was also given incorrectly. I haven’t been able to find any other chess playing Bartletts in the area as yet, but I’ll keep looking.

Here’s the game in full. Click on any move for a pop-up board.

Two weeks later, another game was published, with Bartlett again losing with the white pieces against Shenele.

We’re told that Inspector Shenele was playing by correspondence against Kingston, but there’s no indication of how many Kingston players were involved. He played two games against Barrett, but playing black in both cases. I wonder what the format was. Perhaps he played four games, two with each colour, against each of five opponents. Looking at the games, the Kingston President’s play, especially in the first game, doesn’t make a very good impression, considering he would have had plenty of time for each move.

As he was blessed with a highly unusual surname as well as a title, it wasn’t difficult to find out more about Inspector Shenele. If you’ll bear with me for straying away from Kingston, not to mention Richmond and Twickenham, his is an interesting, although sadly rather short, story.

He was born Peter Shenale on 22 March 1843 in the village of Mary Tavy, near Tavistock in Devon, the youngest child of James Shenale and Tamzin Parsons Pellew. Most of his family spelt their name in this way, but Peter preferred Shenele. He also referred to himself as PS Shenele, although I can find no record of a middle name in any official documents. The surname has its origins in Devon and Cornwall. By the 1851 census the family had moved to Gunnislake, the other side of Tavistock and just over the border in Cornwall, where James was working as a copper miner. His wife and three sons were at home: James junior was also a copper miner, while William and Peter were at school. According to Wikipedia: “The village has a history of mining although this industry is no longer active in the area. During the mining boom in Victorian times more than 7000 people were employed in the mines of the Tamar Valley. During this period Gunnislake was held in equal standing amongst the richest mining areas in Europe.” Tin and copper were the main metals mined there.

In 1861 Peter was still living there with his parents, along with a mysterious 14-year-old granddaughter, and now, like his father, mining copper. In 1867, still in the same job, he married Eliza Ann Kellow in nearby Plymouth.

At that point he (or perhaps Eliza) decided that the life of a miner wasn’t for him. If you’re a copper miner and don’t want to be a miner any more, I guess that makes you a copper, and that’s exactly what Peter did. He moved to London and joined the Metropolitan Police. By 1871 he was living in Knightsbridge with Eliza and their 5-year-old son Henry. Another son, Frederick, had died in infancy. A daughter, Ellen, would be born later that year, followed by Emma, who would also die in infancy, and William, by which time the family had moved to Chelsea.

But where did the chess come in? His background seems very different from most of the chess players we’ve encountered in this series. I’m not sure that chess was especially popular among the Devon and Cornwall mining community, but you never know. Perhaps he became interested after seeing a problem in a newspaper or magazine column.

In 1876 his name suddenly started appearing  (as PS Shenele) in the Illustrated London News as a solver of chess problems.

It wasn’t long before he tried his hand at composing as well. You’ll find the problem solutions at the end of this article.

#2 Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 11 November 1876

But at home all was not well. Peter may have been good at solving both crimes and chess problems, but his marriage had hit a problem with only one solution. On 18 April 1879 he filed for divorce, citing his wife’s adultery with a man named Charles J Reed. Perhaps Eliza had had enough of Peter spending so much time at the chess board and had sought satisfaction elsewhere. The courts found in Peter’s favour (in those days it was always considered the woman’s fault): he was awarded a decree nisi on 20 November 1879 and a final decree, along with custody of Ellen and William, on 1 June 1880.

A son, Charles Frederick Shenale, was born in Plymouth, the town where Eliza and Peter had married, on 20 August 1879 and died the following year at the age of 9 months. His parents were listed as Peter and Annie (as Eliza preferred to be called): might one assume that Charles Reed, whose first name he was given, was actually his father, and that his mother had returned to Devon to give birth?

Here’s another problem Peter composed at about this time.

#2 Preston Guardian 1880

Not content with solving and composing problems, Peter took up correspondence chess as well.

In this postal game against Irish astronomer and philosopher William Henry Stanley Monck, he concluded his attack with an attractive queen sacrifice for a smothered mate. It was published in the Illustrated London News on New Years Day 1881.

He had also taken up another unlikely interest: poetry. Also on New Years Day 1881 he wrote to the Croydon Guardian.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 15 January 1881

He also submitted this poem which, in the fashion of the day, is an acrostic. The first letter of each line spells out a message.

By this time he’d been promoted to the rank of Inspector, and had moved out, as you can see above, to Ilford, where, when the 1881 census enumerator called, he was living with young William. Emma wasn’t at home: she might, I suppose, have been away at school. Henry was living in the Devonshire Club in Piccadilly, working as a page boy.

It was about this time, also that he played the correspondence match against Kingston-on-Thames Chess Club. I’ve yet to discover exactly how this came about: quite possibly via his connection with the Croydon Guardian, the main source for Surrey chess news at the time.

Chess and policing weren’t the only things on Peter’s mind in 1881. On 31 January 1882 he married a local girl, Sarah Jane Seabrook, who, it seems, was pregnant with their daughter Ethel Emily, whose birth was registered in the first quarter of that year. This didn’t stop his chess activities: he entered a correspondence tournament run by the Croydon Guardian.

This correspondence game was played in 1893 against Horace Fabian Cheshire. Both players demonstrated knowledge of contemporary Evans Gambit theory, but our hero went wrong shortly after leaving the book. Thanks to Brian Denman for providing this game, which was published in the Southern Weekly News (8 Sep 1883).

But then, in the same year, tragedy struck. A son, named Albert, was born in September, but died 5 days later: the third child he’d lost in infancy. He then caught a cold, which developed into pleurisy. On 10 November 1883, at the age of only 40, Peter Shenele died after a short illness. A local paper back in Cornwall published this tribute.

You can see some parallels, can’t you, with James Money Kyrle Lupton, from a later generation. Both were problem solvers and composers who liked to see their name in print, and both were also police officers in London. But while James, from a privileged background, only became a constable, Peter, a man of relatively humble origins, became an inspector.

As always, I’m sure you want to know what happened next. Eliza Ann (Annie) remarried in 1893, not to Charles Reed, but to a widower named James Trump (no relation to Donald), a plasterer by trade.  Ellen sadly died in 1894. Sarah Jane moved in with her brother Frederick, like their father a publican, and the family later emigrated to New York. It’s not clear what happened to Ethel. There’s a burial record for Ethel Emily Seabrook in Newham, East London in 1898, which might have been her.

Peter’s younger surviving son, William, joined the Royal Navy, then became a clerical officer in the Civil Service, marrying but not apparently having any children, and living on until 1968.

Peter’s oldest son, Henry, emigrated to Australia in 1885. In 1891 he married Alice Huxley, and, in the same year, a son, George Leslie Shenele, was born. But then things started to go wrong. In 1895 a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He did indeed go to New Zealand, to Masterton, near Wellington, where, in April that year, a month before the above announcement, he was put on trial for rape. What exactly happened between Henry James and Belinda the slavey I don’t know. Offering to tune the family organ indeed!

Observer, Volume XI, Issue 853, 4 May 1895

It was later reported that the Grand Jury threw out the bill. As always in those days (and you might think things haven’t changed much) he got away with it. (Thanks to Gerard Killoran for this information)

After that the trail goes cold. What happened to the police inspector’s son, the seemingly mild-mannered, bespectacled piano tuner? I’d imagine he changed his name, but no one seems to know.

George Leslie settled in Campsie, a suburb of Sydney, married, had two children, Ilma and Cyril, but his wife died young. He worked on the railways, eventually becoming an inspector, the same rank, but not the same profession, as his grandfather. Guess what happened to Cyril. He followed (was he aware?) in his great grandfather’s footsteps, becoming a policeman, rising to the rank of (at least) Detective Sergeant.

And that is the story of Peter Shenele, copper miner, police inspector, chess problem solver, composer and correspondence player, who provided a random distraction from my investigations of chess players of Richmond, Twickenham and surrounding areas. I’ll try to find out more about the early history of chess clubs in Kingston: if I come across anything interesting I’ll let you know.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

MESON chess problem database

Brian Denman/Hastings & St Leonards Chess Club website

Gerard Killoran/Papers Past (New Zealand)

Problem 1 solution:

1. Qg1! threatening Nfd4# or Nh4#.  1… Qg3/Qg2/Qxg1 2. Bd7# 1… exf3/e3 2. Bc2#

Problem 2 solution:

1. Qc6! threatening N mates on g6 as well as two queen mates. 1… Rxc6 2. Nf7# 1… Re6 2. Qxe6#

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Minor Pieces 37: Richard Exton Gardner

There are those who are of interest because, like William Ward, they’re strong chess players who had distinguished careers. We can follow their results and study their games.

There are others who might have had shorter or less distinguished chess careers but who are of interest because of their lives outside chess, or perhaps because of their families.

Richard Exton Gardner was one of those. You might have seen this 1902 Surrey Trophy match card before. There, on board 7, was RE Gardner, which tells us he was a decent club standard player.

Richmond wasn’t Gardner’s only club. Here he is, in 1900, playing for West London against Athenaeum, who featured William Ward on top board.

West London Observer 14 December 1900

Here he is again, in 1904, playing for West London against an Oxford and Cambridge team. The match below, against City of London, saw both William Ward and George Edward Wainwright in action, with Harold Francis Davidson, later the Rector of Stiffkey (who was eaten by a lion) and star of The (Even More) Chess Addict among the opposition.

Field 26 March 1904

But who was Richard Exton Gardner?

If you’ve ever used Yardley soaps or perfumes you might be interested to find out.

The company we now know as Yardley was founded in London by William Cleaver in 1770. His son married a Yardley, and, for obscure financial reasons, the firm acquired the name it still uses today. At some point, probably round about the late 1860s, an ironmonger’s son from Bristol, Thomas Exton Gardner, found employment there, and, clearly ambitious and talented, found himself at the top of the tree.

After moving round various addresses first in Central, then in West London, the family settled at 2 Branstone Road, Kew (almost opposite the Lion Gate entrance to Kew Gardens). The 1881 census found Thomas and his wife Elizabeth at home, along with their four young children, Ida May, Thornton Ernest, Dora Annie and Richard Exton. They were wealthy enough to employ a domestic servant and a nursemaid.

Thomas died in 1890 at the age of only 51, after which Yardley fell into decline, but the family were still involved and young Thornton and Richard joined the management team: in 1900 Thornton was Managing Director and Richard, only 21 at the time, Company Secretary.

The 1901 census found Elizabeth and her four children still at the same address, along with their 20 year old cousin Dora Fordham, a housemaid and a cook, both teenage girls. Thornton was described as the manager of a soap factory and Richard a clerk.

So here we young man whose hobby was chess and was already playing for his two local clubs: Richmond and West London. In an age where children rarely played chess, he would have been considered a player of some potential.

It seems, though, that his chess career was short: understandably he decided to put his business interests first: under Thornton and Richard’s stewardship Yardley grew and thrived, and still does so today. If you use their soaps or scents you have them to thank.

Let’s continue Richard’s story, as there’s still much of peripheral interest to relate. In 1905 Yardley opened a new factory in Carpenters Road, Stratford, which runs through what is now the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

In 1908 he married (Gertrude) Vere Uffindell, the daughter of a naval engineer. They both gave their address as 66 Elgin Crescent, Notting Hill, so the family had moved away from Kew. By 1911 Richard and Vere, now expecting their first child, were living on the premises in Carpenters Road along with a servant. A son, Charles Exton Gardner, was born later that year, and another son, named Richard Exton Gardner after his father but known to family and friends as Jimmy, would follow in 1914.

Did Charles and Jimmy follow their father’s interest in chess? Not to any great extent, it seems: they took up a different hobby, aviation, which would play an important part in both their lives.

In 1936 Charles won the King’s Cup flying a Percival Vega Gull owned by his younger brother, and the following year he repeated his success, this time in a Percival Mew Gull.

In the summer of 1938 the two brothers made the headlines across the country when Jimmy’s plane was stolen. Teenagers involved in a foolish and dangerous prank involving an aeroplane? Who’d have thought it? This report is from the Bucks Herald (12 August 1938).

So they were let off because they were nice middle-class boys?

You might want to consider the name of the prosecuting counsel. Vernon Gattie, or Vernon Rodney Montague Gattie QC CBE, as he later became, was the son of Walter Montague Gattie, one of the strongest English chess players of the 1880s, who played for Oxford in five varsity matches. It’s unlikely that Walter knew Richard senior, but they would probably have had some shared acquaintances. The acting chairman, Archibald William Cockburn KC, seems to have been a very distant cousin of Alexander Cockburn, the author of Idle Passion : Chess and the Dance of Death

I expect you want to know what happened next to the miscreants, don’t you?

Gerald, as far as I can tell, worked as an aircraft fitter, never married, and died at the age of 64. Peter, who may have been the instigator of the escapade, and spent a month in hospital recovering from injuries sustained in the crash, was up before the bench again the following year, charged with separate offences of stealing a camera and a raincoat.

He then joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve, rose to the rank of Sergeant in 602 Squadron, and lost his life on 11 December 1942. The 602 Squadron, which flew Spitfires, was based in Scotland but also took part in the Battle of Britain in 1940. Did Peter fly a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain? Seemingly not, as he’s not on any online list of pilots. What were the circumstances of his death? “Details not known” according to the website of the 602 Squadron Museum.

You’ll also want to know what happened to Charles and Jimmy Gardner.

By 1939 Charles was an operational officer in the Air Ministry and presumably served in that post during the Second World War.

Richard Exton Gardner junior (Jimmy) joined the Fleet Air Arm and became a fighter pilot under Douglas Bader, flying Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain. Unlike many of his brave colleagues he survived the war: you can read all about him here.

After the war, both brothers rejoined their family firm, where they remained until retirement.

Not very much chess in this article, I’m afraid, but still an interesting story. Join me again soon for some more Richmond Chess Club members from the 1900s.

Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

EdoChess

Wikipedia

Other websites linked in the article

 

 

 

 

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Minor Pieces 36: William Ward Part 3

Last time we left William Ward in 1909, when he had just competed in his fourth British Championship. As it happens, it would be his last appearance (perhaps his legal work was more pressing) but he continued playing in the City of London Championship, as well as in county matches.

Here, as you can see, he was again successful in the 1909-10 competition, where the same three players filled the first three places as in the previous year.

In March 1910 he was selected to take part in a match between the City of London club and a visiting team representing the Dutch Chess Federation. The administration of this event, seemed, from the report below, to have been somewhat chaotic.

You might notice a familiar surname appearing twice in the Sutch team. Arnold van Foreest (his name spelt incorrectly above) is the great great grandfather of Jorden (winner of the 2021 Tata Steel Masters), Lucas and Machteld van Foreest. Dirk was his brother, and had a remarkably long chess career, stretching from the 1884 Dutch Championship to a match against fellow octogenarian Jacques Mieses in 1949.

William Ward took the City of London title for the sixth time in 1910-11. This time he finished ahead of Reginald Pryce Michell, a strong player with Kingston connections, and the young George Alan Thomas, yet to inherit his baronetcy. (I’m not certain about the accuracy of this table. I have a game in which Ward allegedly beat A Stephens, but here, the result is given as a loss for him.)

In this game against the veteran James Mortimer, who had played Morphy many decades earlier, he clamped down on his opponent’s backward e-pawn with logical and determined play before striking tactically.

By now it was 2 April 1911, time for the census enumerator to call again. He found William living on his own in a single room in 3 Raymond Buildings, Gray’s Inn: he had a bachelor pad within his legal chambers. (As it happens, this is somewhere I used to know very well back in the 1970s: I’d pass it regularly when walking from my office to Foyle’s to browse the latest chess books.)

This snippet from Cycling (26 April 1911) reveals another side of William Ward. The North Road Cycling Club, founded in 1885 and today based in Hertford, claims to be one of the oldest in the country.

Entirely coincidentally, a photograph on the same page pictures a group of cyclists welcoming the winner of the Banks, Insurance and Stock Exchange Walk, JH van Meurs, who, when he wasn’t walking and dealing in grain, played an important part in both London and national chess administration over many decades. Two prominent figures in the chess world on the same page of a cycling magazine!

In  1911 the British Chess Federation decided they needed someone to rewrite the Laws of Chess. Given his legal background, could there have been anyone better that William Ward for the job?

Well, quite possibly. It didn’t go well. The Rev E E Cunnington, who had written the previous version, and was perhaps feeling aggrieved about the rewrite anyway, made his views very clear in The Chess Amateur.

Mr. W. Ward has been guilty of two offences: discreditable conduct in taking without leave or acknowledgement the work of other men; defacing their work by his clumsy, muddling, alterations.

The proper title of Mr. Ward’s work is “The British Chess Code mutilated and marred by W. Ward”.

It sounds like the clergyman was accusing the lawyer of plagiarism. Could you imagine any other leading chess player taking without leave or acknowledgement the work of other men? Well, perhaps you could!

The whole affair, including a copy of the offending Laws, is documented by Edward Winter here. It seems to me that the BCF would have been better appointing someone who could write plain English rather than writing in legalese!

Ward didn’t take part in the 1911-12 City of London Club Championship, but returned for their Diamond Jubilee Championship the following season.

There was a large entry, split into three groups, with the top three in each group qualifying for the final pool.

Ward finished in third place, behind George Alan Thomas and Harold Godfrey Cole, winning £10 for his pains, along with a brilliancy prize of five guineas for the game below. The fourth placed player was Edward, who was living in London at the time, not his distant cousin Emanuel.

In this game, facing what was at the time his favourite opening, Ward displayed positional acumen in playing against his opponent’s isolated d-pawn, and then tactical skill in switching to a kingside attack.

This was to be William Ward’s last appearance in the City of London Championship, although the event continued through the First World War. Perhaps his legal business left him little time for chess on weekday evenings. He did continue to play in county matches, however, which also continued in spite of the hostilities.

This game comes from a county match from 1919. Ward was awarded the full point by the adjudicator.

As it turned out, this was to be one of William Ward’s last games. A few months later he was struck down by illness – which sadly turned out to be a brain tumour. He died in hospital on 16 October 1920 at the age of 53. Here’s his obituary from the British Chess Magazine.

We didn’t get very much more the following month: just the Davidson game given above.

Here’s his probate record.

16 King Street would also have been a work address, about 25 minutes walk away from Raymond Buildings along Holborn, passing the Old Bailey and St Paul’s Cathedral on the way. His effects would be worth about £130,000 now. Probate was granted to his two brothers.

Tragically, William’s father would have to bury two of his sons. Mark died in February 1922, leaving a wife and four children, the oldest of whom also died just a few hours later. William senior lived on until 1926, while his youngest son George, who married and had one son, died in Harpenden in 1945. In the same town, at about the same time, Howard James, from Leicester, serving in the Royal Artillery, was introduced to Betty Smith, whose family had advised her to move from Teddington to avoid the bombs, by a mutual friend. But that’s another story.

And that concludes my investigation into the life of William Ward, unjustly forgotten today. His best games are, I think pretty impressive for their time, and, had he started earlier and chosen the life of a professional chess player, he had the natural ability to scale the heights.

Next time I play chess at Richmond Chess Club, I’ll think of William and hope his talent will inspire my play.

Join me again soon to meet some more Richmond Chess Club members from the first years of the 20th century.

Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

BritBase

EdoChess (Ward’s page here)

British Chess Magazine

The City of London Chess Club Championship (Roger Leslie Paige): thanks to Paul McKeown for the book.

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Minor Pieces 34: William Ward Part 1

Here’s some hot news from Redhill Chess Club, just 120 years ago.

Surrey Mirror 16 December 1902

There are a few interesting things to note here. At this time, Surrey League matches, just like the London League today, took place at central London venues, rather than on a home and away basis.

You’ll also spot that, as so often in their matches at this time, Richmond failed to field a full team. They frequently either had a couple of absentees at the bottom or a couple of nominated players who failed to turn up.

The impression I get is that the club was very ambitious, choosing to play in the Surrey Trophy against stronger opposition rather than the calmer waters of the Beaumont Cup. Their administrative skills, though, didn’t seem to match their ambitions. Chess clubs (and, no doubt most other clubs as well) are as good as their organisers, not as good as their players.

Regular readers will already have met Thomas Etheridge Harper and Charles Redway, and heard a brief mention of club founder Horace Lyddon Pring, but there are other members of this team who are of interest.

In particular, there’s a new name playing on top board, although he was probably losing his game against Leonard Percy Rees, one of the most important figures in early 20th century English chess and one well worth a future Minor Piece.

In the first decade of the 20th century there were a lot of strong British amateurs with retrospective ratings round about 2300-2400, so, by today’s standards, FM to IM strength. They rarely if ever played in major international tournaments so, except for those of us who spend much of our time in the dusty recesses of old books and magazines, or perhaps visiting BritBase, their names are largely forgotten today.

As it happens, many of these players had links with our area, West and South West London. You’ve already met George Edward Wainwright here, here, here and here.  Now I must introduce you to William Ward.

Researching him isn’t so easy. Cursed with one of the most popular male first names of his day, no middle names and a very common surname, any search for W Ward will turn up much of no relevance. In addition he came from a small family which has been little researched by genealogists: the few online trees I’ve been able to find don’t mention any chess connection and, if they give it at all, get his mother’s maiden name wrong.

Our William, 35 years old at the time of the above match, was born on 3 March 1867 in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, just north of Watford and now a large commuter village, and baptised there on 18 April the same year.

The 1871 census finds the Ward family there. William Ward senior is aged 27, a farmer of 184 acres employing 4 men and a boy, Ann (née Barford) is aged 26 and their two sons are William (4) and Mark (1). The family also have two servants. The parents were both born in Hatfield (the enumerator incorrectly recorded their sons as having been born there as well) and must have moved to Abbots Langley after their marriage. A third son, George Langton Ward, would be born early the following year. The family would later move to the Luton area, first to the small village of King’s Walden, and then to Lewsey, now a Luton suburb alongside the M1.

By 1881 young William is at boarding school in London: he’s recorded at 7 Highgate Road Kentish Town along with a Schoolmaster and a lot of other boys, including, exotically, three brothers from Quito (none of them, sadly, named Amos).

While his brothers followed in their father’s footsteps, pursuing a career in farming, William took a different route.  The 1891 census finds him, now aged 24, living in a boarding house at 50 Finsbury Park Road in North London, not all that far from Kentish Town, and working as a solicitor.

At some point in the mid 1880s, then, he must have studied Law, and perhaps, at the same time, taken up the game of chess. We first find him in 1890 playing in the 3rd class in a handicap tournament at Simpson’s Divan, which tells us he wasn’t a strong player. No child prodigy, then, but a young man who was attracted to the game, and, over the next few years, would discover a real talent.

Ward made rapid strides during the 1890s, soon playing matches for the famous City of London club (in their 1894-5 championship he reached the final stages) and taking part in representative matches for the South of England against the North.

His first external tournament was the Southern Counties Chess Union (SCCU) Championship in Southampton in 1897. Henry Ernest Atkins was a convincing winner on 8½/10, while William’s score of 4/10 was relatively modest, but no disgrace for a newcomer to chess at this level.

In the 1897-8 edition of the City of London Championship Ward finished in third place behind Thomas Francis Lawrence and Lucien Serraillier: by now he was clearly one of the capital’s strongest players.

In this game he demonstrates excellent opening knowledge, capping a fine performance with some sparkling tactics to force through a passed pawn. (If you click on any move in any game in this article a pop-up board will magically appear, enabling you to play through the game.)

The following year, the SCCU Championship in Salisbury was a very different story from the previous year. William shared 1st place with Joseph Henry Blake on 7½/10, with strong players such as Gunston, Bellingham, Loman and Sherrard trailing in their wake.

In this exciting drawn game, against the Dutch organist Rudolf Loman, both players displayed extensive awareness of contemporary theory in the very sharp Max Lange Attack. Ward had the better of the early exchanges but, in a very complex middlegame failed to make the most of his chances. The knight ending was still difficult for both players, and here Loman missed an opportunity.

The 1898-9 City of London Championship proved a slight disappointment when he narrowly failed to make the final pool, but the 1899-1900 edition, held again as an all-play-all, was a different story. Lawrence was the winner on 14½/17, with Ward just half a point behind and the rest nowhere.

In 1900 William made his international debut, being selected to play in the 5th Anglo-American Cable Match, where he drew his game against Charles John Newman.

Rod Edwards’ retrospective ratings for 1900 put him on 2397, ranked 74th in the world.

A few days later he took part in an invitation tournament run by the City of London club, in which their members took on a bunch of international players based in London at the time. As you’ll see here, he scored an outstanding 8½/12, just behind Teichmann (9½), Mason and Gunsberg (9). While the winner hadn’t yet reached his peak and the runners-up were past their best, they were all genuine grandmasterly players. He was particularly devastating against the weaker competitors.

By now he was using the increasingly popular Queen’s Gambit with the white pieces, an opening which suited his style of controlled aggression perfectly.

Here he found himself with an IQP position out of the opening: understanding this pawn formation is still of vital importance to all serious competitive players today.

Against the artist and pianist Thomas Physick (from a family of sculptors) he chose a delayed exchange variation: another pawn formation which still plays a critical role in 21st century chess.

William Ward was again amongst the medals in the 1900-01 City of London Championship. Lawrence won again, with Herbert Levi Jacobs taking the silver and Ward the bronze. Edward Bagehot Schwann, coming to the end of his short life, was among the also-rans.

By now it was time for the census enumerator to call again. What we find is rather intriguing. William was in Kenley, Surrey, east of Coulsdon and south of Purley, visiting Isidore Wiener, a 41-year-old unmarried Hide Merchant’s Factor born in Holland but a British Subject. Also in the household were a housekeeper and a servant.

I’ve recently become interested in the significance of the word ‘visitor’ in census returns. Your census address is where you’re staying overnight. If you’re being paid to be there you’ll be described as a ‘servant’ or something similar. If you’re paying to be there you’ll be a ‘boarder’ or a ‘lodger’. A ‘visitor’ will often be a family member, but there might be other reasons. I can find no evidence that Isidore was a chess player, so perhaps he had some complicated legal business which required his solicitor to stay overnight. Perhaps they were just good friends. Who knows?

Anyway, in 1906 Isidore married 40-year-old Annie Sonnex (interesting surname) from Lancashire, continuing to live, now with his wife, in Kenley. A very late first marriage for both partners. They had their only child, a daughter named Albertine, a year later. In 1918, like many families with Germanic surnames at the time, they changed their name from Wiener to Winner. Albertine became a Winner in more ways than one, as you’ll see here.

And then we reach 1902, when we find William playing for Richmond Chess Club against Redhill. Had he moved to the Richmond area? Or did he have friends in the club who invited him to join and play in matches in central London? At present I don’t know.

It looks like he never owned his own property, living in lodgings and moving round various parts of London. I can find no further reference to Ward in association with Richmond Chess Club, but it’s quite possible that there may be more information online once the Richmond & Twickenham Times is digitised.

You’ll find out what happened to William Ward after 1902 in my next Minor Piece.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

MegaBase 2022 (analysis by Stockfish 15)

Britbase

EdoChess (William Ward’s page here.)

The City of London Chess Club Championship (Roger Leslie Paige 2005)

Other websites referenced in the text.

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Minor Pieces 33: Charles Redway

If you’re travelling by train to visit the Chess Palace you’ll alight at Whitton station and turn left from where it’s a fine and fancy 20 minute walk – or you can take the crosstown bus if it’s raining or it’s cold.

If you turn right instead you’ll find yourself in Whitton High Street, with a turning into Bridge Way (named after the railway bridge, not the card game) on your right. If you walk along Bridge Way you’ll find two turnings on your left, Cypress Avenue and Short Way (not named after Nigel, but because it’s a short way), which leads into Redway Drive. Not many of its residents will be aware that it’s named after a chess player.

Much of what is now Whitton was built up in the interwar years on land which had previously been farms and market gardens. Twickenham’s international rugby stadium was known informally as Billy Williams’ Cabbage Patch because a man of that name had grown vegetables there. This explains the name of the Cabbage Patch pub opposite Twickenham Station, well known both as a rugby pub and a music venue.

The exception was the land adjacent to the Hounslow Gunpowder Mills, which is where you’ll find the Chess Palace, but that’s another story.

In this aerial photograph from 1931 you can see the railway line, the newly opened Whitton Station, the first shops in the High Street and, in the centre, Short Way, leading to Redway Drive, with trees behind it. It meets Nelson Road on the left and, at the junction with Short Way, curves to the right where it would, by 1933, meet the A316 Great Chertsey Road. The rugby ground can be seen in the distance.

Mr Redway gave his name not just to the road but to the whole estate, as you can see from this photograph from a few years later.

Here’s the road itself: typical 1930s suburban architecture, newly planted trees and a notable shortage of cars.

Here’s a cutting from, I guess, the mid 1930s: found on Facebook without attribution but probably from the Richmond & Twickenham Times. Typically, the local press got Mr Redway’s middle initial wrong: he was Charles Percy Redway (1885-1953).

Redway was a stockbroker by profession who had presumably bought up the land speculatively and sold it for housing. Perhaps the proceeds had enabled him and his family to move from St Margaret’s Road Twickenham to Grove House, Hampton in 1927. Very nice too. Lucky chap!

Back in his teens, Charles Percy was a chess player, but as with many young players, life got in the way. In 1904 he was a member of Richmond Chess Club, taking part in matches between the residents of East Sheen and the rest. Here’s an example in which he was successful.

Surrey Comet 05 March 1904

These, I’d imagine, were more social events than serious matches: the players on the higher boards were also seen in competitive matches against other clubs, but the lower boards, such as young Charles Percy Redway, gained experience from events such as this. His opponent here may have been Herbert Ereault, a bank clerk from Jersey, only three years his senior.

But Charles Percy Redway isn’t the real subject of this article: his father, plain Charles Redway, was a much stronger player, from a family involved in various chess related activities.

Charles Redway senior had been born in Paddington in the fourth quarter of 1861. His father, another Charles, had been born in Teignmouth, Devon and his mother, Mary Ann Richardson, near Corby in Northamptonshire. It looks like they had met while working in service in London. We can pick up our protagonist in the 1871 census: the family are living in Chelsea where his father is working as a butler. He is the second of five children at home: a sixth child would arrive later. By 1881 the oldest Charles is buttling for Scottish poet, biographer and translator Sir Theodore Martin in Onslow Square, Kensington, while Mary Ann is in the family home in Bywater Street, a 15 minute walk away, along with her father and six children: George, the eldest is a Publisher’s Assistant while Charles is a clerk and the only daughter, Mary Jane, a dressmaker.

The Redway family was clearly bookish as well as chess playing. Did this come from within the family or was their love of books inspired by Sir Theo? Where did the family’s love of chess come from?

Charles married Emily Jones in 1884 and by 1891 they were living in Elm Road, Mortlake, just round the corner from where you’ll now find the East Sheen branch of Waitrose, along with their four young sons (Charles Percy was the oldest), a 14-year-old domestic servant and Emily’s younger sister Ida. Charles’s occupation is given as an Assurance Clerk: he was employed by the Prudential Assurance Company.

At some point in this decade he joined the young and ambitious Richmond Chess Club. His first sighting in the chess world seems to be in an 1896 match over 100 boards between teams representing the North and South of the Thames. Charles was on board 38, winning his game against a reserve, T A Bedford.

Norwood News 07 May 1898

Here he is playing board 2 behind Thomas Etheridge Harper in a Surrey Trophy match against Battersea in 1898. Richmond were well beaten, not helped by a default, something that was only too common in their matches at this time. Their ambition in taking on top clubs like Battersea in the Surrey Trophy, when they could have opted for less demanding opposition in the Beaumont Cup, seems not to have been matched by their competence in making sure all their players turned up.

You’ll find an excellent article about the Battersea board 3 William Philip Plummer here on their club website, and more about their club history here.

The 1901 census is interesting. Charles is still in the same job, living with his wife, six sons and a daughter, along with a domestic servant. Charles Percy is working as a Jewellery Merchant’s Clerk. They’ve moved along the road towards Richmond, though: their address is given as 134 Sheen Road (here on Google Maps, assuming the house numbers haven’t changed).

There, at the top of the same page, are Philip and Harriet Harper, and the previous page reveals that they’re the children of Thomas Etheridge Harper, who was living just round the corner from Charles Redway.

Perhaps it was Thomas who introduced Charles to Richmond Chess Club. You’d imagine they’d have got together to play chess on a regular basis, maybe, as was the habit in those days, over a glass of brandy and a fine cigar.

Over the next few years, he continued to play for Richmond on a high board, sometimes even on board 1, as well as being recorded turning up to club AGMs.

Here’s a game from the 1903 Surrey County Challenge Cup (presumably the county individual championship) against the artist Sir Wyke Bayliss. The opening was interesting: a Fried Liver Attack with an extra move for White. Black was able to play an immediate c6 so it’s not entirely clear whether or not White benefitted from the extra tempo. Anyway, Redway misplayed the attack and lost fairly quickly. (If you click on any move, a pop-up window will appear enabling you to play through the game.)

The British Championships took place for the first time in 1904, giving many amateurs the opportunity for a two week chess playing summer holiday. Charles took part in the First Class B tournament in Southport in 1905, scoring 4½/11, a pretty respectable result. He tried again at Tunbridge Wells in 1908, but his result in the First Class A tournament was a disappointing 2½/11. (Note that the A and B tournaments were parallel and of the same strength.) To be fair, this was a pretty strong tournament: the winner was Georg Schories, a German master resident in England who wasn’t eligible for the championship, and the young Fred Dewhirst Yates shared 4th place.

Earlier in 1908, Charles had taken part in a simultaneous display at Surbiton Chess Club against World Champion Emanuel Lasker, emerging with a highly creditable draw.

EdoChess estimates his rating as round about 2000: a strong club player but not of master standard.

One of their sons, Montague, had died in his teens in 1906, and, the following year, the family moved to Dryburgh Road, Putney, very close to Marc Bolan’s Rock Shrine.  They’d remain for the rest of their lives. He continued to play up to the mid 1920s, for Ibis Chess Club in London, and in county matches for Surrey. The Ibis Chess Club was part of the Ibis Sports Club, for employees of the Prudential Assurance Company and particularly noted for its rowing. There are very few records concerning Richmond Chess Club available for this period (we should find out more once the Richmond & Twickenham Times is digitised), but perhaps he continued playing for Richmond as well.

He didn’t play in the 1912 British Championships in Richmond,  but he did take part in a simul against visiting American champion Frank Marshall, winning his game.

Very little competitive chess took place during the First World War, but he returned to the board in 1919, playing in a 40-board simul against Capablanca in Thornton Heath. His club affiliation was given as Richmond rather than Putney, confirming that, in spite of moving out of the immediate area, he was still a member of Richmond Chess Club.

In 1934, with their family name now famous in Whitton, Charles and Emily celebrated their Golden Wedding. The report in the local press provides some interesting detail about Charles’s wide range of interests.

South Western Star 02 March 1934

It’s sad that Charles was unable to take part in the festivities. He died just over a year later, on 7 March 1935. Emily survived another 21 years, into her 90s, outliving four of her sons and remaining at home until the end.

Charles wasn’t the only one of his siblings interested in chess, although he appears to have been the only active player.

Readers of a certain age may recall a London chess book shop called Frank Hollings. One of Charles’s brothers, William Edward Redway (1865-1946), ran the business for about 40 years until his death, selling and occasionally publishing chess books. Edward Winter provides some information in this fascinating article.

Another brother, George William Redway (1859-1934), was also a bookseller and publisher, specialising in books on the occult. An announcement was made in 1895 that he was going to publish Lasker’s book Common Sense in Chess, but the arrangement, if indeed there was one, seems to have fallen through. The American edition was published by the New Amsterdam Book Company in 1895 and the European edition jointly by Bellairs & Co London, Mayer & Müller Berlin and the British Chess Company the following year.

You might wonder whether any current residents of Redway Drive are aware of the Redway family and their chess connections. Perhaps two of them are: when visiting the Chess Palace a few years ago, noted chess historian Jimmy Adams told me that his sister and her husband lived in Redway Drive (her husband is a rugby fan and wanted to be near Twickenham Stadium).

Here’s what the road looks like in 2022.

Photograph: Richard James

It’s a bit different, 90 years on from the photograph at the beginning of this article.

Photograph: Richard James

Here you have it – the road, and estate, named after Charles Percy Redway, whose father was one of our great predecessors in the early years of Richmond Chess Club. Join me again soon for some more Richmond Chess Club members from the first decade of the last century.

Acknowledgements and sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

‘Whitton Memories’ Facebook group

Wikipedia

Twickenham Museum website

britainfromabove.org.uk

chessgames.com

BritBase

EdoChess

Chess Notes (Edward Winter)

Lyrics from At the Zoo (Paul Simon)

 

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Minor Pieces 30: Thomas Etheridge Harper

If you’ve been following these articles you’ll have met quite a lot of Twickenham Chess Club members from the 1880s and 1890s. You might have noticed they all had several things in common.

They were all male, and, although they followed a wide variety of occupations, they were all from well-off upper middle class backgrounds. There was a bit of social mobility, it’s true: Wallace Britten came from relatively humble origins, while on the other hand, Arthur Sabin Coward’s family had some problems caused perhaps by his fondness for the demon drink.

For several years the club advertised in the Surrey Comet at the start of the season. This is from 1889 when timber merchant’s clerk John May Gwyn (1860-1930)  had just taken over as club secretary from Wallace Britten.

Surrey Comet 02 November 1889

Note that it welcomes ‘gentlemen’ – not ladies and certainly not working class plebs. (The annual Gentlemen v Players cricket matches, the first of which were played in 1806, were very important at the time, and would continue until 1962.) Following our investigation into the life and career of George Edward Wainwright we have one more gentleman to meet.

In March 1896 Twickenham scored a notable success against the powerful Metropolitan Chess Club (still going strong today). You’ll see some familiar names there: members of the Humphreys and Ryan families, for example, but with a new name on top board: T E Harper won his game against James Mortimer, a regular competitor in international tournaments.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 04 April 1896

He also won the 1895-6 Handicap Tournament of Twickenham Chess Club with a perfect score, so he was clearly a strong player.

Morning Post 15 June 1896

Was he a promising youngster? No – he was a much older player who had just moved into the area.

Thomas Etheridge Harper, a solicitor by profession, had been born in Suffolk village of Hitcham: his birth was registered in the second quarter of 1839. He married Mary Jane Cousins in Dorking, Surrey in 1866, and, in between having 11 children, moved around quite a bit, spending time in North London, Hertfordshire and Essex before moving to Richmond, presumably round about 1894.

The 1901 census found Thomas and Mary Jane at 100 Sheen Park, Richmond, just off Sheen Road very near the Red Cow, where Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club met in the 1960s, along with their two youngest children.

It seems like he may have had previous form: there are records of a T Harper playing in handicap tournaments in London in 1869 and 1871, giving odds to the likes of Augustus Mongredien Junior and the artist Wyke Bayliss, both pretty strong amateurs, playing the wonderfully named problemist Edward Nathan Frankenstein, and only taking odds from Cecil de Vere.  It seems quite likely this is the same player.

(Just as an aside, there’s more about Wyke Bayliss in this highly recommended book.)

Rod Edwards also asks: A ‘Harper’ played against Janssens in 1859 (see Chess Player’s Chronicle, 1860, p.60) and in a consultation game with Zytogorski against Harrwitz and Healey in 1863 (see Chess Note 4783). Is this the same ‘Harper’?  I guess it’s possible. Especially when you come across this problem, composed by T E Harper of London.

White to play and mate in 4 moves (Norfolk News 5 January 1861)

Why not have a go at solving it yourself? The solution is at the end of the article.

This was presumably the same T E Harper, who was the secretary of the Sussex Hall Chess Club, which seems to have met in Sussex Hall, Leadenhall Street, London, the livery hall of the Bricklayers’ Company. Was it our man? The chances are it was,  but I don’t know for certain.

So it seems he was briefly active around 1860, again around 1870, but then, as it does, life got in the way, and he was only able to return to the game once his children had grown up and his work commitments, perhaps, lessened. Moving into an area not far from a strong chess club would also have helped.

A few months after Thomas Etheridge Harper’s success the club had an important announcement to make.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 24 October 1896

There you have it: Twickenham Chess Club changed its name when it moved down the road to Teddington, to the Clarence Hotel, now the Park, right by the station a couple of minutes from the Adelaide.

(Further articles will reveal how the Thames Valley Chess Club eventually merged with Kingston Chess Club. So the players you’ve been reading about over the past few months have, in effect, not been my great predecessors at Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, but the great predecessors of my friends at Kingston Chess Club.)

I guess it made sense: most of the club administrators, then as now, lived in the Twickenham and Teddington area. The move would have not been such good news for those who, like Thomas Etheridge Harper, lived the other side of the river.

But no matter: there was a new kid on the block, a new club which really was the predecessor of the current Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, and Harper was already a member.

Here’s the Morning Post in 1894.

Morning Post 22 October 1894

The Castle, right by the river and opposite the Town Hall, where Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club would meet for a few years in the early 1970s, would, in 1912, be the venue for the British Championship, and whose proprietor back in 1851, Benjamin Bull, was the grandfather of future Twickenham and Durban Chess Club champion Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull.

When the Richmond & Twickenham Times is finally digitised I’ll be able to find out more, but perhaps Mr H L Pring was the new club’s prime mover. Horace Lyddon Pring (1870-1938) seems to have been an ambitious young man. (His name appears in various sources as ‘Mr Bruin’ and ‘Mr Priory’: perhaps his handwriting wasn’t especially legible.)

Surrey Comet 06 October 1894

Sadly, the local library refused to display an advertisement for the new club, but Horace can only be praised for making the effort. Some 70 years later, when my mother asked in the local library about chess clubs, they were only too happy to point her in the direction of what had only fairly recently become Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.

He was soon arranging matches, but at this point they were only strong enough to take on Twickenham’s 2nd team.

Surrey Comet 09 February 1895

By now, chess leagues providing competitions between clubs were in full sway, and Richmond started to take part in leagues run by the Surrey County Chess Association. The Surrey Trophy was first played for in the 1883-4 season, and in 1895-96 a second division, the Beaumont Cup was added. Both these competitions – with a number of lower divisions as well – are still popular and successful today.

Richmond entered the Beaumont Cup and, in 1896-97 were successful in winning the trophy.

Westminster Gazette 12 June 1897

Twickenham/Thames Valley, being north of the Thames, were presumably not eligible for Surrey competitions, although an unsuccessful attempt had been made to play in the London League, founded in 1888, in 1893. Twickenham entered the second division but had to withdraw as they were unable to field enough players.

For now, let’s return to our protagonist, Thomas Etheridge Harper. He soon found himself playing on top board for the young and upwardly mobile Richmond Chess Club with considerable success.

At that point there were close connections between Richmond and Windsor Chess Clubs, and two friendly matches, one at each club’s venue were arranged every year. The Windsor and Eton Express, with great excitement, published colourfully breathless reports of these encounters.

This, perhaps, was the first.

Windsor and Eton Express 25 April 1896

You’ll notice a few points of interest. The Richmond Chess Club had moved from the Castle Hotel to the Station Hotel, and, only 2½ years after its foundation, with no assistance from social media, or even notices in libraries, already had 40 active members. Pretty good going, I think, from the enterprising young Mr Pring and his colleagues. You’ll also see that Windsor had a celebrity top board in Sir Walter Parratt, Master of the Queen’s Musick, who was paired against our protagonist Thomas Etheridge Harper.

After winning the Beaumont Cup, Richmond ambitiously decided to enter the Surrey Trophy, the competition to discover the strongest club in the county. In this 1899 match, against a powerful South Norwood team (they’re still active in Surrey today) they found the going rather too tough.

Norwood News 04 February 1899

Here,  the only specimen of Harper’s play I’ve been able to find (if you come across any more do let me know) is his loss on top board against Arthur James Maas (1857-1933). Maas is certainly worth a future Minor Piece: he showed considerable promise in chess as a teenager, but preferred to focus on his work with the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company (now part of Nestlé) where he claimed to have been the first to suggest selling milk in tins.

It’s clear from the way the Norwood News introduced the game that Harper had a big reputation as a solid player.

Norwood News 04 February 1899

Thomas Etheridge Harper’s last match for Richmond I’ve been able to find so far was in 1902. At some point he moved from Richmond to Surbiton: the 1911 census recorded Thomas, still working as a solicitor, his wife and a domestic servant at 323 Ewell Road. He died there on 6 January 1915 at the age of 76 (according to official records, but by my calculations, unless his birth was registered very late he was 75), leaving £632 9s 2d to his wife. His probate record also gives an address in the City of London, presumably the address of his legal practice.

It appears he was a strong player who, due to demands of work and family, played very little chess over the years. He should be remembered for his part played in developing Richmond Chess Club in the early years of its existence.

Join me again very soon as I introduce you to some more members of Richmond Chess Club in the 1890s.

Problem solution: 1. Ra5+! Kxa5 2. Rb5+ Ka4 3. Ra5+! Kxa5 4. Bc3#

Sources/credits:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

EdoChess.ca

Wikipedia

Annotations using Stockfish 14/ChessBase

Various other sources: links above.

 

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