Category Archives: Journalism

Minor Pieces 32: James D’Arcy

It’s time to continue the story of Richmond Chess Club through the 1890s.

The club, as we’ve seen, was young and ambitious, and decided to enter the Beaumont Cup, run by the Surrey County Chess Association.

The Surrey League (except that it never seems to be called that) started in the 1883-84 season. It seems like only a few matches were played, probably on a knock-out basis, and taking place at central London venues rather than club venues.

By the 1895-96 season there was a demand for a second competition for less strong clubs, and a trophy named the Beaumont Cup was presented by the county President, Captain Alex Beaumont. The second division of the Surrey League is still, a century and a quarter later, the Beaumont Cup.

Some more information:

Beaumont, Alexander ‘Alex’ Spink 1843-4 Sep 1913 England, Manchester Deansgate – Kent, Beckenham amateur musician, 1872 captain of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 21 Feb 1874 in Pembroke he was tried and acquitted for attempt to commit sodomy, 20 Sep 1910 made Freeman of the City of London in the presence of musicians, at time of death residing at Crossland, 28 Southend Road in Beckenham; son of Colonel Richard Henry John Beaumont; 24 Jan 1872 at Christ Church in London Paddington he married the widow Caroline Savage (Marlborough 1826-13 Apr 1907 Croydon), daughter of baronet Sir Erasmus Griffies-Williams. (Source: http://composers-classical-music.com/b/BeaumontAlexanderSpink.htm)

Here’s what happened in the second year of the Beaumont Cup’s existence.

London Evening Standard 07 June 1897

Well played, Richmond! Sadly I don’t at present have a record of the names of the players in this historic match.

The club also continued to play friendly matches. As we’ve already seen, they played regular home and away matches against Windsor and, in this period, narrow defeats against both Thames Valley (formerly Twickenham) and West London were recorded.

And then, in April 1900, Richmond Chess Club hit the headlines across the country for a tragic reason. Here are a couple of examples.

Globe 09 April 1900
Morning Post 09 April 1900

Who was the unfortunate (or perhaps fortunate to have died suddenly and painlessly doing something he enjoyed) James D’Arcy? It appears he was just a social player as I haven’t yet been able to find any information about him competing in matches or solving problems. Sub-postmaster sounds like a relatively humble occupation (unlike, for instance, club president George Oliver Richards, who was a dentist), but can we discover more about him?

His name is variously spelt D’Arcy, Darcy and Darcey in records, and most of the family trees he’s on give incorrect parentage, all copied from each other.

James’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1840 in Boston, Lincolnshire: his parents, it seems, were John Darcey a farmer from the village of Wigtoft, between Boston and Spalding, and Elizabeth Brackenbury, although the 1841 census gives her name as Jane.

Sadly James senior died in 1847 and Elizabeth married Thomas Millhouse, a cottager (no, not THAT sort of cottager: just someone who owned a cottage and a small amount of land). By 1851 Thomas and Elizabeth had started their own family as well as bringing up James’s three younger siblings, while James himself was living in the nearby village of Swineshead with his grandparents James, an innkeeper, and Eleanor Brackenbury.

I haven’t yet been able to find him in the 1861 census but at some point he moved to London where, in 1866, he married Jemima Bond in Greenwich. The 1871 census located them in Hackney with their first child, a son named Robert. James had found employment as a solicitor’s clerk. He must have been doing pretty well for himself as the family residence was a fairly large 4 storey house. They were able to afford a servant, although having three boarders (all young men with clerical jobs) would have helped financially.

By 1881 they’d moved down the road to Islington, now with four children (Robert had been joined by Annie, Kate and Arthur), a servant, and a visitor, perhaps boarding there, David Reid, who was an East India Merchant born in New Brunswick. James’s job was now a Law Stationer.

Ten years on, and they’d moved to a different address in North London, not all that far from Hampstead Heath, and young Alfred had joined the family. James was still a Law Stationer, David Reid was still boarding there, and they still employed a servant. He might have come from a fairly modest family background in a small Lincolnshire village, but he’d prospered in London: something quite typical for the times, I think.

At some point in the 1890s, then, James and his family moved to 9 Mortlake Road, Kew and changed his job to that of a sub-postmaster. 9 Mortlake Road was, and still is, a large and impressive house near Kew Green: being a sub-postmaster must have paid well. The 1901 census records Jemima and all 5 of her surviving children (they had lost three children in infancy), along with Kate’s husband Maurice White and a servant. Maurice had been at Harrow with Winston Churchill, became a journalist and publisher, and later a picture dealer, being declared bankrupt on at least two occasions.

By 1911 Jemima had moved round the corner to Ennerdale Road, very convenient for Kew Gardens. The only one of her children at home was Annie, whose husband, Aubrey O’Brien was on leave from his job: he was a Major in the Indian Army in civil employ in the Punjab Commission as Deputy Commissioner. Their two young sons, Turlough and Edward, were there, along with three servants. Jemima died in Kew three years later, in 1914. All three sons became bank clerks or cashiers, but Alfred joined the Canadian Army, fought in World War 1, dying in hospital in Boulogne of wounds sustained in battle in 1916.

So our social player, then, was, like most of the other players we’ve met at Twickenham and Richmond Chess Clubs in the 1880s and 1890s, a fairly prosperous chap. Perhaps he wasn’t a strong player, but he must have enjoyed his chess and, as a result, died happy. I guess that’s the most important thing.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Other online sources referenced above

 

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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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Minor Pieces 29: George Edward Wainwright Part 4

Last time we left George Edward Wainwright at the time of the 1921 census, when, approaching the age of 60, he’d recently retired from his senior post with the now defunct Local Government Board and moved to his wife’s home village of Box, not far from Bath.

Chess in London for him was now over: no more City of London Championships. But, as always, he’d wasted no time in joining his nearest chess club, in the City of Bath.

The first record we have for him there was the previous December where he defeated the celebrated problemist Comins Mansfield on top board in a match against Bristol & Clifton. (Bristol’s Board 10, intriguingly, was  Agnes Augusta Talboys (née Snell), an artist famous for her paintings of Persian cats, sometimes playing chess.)

The 1921 British Championship Congress was held in Malvern, and it was here that George Edward Wainwright scored one of his best results, sharing third place with Reginald Pryce Michell, behind Fred Dewhirst Yates and Sir George Alan Thomas.

Here he is in play against Roland Henry Vaughan Scott.

The Sphere 20 August 1921

Stockfish 14 doesn’t agree that Wainwright should have won this game. Opening up the kingside left his own king the more exposed, and Scott found a rather unusual winning move.

Here’s the game. (Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window.)

He had some luck in a couple of other games. Sir George Thomas, better known as a steady positional player, gave up material but misplayed the attack, erring on move 20.

Michell played a Maroczy Bind against Wainwright’s Sicilian Dragon, gained an overwhelming positional advantage but lost the thread, and, with the draw in hand, allowed transposition into a lost pawn ending.

There was no competition for the British Championship in 1922: the congress itself, in London, featured an international tournament (1st Capablanca, 2nd Alekhine) as its top section. Wainwright didn’t take part but may well have visited as a spectator.

He was back again at Southsea in 1923, where he scored a creditable 6/11 (no draws: remarkably there were only eight drawn games out of 66), finishing in 5th place. Sir George Thomas took the title for the first time, with Yates just behind in second place. Sir George also won the Men’s Singles in the All England Open Badminton Championship in the same year, a feat which will surely never be repeated.

Wainwright was snapped again by The Sphere, this time in a game he won against tournament tail-ender William Gooding. Unfortunately, the moves of this game are unavailable.

The Sphere 25 August 1923

Against the Scottish solicitor William Gibson, he built up a slow kingside attack, concluding with a queen sacrifice.

Wainwright also sacrificed his queen against the Australian Civil Servant Charles Gilbert Steele. (Steele would meet a premature death the following year, falling off a railway station platform in front of an oncoming train.) Despite Stockfish’s double exclamation mark for artistic merit it only turned a winning position (34… Kf8!) into a level position, but he was later able to force resignation by sacrificing one of his rooks.

This time round he beat Roland Scott in a fluctuating game, essaying the English Opening, which was just starting to become popular.

In 1924 a chess festival was held in Weston-Super-Mare, with the participation of future world champion Max Euwe (1st) from the Netherlands, the Paris-based Russian master Eugene Znosko-Borovsky (3rd) and eight English amateurs led by Sir George Thomas (2nd). George Edward Wainwright was invited to take part, but only managed a disappointing 1½/9. He lost his first six games, drawing with Cyril Duffield of Bristol in round 7 and finally managing a win against local player Captain Percivale David Bolland in the final round. (Capt Bolland was a retired and disabled army officer who had served in the Welch Regiment and would later find employment as a Laundry Manager.)

Here’s his final tournament game in which he faced the dashing Max Lange Attack, winning when his opponent blundered on move 34.

Perhaps discouraged by this result, Wainwright decided to retire from tournament chess, although he continued playing club chess until Spring 1926. One of his last games, which I may look at elsewhere, was again against Comins Mansfield, where he lost a winning rook ending two pawns up.

In January 1933 his friend Charles Dealtry Locock (another important but forgotten figure in British chess who deserves a Minor Piece or two) wrote about him in a memoir in the British Chess Magazine.

In 1881 I went to the University College, Oxford, and finding that the hon. secretary of the ‘Varsity Chess Club was at that college I at once left a card on him. A few hours later came a knock on my door, and entered a man, one year my senior, with a round bespectacled face, who announced himself as G. E. Wainwright. We did not guess then what hundreds of games we should play together, nor how often the rosy-fingered Dawn would surprise us still playing. On this occasion we had a trial game and Wainwright defeated me with a King’s Gambit.

George Edward Wainwright died on 31 August that year at the age of 71, his death being registered in Keynsham, near Bristol, a place a whole generation grew up knowing how to spell.

Another friend – and opponent in City of London Championships, Philip Walsingham Sergeant (Edward Guthlac’s second cousin and notable chronicler of British chess) wrote an obituary for the October 1933 issue of British Chess Magazine.

Though he had dropped out of chess for some years – practically since he retired from Government service and went to live at Box, Wiltshire – the death of G. E. Wainwright came as a painful shock to his very numerous friends of the past, to whom his bright and mercurial temperament was still a pleasant memory. His achievements at chess are also still vivid in the mind though not, of all, since many of them go back well into the past.

Born in Yorkshire on November 2, 1861, G. E. Wainwright went up to University College, Oxford, in 1880, and in the Michaelmas Term of the following year he was hon. secretary of the O.U.Ch.C. (see an article by his friend C. D. Locock in our January number of the present year), while in 1882 he became president. He played five times for Oxford, a record which he shared with Locock, W. M. Gattie, the Rev. E. H. Kinder, and R. W. (later Sir Richard) Barnett; for in those days there was no such limitation as there is to-day with regard to playing for one’s University. He was 6th board in 1881 and 2nd board in 1882-5, scoring in all 4 wins, 2 draws, and one loss. After leaving Oxford he quickly made his mark in metropolitan chess, indeed in English chess generally. In 1889 he won the Newnes Challenge Cup, which was equivalent to the Amateur Championship. In later days he competed in the B.C.F. tournaments for the British Championship in 1905 (when he was 6th), 1906 (equal 3rd), 1907 (eq. 2nd), 1909 (eq. 6th), 1910 (eq. 4th), 1920 (8th), 1921 (eq. 3rd), and 1923 (5th).

At the City of London Chess Club he was always to the fore, and won the championship twice, in 1907 and, after a triple tie, in 1918.

He played in the Anglo-American cable matches five times, in 1899, 1907, 1908, 1909, and 1910, his highest board being 4th in 1909.

Wainwright will be vividly remembered by all his opponents of old for his remarkably rapid play. Yet the present writer remembers one occasion on which Wainwright took three-quarters of an hour over a single move against him – duly apologising afterwards, though the position was exceedingly difficult. Three-quarters of an hour over a whole game was more like his usual style! He was a great springer of ‘wild-cats’ on his adversaries; and his attacks, even when unsound, were very difficult to meet, inspired as they were by a strong personality, very rapid sight of the board, and a healthy confidence. In addition, he had studied the game deeply, beginning in his University days, if not sooner.

George Edward Wainwright was an important, but mostly forgotten figure in English chess, of master standard at his best, with a highly attractive style of play. Apart from this obituary, there’s little about what he was like as a person, but his vivacious attacks and speed of play were often mentioned. It’s clear he was a lifelong chess addict, and if Sergeant’s obituary is anything to go by, a splendid chap as well. We can certainly see traits of loyalty – to his career-long job in the Local Government Service, and to his family, from caring for his elderly mother to retiring to his wife’s home village.

It remains to look at what happened to his children.

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

George Edward junior was, as we’ve already seen, also a chess player, but at a lower level, and, like his father worked in local government – in Ilkley, where his father grew up.

In 1916 he married Jane Savile, who had previously been married briefly to a Polish waiter, an ‘illegal alien’ who had moved to London and committed various criminal offences. They moved to Liverpool and later, it seems down to Surrey, where he died in 1950.

 

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

Philip Francis Wainwright worked in the photography business, but served as a paymaster in the Royal Navy in the First World War. For some reason he changed his surname to Pictor-Wayne – Pictor being his mother’s surname. In the 1920s his business hit financial problems and he was declared bankrupt. He lived in London, married and had a son, but later returned to the Bath area where he died in 1969.

 

 

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

Constance Margaret Wainwright married a first cousin, Alan Newman Pictor, and had two daughters, the first born in Surbiton and the second, exotically, in Fiji. They moved to Bath, and, after the death of her husband, she retired to Wimbledon, where she died in 1982.

 

 

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

David had an eventful life. He served as an officer in the Royal Navy during World War One. In 1916 it was reported that he had been killed at the Battle of Jutland, but in fact he was a Prisoner of War. He later returned to duty and in 1919 was awarded the Albert Medal for gallantry in saving life at sea. On leaving the Royal Navy he joined the Palestine Police, where he married and had a son. Returning to England he took a job as a salesman, but then, in 1938, became an Observer in Czechoslovakia,  in which role he was commended by Lord Halifax.

In March 1939 he was to meet a sudden and tragic end. Returning to England, in the Naval Reserve and with global conflict again on the horizon, he went on a refresher course at Portland, Dorset, walked out of his hotel, and later his body was found in the sea off Chesil Beach. For further information on David Wainwright see here.

Come back soon for some more Minor Pieces featuring chess players from Twickenham, Richmond and who knows where else.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

chessgames.com

BritBase

MegaBase 2022

EdoChess

British Chess Magazine 1933

Various other websites linked above.

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Minor Pieces 28: George Edward Wainwright Part 3

This is the third post in my series about George Edward Wainwright, sometime member of Twickenham, Guildford and Surbiton Chess Clubs, and one of the strongest English amateurs of his day.

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

American Chess Magazine 1898: taken from a public member tree on ancestry.co.uk

We left George in Surbiton in 1911, happily married, with four children and an important job in local government.

That summer he travelled abroad to play chess for the first time. He was playing top board for a team of members and friends of Hastings Chess Club who embarked on a tour of France and Switzerland, scoring 4½/5. I guess he was a friend, rather than a member.

Here’s a game from their match against the Union Amicale des Amateurs de la Régence, where he encountered the Russian diplomat Vassily Soldatenkov. (Click on any move of any game in this article and a Magic Pop-up Chessboard should, with any luck, appear.)

At this point he took a break from tournament chess, not playing in either the 1911 British Championship in Glasgow or the 1911-12 City of London Championship.

He wasn’t inactive, though: in November he took part in a simul at the City of London Club against the up and coming young Cuban Capablanca, where he managed to win his game.

In 1912 he didn’t have far to go for the British Championship, which took place just up the road from him in Richmond – the Castle Assembly Rooms to be precise, down by the river and opposite the Town Hall. Again, he didn’t take part, but was there as a visitor. (I’m considering a future series of Minor Pieces about some of the chessers who descended on Richmond that year.)

Wainwright was back in action in the 1912-13 City of London Championship, but without success. A large entry that year required three qualifying sections, with three qualifiers from each section making the final pool. He was well down the field in his section.

Throughout his life he remained loyal to his home county of Yorkshire: in those days there was no problem representing both Surrey and Yorkshire in county matches.

In this game from a Yorkshire – Middlesex match played in Leicester (a neutral venue) he beat one of his regular London opponents and a future Kingston resident.

Just two days  later he took part in another simul against Capablanca, forsaking his usual tactical style and, after his opponent’s ill-advised queen trade, winning in the manner of – Capablanca.

The following year, he did better in the City of London Championship, this time qualifying for the finals by winning this game against a young Dutch master who had crossed the Channel hoping to make money by beating rich Englishmen.

By now it was 1914 and storm clouds were gathering over Europe. The London League kept going for one more season. Wainwright was representing the Lud Eagle club and won this game featuring a rather unusual sacrificial kingside attack in a match against West London. His opponent, William Henry Regan, was a stamp and coin dealer.

The City of London Championship managed to keep going for the duration, albeit with far fewer entries, giving George Edward Wainwright the opportunity to continue playing his favourite game.

He didn’t play in 1914-15 or 1915-16, but returned to the fray in 1916-17. Understandably rusty, he finished in last place behind Edward Guthlac Sergeant. The following year, fulfilling the prophecy from Matthew 20:16 (The last shall be first), later repeated by Bob Dylan (The loser now will be later to win) he shared first place with Philip Walsingham Sergeant (EG’s second cousin) and Edmund MacDonald, winning the play-off and so taking the title for the second time.

He was unsuccessful in defending his title in 1918-19, finishing in midfield behind the Latvian master Theodor Germann as chess started to wake up again following the end of hostilities.

In 1919 the British Chess Federation celebrated with a Victory Tournament in Hastings, where Capablanca won the top section ahead of Kostic. The Ladies’ Championship was included but the title of British Champion itself wasn’t awarded. While in the country, Capa gave a simul at the City of London Club, and, for a third time, lost against Wainwright.

Meanwhile, there were some important changes in Wainwright’s personal life. There was a major reconstruction of local government in 1919: the Local Government Board was abolished, its powers being transferred to the newly created Ministry of Health. It seems likely that at this point Wainwright, a wealthy gentleman whose children had now grown up, decided to retire. At some point in 1920 he and his wife moved to Alice’s home village of Box, Wiltshire. Box is situated in the beautiful Cotswolds, on the A4 between the city of Bath and the market town of Corsham.

The village’s previous claim to chess fame was as the birthplace of Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), who, when he wasn’t expunging Shakespeare’s rude words, was one of the strongest English players of his day.

The Wainwright family settled in a cottage called Netherby, near the centre of the village, now a Grade 2 listed building. Very charming it looks too.

Source: Google Maps

The Reverend Vere Awdry and his family moved into Lorne House (now a Bed & Breakfast establishment), next to the railway station on the road to Corsham, also in 1920. They’d arrived in the village in 1917, and had lived at two previous addresses there. He and his young son Wilbert used to spend hours watching the steam trains pass by. Many years later, Wilbert, now the Reverend W Awdry, would be inspired by this memory to write the Thomas the Tank Engine books, much loved by generations of young children, including me. George and Vere, as prominent members of the village community, would surely have known each other, and George would have known young Wilbert as well.

By 1920 things were back to normal, and George Edward Wainwright, now retired, was one of those selected for the British Championship in Edinburgh: his first appearance for a decade. His address was given as London and Box in different newspapers, which suggests he’d just moved, or was in the process of moving.

Roland Henry Vaughan Scott was the slightly surprising winner, ahead of the hot favourite Sir George Alan Thomas. Wainwright scored a respectable 4½/11, not bad for a player in his late 50s.

In this game he launched a dangerous kingside attack in typical style, and his opponent wasn’t up to the defensive task. Scottish champion Francis Percival (Percy) Wenman, a former petty thief (of chess books) and later plagiarist, will be well worth a future Minor Piece.

It was now 1921 and time for the census enumerator to pay a visit to the Wainwright residence in Box. George and Alice were there, along with a visitor from Bradford, possibly a family friend, and a general servant.

You’ll find out what happened in the latter stages of his life and chess career next time.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

Google Maps

edochess.ca

chessgames.com

Britbase

Thanks to Gerard Killoran for information about Wainwright’s simul games against Capablanca.

 

 

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Minor Pieces 27: George Edward Wainwright Part 2

Apologies for the Minor Pieces delay, but I had a deadline on another project. It’s now time to return to George Edward Wainwright.

American Chess Magazine 1898: taken from a public member tree on ancestry.co.uk

Here he is again. You might recall (it was a long time ago) that, in my previous article, we left him in 1901, an  English international player, previously a member of Twickenham Chess Club, but now living and playing chess in Guildford.

The chess world would change a lot over the next decade, beginning to look a lot more like the world we know today, with a mixture of club and county matches and tournaments. It was, in the spirit of the times, becoming more competitive. George Edward Wainwright was in his element.

At the end of May 1901 he was in Folkestone for the 3rd Kent County Chess Association Tournament, although his result there was rather indifferent. His opponents included Edward Guthlac Sergeant, Joseph Henry Blake and the endgame expert Creassey Edward Cecil Tattersall, the winner of his section. The other section was won by Henry Ernest Atkins, ahead of Lucien Serraillier, father of the novellist Ian Serriallier (The Silver Sword).

His short draw against Tattersall featured an opening that would become the height of fashion a century later. He mishandled it, but on move 15 his opponent missed the win. 119 years later, English IM Jack Rudd reached the same position and made no mistake. (Click on any move in any game in this article and a pop-up window will magically appear.)

In May 1902 Wainwright took part in the 4th Kent tournament, held in Tunbridge Wells: an all-play-all for 10 players won by the Dutch organist Rudolf Loman, ahead of the likes of Reginald Pryce Michell and (later Sir) George Alan Thomas. Perhaps his most interesting opponent here was the mountaineer Edward Douglas Fawcett.

Against Isle of Wight solicitor Francis Joyce he essayed the relatively new and unexplored Albin Counter-Gambit.

His score of 5½/9 gave him a share of 3rd prize, but he was slightly less successful in the Southern Counties Chess Union Tournament in Norwich, where 4½/11 left him well behind Michell, impressive with 10½/11.

We can see the chess administration we know now coming into shape in this period: county organisations affiliated to regional organisations, who were in turn affiliated to the British Chess Federation. It hasn’t changed very much in the last 120 years: some of us have been saying for years that we need a 21st century rather than a 19th century chess administration in this country.

The 1903 SCCU tournament necessitated a trip to Plymouth (the SCCU covered a much wider area than it does today) where he scored a big success. His score of 7/8 gave him first place ahead of George Edward Horton Bellingham, Wilfred Charles Palmer and Michell.

In October 1903 Wainwright resigned his post as President of Guildford Chess Club, as he had left the area. As we’ll see, he moved to Surbiton, just the other side of Kingston from his previous address in Teddington. Perhaps his job had taken him back from Guildford to Kingston, or perhaps he wanted to be nearer London for both work and chess purposes. Surbiton Station, on the main line into Waterloo, provided – and still provides – regular fast services into the capital. It looks very different now than it would have done in Wainwright’s time: the magnificent Art Deco building dates from 1937 and is considered one of the masterpieces of Scottish railway architect James Robb Scott.

He was soon in action against his former club, who were then, and, to the best of my knowledge, are still on friendly terms. Nearly 120 years later, they’re regular opponents in the Surrey Trophy.

West Surrey Times 21 November 1903

Wainwright drew on top board against William Timbrell Pierce, a problemist and endgame study composer who also gives his name to a variation of the Vienna Gambit. Surbiton came out on top, even though retired architect Henry Jones Lanchester failed to turn up. He certainly wouldn’t have been looking after his baby granddaughter Elsa, who would later become a famous film star – and the wife of Charles Laughton: Henry disowned his daughter Edith (Elsa’s mother) and sent her to a lunatic asylum because of her relationship with a working class Irishman named Shamus.

One of the most important events in London chess for many years up to World War 2 was the City of London Championship, which regularly attracted many of the capital’s finest players. Games took place on weekday evenings, so, now living in Surbiton, he’d be able to get home quickly and easily. He took part for the first time in the 1903-04 season, finishing in midfield behind the largely forgotten William Ward, with Michell in second place.

1904 was a momentous year for British Chess: the first British Championship took place. It’s still, to this day, more or less recognisable. The venue chosen was Hastings: perhaps Wainwright was disappointed not to have been one of the 12 players selected for the championship itself, won by the Anglo-American master William Ewart Napier after a play-off with Atkins. There were three equal First Class sections, and he found himself in Section B, where he shared first place with Charles Hugh Sherrard. Other sections included the British Ladies Championship and sections for Second and Third Class players.

At Southport in 1905 he was promoted to the Championship itself where he scored a very respectable 6/11, finishing in 6th place.

Here’s his exciting victory over the tragic and short-lived Hector Shoosmith, the son of a Temperance Lecturer from Brighton.

In 1906 the British Championship took place in Shrewsbury. Atkins and Michell took the first two places, with Wainwright’s 7/11 giving him a share of third place with Francis Lee, Palmer and Shoosmith. The BCM remarked: The play of … Palmer, Shoosmith, and Wainwright has been specially marked by light and shade. Each lost games through blunders and weak moves, but they have all shared in providing some of the brightest and most interesting chess of the tournament. A comment which could, I suppose, sum up Wainwright’s chess career. His oldest son, George Jnr, took part in one of the Third Class sections but without distinction.

His game against the veteran Blackburne, by now a shadow of his former self, was marked by a finish which would have been worthy of his opponent.

As Autumn arrived it was time for the City of London Club Championship, and it was this tournament that provided George Edward Wainwright with perhaps his greatest success. He ran out a clear winner with 14/17, 2½ points ahead of the runner-up, Shoosmith, with many of London’s leading amateurs trailing in his wake. As well as holding the Gastineau Cup for a year, he received the princely sum of £10 and the championship medal.

Weekly Journal (Hartlepool) 05 April 1907

The news even reached the chess players of Hartlepool, who were informed that he holds a very important official position, and that, according to a leading Chess Master, he is a sporting Chess player of the best type.

George Edward Wainwright had now, in his mid forties, reached the climax of his chess career. Rod Edwards, in his 1907 rating list, gives him a rating of 2407, placing him 71st in the world. Although 100 points or more behind Atkins and Burn, he was one of the strongest of a group of talented English amateurs rated between about 2300 and 2400, all of whom are of interest for both their lives and their games.

Wainwright didn’t have far to travel for the 1907 British Championship in London, where his 6½/11 was enough for a tie for second place with Blackburne, Michell and EG Sergeant behind Atkins. Another outstanding result: press reports remarked on his vivacious and enterprising style.

Here’s how he dispatched Blake.

In the 1907-08 City of London Championship he couldn’t quite repeat his success of the previous year, finishing a close third behind Thomas Francis Lawrence (you’ll certainly meet him in a future Minor Piece) and William Ward. He didn’t play in the 1908 British Championship, but continued to compete regularly in club and county matches for both Surrey (qualified by residence) and Yorkshire (qualified by birth). He had also returned to playing in the Anglo-American cable matches.

He didn’t play at the British Championships at Tunbridge Wells in 1908, but he was back again at Scarborough the following year, finishing in midfield

He will be somewhere in this rather splendid group photograph.

In this game he again demonstrated his attacking skills, sacrificing a knight to defeat Liverpool’s Harry Holmes, an aural and ophthalmic surgeon.

He had previously finished 3rd in the 1908-09 City of London Chess Club Championship, and, coincidentally, the 1909-10 event saw the same three players taking the first three places: Ward, Blake and Wainwright.

This game, against the problemist Percy Healey, was described by Frederick Winter Markwick, in the Essex Times, as one of the prettiest games I have had the pleasure of watching.

In March 1910 he represented the City of London Chess Club against a visiting team from the Dutch Chess Federation, drawing his game on board 3 against Abraham Speijer, The Dutch team fielded the brothers Arnold and Dirk van Foreest on boards 1 and 7. Arnold is the great great grandfather of GMs Jorden and Lucas van Foreest and their sister Machteld.

The 1910 British Championships took place in Oxford, where he again performed well, sharing 4th place on 6½/11, and beating both Blackburne and the up and coming Fred Dewhirst Yates, who tied for second place behind Atkins.

Here’s how Wainwright beat his fellow Yorkshireman.  I guess they were half way towards a comedy sketch!

Wainwright wasn’t quite so successful in the 1910-11 edition of the City of London Club Championship, but, now approaching his half century, a slight decline was only to be expected.

Meanwhile, on 2 April 1911 it was time for the census enumerator to call. Let’s see who was at home.

There he was, at 1 St Andrew’s Square, Surbiton, very convenient for the station and trains to London. Very nice it looks, too. George Edward Wainwright and his family seemed to be doing very well for themselves.

Photo: Google Maps

He’s described, rather modestly, as a Principal Clerk working for the Local Government Board. His wife is also at home, as are their two middle children. Philip is a business pupil for a photographic requisites supply company, while Constance has no occupation listed. They also have a visitor, 19-year-old Julie Ross from Glasgow, as well as a cook and a housemaid.

George Jnr was following in his father’s footsteps in more ways than one. He had moved to his father’s home town of Ilkley, where he was also working for the Local Government Board, as a district auditor. 16-year-old David, though, had chosen a different career path: he was a naval cadet undergoing officer training in Dartmouth.

Here, having followed George Edward Wainwright through his forties, the busiest decade of his chess career, is a good place to pause.

Come back soon for the third and final episode of the chess career of the man who, although not a member for long, was by far the strongest player in the first Twickenham Chess Club. Our friends at Surbiton can also claim him as one of their finest players.

 

Ackowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

EDOChess – GE Wainwright

Yorkshire Chess History: GE Wainwright

Britbase

Game analysis generated by ChessBase using Stockfish 14.

 

 

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Minor Pieces 26: George Edward Wainwright Part 1

The Field 19 March 1892

Here’s a match from 1892 between Twickenham Chess Club and the National Liberal Club Chess Club (sounds a bit like Battersea Power Station Station, doesn’t it?).

There are some familiar names among Twickenham’s successful players, but you’ll also see that their strongest player Mr G E Wainwright, an amateur champion of the British Chess Association, was absent.

A name we haven’t seen in other matches, but a very significant one. Players like Ryan, Britten and Fox were strong club players (round about 2000-2200 by today’s standards, I guess, but George Edward Wainwright was a genuine master standard player.

Here he is, from a few years later. Very few photographs seem to have survived.

American Chess Magazine 1898: taken from a public member tree on ancestry.co.uk

George Edward Wainwright was born in Redcar, a seaside resort in North Yorkshire, on 2 November 1861.  His father, David, was originally a chemist but later became an independent minister of religion. David sadly died before young George reached his first birthday, and the family moved to Bradford, where his mother Annie (Ann Eliza Tetley) worked as a schoolteacher. At some point before the 1891 census they moved north to the spa town of Ilkley, whose Moor is famous in song. (Ilkley is also famous for its splendid new chess centre, one of whose instigators is Andrew Wainwright. I have no idea at present whether or not he’s related.)

George was a pupil at Bradford Grammar School, where, I’d assume, he learnt chess. In June 1880 he represented his school in a match against the Old Boys. He won an exhibition to University College Oxford later that year, and, the following year was awarded a Classical Scholarship involving five years of study.

Oxford Men and Their Colleges 1880-1892

He was the Treasurer, and later President, of the chess club there and played five times in Varsity matches: on board 6 in 1881 and on board 2 in the subsequent four years. It looks like he improved very rapidly in his first year at Oxford. In March 1882, the University team played a series of matches in which he scored 8½/9, including two wins on top board against the Rev Charles Ranken in a match against former Oxford students.

This game comes from the 1883 Varsity Match. The analysis of all games in this article was produced using Stockfish 14 in ChessBase. Click on any move to display a pop-up board.

After Oxford, it was time for George to find a job – and a wife. On 7 September 1886 he married Alice Margaret Pictor, from the village of Box, in Wiltshire, six miles or so from the city of Bath. The young couple settled in Chiswick, where their first two children, George Edward junior (1887) and Philip Francis (1889) were born.

Here, from shortly before his marriage, is a game from a club match.

George had obtained a clerical job in the Civil Service, working for the Local Government Board, which supervised public health, poor relief and local government, and was also responsible for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. There’s a suggestion in an obituary that he was working on Births, Marriages and Deaths at Somerset House for at least part of his career. I’d assume that some LGB employees would have been based within local government throughout the country, and, if we follow his movements, this might have been the case with George Edward Wainwright.

At some point round about 1890 the family moved to Teddington, and it’s there we find them in the 1891 census. They’re living in a house called St Ronan’s in Kingston Road. This seems to have been next door to the Catholic church close to the junction with Fairfax Road and opposite Normansfield Hospital. (The wonderful theatre is often used as a venue for operas and concerts, and the Museum of Learning Difficulties, well worth a visit, features an information board about Reginald Saunderson.)

As you’d expect, George junior and Philip are there, along with George’s mother Ann, a retired schoolmistress, a 21-year-old cousin named Nelly Fenton and two young servants, Annie Beauchamp and Emily Riley. Although he’s just described as a clerk, he’d already, because of his academic qualifications, be pretty high up and doing well for himself. Alice, of course, was also at home, heavily pregnant with the couple’s only daughter, who would be born that May and given the names Constance Margaret. A third son, David, would be born in 1894.

If George walked back up Kingston Road towards Teddington, he’d soon have what would later become Bushy Park Road on his left (an OS map from a few years later shows it under construction), where, some 40 years later, the Misses Ada and Louisa Padbury would sell ham and beef. A turning on the right a bit further up named Cornelius Road was not at that point built up, but in the 1900s would acquire houses and a new name in honour of the reigning monarch: King Edward’s Grove. It was there that, in the 1920s, one of his future opponents, Edward Guthlac Sergeant, would briefly make his home, and also where the Misses Padbury would move after retiring from their Ham and Beef Stores. Their great nephew would spend the first two years of his life there as well,  but that’s another story for another time and place.

George had been very active in chess circles through the later 1880s, most notably winning the British Amateur Championship in 1889. On moving to Teddington, he would have wasted no time joining Twickenham Chess Club. But with a growing family, and, you would imagine, increasing responsibility at work, he played less often during the 1890s, contenting himself with club and county matches.

On 7 April 1894, for example, he was on Board 19 in a 108-board match between the South and North of England, where he drew his game against our old friend (and possibly my distant relation by marriage) Edwin Marriott.

Lots of great names there on both sides, some of whom will be featured later in this series, but Wainwright’s position on board 19 suggests that he wasn’t regarded as any more than a strong amateur at that point. He was still, in 1894, representing Middlesex, but he was soon to move, and to leave Twickenham Chess Club.

By 1895 he was living in Guildford, joining the local club and now representing Surrey in county chess.

This game from a county match demonstrates that George was a player with an enterprising style and considerable tactical ability.

The administrative headquarters of Surrey County Council moved from Newington (Southwark) to the newly built County Hall in Kingston in 1893: perhaps he was involved in some way. It’s also possible his job might have then taken him to Guildford, which would explain the move. Perhaps, though, he was commuting to the capital from nearby London Road station, which had opened in 1885. A train would have taken him directly to Waterloo, from where Somerset House was a short walk across the bridge.

With his family now growing he seems to have had more time for chess, and in 1898, as a result of games like the one below, he had come to the attention of the national selectors, being picked as a reserve for the Great Britain team in their third annual cable match against the United States of America.

The following year, he was in the team facing a promising young tactician named Frank Marshall.

A long and exciting game ensued, in which our man was perhaps fortunate to escape into a fortress-like draw.

It seems that, by now in his late 30s, George Edward Wainwright was approaching the peak of his powers over the chessboard.

The 1901 census located the family in the parish of Stoke next Guildford. George, described as a Principal for the Local Government Board, and Alice were at home, along with their three youngest children, George’s mother, a governess to help look after the youngsters, a cook and a housemaid. George junior, meanwhile, was boarding at Pilgrim House School, Westerham, Kent.

We’ll leave him there for the time being, a senior civil servant working for the Local Government Board, a family man, and an English international chess player renowned for his dashing attacks.

The story of George Edward Wainwright’s life and chess career will be continued in the next Minor Piece.

If you want more, and, if you enjoy attacking chess or British chess history you certainly should, historian Gerard Killoran, who lives in Wainwright’s home town, Ilkley, is currently working on a biography. I can’t wait to read it.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Collection

MegaBase 2022

EDO historical chess ratings (Rod Edwards)

Yorkshire Chess History (Steve Mann)

chessgames.com

BritBase

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Minor Pieces 24: Arthur Makinson Fox

There was good news for Twickenham Chess Club in January 1889. A victory against Acton gave them an impressive 100% record for the season.

We note a new name among the winners: as well as a Bull (here and here) we now have a Fox to add to the menagerie.

Morning Post 28 January 1889

Eighteen months later, and Mr A M Fox was by now winning every game in the handicap tournament off scratch. Twickenham was one of the strongest suburban chess clubs, and Mr Fox was perhaps their strongest player, which suggests that he was pretty useful.

Morning Post 23 June 1890

His full name was Arthur Makinson Fox, born in Dorchester, Dorset in 1863, the son and grandson of Congregational Ministers, although his father, Joseph Makinson Fox, converted to the Church of England in 1886. An uncle, Daniel Makinson Fox, was a railway engineer who led the construction of the São Paulo railway, and one of Arthur’s brothers, John Ernest Ravenscroft Fox, was a landscape artist.

Arthur shared an occupation with Robert Davy Ganthony: the 1881 census found him in Dudley, Worcestershire, articled to a dentist. It appears that, in those days, training to be a dentist required an apprenticeship rather than a university education.

By 1882 he found himself in Teddington, perhaps still training to be a dentist, but also the organist at Christ Church, Teddington, in whose church hall Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club met until a few years ago.

In 1887 he married Helen Maud McComas, the daughter of an Irish merchant living in Hampton Road, Teddington, not too far from the Roebuck. They settled in the same road, but closer to the town centre: a house named Brendon, 32 Hampton Road, on the corner of Coleshill Avenue (perhaps this house), just round the corner from the Cowards. Three daughters, Dorothy, Helen and Violet, soon arrived to complete the family, and they would remain there for the rest of their lives. None of their daughters married: they weren’t the only spinster sisters in Teddington.

In 1889 he wasn’t new to chess. Since at least the beginning of 1888 he’d been solving problems in the Morning Post, and occasionally tried his hand at composing as well.

This example seems to me to be pretty crude and forgettable: he doesn’t seem to have shared Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull’s talent for composition. Have a go at solving it yourself and see what you think. The solution is at the end of the article.

#3 Arthur Makinson Fox Morning Post 3 December 1888

In 1893 Joseph Henry Blackburne returned to Twickenham for another simul. Arthur Fox was the only player to win his game.

Surrey Comet 27 May 1893

In between dentistry and chess he also found time to study music at London University, being awarded a Bachelor’s degree in 1893.

Arthur seems to have been a real chess addict. He wasn’t just a member of Twickenham Chess Club, but also a number of clubs in central London. I presume he took the train up from nearby Teddington Station.

Here he is, for example, in 1901, playing for the British Chess Club against a combined team from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and drawing his game against South African law student Frederick Kimberley Loewenthal, named, like Sydney Meymott, after his place of birth. (Kimberley, not Frederick just in case you were wondering, and apparently not related to Johan Jacob.) There are several interesting names in both teams, some of whom you might meet in future Minor Pieces, but if he’d been one board lower, he’d have met Harold Francis Davidson, a theology student at Exeter College, Oxford.

The Field 30 March 1901

Wikipedia:

At Oxford, Davidson’s behaviour was notably eccentric; he displayed considerable energy but disregarded rules, was persistently unpunctual and regularly failed his examinations. … By 1901 his academic inadequacies were such that he was required to leave Exeter College, although he was allowed to continue studying for his degree at Grindle’s Hall, a cramming establishment. He finally passed his examinations in 1903, at the age of 28, and that year was ordained by the Bishop of Oxford—after some reluctance on the part of the bishop to accept so unpromising a candidate. 

Yes, this was the future Rector of Stiffkey, the Rector Who Was Eaten (or, more accurately, mauled) By A Lion, and one of the stars of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict, co-written by an unrelated Teddington chess player named Fox.

On April Fools Day 1901 the census enumerator called. As you’d expect, Arthur and Helen were at home along with their three young daughters, Helen’s relation Herbert McComas, a Cambridge University student born in Dublin, and three servants, all in their mid 20s: Grace Gisbourne was a cook, Helena Larkham a housemaid and Ellen Gowing a nurse. It must have been rather confusing with two Helens, Helena and Ellen in the household.

Moving forward another decade, not much had changed. Their middle daughter, Helen, had left home to work as a teacher, but Dorothy and Violet were still there, along with the same three servants as ten years earlier.

But there was another resident as well, Douglas Gerard Arthur Fox, the son of Arthur’s brother Gerard, a 17 year old music student.

Douglas was a promising organist and pianist: he was educated at Clifton College, a school with a strong music tradition, and was now studying under Sir Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music. The following year he would be appointed Organ Scholar at Keble College, Oxford.

When war broke out he enlisted in the army, and, in 1917, suffered a serious injury requiring the amputation of his right arm. In 1918 he was appointed musical director at Bradfield College, and in 1931 returned to Clifton College, where he was Head of Music until his retirement in 1957. Among his pupils was the great and wonderful David Valentine Willcocks, one of whose brothers, Theophilus Harding Willcocks, was a mathematician and chess problemist.

For further information about Douglas Fox see here, pp 11-14. You might even want to buy a book here.

At some point, perhaps round about his 50th birthday, Arthur Makinson Fox decided to retire from his work as a dentist, giving himself more time to spend on music.

In 1912 Arthur and his wife contributed two guineas to a fund to rebuild the organ at St James’s Church, Hampton Hill. They lived in the parish of St Peter & St Paul, Teddington, but it’s possible they preferred to worship at St James’s. just a mile down the road. (Walk along Hampton Road past the Roebuck and keep going.) It’s also quite possible that Arthur was the organist there. (A more recent organist at St James’s, Mark Blackwell (2015-2018) is the brother of one of my first private pupils, Richard, who played for Cambridge in the 1986 Varsity Match.)

In 1914 St James’s appointed a new vicar, the Rev Richard Coad-Prior, who had a lot in common with Arthur Makinson Fox, sharing his passion for both music and chess. In February that year, he played for London University in a match against Cambridge. There, sitting almost opposite him, was Richard’s only son Eric, who would himself have a long career as a strong club and county player.

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette 6 March 1914

Arthur’s opponent in this match, Bertram Goulding Brown, was well known as, amongst other things, a chess historian. He had played in Varsity Matches a decade or so earlier, and was now, I think, a lecturer in history. This may have been a ‘past and present’ match, or perhaps Arthur was now associated with London University again in some way.

This is the last match result I’ve been able to find for Arthur Makinson Fox. Not a lot of competitive chess took place during the war, and perhaps, now in his fifties, he decided to hang up his pawns, at least as far as competitive chess was concerned.

The 1921 census has recently become available online, and we still find him in the same place, along with Helen, Dorothy and Violet, who is now working just a couple of minutes walk away at the National Physical Laboratory. Their servants Grace and Ellen are both still there after more than 20 years.

During this period of his life he continued his interest in music. The two fields which particularly interested him were organ music (he seems to have composed some works for his instrument) and madrigals. He wrote articles for various music magazines and was the President and Librarian of the Madrigal Society. In 1914 he had subscribed to a collection of madrigals composed by Orlando Gibbons. (Beware, though: some online sources attribute two cantatas published in the mid 1870s to Arthur Makinson Fox: they must have been written by another Arthur Fox.)

We can now move forward another 18 years to 1939. Helen Maud Fox died that year, but, apart from his sad loss, there’s no change in the household circumstances from 1921. Arthur, Dorothy and Violet are still there, with Dorothy still carrying out household duties and Violet still at the NPL. And, yes, Grace and Ellen are still there as well, having worked for the family for about 40 years. Quite some loyalty, and I guess Arthur must have been a good employer as well.

Although he may not have played competitively for a quarter of a century, he still kept up his interest in chess. In 1941 he wrote an article for the British Chess Magazine reminiscing about the British Chess Club.

British Chess Magazine February 1941
British Chess Magazine February 1941

In February 1945 he had a letter published in the BCM joining in a debate about reversing the starting positions of bishops and knights.

He lived a long but relatively uneventful life devoted to his work as a dentist and his twin passions of chess and music. Arthur Makinson Fox’s death at the age of 86 was registered in Middlesex South in the second quarter of 1949.

 

Acknowledgements and Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

britbase.org.uk

Wikipedia

Various other online sources

Problem solution:

1. Nd8! followed by 2. Be3 and either 3. Qe6# or 3. Qd4#. The only other variation is 1. Nd8! Kc5 2. Be3+ Kb5 3. Qa4#

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Minor Pieces 22: Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull Part 1

 

Surrey Comet 5 March 1887

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have seen this before. I’d like to draw your attention to Twickenham’s Board 3, Mr. C. A. L. Bull.

In the world of over the board chess he was a Minor Piece, but in the rarefied world of chess problems he was undoubtedly a Major Piece. It’s not so easy, though, to piece together his life as there appear to be no genealogists in his immediate family.

Let’s take a look.

We’ll start with his paternal grandfather, Benjamin Bull. Ben was born in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, a town we’ll have occasion to visit again, but I haven’t as yet found any family connections with other chess players whose family came from that area.

He was a hotel proprietor and we can pick him up in the 1851 census running the Castle Hotel in Richmond, which was demolished in 1888, but its successor would, in 1912, be the venue of the British Chess Championships. It’s quite possible a future series of articles will enable us to meet some of those who visited our fair Borough in 1912 to push their pawns around wooden chequered boards.

Ben and his wife Mary Ann had five sons and a daughter. One of their sons, Richard Smith Bull, achieved some fame as an actor using the stage name Richard Boleyn, but our story continues with another son, Thomas Bull.

Tom, by profession an auctioneer and surveyor, was born in 1839, and, in 1865, married  the 18 year old Julia Sellé, daughter of William Christian Sellé, doctor of music, composer, and Musician in Ordinary to Queen Victoria. Their first child was born in Ramsgate, Kent, but they soon settled, like all the best people, in Twickenham. Tom and Julia had 11 children, one of whom died in infancy, and it’s their fourth son, Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull, who interests us.

He was born (as Cecil Lucas Bull: he would sometimes be known as Lucas Bull) in the second quarter of 1869 and baptised (now Cecil Alfred Lucas) at St Mary the Virgin Church, Twickenham on 16 June that year.

St Mary the Virgin Church Twickenham. Author’s photograph.

In the 1871 census we find Tom and Julia, with four young children, Julius, Alan, Cecil and Beatrix, living in Sussex Villa, Clifden Road, Twickenham, close to the town centre. They must have been well off as they could afford to employ no less than four servants, a cook, a housemaid and two nurses to look after their rapidly expanding family.

In round about 1875 the family moved from Twickenham to Ferry Road, Teddington, just across the road from where, a few years later, St Alban’s Church would be built, and where Noël Coward’s family would both worship and entertain.

The 1881 census records Tom and Julia in Ferry Road, now with Julius, Alan, Cecil, Beatrix, Maud, Gwynneth, Clifford, Walter and Allegra, along with a nurse, a cook, a housemaid and a parlourmaid. Life must have been good for the prosperous Bull family.

This tells us that young Cecil (I think they missed a trick by not adding Ferdinand to his name, making him Bull, CALF) was only 17 when he first represented Twickenham Chess Club. Not exceptional today, but it would have been very unusual, although I haven’t found any specific reference to his youth, at the time. Playing on third board and winning both his games, he must already have been a more than useful player. He went on to win the club’s handicap tournament on two occasions, playing off scratch.

Even at that point, he’d been active elsewhere in the chess world for some time. His first problem was published in The Field in May 1885, just before his 16th birthday. It soon became clear that he was both exceptionally knowledgeable about chess problems and had a remarkable talent as a composer.

His first prize in the Liverpool Weekly Courier in 1886 caused a sensation and also a bit of controversy at the time.

Problem 1. White to play and mate in 3 moves. Solution at the end of the article.

Although he published a few mates in 2 and longer mates, and also a few selfmates, most of his problems were mates in 3. His younger brothers Clifford and Walter also had a few problems published in their teens, but seem not to have continued their interest.

As well as blockbusting prizewinners, Cecil had a knack for composing crowd-pleasing lightweight problems which would have been attractive to over-the-board players.

Problem 2, another mate in 3, was published in the British Chess Magazine in 1888.

Chess wasn’t young Cecil’s only game. From 1888 onwards we find him playing cricket for a variety of local clubs: Strawberry Hill, Teddington, East Molesey, Barnes before settling on Hampton Wick. He was a talented all-rounder, excelling with both the bat and the ball. (I’d have called him both a bowler and a batsman, but today, in the spirit of political correctness, we’re expected to use ‘batter’ instead. I’m afraid it just makes me think of Yorkshire pudding, though.) His teammates sometimes included his older brother Alan, and Edward Albert Bush, who, in 1891, married his sister Beatrix. I do hope they celebrated at the Bull & Bush.

Hampton Wick Royal Cricket Ground. Author’s photograph.

Problem 3 is another prize winner: this one shared 2nd prize in the Bristol Mercury in 1890. Again, it’s mate in 3.

By 1891 the Bulls had moved again. They were now in Walpole Gardens, just by Strawberry Hill Station, with Beatrix, Maud, Gwynneth, Clifford, Walter and their youngest son, Basil. I haven’t been able to find Allegra in 1891. There were now only two servants. Did they need less help as their children grew up?

Cecil was in Bloomsbury in 1891, living ‘on own means’ in the home of a classics teacher who also took in boarders. It seems that he was wealthy enough not to need a job, so was able to devote his time to his hobbies of chess and cricket.

Here’s how FR Gittins would describe his early life in The Chess Bouquet.

From The Chess Bouquet by Frederick Richard Gittins (1897)

And then, in 1892, everything changed. Julia died and the family started to disperse. Walter emigrated to America, where he would later be joined by Basil. Cecil, because of his passion for cricket, soon set sail for South Africa, where Clifford would later join him. It’s possible that the oldest brother, Julius, also emigrated to South Africa, but this is at present uncertain.

Meanwhile, Thomas married a widow named Margaret Crampton in Steyning, Sussex in 1895, and by 1901 they were living in Chingford, Essex. Clifford was the only one of his children still living with him. I haven’t yet been able to find the family in the 1911 census: I suppose it’s quite possible they were visiting one of Tom’s children in America or South Africa. It looks like Thomas Bull died in Chelsea in 1918 at the age of 78.

Do you want to find out what happened to Cecil in South Africa? I’m sure you do. Don’t miss our next exciting episode.

Sources and Acknowledgements:

Ancestry

Findmypast

Wikipedia

Problems and solutions taken from Yet Another Chess Problem Database.

Thanks to Dr Tim Harding for The Chess Bouquet.

Solutions to problems:

1.

1.♖d4! 1…♖d1 (R~1) 2.♕×e2+ ♕e3 3.♕×e3# 1…♕f1 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕g2 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕g4 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 1…♕h1 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕h2 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 1…♕a3 (Qb3, Qc3, Qf3, Qg3) 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕d3 2.♖×d3 ♖a1 (R~1) 3.♕×e2# 1…♕e3 2.♘×e3 ~ 3.♕×f5# 1…♕×h4 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 1…c×d4 2.♘e5 ~ 3.♗f7# 2…d×e5 3.♕c6#

2.

1.♔f8! ~ 2.♘c7 ~ 3.♕d4# 2…♗c4 3.♕a3# 1…♔d5 2.♕d4+ ♔e6 3.♘g7# (Model mate, Mirror mate) 1…♗c4 2.♕a3+ 2…♔d5 3.♕d6# 2…♔b5 3.♘c7# (Model mate)

3.

1.♕h3! ~ 2.♕f5+ ♔c6 3.♖c4# 1…♗×e4 2.♕c8 ~ 3.♘c3# 2…♖c6 3.♕g8# 1…♗d3 2.♕c8 ♗×e4 3.♘c3# 1…♔c6 2.♕c8+ ♔b5 3.♕c4# 1…♔×e4 2.♕g2+ 2…♔f5 3.♕d5# 2…♔d3 3.♘b2# 1…b5 2.♖d4+ ♔c6 3.♕c8# 1…b6 2.♘c3+ 2…♔c5 3.♕c8# 2…♔c6 3.♕c8#

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Minor Pieces 18: Arthur Sabin and Randulph Lewis Coward

Working Mens’ Clubs in Twickenham and surrounding areas had been meeting each other for friendly competitions since the early 1870s. These would typically involve some combination of activities such as chess, draughts, whist, cribbage, dominoes and bagatelle.

Twickenham Chess Club, for its first few years, seemed to content itself with internal handicap tournaments along with the occasional simultaneous display. It wasn’t until January 1883 that they played their first match against another club. This was against Isleworth Reading Room Chess Club (there has been no chess club in Isleworth for many decades) and resulted in a victory for Twickenham 9 points to 3. Hurrah!

The following month, Twickenham visited Isleworth for a return encounter over 9 boards, with each player having two games against the same opponent. Here’s what happened.

Middlesex Independent 21 February 1883

 

You’ll notice George Edward Norwood Ryan and Wallace Britten on the top two boards. Some of the initials are, as was common in those days, incorrect.

Buoyed by their success, in March they entertained Kingston Chess Club. The Surrey Comet reported that the Twickenham players were most successful, beating their opponents all along the line.

It seems that the Twickenham Chess Club had rapidly established itself as one of the stronger suburban clubs, and that the top boards must have been pretty useful players. As yet I haven’t been able to find any of their games.

It wasn’t until 1884 that we have a record of another match, again versus the Isleworth Reading Room Chess Club.

Middlesex Independent 05 March 1884

 

There are several interesting names here, but you’ll spot two Cowards in the team. Following his successes the previous year, A Coward had been promoted to second board. The two Brittens turned out not to be related to each other, or to their musical namesake. What about the two Cowards?

First of all, the weaker Coward’s middle initial is incorrect. They were in fact brothers: Arthur Sabin Coward and Randulph Lewis Coward.

In the 1881 census the family were at 4 Amyand Park Road, Twickenham, right by the station. Arthur was 24 and Randulph 20, both were working as clerks, and they were living with their widowed mother, an annuitant (pensioner), five younger sisters and a servant.

Their late father, James Coward, a victim of tuberculosis the previous year, had been an organist and composer (spoiler alert: not the only organist and composer we’ll encounter in this series)

It’s well worth looking at all his children.

  1. James Munro Coward was, like his father, an organist and composer, but his musical career was marred by heavy drinking.
  2. Walter Coward, a singer, became a gentleman-in-ordinary at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace and librarian of the Chapel Royal’s music.
  3. Arthur Sabin Coward – we’ll return to him later.
  4. Gordon Leslie Coward is something of a mystery. He joined the army, reaching the rank of Sergeant, but then turned up in New Zealand in 1888, being sentenced to 9 months imprisonment for passing a forged cheque. His lawyer described him as ‘a man of good connections’ who had ‘unfortunately given way to drink’. The probation officer’s report was not favourable. After that, we don’t know. There was a death recorded in Wellington in 1894 of a Gordon Leslie Card, who may or may not have been the same person.
  5. Randulph Lewis Coward – again we’ll return to him later.
  6. Hilda Janet Coward followed her father into music, being the possesor of a ‘well-trained voice of extraordinary compass’.  Jenny Lind had been known as the Swedish Nightingale (there used to be a pub in Hampton Hill named after her): Hilda was known as the Teddington Nightingale. It seems she stopped performing very suddenly in 1892, and, apart from attending the wedding of her sister Ida three years later, disappeared from view. A few years later she moved to Italy because of a throat infection and died there in 1907.
  7. Eleanor Jane Charlotte Frances Coward married twice, the first time to Walter’s brother-in-law, had three children and lived a long life.
  8. Myrrha Coward married a civil servant and lived in Teddington.
  9. Percy Oswald Coward was a singer: like his big brother Walter a male alto more than half a century before the great Alfred Deller repopularised a voice type which had been neglected since the early 18th century. He moved to Canada, and then, deserting his pianist wife and daughter, to Australia, where he died in 1933.
  10. Ida Beatrice Coward ran a hotel in Kensington after being widowed at an early age.
  11. Harold Edgar Coward died in infancy.

A few days after this Isleworth match, the results of the season’s handicap tournament were in.

Confirmation, then, that Arthur Coward was, along with Wallace Britten and George Ryan, one of the strongest members of Twickenham Chess Club.

With Artie and his brother Randy still young men in their twenties, a great chess future might have been predicted for them. Alas, this was not the case, although they did continue playing for another year or two.

Life, in the shape of family, work and other interests, I suppose, gets in the way.

Let’s visit Teddington and find out.

If you take a stroll along Teddington High Street heading in the direction of the river, you’ll come across two churches. Immediately in front of you, a left turn into Manor Road will take you to Twickenham, while turning right into Broom Road will take you to Kingston. Straight ahead is Ferry Road (another spoiler alert: you’ll be meeting some residents in another Minor Piece), leading to the footbridges across the Thames.

On your left is the quaint 16th century church of St Mary, and on your right a massive edifice which opened its doors in 1889.

Enter Francis Leith Boyd. Boyd, born in Canada, became Vicar of Teddington in 1884 at the age of 28. He was a man of considerable ambition and grandiose ideas, and also famed for his hellfire sermons. St Mary’s wasn’t big enough for him, so he commissioned architect William Niven (grandfather of David) to design a much larger building across the road. It was dedicated to St Alban, but known informally as the Cathedral of the Thames Valley. The money ran out before it was completed: the nave is shorter than intended and the planned 200 foot tower was never built.

Teddington’s new vicar also enjoyed music, and the combination of music and theatricality must have been very appealing to the musical and theatric Coward family. At some point in the late 1880s they moved from Twickenham to Coleshill Road, Teddington, close to  Bushy House, where the National Physical Laboratory would be established in 1900, and threw themselves into musical life at the new church of St Alban’s. Artie and Randy were both very much part of this, and, I suppose, now had no time to pursue their chess careers. The family could even provide a full vocal quartet, with Hilda singing soprano, Walter, later replaced by Percy, singing alto,  Arthur singing tenor and Randulph singing bass. They performed everything from the sublime to the ridiculous: Bach’s St John Passion, Spohr’s now forgotten oratorio The Last Judgement, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and the popular songs and parlour ballads of the day.

Posted on Facebook by David Allaway

Here they are in Twickenham Town Hall, where they would also have played chess, in 1894, with big brother James conducting. (Mr William Poupart is also interesting: he and his family were prominent market gardeners in Twickenham, but none of them, as far as I know, played chess.)

In 1967 the parishioners of Teddington moved back across the road to St Mary’s and St Alban’s soon fell into disrepair. A campaign spearheaded by local Labour Councillor Jean Brown (in the days when this part of the world had Labour Councillors) fought successfully to save the building for community use. It’s still owned by the Church of England but known as the Landmark Arts Centre. If you visit there now you’ll see a plaque commemorating Jean Rosina Brown in the foyer, and there are some information boards at the back which include press cuttings about the Coward family’s involvement with the church. Some 90 years or so ago, Jean and my mother were best friends at school, so, in her memory, I often attend concerts there.

One of the orchestras playing there regularly is the Thames Philharmonia, whose Chair (and one of their clarinettists) Mike Adams is a former member of Guildford Chess Club. It was good to talk to him during the interval of their most recent concert.

Returning to the Teddington Cowards, in the last few months of 1890 there was both happy and sad news for Arthur.

On 8 October he married Violet Agnes Veitch at St Alban’s Church. Randulph was there as a witness, and, of course, Francis Leith Boyd was on hand to perform the ceremony. At this point he was still, at the age of 34, just a clerk working for a music publisher in London.

Violet came from a prominent Scottish family and may or may not have been related to the endgame study composer and player Walter Veitch (1923-2004), who had a Scottish father and was at one time a member of Richmond (& Twickenham) Chess Club.

A couple of months later, his mother, Janet, died, and when the census enumerator called round the following year he found Randulph, a clerk in the Civil Service there together with his sisters Hilda, Myrrha and Ida. Arthur and Violet had bought their own place in Waldegrave Road, not very far away, and were living there with a domestic servant. Later the same year, their first child was born, a son named Russell Arthur Blackmore Coward. His third name was in honour of his godfather Richard Doddridge Blackmore, a successful novelist (Lorna Doone) and unsuccessful market gardener, who lived nearby. Blackmore was also a more than competent chess player and one can imagine that he and Arthur must have spent many evenings together over the board.

Young Russell showed promising musical talent, but tragedy would strike his family and he died at the age of only 6 in 1898.

The following year another son was born, and it wasn’t long before he made the local papers.

Middlesex & Surrey Express 16 February 1901

Yes, Arthur Sabin Coward was we’d now call an anti-vaxxer, with  a ‘conscientious objection to vaccination’, whatever that might mean. You might have thought that, having lost his first son, he might be only too keen to protect young Noël’s health.

And, yes, you read it correctly – or almost correctly (his middle name was Peirce, not Pierce). The Teddington Cowards were not only related to each other, but also to the great playwright, songwriter, singer and much else, the Master himself, Sir Noël Coward. Arthur was his father and Randulph his uncle.

Of course what you all really want to know is whether Noël inherited his father’s interest in chess. He’s not mentioned in The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict, but Goldenhurst, his Kent residence, had a games room with a chess table. The pieces were always set up ready for play. So perhaps he did. I’d like to think so.

Source: Google Maps

The 1901 census found the family still in Waldegrave Road, and Arthur still in the same job. If you visit now, you’ll find a blue plaque on the wall (see photo above), and if you walk down the road towards Teddington, you’ll be able to meet Sampson Low, the current Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club secretary, who lives not too many doors away in the same road. Randulph, 40, still a bachelor and a clerk in the War Office, was boarding with a family named Russell (perhaps friends of the Cowards) very near St Alban’s Church.

Arthur and his family soon moved to Teddington, first to Sutton, where their third son, Eric was born, and then to a mansion flat near Battersea Park, which is where the 1911 census found him. He’d finally been promoted – to a piano salesman, a role in which he was apparently not very successful. Noël would always be embarrassed  by his father’s lack of success and ambition, which may well have been caused in part by an over fondness for alcohol, a trait he shared with several of his siblings.

Randulph was a lot more successful. He finally married in 1905 and by 1911 he was a 1st class assistant accountant at the War Office,  living in some luxury in St George’s Square, Pimlico. In 1920, he’d be awarded the MBE for his War Office work during the First World War.

So there you have it: one of the first Twickenham Chess Club’s leading lights was Noël Coward’s father.

Who will we discover next? Join me soon for some more 1880s Twickenham chess players.

Acknowledgements and sources:

Wikipedia

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Philip Hoare’s biography is available, in part, online here.

Various online postings by local historians.

Twickenham Museum article here.

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Minor Pieces 17: Wallace and Bashley Britten

On 8 April 1882, Edward Griffith Brewer posted an advertisement in the Surrey Comet. The great Joseph Henry Blackburne was going to give a blindfold simultaneous display at Twickenham Chess Club.

The following week, they published a report:

As local papers usually did, and still do, they got it wrong, quite apart from calling a simul a tournament. George Edward Norwood Ryan wrote in to complain.

This event even reached the pages of Volume 2 of the British Chess Magazine.

A later report followed.

We now know the names of some of the strongest members of the first Twickenham Chess Club.

You will note Mr. B. Britten and Mr. W. Britten were the last to finish. Sharing a relatively unusual surname, surely they must have been related. Perhaps they were also related to Benjamin Britten.

It’s time to have a look.

Here they are, next to each other in the 1882 London Overseer Returns, in effect an electoral roll.

Bashley and Wallace. Wallace and Bashley. Even better than Wallace and Gromit. Don’t you think everyone should call their son Bashley?

The splendidly named Bashley didn’t live in Twickenham very long. He was born in 1825 in Milton, Hampshire. He seems to have moved to Twickenham in about 1880, having previously lived in Redhill.  The 1881 census found him in Twickenham with his wife Susanna, along with a cook and a housemaid, and claiming to be a Gentleman.

But he’d previously been an engineer and inventor. He was best known for Britten’s Projectile, which involved applying a coating of lead to projectiles fired from cannons, and was much used in the American Civil War. I’m not sure that his namesake Benjamin, a lifelong pacifist, would have approved. If you, on the other hand, would like to know more, you could always read his book.

This was not his only invention. Here is an improved printing telegraph, and he also took out a patent for using blast furnace slag to manufacture glass.

A few months after the Blackburne blindfold simul, Bashley went on holiday to the Scottish Highlands. On 12 August, while visiting the port of Ullapool, he died suddenly at the age of 57.

Source: findagrave.com

He must have been very fond of the area: if you visit there today you can find his memorial. The inscription reads: In memory of/BASHLEY BRITTEN/aged 57 years/of Twickenham, Middlesex/died at Ullapool/Augt 12th 1882.

Sadly, Bashley wasn’t able to enjoy the delights of playing chess in Twickenham very long. His namesake Wallace, however, was around rather longer.

First of all, I can find no relationship at all between Bashley and Wallace, nor to the Northampton player W E Britten, who played in the same team as William Harris and against teams including members of the Marriott family. Nor, as far as I can tell, were any of them related to Edward Benjamin Britten.

There is another connection, though, between Bashy and Wally. Bashy’s only daughter, Ada, married Algernon Frampton, who worked on the Stock Exchange, as did Wallace Britten.

We can pick him up on the 1881 census: he’s 32 years old, a clerk to a stock & share jobber, living with his wife Emily and his sister-in-law, together with a servant and a boarder. Further searching reveals that they had had two children, born in Islington in 1872 and 1874, who had both died in infancy.

Source: Google Maps

By 1891 they’d moved to Rozel, 5 Strawberry Hill Road, then and now one of the most desirable streets in Twickenham. They now had a one-year-old son, Wallace Ernest, and two of his wife’s sisters were living there along with two servants. Wally was by now a Member of the Stock Exchange, so must have been doing pretty well for himself. He was still involved with Twickenham Chess Club at the time, but the last reference I can find for him is the following year. Perhaps increasing demands of work, or the desire to spend time with Wally Junior, made it harder for him to pursue his favourite game.

He’d remain at the same address for the rest of his long life. He died on 16 March 1938, and is buried in Teddington Cemetery. According to his probate record, he left £5,328 13s 5d to his son Wallace Ernest Britten, Colonel HM Army and his nephew Julius Campbell Combe, Authorised Stockbrokers Clerk. Wally Junior would eventually become a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Engineers, and be awarded the OBE: his son Robert Wallace Tudor Britten would also have a distinguished military career. Again, Benjamin would not have been happy.

Wallace Britten, apart from being a pretty useful club chess player, was a man who seems to have led a successful life, but one marked also by the sadness of losing his first two children. But where did he come from? He married in early 1872, but if we consult the 1871 census we might ask “Where’s Wally?”.

I eventually managed to track him down in Islington, working as a clerk and lodging with the large family of a builder named Julius Combe, a name you might recognize. His name appears to be Walter rather than Wallace, and his age seems to be 30 rather than 23. It was one of Julius’s daughters, Emily, he married the following year. I can’t as yet find him in 1861: it’s quite likely he was away at school: school pupils were often only listed by their initials in census returns. If I look for Walter, rather than Wallace, though, he’s there in 1851.

His parents, it seems, were Edwin Josiah Britten and Selina Pedder, and there he is, aged 3, living in Bloomsbury with his parents, big brothers Edwin and Alfred, and baby sister Laura. (Edwin Junior had been baptised at St Clement Danes Church by William Webb Ellis, who allegedly invented rugby by picking up a football and running with it.) Edwin senior was a Fancy Leather Worker employing two persons. Another daughter, Rachel, would be born the following year, but in October 1852 his father was admitted to the lunatic asylum at Colney Hatch, where he died in 1855. By 1861, Selina had taken over her late husband’s business as well as bringing up her children, but Wallace/Walter wasn’t there.

How did this scion of a lower middle class family end up on the Stock Exchange, playing chess and living in a substantial house in a Thames-side suburb? The answer is that we don’t know. He certainly wasn’t lacking in either ambition or ability.

Source: findagrave.com

His grave looks like it needs a bit of attention, but at least he has one, unlike Florence Smith, who died three years before him and lies in an unmarked grave. Her sisters and children never visited, but her grandson pauses in remembrance every time he passes by. Next time you find yourself playing chess in Twickenham, spare a thought for the Britten boys, Wallace and Bashley, two of the leading players in the early years of the first Twickenham Chess Club.

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