Yorkshire Chess History

< 1886-871888-89 >


Woodhouse Cup, 1887-88











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site


For the season 1887-88, the list of participants was the same five as participated in the previous year.


The annual West Yorkshire Chess Association committee meeting for the fixing of fixtures and related matters was held in Leeds on 12/11/1887.  The rules were once again a topic for consideration, and it was decided a time limit of 18 moves per hour should apply in both the Woodhouse Cup and the Bradford Observer Trophy competitions, with the use of clocks and the recording of the moves of the games being compulsory.  It was also agreed that the club with the right to specify the number of boards should give to their opponents a minimum of 10 days’ notice of their choice.


The original fixture list for the season 1887-88 was as follows (first-named in each pairing being the home team):




Match 1

Match 2




Sheffield v Bradford

Wakefield v Halifax




Halifax v Sheffield

Bradford v Leeds




Halifax v Bradford

Wakefield v Leeds




Leeds v Sheffield

Bradford v Wakefield




Sheffield v Wakefield

Leeds v Halifax



Meanwhile, a smallpox epidemic in Sheffield had been assuming unmanageable proportions.  The disease was first recorded in Sheffield in 1887 during March of that year.  From then things got progressively worse.  The town’s two hospitals became filled with smallpox victims, to the exclusion of those with other ailments.  Provision for temporary accommodation to house patients in more-rural outer areas such as Redmires and Lodgemoor were initiated.  Many had to remain at home to be treated.  Analysis of fatalities showed those who had been vaccinated against smallpox in infancy were only among the fatalities if now aged 20 or more, suggesting vaccination in infancy lost its efficacy by adulthood.  A scheme of revaccination was introduced.  By the time the Woodhouse fixtures came out, over 1,500 cases of smallpox had been recorded in Sheffield in 1887, and there would have been more unrecorded cases.


Bradford Chess Club was due to play their first match of the Woodhouse season in Sheffield on 14/01/1888, and, fearful of the smallpox epidemic still gripping Sheffield, the Bradford club requested that their match with the Sheffield & District Chess Association be played at Doncaster.  Sheffield refused to play at Doncaster, and a committee meeting of the West Yorkshire Chess Association was convened at the Exchange Café, Bradford, during the week prior to that first match, to consider this impasse besides some less contentious matters.  Things were made difficult by the fact that, apart from I. M. Brown of Leeds, all those attending the meeting were from the Bradford club.  The committee passed the following resolution:


That this committee recommends that the match between Bradford and Sheffield should be postponed until any date between March 17th and April 14th, such date to be mutually agreed between the two clubs, and in the event of no date being agreed upon, the match shall be played on April 14th.


That would seem reasonable.  Sheffield didn’t have another home match scheduled until 17/03/1888, by which time the epidemic might have abated.  However, it may have been that clubs due to play at home against Sheffield were apprehensive about receiving from Sheffield visitors who might be carriers of smallpox, as a further committee meeting was held in Leeds on 30/01/1888, with Mr. J. S. West in the chair, and the Sheffield & DCA’s hon. secretary, Mr. Snow, attending.  After some discussion, Mr. Snow indicated that Sheffield would willingly withdraw from the Woodhouse Cup competition for the 1887-88 season, provided that the victory of the ultimate winner did not contribute to the three wins necessary to secure permanent tenure of the Woodhouse Cup.  This latter proviso was the stumbling block which resulted in the competition being cancelled for the season.  The dilemma was summed up by I. M. Brown, of Leeds, who said that without Sheffield competing it would be unfair for that season’s victory to count toward the three wins necessary to win the Cup outright, yet it was also unfair do deny the victors  of the full value of the success.  He therefore moved


That in consequence of difficulties which have arisen which prevent the matches in the Woodhouse Challenge Cup Competition being played in accordance with the arrangements, the competition is abandoned for the current season.


This motion was passed, and so on the Cup is engraved “no contest” for 1888.  Smallpox stopped play.


It seems likely that had the potential for permanent tenure of the Cup not been a feature of the competition, then Sheffield would simply have withdrawn for the season, leaving the other teams to proceed without Sheffield.


< 1886-871888-89 >



Stephen John Mann

Last Updated