Yorkshire Chess History
Edward Saville Foster
Although “Savile” is the normal spelling of such a name in Sheffield, as in “Savile Street”, named after the family of Sir William Savile, 3rd Baronet, the middle name of this chess-player was “Saville” with two l’s, not one. (This webpage’s file name is thus slightly incorrect.)
Edward Saville Foster was seemingly born on 21/03/1833, at Sheffield. This date is as given in an obituary, but is at variance with the 1881 census which implies birth at least a year earlier; 24/03/1833 also gets quoted; his grave inscription doesn’t give date of birth. His mother’s maiden name was Saville.
Edward Saville Foster did not have the advantage of being born into a well-to-do family. His early education was nothing special – he must have left school at about thirteen years of age - but he took advantage of the People’s College to further his education.
He spent two years working in the office of W. P. Milner, a solicitor (c. 1846-48), and another three years in the office of another solicitor, John Chambers (c. 1848-1851). He then went to work in the estate office of the Duke of Norfolk (c. 1851), where after ten years he rose to the position of chief cashier, a position he held for nine years (c.1861-1870).
In the latter part of 1853 he married Sophia Ann Froggatt. The couple had at least the following seven children, all born in Sheffield:
He then went into business on his own in 1870, as a stock and share broker and accountant. Later he became managing director of Tennant’s Brewery Company.
In 1871 he was exhorted to stand for election as a councillor in the Brightside ward. A vacancy had arisen, and additionally that ward had had its number of members increased from three to six. Thus there were four vacancies to be filled. The four heading the poll were Edward S Saville, Henry Coke J.P., [somebody] and Batty Langley. Edward S Saville remained a councillor for Brightside until being made an alderman in 1883. As a councillor he was involved in various notable activities.
In about 1872 he was successfully involved in opposing the Water Company’s basis for determining their levy on certain rented cottages where various considerations suggested a reduced rate would be more appropriate, thereby saving the cottage owners and their tenants about £6,000 per annum in total. As a member of the finance committee he helped improve the corporation’s accounting systems and reporting methods in about 1874. At about the same time he negotiated with the Duke of Norfolk to secure tracts of land as public recreation areas, with the result that three areas were so set aside by the Duke in the areas of Parkwood Springs, Bacon Street and Carlisle Street East, totalling 26 acres.
On 14/05/1878, his wife, Sophia Ann Froggatt, died. She was buried in Sheffield’s Burngreave Cemetery. (Click here for image of grave.)
Of indirect relevance to Sheffield chess was his appointment in 1881 as chairman of the Improvements Committee. One improvement scheme the committee put through was the widening of Fargate, one aspect of which was the sale to Arthur Davy of land on which he built his flagship shop, so boosting that family’s fortunes and thereby its ability to sponsor Sheffield Chess! The widening of High Street was a similar scheme which was dear to Foster’s heart but was not completed before he died.
Earlier he had lived at Pitsmoor, but by 1881 he was living at “West Lea”, 98 Ashdell Road, Sheffield, with two sons, four daughters and a domestic servant. He had married, in about 1854, a Miss Froggatt, a granddaughter of an optician “of some note” in the early part of the century, but by 1881 he had become widowed.
Edward and Mary’s children were all born in Sheffield, and up to the 1881 census they were all unmarried. The two sons, who entered the same businesses as their father had, were Frederick Edward Foster, who in 1881 was a chartered accountant, and Walter H. Foster who in 1881 was a solicitor’s articled clerk. The four daughters were Mary H. Foster, Emily S. Foster, Annie E. Foster, and Edith J. Foster. In 1881 they had a domestic servant living with them. By the time of Edward’s death two of the daughters had married and two had not.
In 1893, Edward Saville Foster became Mayor of Sheffield. The title of “Lord Mayor of Sheffield” didn’t come into operation until after Queen Victoria bestowed it by “Royal Grant of Title” in 1897.
Ill health, which led to his death, came to the fore when he was visiting Nottingham. On 25/08/1894 he was struck down by an apoplectic seizure. He was admitted to Nottingham Hospital where, due to the seriousness of his condition, he remained until 27th September. His active mayoralty lasted only ten months, and Sir Charles Skelton was elected as mayor later in 1894. There were still hopes that Edward Foster would return to active high civic service, and in November 1894 he was made Deputy-Major. However, he died on 07/03/1895, in Sheffield.
Sheffield Museums and Art Galleries have an oil painting of him by Barnsley-born Ernest Moore.
Outside work and civic office he was a churchman, attending St Mark’s while resident in Broomhill.
He died on 07/031895, at West Lea, 98 Ashdell Road, Broomhill, Sheffield, and was buried in Sheffield’s Burngreave Cemetery on 11/03/1895. (Click here for images of the grave.)
His chief recreation was chess, “if so subtle an intellectual pursuit can legitimately be called recreative. One of the oldest members of the Athenaeum Chess Club, and for three years its president [over the period 1890 to 1893], he devoted several hours a week to his favourite game, and up to a few years ago was always ready to help his club and his town on the occasion of matches.”
He was a member of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club from 1870 onwards.
He attended the annual meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association when it was hosted by the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club in 1875, and again in 1880.
Son Frederick Edward Foster was also a notable local chess-player.
(Primary sources: obituary in Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Friday March 8th 1895; 1881 census records; West Yorkshire Chess Association Minute Book.)
Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information