Yorkshire Chess History



Joseph Rickett Shephard and John Shephard











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



Joseph Rickett Shephard



John Shephard


1849, Masbrough, Rotherham



1852, Masbrough, Rotherham

















Identity of the Chess-Players


Shepherd is a common enough name, but in this case “Joseph Richard Shepherd” is explicitly identified as secretary of Rotherham Chess Club in White’s West Riding directory dated 1881.  It is assumed the contemporary “J. Shepherd” was Joseph’s brother John, though others called John Shepherd were around at the time.


Spelling of the Surname


Chess reports used the spelling “Shephard” as a rule, but “Shepherd” tended to appear in directories.  However, the birth registrations of six of the children were recorded with “Shephard”, only those of Joseph and Samuel being recorded with “Shepherd”. The 1861 census enumerator chose “Shephard”; the 1871 enumerator branched out with “Sheppard” and the 1881 enumerator appears have gone with “Shepherd”.  Correct was probably “Shephard”, so that is adopted here, regarding “Shepherd” as an editorial “correction”.


Joseph’s Middle name is rarely given in full.  Rickett was his mother’s maiden name, and was given when the birth was registered.  “Richard” occurred in White’s West Riding directory dated 1881, but this is assumed to have been a mis-transcription of the handwritten name.


Non-Chess Life


The parents of the chess-playing brothers were William Shephard (born Thorpe Common, 1820/21) and Ann Shephard (née Rickett, 1826/27, Sheffield), who married in Rotherham in 1847.  The couple had at least the following children:


Joseph Rickett Shephard

born 1849, Masbrough

Mary Elizabeth Shephard

born 1850/51, Masbrough

John Shephard

born 1852, Masbrough

Fanny Shephard

born 1856, Masbrough

Samuel Shephard

born 1858/59, Masbrough

William Henry Shephard

born 1861, Masbrough

Frederick Shephard

born 1863/64, Masbrough

Arthur James Shephard

born 1865, Masbrough


In the 1851 census, the surname “Shepperd” seems to have been adopted.  Patents William and Ann were recorded as living on Old Road, Kimberworth, Rotherham.  William was an “engine man and grocer”.  Joseph still retained his mother’s maiden name as a forename, being recorded as “Josh Rickett Shepperd”, while his sister was “Mary Eliz Shepperd”.


The 1861 census found  the “Shephard” family of parent and first five children, with one servant, living at 22 Victoria Street, Masbrough, Rotherham.  Father William was an engine tenter(?) and grocer, while the eldest four children were scholars.


Samuel “Shephard” died in 1863.


The 1871 census found the “Sheppard” family still at 22 Victoria Street.  Mary was elsewhere.  Father William was now merely a grocer.  Joseph R. “Sheppard” and brother John were brass fitters.


Mary Elizabeth “Shephard” got married in 1881, Rotherham, before the 1881 census.


The 1881 census found the “Shepherd” family now at 15 Victoria Street, still with the six surviving and unmarried children.  Father William was now a Ry (railway) pumping engine driver.  Joseph and John were index(?) makers for water and gas meters.


The 1891 census found parents William and Ann had moved a short way to 21 James Street, nearly co-linear with Victoria Street.  Of the children only Fanny remained with her parents.  Father William was a stationary engine driver, whatever that meant.


The whereabouts and fortunes of Joseph and John are difficult to find in census records for 1891 and after, but there’s a slight hint they may have moved together to Manchester.  A more convincing possibility is that Joseph, at least, emigrated to Australia, and a Joseph Rickett Shephard reportedly married an Isabella Faskein Dow in Victoria, in 1903.




Identifying the death records of the chess-playing brothers is nigh impossible.  Their names are too common.  They may have moved from Rotherham.  They were not important enough for their deaths to be noted in newspapers.


There was a Joseph R. “Shepherd” recorded as dying in the Manchester area in 1890, at the age of 40.  This looks the closest match.


There was a John “Shephard” recorded as dying in Manchester in 1903, at the age of 52 (a year out).




The brothers played for opposing teams in the 1879 match between Rotherham Chess Club and Rotherham Liberal Association.


Shortly after they represented Rotherham in the 1879 match Doncaster v Rotherham.


White’s 1881 West Riding directory listed “Shepherd Joseph Richard, hon. sec. chess club” living at 15 Victoria Street, Rotherham.  “Shepherd” was perhaps an editorial “correction” somewhere along the line, while “Richard” was probably a misreading of handwritten “Rickett”.


The brothers played for Rotherham in the 1882 Leeds v Rotherham match, the 1882 Wesley College v Rotherham match,


“Shephard”, probably John, played in the 1882 Arundel v Rotherham match.


As “J. R. Shepherd” Joseph was the Rotherham representative on the provisional committee of the newly-formed (03/03/1883) Sheffield & District Chess Association.


The brothers represented the Association against the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club in 1883.


Joseph played in the 1883 simultaneous display by H. E. Bird in Sheffield.


Joseph played for Sheffield in the 1884 match Sheffield & District CA v Derbyshire Chess Club.


“J. Shephard” Appears playing for Leeds against Sheffield in 1886, though there is no evidence the Rotherham player had moved to Leeds.





Copyright © 2017 Stephen John Mann

Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information

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