SHEFFIELD Chess History



Formation of the Sheffield & District Chess Association

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The first recorded chess club in Sheffield appears to have been the chess club within the “gentlemen’s” club called the Sheffield Athenaeum Club.  For many years the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club, whose membership was of course limited to members of the Sheffield Athenaeum Club, was virtually the only chess club in Sheffield.  The “Sheffield” mentioned in the contest of clubs involved with activities of the original Yorkshire Chess Association, and of its successor, the West Riding Chess Association, prior to 1883, was the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club.


The 1880s saw an expansion in the number of chess clubs, partly due to the expansion of the population in the built-up areas, and partly due to the emergence of more people in a “socio-economic” bracket than would not aspire to membership of the Sheffield Athenaeum Club, yet had the money, time and energy to play chess in chess clubs.


Clubs in Sheffield, around 1883, were Arundel (formerly St. Peter’s), Sheffield Athenaeum, Rotherham, St. George's, Thorncliffe (at Ecclesfield), Walkley, and Wesley College.  Chess was also strongly promoted in Sheffield Blind School.  Further afield in South Yorkshire (then still in the West Riding, of course), there were clubs at Barnsley, Penistone and Doncaster.


Increasingly it was inappropriate for Sheffield Athenaeum to represent Sheffield as a whole to the rest of the county, and country.  So it happened that the idea of an umbrella chess organisation for Sheffield and district became a point of discussion between Sheffield’s two leading clubs, the patriarchal Sheffield Athenaeum Chess club (formed 22/11/1847) and the much younger Arundel Chess Club (formed 1873 as St. Peter’s Chess Club).  If any one individual was the original promoter of the idea then that was Henry Clement Twist, secretary of Arundel Chess Club.


The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of 10/03/1883 carried, after Dr. Law’s chess problem spot immediately following Bird’s column in the Weekly Supplement, the following note regarding a meeting on Saturday, 03/03/1883, at the Maunche Inn:


SHEFFIELD AND DISTRICT CHESS ASSOCIATION – For some time past the desirability of forming a Chess Association for Sheffield and District has been under consideration of the Athenaeum and Arundel Chess Clubs, and on their joint invitation a meeting of representatives of the Athenaeum, Arundel, Rotherham, Barnsley, Wesley College and St. George’s Chess Clubs took place on Saturday, at the Maunche Inn.  The objects of the proposed association are to promote matches with other towns and associations, tournaments with associated clubs, and monthly meetings for practice. – On the motion of Mr. F. Foster, it was resolved that a Sheffield and District Chess Association be formed with these objects; and, on the proposition of Mr. Woolman [sic], of Rotherham Chess Club, seconded by Mr. Rowe [sic], of Barnsley, it was resolved that there be two classes of members, viz., members belonging to a club and individual members who do not belong to any club.  A pro tem. committee was elected of representatives of above clubs, with Mr. H.C. Twist, 63, Oxford street, Sheffield, the primary originator of the scheme, as its hon. sec. – The meeting terminated with a vote of thanks to the Chairman, Mr. E. Barraclough.


The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of 17/03/1883 gave a more formal statement of the resolution passed, as follows:




Copy of resolutions passed at the first meeting of the representatives held at the Maunche Inn, March 3rd, 1883: -

I. – That in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable that an association be formed, to be called “The Sheffield and District Chess Association.”

II. – That each club joining the association shall pay an annual subscription of 6d. per member, and that all members of such clubs be deemed members of this association, provided that no subscription exceed 21s., or be less than 5s.

III. – That non-members of association clubs be admitted members by an annual subscription of 5s.

IV. – That a provisional committee be elected to further promote the objects of this association.

V. – That Mr. H. C. Twist be elected hon. secretary pro tem.

VI – That the following representatives form the provisional committee, with power to add to their number: - Messrs. A. Davy, F. E. Foster, G. Askham (Athenaeum), E. Barraclough, and W. H. Camm (Arundel), J. R. Shepherd (Rotherham), C. Sackille [sic],(Penistone), - Roue [sic] (Barnsley), H. Woods (St. George’s).

VII – That a copy of the resolutions of this meeting be passed to all clubs within a radius of 30 miles of Sheffield.


(See below for full or corrected names of the dramatis personae.)


The formation of the Sheffield and District Chess Association was celebrated with a 38-board match between the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club and the Rest of the S&DCA.


The initial mention of a 30-mile radius of Sheffield is later reflected in expressions of the geographical scope of eligibility for membership of the Association, by a club.  Prior to the formation of formal inter-club team competitions, the matter of distance was relatively unimportant.  Later, eligibility for membership by a club became expressed in terms of a 20-mile radius of Sheffield (Town Hall), though versions seem to have indecisively varied between 20 and 30 miles.


The 30-mile radius reaches a little beyond the centre of Leeds (as the crow flies), and passes through the eastern suburbs of the modern Greater Manchester and the northern suburbs of Nottingham.  It easily includes Pontefract, Castleford, Wakefield and Huddersfield, and includes Halifax at its NE edge.  A 20-mile radius encompasses what was in reality been the geographical scope of the Association over the years, though Barnby Dun might just fall outside it.


The first stated object of the Association was to promote matches with other towns and associations.  This could be seen as the assumption of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club’s former role in representing Sheffield as a whole to the outside world.  The timing was particularly fortuitous, as the West Yorkshire Chess Association was soon to start the competition for the Edwin Woodhouse Challenge Cup, more familiarly referred to these days simply as the Woodhouse Cup.  Sheffield did not enter the Woodhouse Cup in the latter’s first season, 1884-85, but the Sheffield & District Chess Association, as such, entered the 1885-86 competition.


The second stated object was to promote “tournaments with associated clubs” which presumably meant formal inter-club team competitions.  That seems to have taken longer to come about.  The various clubs were already accustomed to organising a busy schedule of matches, one club with another.  As there was a significant disparity of strength among only a small number of clubs, the time was perhaps not yet ripe for a now-traditional “league” competition.


The third stated object was to promote monthly meetings for practice.  Evidence of this objective being realised hasn’t come to light yet.


There was no catch-all general stated objective of promoting chess generally by other means determined by the committee (or whatever).  Nevertheless, an early action falling in this category was the arrangement of a simultaneous display to S&DCA members by Henry Edward Bird, on 26/05/1883.


Fuller or corrected names of those mentioned in the report of the above meeting of 03/03/1883, are as follows:


G. Askham

George Albert Roberts Askham


E. Barraclough



W. H. Camm

William Henry Camm


A. Davy

Arthur Davy


F. E. Foster

Frederick Edward Foster


C. Sackille [sic]

Charles Sackville


J. R. Shepherd

Joseph Richard Shepherd


Rowe/Roue [sic]

John Roe


H. C. Twist

Henry Clement Twist


H. Woods


St. George’s

Woolman [sic]

Joseph Wollman








Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann

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