SHEFFIELD Chess History



Sheffield Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institution Chess Club

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The Sheffield Mechanics Institution was established in 1832.  Prior to 1847 it had occupied a sight on Surrey Street, Sheffield, on or adjacent to that of the present-day central library.  Mechanics institutions were established to provide evening classes etc., at reasonable rates, to educate adults of the working (employed) population, so that they could function better in the workplace.  They were in part funded by the employers who stood to benefit from the education imparted, which included the basic reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as more sophisticated subjects of less value to the employer.


It was decided to build new premises, on the other side of Surrey Street.  Somewhat contentiously this was to house a combination of two elements, a club (the “Athenaeum” bit) and the existing Mechanics’ Institution.  The foundation stone of the new building was officially laid on 01/09/1847.  Construction work lasted from 1847, through 1848, to 1849, and both sections, the Athenaeum section with its entrance on Surrey Street, and the Mechanics section with its entrance on Tudor Street, opened on Monday 01/10/1849.


This organisation was distinct from the pre-existing Sheffield Athenaeum Club, then with premises in Norfolk Street, and the name of the new organisation (which reflected that used for similar institutions in other towns) caused a degree of consternation, and it became necessary to distinguish between the “Norfolk Street Athenaeum” and the “Surrey Street Athenaeum”.


Like the Sheffield Athenaeum Club on Norfolk Street, the Sheffield Athenaeum and Mechanics Institution established, from the outset, its own chess club.  There were people associated with the Sheffield Athenaeum and Mechanics Institution Chess Club who later were associated with the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club.


The first president of the new club was John George Robson.


Relations between the similarly named chess clubs were amicable, and matches took place between the two.


Reported activities of the Sheffield Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institution Chess Club include the following:

04/01/1850: visit from Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club

09/01/1850: annual general meeting

07/02/1850: visit to Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club

29/05/1850: soirée

02/01/1851 to November 1851: correspondence match with Birmingham Polytechnic

??/01/1851: annual general meeting


From the outset, the idea of combining the two elements of an “Athenaeum” club and a mechanics’ institution had caused disagreement and conflict, and in 1851 the two sections severed their organisational connection, though they continued to occupy the same premises.  The Mechanics section reverted to being called Sheffield Mechanics Institution.  Since there was already a Sheffield Athenaeum Club, the Athenaeum section at Surrey Street had to find a new name, and became the Sheffield Lyceum Club.


The chess club of the Sheffield Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Institution accordingly became the Sheffield Lyceum Chess Club.





Copyright © 2014 Stephen John Mann

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