SHEFFIELD Chess History



John Heron Bruce

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Made in Sheffield




1876, Dundee




05/10/1939, Sheffield


09/10/1939, Crookes Cemetery


Non-Chess Life


John Heron Bruce was born in 1876 (at some time from 03/04/1876 to 05/10/1876), in Dundee.  His middle name was perhaps his mother’s maiden name.  Around 1899, he moved from Dundee to Sheffield, where he was initially employed as a watchmaker.


The 1901 census found 24-year-old unmarried John H Bruce boarding at 63 Burgoyne Road.  He was employed as a watchmaker.


In 1901/02, he married Isabella, who was born in 1880, in Dundee.  The marriage evidently did not take place in Sheffield, and will most probably have occurred back in the couple’s mutually native Dundee.  The couple had three children:


Christine Bruce

1902/03, Sheffield

Stewart John Bruce

1906/07, Dundee

Robert Bruce

1909/10, Sheffield


At some point in the next few years he became self-employed, in time becoming an employer of others in his expanding business.


The 1905 Sheffield directory listed John H. Bruce, watch maker, at 77 Barber Road, Sheffield.


An oft-published newspaper advert in the first decade of the 1900s read as follows:


JOHN H. BRUCE, Official Clockmaker to Sheffield

Education Committee.  Speciality : Clock‑Winding,

etc., by Contract. – 77, Barber road, Sheffield. 431


This advert suggests he was one of the first 431 people in Sheffield to have a telephone installed.


The 1911 Sheffield directory listed John H. Bruce, watch maker, at 65 Barber Road, Sheffield.  (Nos. 63 & 65 had in 1905 been listed as occupied by Frederick George Cloves, laundry proprietor.)


The 1911 census found the Bruce household of parents and three children living at 65 Barber Road.  John H. Bruce was recorded as watchmaker and dealer, and an employer, so he was now in business on his own account.


He expanded into being a jeweller as well as watchmaker.  In 1913 he gave evidence in a court case regarding some silver pepper pots rejected by its manufacturer as faulty, which he had purchased from the defendant (who was accused of stealing them), and taken to Sheffield Smelting Company – presumably for melting down for use in jewellery manufacture.  The relevance of this lay in the newspaper reports describing him as a watchmaker and jeweller, his place of residence or work being given as 57 Gloucester Street.  So he had branched out into jewellery by 1913.


We hear of the location of his work premises at the time in a letter he wrote, on 5th November 1913, to the Sheffield Evening Telegraph, bewailing what he claimed were lamentably poor postal facilities in the centre of Sheffield, complaining he had to walk a round trip of two-thirds of a mile from his business premises at 31 Orchard Street, Sheffield, to either the GPO or to Moorhead, which about equidistant.  (Arguably, the exercise did him good!)


Son Stewart developed an interest in Esperanto, and attended various international Experanto conventions, where he met his intended bride-to-be, Ans Van der Graaf.  The two had met at conventions in Holland in 1937, and in Poland in 1938, and the couple planned to honeymoon in Basle, Switzerland, where the 1939 convention was to be held.  Whether this all came to fruition before war broke out is unclear.


John H. Bruce is hard to locate in the 1939 Register for some reason or other.


At the time of his death he was said to have been in business as a jeweller at 137 Norfolk Street, but also there was a Bruce’s jeweller’s shop near the top of Glossop Road in Broomhill, which was used by the Sheffield & District Chess Association for trophy-engraving for many years after his death, and as late as the general secretaryship of the present writer.




John Heron Bruce died on 05/10/1939, aged 63, at his home at 57 Ringstead Crescent, Crosspool, Sheffield, and was buried on 09/10/1939, at Crookes Cemetery.  He left a wife and three children.


His wife, who at the time lived at 66 Hastings Road, Sheffield, died in 1952, aged 72, and was buried in the same grave on 20/09/1952.


A brief obituary appeared in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 06/10/1939.




He was a member of the “Sheffield Chess Club” which was formed in 190, and from 1908 to 1925 deputised for the dormant S&DCA, and in 1919 he presented the Bruce Trophy to serve as the Sheffield Championship Trophy, to replace the T. W. Ward Trophy (later renamed G. W. Moses Trophy) which had been won outright by G. W. Moses.


It appears he was more prominent in draughts circles than the chess world, and had been a president of the English Draughts Association.  Indeed, the above-mentioned obituary was titled “Well-Known Draughts Player’s Death”, though his membership of Sheffield Chess Club was mentioned.






Copyright © 2021 Stephen John Mann

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