SHEFFIELD Chess History



Peter Henry Charles

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14/06/1936, Rotherham


01/02/2009, Rotherham


10/02/2009, Rotherham


Peter (“Pete”) Charles was a long-serving member of Rotherham Chess Club who had held office in the Sheffield & District Chess Association, being in relatively recent years its president, and had briefly been president of the Yorkshire Chess Association, and of the Northern Counties Chess Union (1982/83-1983/84).  He would himself have agreed he was not the greatest chess player Rotherham Chess Club has ever fielded.  (Would that be W. C. Evans?)  He was perhaps more a C-team player, but one who enjoyed his chess and would win or lose with equally good humour.  He was the donor, to the Sheffield & District Chess Association, of the P. H. Charles Trophy, presented to the winners of league division 5.


He was born into a family already rooted in Rotherham.  His Rotherham-born paternal grandparents, Alfred Andrew Charles (born 1870/71) and Eleanor Charles (born 1877/78), lived at 141 Wortley Road in 1911, according to the census.  At this time grandfather Alfred was some kind of building contractor with people in his employment. . The family at 141 Wortley Road included four children, all Rotherham-born:


Elsie Mary Charles

born 1902/03

Henry William Charles

born 06/04/1903

Edgar Charles

born 1905/06

Denis [sic] Charles

born 1907/08


Eldest son Henry William Charles married Marjorie Steel, the marriage being registered at Rotherham in the third quarter of 1935.  The couple had at least two children:


Peter Henry Charles

born third quarter of 1936, Rotherham

Andrew(?) Charles



Kelly’s Rotherham directory dated 1933 listed Peter’s grandfather as a director of Rotherham Steel Strip Company, steel rollers, Baths Works, Westgate, Rotherham, with his home at Spring Bank, Kimberworth Road, Rotherham.  William Charles (brother of Alfred Andrew Charles?) was listed as another director of the same firm, with his home at Wyvenhoe, Moorgate, Rotherham.


At some stage the Charles family acquired ownership of Rother Boiler Company, at Meadow Bank Works, on Meadow Bank Road, Rotherham (modern postcode S61 2ND).  This company was listed in the 1933 Kelly’s directory, and was probably in existence for some time before.  Amongst other things, the firm made copper cylinders for use with immersion heaters for the domestic supply of hot water.  Peter himself, rather confusingly, termed such copper cylinders “calorifiers”.


By 1939, the Charles family had moved to 546 Wortley Road, Rotherham, on the corner with Great Park Road, onto which the back gate opened.  Peter lived here with his parents, for 40 years or more.


Kelly’s Rotherham directory dated 1948 no longer listed Peter’s grandfather, Alfred Andrew Charles, but now listed Peter’s father, Henry William Charles, as a company secretary, without saying of what company.  Was it perhaps Rother Boiler Company Ltd?  Back in 1933, Henry William Charles had possibly been living with his parents, but in the 1948 directory he was listed at 546 Wortley Road.  A map in the 1933 directory makes it clear that this locality was at that time free of significant residential development, which extended outward from the town centre only as far as the area around the crossroads formed with Wortley Road by Bradgate Lane and Fenton Street.  The Charles family had apparently had 546 Wortley Road built for them at a time when the area was still largely undeveloped, not as it is now.


At one time in the 1970s, at Peter’s invitation, I did some photocopying at the Meadow Bank Works offices, for the Sheffield and District Chess Association.  At that time Peter’s father, Henry William Charles, was still managing director of Rother Boiler Company, with his name on his office door, while Peter himself was company secretary.


Sheffield and District Chess Association Executive Committee Meetings were sometimes held at 546 Wortley Road, Rotherham.  Once when I visited him at this address, on Association business, and was somewhat bemused on finding Peter standing on the flat roof of a one-storey outbuilding adjoining the main part of the house, using a broom to remove bird droppings which had become stuck to the wall of the house.  What bemused me was the fact that he was wearing a suit to carry out this task.  For Peter it was not a question so much of whether to wear a suit as of which suit to wear.  On this occasion it was what, for Peter, was a “casual” brown suit.


The telephone number at 546 Wortley Road had been Rotherham 2466 as far back as 1948, and quite possibly before.  Kelly’s directory of 1948 quoted 2460, but that was an error.  It remained unchanged for about another thirty years.  Then a problem arose around 1979, and this was eventually cured by giving the Charles address a new telephone number.  Rather quaintly, the new number was the same as the house number, except that each digit in turn was doubled.  The telephone number thus became Rotherham 554466, which was the number in the 1980 telephone directory.


Peter’s father died in 1981.


Peter moved from Wortley Road to 26 Hallam Road, Rotherham, in the area between Rotherham District Hospital and Whiston crossroads.  The house had been designed as a bungalow but with the option of conversion to a “chalet” type of building, so adding a limited area of first-floor accommodation, an option which Peter took up.  A curious feature of the front garden was a strange semicircular stand which looked as though it was designed to allow a speaker to address people gathered on the lawn.  It was perhaps not pure coincidence that next door lived someone who had been to school with Peter’s brother.


For some time Peter lived there with his mother.  Once as I was about to leave, after visiting Peter at Hallam Road, again on Association business, he exhorted me not to leave without saying goodbye to the gardener.  Whilst I was ready to believe Peter was the sort of person who employed a gardener, I was surprised to hear that the gardener would want to see me.  The “gardener” turned out to be Peter’s mother, who at the time has tending to the back garden.


On one occasion, when I’d visited as Association treasurer for him to countersign a cheque, he invited me to stay to watch the Eurovision song contest on television, which I did.  He was not interested in the songs so much as the amusing farcical nature of the proceedings.  On such occasions the “gardener” would appear in a different role, that of “waitress” (or more literally “mother”), wheeling in the tea and biscuits.


Peter’s mother developed Alzheimer’s disease, which must had been distressing for all concerned.  Thereafter Peter would serve the tea and biscuits, though at the time I was unaware of the underlying reason.  She apparently moved into a care-home near where Peter’s brother lived.  In time Peter’s mother died.


Peter had never married, though his younger brother had three sons, one of whom, at least, went to Sheffield University.  However there was no-one to take over running Rother Boiler Company as a family concern, so it was sold, with Peter himself still as an employee.  The new owners, however, felt they didn’t wish to retain Peter, and Peter ceased employment at the firm which his family had hitherto owned, under terms which left him feeling he’d been dealt with shabbily and unfairly.  It has been suggested this impacted adversely on his general health.


Peter had developed Parkinson’s disease, and this gradually reduced what he was able to do.  It meant that, amongst other things, he had to give up the presidency of the Sheffield and District Chess Association.


Outside work and chess, Peter had two other important interests: cricket and church.


Peter was involved with, and a keen supporter of, Yorkshire County Cricket Club (finance director at some time?).  Through this he knew Geoff Boycott, who apparently had even visited him at Hallam Road.  Indeed, Peter apparently served as a character witness for him at the time of accusations being levelled at the Yorkshire batsman in a court of law.


Peter was also a churchman.  On the music rest of the piano at 26 Hallam Road one would usually see the music for a hymn or psalm.  Peter apparently attended Herringthorpe Reformed Church.  I have a vague idea that he may even have played the piano or organ at the church.


Parkinson’s disease is a progressive one, and in time it reached the stage where Peter needed 24-hour care.  Quite when Peter died is a little unclear, as the memories of those to whom I spoke, who had known him and attended his funeral, could not recall the exact year, but it appears to have happened in about 2008.  He developed pneumonia and was admitted to hospital, but died there.  He was cremated.


Peter’s home at 26 Hallam Road passed to his brother’s side of the family, and was sold.  A little surprisingly, the new owners demolished Peter’s chalet-bungalow home and erected in its place a much bigger house whose appearance seems somewhat out of keeping with its environment.


Steve Mann





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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