SHEFFIELD Chess History



Henry Gilbert Cutts

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Made in Sheffield




probably 1818, Sheffield


17/07/1818, St. Paul’s, Sheffield


1866, Buenos Aires, Argentina




Identity of the Chess Player


Henry Gilbert Cutts was the earliest-mentioned Sheffield chess organiser to have come to light to date.  References to “Henry Gilbert Cutts” are far and few between, so what follows is based on a guess that a single baptism reference, a single marriage reference, and unsubstantiated statements on family genealogical websites relate to our man, though there is no real evidence that they do.


Non-Chess Life


Henry Gilbert Cutts was the second son of John Preston Cutts (b. 19/02/1787, Leeds; d. 08/09/1858, Sheffield) and Mary Cutts.  The latter sometimes used the initials “I. P.”, the “I” being presumably for Iohannus, pseudo-Latin for John.  His middle name, Preston, originally a maternal maiden name, was sometimes rendered “Priston” for no obvious reason other than pretension.


Henry Gilbert Cutts was baptised at St. Peter’s, Sheffield (now the Anglican cathedral), on 17/06/1818.  He was, therefore, very probably born earlier in 1818, presumably in Sheffield.


John Preston Cutts was primarily an optician and manufacturer of optical devices and apparatus, though also branched out into manufacturing other small items, in some cases in connection with James Chesterman (as in the later Rabone Chesterman).  He was also a merchant.  In due course, sons William Waterhouse Cutts (; d. 07/03/1871) and Henry Gilbert Cutts entered into partnership with their father. The three Cuttses traded as general merchants under the name of J. P. Cutts and Sons, and traded as opticians in partnership with a John Sutton under the name J. P. Cutts, Sons, and Sutton.  In due course the opticians’ concern acquire a royal patent, and it had premises in London. 


The whole family seems elusive in the 1841 census.  Perhaps they were all in London at the time.


He is recorded as having been initiated as a freemason on 06/04/1842 into the Britannia Lodge, Sheffield, being described as an optician.


The two business partnerships were dissolved as from 01/03/1849, with John Preston Cutts assuming responsibility for both businesses.


At some stage Henry Gilbert Cutts moved to Argentina.  He may have been there when the partnerships were dissolved, for an attorney acted for him in that connection.


The 1851 census listed 62-year-old optician called John “Priston” Cutts and his 61-year-old wife Mary Cutts living with two servants in Wilkinson Street, Sheffield.  Son Henry Gilbert Cutts was presumably in Argentina at this time.


Henry seems not to have wasted much time procuring a wife, apparently form the British ex –patriot community.  Accordingly, the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of Saturday, 24/01/1852, somewhat belatedly reported his marriage to  Ellen Keen (b. 20/11/1831, Buenos Aires; d. 17/02/1890, Buenos Aires) on 06/11/1851 as follows:


CUTTS‑KEEN. On the 6th November, at the British Episc-

opal Church, Buenos Ayres, by the Rev. H. M. Faulkner,

Mr. Henry Gilbert Cutts,

of this town, to Ellen, second daughter of George Keen,

Esq., of Buenos Ayres.


He joined a freemason’s lodge in Buenos Aires, apparently in 1853.


John Preston/Priston Cutts died on 08/11/1858.


In 1860, he filed for bankruptcy in London.


He died in Buenos Aires in 1866.




He died in Buenos Aires in 1866.




“Hy. Gilbert Cutts” was quoted as honorary secretary of the Sheffield Chess Club in a notice dated 03/09/1840, in the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of Saturday, 05/09/1840.


No subsequent chess references to him have as yet surfaced, consistent with him having moved abroad.





Copyright © 2014, 2015 Stephen John Mann

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