Yorkshire Chess History



Alfred Bilbrough











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



25/03/1842, Leeds



23/06/1915, Leeds


26/06/1915, Lawnswood Cemetery, Leeds



Identity of the Chess-Player


Leeds chess-player “A. Bilbrough” was sometimes more specifically named as “Alfred Bilbrough”.  There were two people of that name who present themselves as possibly being the chess-player.  There was Alfred Bilbrough, maltster of Gildersome, who was born 02/07/1819 and died 25/08/1891, and there was Alfred Bilbrough, druggist for many years of Beech Grove Terrace, Leeds, who was born 25/03/1842 and died 23/06/1915.  The two were uncle and nephew.


The chess-playing career of A. Bilbrough extended well beyond the death of the Gildersome maltster, which means the druggist was the chess-player, (at least in the later years) and Catherine Wright, wife of a descendant of a cousin of the druggist, confirms he was known in the family as a chess-player, and that these two Alfreds did in fact play chess together.


(Thanks to Catherine Wright for clarifications, exact dates, and photographs of Alfred and of the family grave.)


Non-Chess Life


Alfred Bilbrough’s father Joseph Brooks Bilbrough was born on 04/03/1814, at Bruntcliffe (a mile to the west of Morley), to Gildersome maltster, John Bilbrough, and Elizabeth Brooks Bilbrough (née Elizabeth Brooks Priestley), who were Baptists.


Though Joseph Brooks Bilbrough was born into a family of maltsters, he had “conscientious objections” to the malt business, presumably due to its connection with strong drink (beer), and he elected to join a younger brother, John (born on 11/05/1815 in Bruntcliffe), in the employment of druggist Samuel Glover, in Leeds.  White’s 1837 West Yorkshire directory listed Samuel Glover, chemist and druggist, trading at 73 Briggate, Leeds, with home at Headingley.  The shop was later described as having had small-paned bow windows of the type then popular.  It was situated on the corner of Briggate with what was in those earlier days known as Rose & Crown Yard but later as Queen’s Arcade.


Another brother of Joseph Brooks Bilbrough, Alfred Bilbrough (born 02/07/1819, Gildersome; died 25/08/1891) remained in the family malt business.  He had a twin sister. Anna Elizabeth Bilbrough, who died young in 1834.


In 1838, Joseph Brooks Bilbrough married Sarah Radford (born 03/02/1814, Leeds) in Leeds.  The couple had the following four children, all born in Leeds:


William Radford Bilbrough

born 07/11/1839

Alfred Bilbrough

born 25/03/1842

John Bilbrough

born 21/06/1846

Ann Bilbrough

born 01/10/1849


The first son was known by his middle name, “Radford”.


In early 1839, or possibly late 1838, Joseph Brooks Bilbrough’s brother John Bilbrough married Eliza Kershaw.  They had three children, William Henry Bilbrough (known as “Henry”, born 1839, Leeds), Anna Elizabeth Bilbrough (born 1842/43) and Brooks Bilbrough (born and died 1846).


The 1841 census found parents Joseph and Sarah, first child William Radford Bilborough and a servant, living at Grove Terrace, Leeds.  This was presumably 17 Grove Terrace, on the basis of subsequent census retirns.  Father Joseph was a chemist and druggist.  It is most probable that when Alfred Bilbrough was born a year later, it was at 17 Grove Terrace.


Grove Terrace was by 6 Camp Road, which in turn was by 30 Wade Lane, which now runs by the modern Merrion Centre, and was then by 184 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds.


The 1841 census found uncle John and his wife Eliza, with 1-year-old son William, and two servants, living at Belgrave Place, Leeds.  (Belgrave Place was a turn-off by 31 Wade Lane.)  They went on to have a daughter, Anna Elizabeth Bilbrough in late 1842 or early 1843, who was presumably named after her aunt, the twin of her uncle Alfred.


By about 1846, the business at 73 Briggate, Leeds, had passed into the ownership of the Bilbroughs.  White’s directory of Leeds &c dated 1847 listed John & Joseph B. Bilbrough, chemists, druggists, oil merchants and dry-salters, trading at 73 Briggate, Leeds.  John’s home was given as 4 Belgrave Street, and Joseph’s as 17 Grove Terrace, Leeds.  (Belgrave Street was a turn-off by 41 Wade Lane.)


There were a number of Bilbrough births and death in Leeds in the 1840s and 1850s.  In particular, there was a Brooks Bilbrough whose birth and death were both registered in Leeds in the 3rd quarter of 1846.  This was most probably a son of John and Eliza.


An Eliza Bilbrough died in 1849 in Leeds, and this seems to have been the wife of druggist John Bilbrough.


Alfred’s paternal grandfather, John Bilbrough died in Holbeck, Leeds in 1850.


The 1851 census found Alfred’s parents and four children living with two servants at 17 Grove Terrace, Leeds.  Father Joseph was listed as a druggist, into which occupation Alfred was in due course to follow.  William and Alfred were scholars.


Around this time, brothers Joseph and John were listed in the electoral register for the Leeds polling district as having qualification based on rent charges in respect of property near Gildersome church, owned by their father.


White’s directory of Leeds &c dated 1854 listed John & Joseph B. Bilbrough, druggists and oilmen, trading at 73 Briggate, Leeds.  John and Joseph’s homes were given still as 4 Belgrave Street, and 17 Grove Terrace, Leeds respectively.


Joseph Brooks Bilbrough’s brother John died on 20/11/1855, at which time he resided at 2 Grove Terrace, Leeds.  The house contents were sold at auction on 12/09/1855, at the Music Hall, Albion Street, Leeds, by auctioneers Hepple & Son.  A comprehensive list of items to be sold was given in the Leeds Intelligencer of 08/09/1855.  This resulted in John and Eliza’s children, William Henry Bilbrough and Anna Elizabeth Bilbrough being taken into the family of Alfred Bilborough, their cousin.


Alfred’s older brother William Radford Bilbrough and cousin William Henry Bilbrough spent some time, to about 1854, at Bramham College, where Alfred in turn spent a couple of years before starting work with his father, and where Robert Bownas Wormald was probably educated before going to Oxford.


The 1861 census Alfred’s parents, four children, Joseph’s 18-year-old niece Anna E. Bilbrough (the orphaned daughter of John and Eliza; married Joseph Town in Leeds in 1862), and two servants living at 15 Beech Grove Terrace, Leeds, which remained Alfred’s residence for the rest of his life.  Father Joseph was still a druggist.  Eldest son William Radford had become a woollen merchant.  Alfred was now a druggist, working with his father.  John and Ann were scholars.


White’s directory of Leeds &c dated 1866 listed J. & J. B. Bilbrough, druggists, trading at 73 Briggate, Leeds.  Joseph Brooks Bilbrough still resided at 15 Beech Grove Terrace.  William Bilbrough (son of John), clerk, now lived at 5 Carlton Mount.


The 1871 census found Alfred’s parents, four children and two servants still living at 15 Beech Grove Terrace, Leeds.  Father Joseph was now listed as both a druggist and landowner.  Eldest son William Radford was both commercial clerk and woollen merchant.  Alfred was still a druggist.


The 1881 census found things unchanged except for people’s occupations.  Father Joseph was no longer described as a landowner, just a druggist.  William was now a cashier in a cloth warehouse.  John had joined Alfred and his father in being a druggist.  None of the four children ever married.  William’s employer was Benjamin Binks, junior, woollen cloth merchant, whose premises were at 4 York Place, Leeds.


In 1882, the druggist business was sold, and the father and two sons retired, as did eldest son William at about the same time.  Father Joseph Brooks Bilbrough died on 01/06//1885, and his son John Bilbrough died of tuberculosis on 15/10/1885.


The premises at 73 Briggate were taken over by Henry Ross, who was an oil & colour merchant, later paint & colour merchant, trading as “Ross & Co.”  The PO directory of Leeds dated 1888 listed Ross & Co., oil & colour merchants, at 73 Briggate.


The 1891 census found widowed Sarah living on her own means, with William who was now described as a retired woollen merchant, Alfred who was now a retired chemist (as druggists were becoming known), Ann, and two servants.


Mother Sarah Bilbrough died on 09/07/1892.  Sister Ann Bilbrough died on 17/10/1894.


White’s directory of Leeds &c dated 1894 listed Ross & Co., paint & colour merchants, at 73 Briggate.  The adjacent “Rose & Crown yard” had been renamed “Queen’s Arcade” in 1889, when the arcade designed by Edward Clark was opened, with its main entrance in Lands Lane.  In 1894, the old druggist’s shop was demolished to widen the Briggate entrance to “Queen’s Arcade”.


The 1901 census found brothers Radford and Alfred, with surname spelt as “Bilborough”, living with two servants at 15 Beech Grove Terrace.


William Radford Bilbrough died on 02/12/1906.  After this, Alfred was reported in an obituary to have shrunk from society becoming but rarely seen at the Leeds and county Liberal Club where he had been a regular visitor.


The 1911 census found 69-year-old Alfred Bilbrough living on his own, apart from the usual two servants, at 15 Beech Grove Terrace, Leeds.


Alfred Bilbrough had attended the South Parade Baptist Chapel, and after its demolition (to which he had been opposed) he then attended the Blenheim Chapel in Woodhouse Lane.




Alfred Bilbrough of 15 Beech Grove Terrace, Leeds, died there on 23/06/1915, aged 73.  Probate was granted to William Nelson Bilbrough, gent, John Ernest Town, paper manufacturer, and John William Bointon, solicitor.  His effects totalled £149,015 8s 3d.


He was buried on 26/06/1915 at Lawnswood Cemetery, Leeds.  (Click here for photographs of the grave.)


The provisions of his will included the following public bequests:


Leeds Art Gallery


Rawdon College

£5,000 (income therefrom)

University of Leeds


Leeds General Infirmary


Hospital for Women and Children


Tradesmen’s Benevolent Institution


Unmarried Women’s Benevolent Institution


Institution for Blind, Deaf and Dumb


Religious Tract Society



Alfred had reportedly lived his life frugally, living on his own income, and saving and investing (e.g. in the Great Western Railway) what he had inherited from his father.




Alfred Bilbrough of Leeds attended the annual meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association of 1870, 1874, 1876, 1878, 1886, 1887, and 1888.


At the 15th WYCA meeting at Halifax in 1879 he played in the Third Class tournament, beating Thomas Fieldsend in round one, but losing in round two to Inman of London.


He played for Leeds in the Wakefield-Leeds match played at the West Yorkshire Chess Association meeting on Saturday 16th May, 1874, at Huddersfield, score 2-1 against William Ledgar Robinson.


The apparent hiatus in attendance at West Yorkshire Chess Association meeting suggests than maybe from 1870 to 1878 meetings were attended by the maltster from Gildersome (uncle of the druggist), and that from 1886 they were attended by the druggist (nephew of the maltster).  In the absence of information to the contrary it is here assumed all chess reports of “A. Bilbrough” of Leeds referred to Alfred Bilbrough the druggist, but the two are known within the family to have played each other at chess, so maybe earlier references are to the uncle.


“A. Bilbrough” of Leeds played for Yorkshire in the 1883 Yorkshire-Lancashire match.


He played on board 3 for Leeds in a match against the Midland Railway Institute, Derby, in Leeds, on 19/01/1884.


He was one of ten elected as vice-presidents of Leeds Chess Club in 1891 and again in 1894 (and probably other years as well).


He was elected president of Leeds Chess Club in 1893.


He competed at the Yorkshire County Chess Club events including those at Sheffield in 1890, and Leeds in 1892.


He played for Leeds in the Woodhouse Cup in 1901-02 and 1904-05.


A note about the Bilbrough family, the Yorkshire Evening Post of 03/07/1915 reported, “Mr. Alfred took a keen interest in all games, and was, at one time, one of the best chess players in Leeds.”


An obituary in the Yorkshire Evening Post of 01/07/1915 reported, “Occasionally in his later years he would be seen at the Leeds Institute, where he revelled in a game of chess, of which he was a very clever player.”





Copyright © 2013, 2021 Stephen John Mann

Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information

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