Yorkshire Chess History
Reginald Joseph Broadbent
“R. J. Broadbent” was best known as a Lancashire player before the Second World War, and as a Sussex player thereafter. However, for a short period he was a member of Bradford Chess Club, and a player in the Woodhouse Cup.
The 1911 Isle of Man census contained an entry listing those spending the night of 02/04/1911 at a boarding house in Onchan, which is at the north end of Douglas Bay, and is the second largest settlement on the island, the largest being Douglas, of which Onchan is virtually a northern suburb. The boarding house was run by Thomas Kelly and his wife Frances, though Thomas was also employed as a gardener at Government House. Apart from Mr. and Mrs. Kelly and their two teenage children, there were listed 33-year-old married Alice Broadbent, 4-year-old Reginald Broadbent, 4-year-old Laura Broadbent, and 1-year-old Roland Broadbent. The place of birth of mother Alice was Liverpool, where Reginald Joseph Broadbent’s chess career first flowered, and the place of birth of Reginald and Laura was Durban, South Africa, where Reginald Joseph Broadbent was born. These two were recorded as British Subjects by parentage. The place of birth of Roland was Port Thumow(? – illegible, perhaps Porthtowan, Porthcurno), Cornwall, and he was evidently a Ronald Edward Broadbent born in 1910. The father of the family, who it would seem was British rather than South African, was evidently elsewhere at the time, perhaps at the family home, which may well have been in Cornwall.
This entry in the Isle of Man census looks too much like a reference to 4-year-old Reginald Joseph Broadbent and members of his family for that not to be true. The absence from the return of Reginald’s middle initial is consistent with the general level of accuracy encountered where the householder is not an immediate relative. Given that mother Alice was born in Liverpool, it is conceivable that the above Thomas and Frances Kelly were her parents. The places of birth of the children provide the clue to when the family arrive in the British Isles.
If we take this as a genuine report of Reginald Joseph Broadbent, then his parents were an unidentified father and his wife Alice Broadbent (born 1877/78, Liverpool, married in 1902/03), who, according to the census return had by then had four children, one of whom had died, the remaining three being:
Reginald and Laura were listed in the census as being 4 years old. In the general case that could have meant one had recently turned 4 while the other one was nearly 5, but as Reginald was 4 years and nearly 6 months of age then Laura must have been his twin, as otherwise she’d be 3 (or less) or 5 (or more) – if the census ages were correct.
The dates of birth of the children rather suggest that the Broadbent family moved from South Africa to the British Isles, perhaps initially Cornwall, at some time from 1906 to1910. Whether the family as a whole moved to Liverpool (the mother’s place of birth), or just Reginald, is unclear, but the chess-playing Reginald Joseph Broadbent was living in Liverpool or its vicinity by 1926 at the latest.
In October 1926, Reginald was appointed by the British Postal Service to the position of assistant traffic supervisor, in Liverpool. In February 1928, he was appointed to the same post in Manchester.
From 1928 to 1936 an R. J. Broadbent was listed in telephone directories as resident at 12 Moreton Grove, Wallasey, but this may not have been the chess-player, especially as this hardly seems consistent with moving to Manchester.
In 1934, Reginald J. Broadbent married Catherine H Crawford in Manchester.
Chess records place Reginald Joseph Broadbent in Lancashire up to the Second World War, but he moved to Bradford, Yorkshire, in December 1937, as traffic superintendent, Class 2, of Post Office Telephones. He left Bradford around June 1939, according to a centenary  history of Bradford Chess Club, remaining in the Northern Counties, but quite where he went is unclear, though it may have been Cheadle, Manchester.
At some time in 1946 or 1947, Broadbent moved down south to live in the general vicinity of East Grinstead, at Far End, Limes Estate, Felbridge, 2 miles NW of East Grinstead, and later at Southway, Priory Road, Forest Row, 3 miles SE of East Grinstead
Reginald Joseph Broadbent died on 29/10/1988, at Uckfeld, Sussex.
R. J. Broadbent’s reported successes include the following:
won the Liverpool championship at the age of 20, i.e. in 1926 or 1927,
won the Lancashire championship three times [when?],
won the Manchester championship four times [when?],
won the Northern Counties Champion in 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1945, 1946 (no contest 1939 to 1944),
won the Surrey championship in 1948 (not 1947, see below)
played in 1937 for England against the Netherlands,
played in 1938 for England against the Netherlands,
played in 1946 London International tournament,
played in the 1946 British Championship in Nottingham,
played in 1947 for England against Australia, by radio,
played in the 1947 British Championship in London,
played in 1947 for England against the Netherlands,
played in 1947 for England against Czechoslovakia,
played in 1948 for England against the Netherlands,
won the 1948 (London) and 1950 (Buxton) British championships,
played in 1949 for England against the Netherlands,
played in 1951 in the Staunton Memorial tournament,
played in 1952 for England against the Netherlands,
played in 1954 for England against the USSR.
He never won the Yorkshire Championship, but may have never participated.
Bradford Chess Club’s Centenary History  reported he won the Surrey championship of 1947, the relevant section of text being later reproduced elsewhere, but that is untrue. Contemporary records showed the 1947 Surrey Champion was E. G. R. Cordingley. As kindly reported by Paul Dupre of Surrey CCA (13/10/2023), this riddle was solved when research by Surrey CCA members into Sussex Championship winners threw up the question of the identity of “R J Blackburn” hitherto listed in SSCA records as the 1948 winner. Reference to the trophy revealed “R J Broadbent” to be the engraving for 1948.
He joined Bradford Chess Club in January 1938, and played on board one for the club in the Woodhouse Cup. While living in Bradford he promoted chess by giving a lecture and a simultaneous display. In the simultaneous display he gave on Saturday 01/10/1938, he played against 23 opponents, winning 21 games and losing to L. E. Williams [Yorkshire Post, 03/10/1938]; the remaining opponent had to leave without finishing his game.
He gave a further two simultaneous displays at Bradford Chess Club after leaving Bradford. On 02/031940, he again took on 23 opponents, winning 17 games, drawing 5, and losing 1. On 06/04/1946, he took on 29 opponents, winning 24 games, drawing 1, and losing 2, the other two games being left unfinished.
As late as 1949, and possibly after, he was still serving the Warrington Chess League as adjudicator for their two best-game prizes, over-the-board and correspondence.
Copyright © 2015, 2023 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information