Yorkshire Chess History



Thomas Brown











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site


Thomas Brown was a member of the Sheffield Athenaeum Club, being its secretary for a time.  During his period as secretary, the West Yorkshire Chess Association meeting was held in Sheffield, in 1875 and 1880, meaning that in those years he was also WYCA secretary in those years.




There were a number of people by the name of Thomas Brown in Sheffield in the 1870s and 1880s.  The three most likely to be our man were Thomas Brown, architect, of Innocent & Brown; Thomas Brown, manager and secretary to Burys & Co. Ltd; and Thomas Brown, table-knife manufacturer.  There were others.


The identity of our man is revealed by the notice of the West Yorkshire Chess Association Meeting held at Sheffield in 1880, for which Thomas Brown was secretary.  This gives the address from which tickets might be obtained in advance, as 17 George Street, Sheffield, which was the business address of Innocent & Brown, architects.


Private Life


Thomas Brown was a grandson of John Brown of Skipton-in-Craven (died 1851), who moved to Sheffield around the 1790s.  This John Brown had two sons, James Brown (born 1805/06 in Sheffield, died aged 90) and John Bower Brown JP of Woodthorpe Hall (born 1801/02 in Sheffield, died 21st August 1876 at Southport, Lancs.).  The John Brown (b. 08/12/1816, d. 27/12/1896) who founded Atlas Works on Savile Street, Sheffield, was a different John Brown.


Thomas Brown was a son of the above James Brown and Mary Ann Brown [née Appleton?] (born 1809/10 in Richmond, N. Yorks.).  This couple had at least five children, all Sheffield-born:

Helen Brown

born 1835/36,

John Bower Brown

born 1838/39, named after his uncle

Arnold J Brown

born 1841/42,

Thomas Brown

born 1844/45,

Charles William Brown

born 1846/47.


In 1841, before he was born, his parents, with children Helen and John, lived on St Philip’s Road, Sheffield.  Father James was described in the census as a die-sinker.


By 1851, the family had moved to 54 Back [Rock ?] Street, Sheffield.  Thomas and older brother John were scholars, while their father was now described as an artist and die-sinker.  Helen and Charles were also there, but Arnold appears to have been away from home at the time of the census, perhaps at a boarding school.


The 1861 census found the parents and all five children living at 106 William Street, Sheffield.  John was a banker’s clerk, Arnold a file manufacturer’s clerk, and Thomas an architect’s clerk.  Charles was a scholar.


At some time from 1861 to 1868, Thomas went into partnership with architect and surveyor Charles John Innocent, though whether this was the architect for whom he had worked earlier as a clerk is unclear.


By 1868 he had left home, as White’s Sheffield directory dated 1868 listed him as an architect involved in the firm of Innocent and Brown, living at 3 College Street, Sheffield.


By about 1871, Thomas had got married to Annie.  In time the couple had at least seven children:

Oswald C Brown

born 1871/72,

Austin JB Brown

born 1872/73,

Francis W Brown

born 1873/74,

Catharine Brown

born 1876/77,

Maud C Brown

born 1878,

Cyril H Brown

born 1879,

Basil T Brown

born Feb/Mar 1880


A reference to 26-year-old Thomas Brown in the 1871 census is elusive.


White’s directory of Sheffield dated 1876 listed him as then living at 5 College Street.  A James Brown, presumably his father, was living as 3 College Street.  At some time from 1876 to 1879 he moved on to what proved to be his final residence.


W. White’s Directory of Sheffield, Rotherham &c, 1879, still listed James Brown at 3 College Street, but now listed Thomas Brown, architect, of Innocent & Brown, as living at 1 Durham Road, Sheffield.  The firm of Innocent and Brown, architects and surveyors, was listed at 17 George Street.  Charles John Innocent was listed as residing at 21 Wilkinson Street.


C. J. Innocent, incidentally, was listed as corresponding secretary of the Sunday School Union in Sheffield, and “C. John Innocent” was listed as surveyor to the Sheffield School Board.


Kelly's Directory of West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881, listed Thomas Brown as involved in Innocent and Brown, still residing at 1 Durham Road.  The 1881 census listed him, his wife and seven children living at that address.




He died at his home, 1 Durham Road, Sheffield, on 29th April 1881.  He was only 36 years of age, and predeceased his father.  Notices of the death appeared on 30th April 1881 in the Sheffield Telegraph and the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent.


His will was proved at Wakefield by his widow, Annie Brown, and brother, John Bower Brown, bank sub-manager.


His father, James Brown, died Apr-Jun 1895, aged 89.




Thomas Brown was a member of Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club from 1865.  He attended the West Yorkshire Chess Association annual meetings of 1870, 1872 to 1875, 1877 and a1878, and finally in 1880.


He lost to Blackburne at the blindfold display given by him on Saturday 22nd February 1873.


He was far a while secretary of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club, and was consequently secretary of WYCA in 1875 and 1880, when the WYCA meetings were held in Sheffield.


At the WYCA meeting in Sheffield in 1875, there were listed among the Sheffielders attending, not only Thomas Brown himself, but also “J. Brown” and “J. B. Brown”.  This looks rather as though Thomas’s father and brother were giving him moral support in his role as secretary.  Whilst “J. Brown” could have been a number of people, “J. B. Brown” can reasonably be assumed to have been his brother, John Bower Brown, as alternatives are not evident in directories etc.


The WYCA Minute Book contains two examples of Thomas Brown’s signature:


Brown, Thomas signature 1875.jpg



Brown, Thomas signature 1880.jpg


Brother John Bower Brown also played chess.





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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

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