Yorkshire Chess History



Philip Henry Chignell











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



1872, Leighton Buzzard, Beds.



08/01/1947, Hull



Identity of the Chess-Player


There are numerous references in chess records to “P. Chignell” of Hull.  Never, seemingly, is he given a second forename of initial.  Nevertheless, given the rarity of the surname, there seems no-one other than this Philip Henry Chignell who could have been the said chess-player.  Some references to him as an organist omit any reference to his middle name.  The annual report of the Yorkshire Chess Association for 1946-47 recorded the passing, during the season, of “Mr. Chignall [sic], of Hull.”  This fairly conclusively links the chess-player to this Philip Henry Chignell who died on 08/01/1947.


There was also an organist called George Street Chignell (born 23/05/1870, Havant, Hants.): assistant organist as Salisbury Cathedral, 1886–89, and assistant organist at Worcester Cathedral 1893–96.  He was not a brother of our man, though may have been a cousin.


Non-Chess Life


Philip Henry Chignell’s parents were William Henry Chignell (born 1840/41, Ampthill, Beds.) and Eliza Chignell (born 1844/45, London), who had at least the following five children:


Arthur K. Chignell

born 1869/70, Leighton Buzzard

Philip Henry Chignell

born 1872/73, Leighton Buzzard

Margaret E. Chignell

born 1873/74, Leighton Buzzard

Isabel M. Chignell

born 1875/76, London

Katharine A. Chignell

born 1879/80, London


It is evident from the children’s places of birth that the family lived in Leighton Buzzard until moving to London around 1873 to 1876.


The 1881 census found the parents and above five children living with two servants at 10 Regina road, Islington, London.  Father William was a travelling salesman for a pianoforte maker, interestingly suggesting a tradition of music in the family.  The eldest four children were scholars.


His career in music started off in earnest when he became a boy chorister at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, from 1882 to 1887, during which period fellow chess-player Walter Parratt was organist there.


From 1888 to 1892 he was a music student at Norwich Cathedral.


The 1891 census found 18-year-old Leighton Buzzard-born “Philip H. Chegnell” [sic – the census enumerator’s writing was clear] as one of two boarders, both music students, at 7 Palace Plain, East Wymer, Norwich.  “Palace Plain”, as a street name, seems no longer to be in use, and may equate to the modern “Palace Street” which clearly refers to the Bishop’s Palace, as Palace Street runs to the NW of Norwich Cathedral.  He was for a while an assistant organist at Norwich Cathedral.


From Norwich he moved to Kirkley, Suffolk, where he was organist from 1892 to 1901.  He would presumably have made a living as a music teacher.  It was while he was organist at Kirkley he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, in 1896, so being able to put the letters “F.R.C.O.” after his name.


The 1901 census found 28-year-old Leighton Buzzard-born organist “Philip Chignell” visiting the Parker family who lived at Broadlands, Hall Road, Oulton, Suffolk.


In 1901, he became organist at All Saints, Hessle, near Hull.  He will have continued to earn a living as a private music teacher, though in time he became a music professor at the Hull and East Riding College of Music, which was presumably remunerative.  Among less remunerative posts he held were those of honorary secretary of the Hull Philharmonic Society, and conductor of the Howden Rural Deanery Choral Association.


On 17/03/1911, Sheffield Choir, which was one of the most highly regarded amateur choirs in the country at the time, set off for Canada, at the start of a six-and-a-half-month world tour on which it gave 134 concerts.  The tour included a number of people who the choir’s conductor, Henry Coward, knew through connections with other choirs etc., and it appears Philip Henry Chignell was one such person.  Countries visited by the tour, after Canada, were the U.S.A., Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania and South Africa, making a round trip of about 34,000 miles.  The tourists returned to England at Plymouth, on 30/09/1911.


Our man seems absent from the 1911 census, consistent with his being on Sheffield Choir’s World Tour, but by 1912 he was back in Hessle, where he was listed as a music teacher residing at The Weir, Hessle, near Hull.


Entry 7 in the marriage register of the United Methodist Church, Paddock, Huddersfield, recorded the marriage there, by John Sydney Jones, on 07/08/1912, of 40-year-old Philip Henry Chignell, bachelor, of The Weir, Hessle, music teacher, and son of William Henry Chignell (retired), to 23-year-old Katie Netherwood, spinster, of 83 New North Road, Huddersfield, daughter of Edwin Netherwood, chartered accountant.


Besides playing chess, he is reported as playing tennis and golf.


Philip Henry Chignell remained resident at 19 The Weir, Hessle, near Hull, to his death in 1947.




Philip Henry Chignell died on 08/01/1947, at the age of 74.  He was survived by his widow, Katie Chignell.  He left £670 9s 6d.




It would be nice to think choirboy Philip Henry Chignell played chess with organist Walter Parratt at Windsor, but no evidence of this is to hand.  Whenever our man started playing chess, he was clearly good enough for Hull’s Woodhouse Cup team by the time he took up residence at Hessle.


“P. Chignell” played for Hull in the Woodhouse Cup in 1902-03, 1904-05, 1905-06, 1906-07, 1907-08, 1911-12 and doubtless other seasons as well. 


He played for the N&E Riding team in the 1903 West v North & East Ridings match.


He played for Yorkshire in (at least) the 1937-38, 1938-39, 1946-47 Counties & District Correspondence competitions.


He played in the Kitchin Memorial (correspondence) tournament of 1938-39.


The 1903 W v N&E Riding match featured “P Chignell (Hull)” on board 10 for the N&E team, and also “- Chignell (sen) (Hull)” on board 13.  It seems most probable that the “Chignell, senior” (with no initial), was our man’s father, William H. Chignell, but that has yet to be confirmed.





Copyright © 2014 Stephen John Mann

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

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