Yorkshire Chess History



Walter Common & Arthur Welsh Common











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



Jun to Sep 1851, Halifax



1914/15, Halifax



Identities of the Players


“W. Common”, “A. W. Common” and sometimes “A. Common” get mentioned on the chess literature.  Both “W.” and “A.W.” get listed in the same team, and so are distinct.  “A.” never gets a mention in the same match as “A. W.”, so the two are presumably the same.


That “A.W.” was the son of “W.” is made clear by a report on the Halifax v Leeds Woodhouse Cup match of 31/01/1891, when, commenting on the defeat by “A.W.” of F. Toothill of Leeds, it said, “Mr. Toothill has not been beaten before for five seasons, but Mr. A. W. Common, son of the chess Priam of Halifax, found, like Paris, the vulnerable heel of the Leeds Achilles.”  [Undated, unattributed newspaper clipping in WYCA Minute Book, clearly, by the layout, from Joseph Algernon Woollard’s chess column in the Bradford Observer.]


Non-Chess Life


Arthur Welsh Common was a son of a Scottish-born couple, Walter Common (born 1817/18, Scotland) and Mary Ann Common (née Ratcliffe, born 1814/15, Scotland).  Entry 268 in the marriage register of Huddersfield parish church records that 26-year-old bachelor Walter Common, banker’s clerk of Halifax, son of James Common, farmer, was married on 08/06/1843 by John Buckham to 28-year-old spinster Mary Anne Ratcliffe, daughter of Solomon Ratcliffe, corn dealer.  The couple had at least the following four children:


Isabella Common

born 1846/47, Halifax

Elizabeth C Common

born 1848/49, Halifax

James Common

born Apr/May 1850, Halifax

Arthur Welsh Common

born 1851, Halifax


Arthur’s age in censuses etc indicates he was born 1851/52.  His birth was registered in Halifax in the third quarter of 1851, thus he was born Jun-Sep 1851.


The 1851 census found the parents and the first three children living at 4 Gerrard Street, Halifax.  Father Walter was a bank accountant.


Arthur ought to appear in the 1861 census, but finding him there is difficult.


The 1871 census found the parents, Isabella, Elizabeth and Arthur living at 7 Heath Field [now Heathfield] Terrace, Halifax.  Father Walter was now both an accountant and the local registrar of marriages.  19-year-old Arthur was apprenticed to a stuff merchant.  Also in the household were Mary Ann Common’s 60-year-old unmarried sister, Helen Ratcliffe, a ladies’ outfitter, and 12-year-old boarder, Helen Cleveland, a scholar.


The 1881 census found the parents, Isabella, and Helen Ratcliffe living at 9 Trinity Place, Halifax, with a servant.  Father Walter was now an accountant, secretary to a building society, and registrar of marriages.  Arthur was not listed at the parental home.


The 1891 census found Arthur living with his parents at 1 Balmoral Place, Halifax.  Father Walter was now listed as a building society secretary and registrar of marriages.  Arthur was listed as a “book-keeper C. C.” [“C. C.” means County council?]


The marriage of Arthur Welsh Common to Alice Maude McClellan was registered at Halifax in the first quarter of 1891.  The couple had six children, of whom only four survived to the 1911 census.  The four surviving children were the following:


Walter Edward Common

born 1891/92, Halifax

baptised 07/08/1892, St. Geroge’sOvenden

Arthur Ratcliffe Common

born 1894/95, Halifax

baptised 30/10/1902, St. Mark’s, Siddal

Muriel Common

born 1895/96, Halifax

Madeline Common

born May/June 1900, Halifax


Walter Edward Common was baptised at St. George’s, Ovenden, by A.Brown, on 07/08/1992.  Arthur was describe as a book-keeper of Lintenfield [?], Ovenden.


The death of Arthur’s father, Walter Common, was registered at Halifax in the second quarter of 1897.


The 1901 census found Arthur and Alice living with the above four children at 83 Siddal Lane, Halifax.  Arthur was now described as an accountant’s clerk.


The baptism of Arthur, Muriel and Madeline at St. Mark’s, Siddal, Halifax, on 30th October, was confusingly recorded in the baptism register which ran up to the end of December 1901, after the December entries.  This led to erroneous digital records of them being baptised on 30/10/1901.  However, entries 82, 83 and 84 in the baptism register starting in January 1902 also listed the baptism of the same three children at St. Marks by F. O. Warman, this being clearly on 30/10/1902.  The parents’ residence was listed as 83 Cambridge Place, Halifax.


The1911 census found the same household of six ling at ? ?.  Arthur was still listed as employed as an accountant’s clerk.  Son Walter Edward was a stockbroker’s clerk, son Arthur Ratcliffe was a tailor’s assistant, daughter Muriel was a blouse collar maker, while Madeline attended school.




The death of Walter Common, was registered at Halifax in the second quarter of 1897


The death of Arthur Welsh Common, aged 63, was registered at Halifax in the first quarter of 1915.




 W. Common was one of those attending the “soirée” of the Halifax St. George’s Club in honour of visitor Howard Staunton, and was one of a consulting team who played two “even games” against Staunton.  There’s no way of being sure, but this looks remarkably like this Walter Common.


“W. Common” of Halifax attended the West Yorkshire Chess Association meeting of 1876, along with “A. Common” of Halifax who was presumably Arthur Welsh Common.


“A. W. Common” of Halifax attended subsequent meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association in 1877, 1887 and 1888.


“A. W. Common” won the Yorkshire Championship of the season 1891-92, and may well have won it in other years.





Copyright © 2013, 2014 Stephen John Mann

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

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