Yorkshire Chess History



Walter John Corlett











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



08/06/1866, Santon, Isle of Man


08/07/1866, Santon, Isle of Man


1954, Littleborough district




Identity of the Chess-Player


A “W. J. Corlett” appears playing chess in the Isle of Man in the 1880s.  Whilst identifying “R. S. Corlett” requires more than just the surname and initials, the only person answering to “W. J. Corlett” is this Walter John Corlett, who was a cousin of chess-player Robert Sayle Corlett.  Later, a Liverpool player reported with non-existent surname “Corblets” was listed as playing for Lancashire at a time when this Walter John Corlett was living in Liverpool, and the two seem likely to be the same person.


Non-Chess Life


Walter John Corlett’s father was John Corlett (born vaguely 1831 to 1836, Patrick, I o M), brother of Robert Corlett junior who was the father of Robert Sayle Corlett.  Thus the two chessplayers were cousins.


The 1851 census found three generations of Corletts living at Craig, in the vicinity of Sulby, 2 miles south of St. Jude’s.  There were Robert Sayle Corlett’s paternal grandparents, Robert Corlett, senior (born 1789/90, Lezayre), a farmer of 120 acres, and Mary Corlett (born 1893/94, Douglas, IoM); there were three Lezayre-born children of this couple, 35-year-old Robert Corlett, junior (R. S. Corlett’s father), unmarried 19-year-old John Corlett (W. J.Corlett’s father), and unmarried 17-year-old Eliza Corlett; and there were Sarah Ann Corlett (R. S. Corlett’s mother), and 1-year-old Robert S. Corlett himself.  There were two other grandchildren of Robert Corlett senior, 8-year-old Oscar Kissock Corlett and 5-year-old Catharine Corlett.  These latter two were apparently not Robert Sayle Corlett’s siblings.  There was also a maid servant, 18-year-old Ellinor Corlett – presumably a relative of some sort.


Grandfather Robert Corlett senior died during the next ten years.


Around 1865 or before, John Corlett  (born vaguely 1831 to 1836, Patrick, I o M) married a Margaret (born 1835/36/37/38, Malew, I o M), and the couple had at least the following children:


Walter John Corlett

08/06/1866, baptised 08/07/1866, both Santon, Isle of Man

William Caesar Corlett

born 1867/68, baptised 01/03/1868, both in Santon, IoMan

Margaret Jane Corlett

born Jun/Jul 1870, baptised 10/07/1870, both in Santon, IoMan


born 1871, baptised 29/10/1871, both in Santon, IoMan


born 1873/74, Santon, Isle of Man


born 1875/76, Santon, Isle of Man


born 1877/78, Marown, Isle of Man


Santon and Marown are parishes rather than villages or the like.  Santon and Malew are adjacent parishes.  Patrick is a parish on the west side of the island to the south of Peel.  Christian was a recurrent name for girls, sometimes misrepresented as “Christina”.


Santon, Isle of Man, in the south-west of the island, roughly halfway between Douglas and Castletown.


The 1871 census found the family living at Balla Doo (probably a farm), “St. Anne”, Isle of Man.  “St. Anne” seems to be a rendering of Santon.  Father John was given the same age, 35, as his wife, which may have been an understatement.  He was a farmer of 46 acres.  They had one general servant.


The birthplaces of the children show that the family probably moved around 1877 from Santon to Marown (pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, and rhyming with “brown”), in the centre of the island, inland from Douglas, and so better place for the chess club in Douglas..


The 1881 census found the family living as Rock Farm House, Marown, Isle of Man.  John and Margaret’s ages were imaginatively declared, as was usual.  John was a farmer of 114 acres.  William was now known seemingly known as “Caesar”.  Besides the parents and seven children, there were two domestic servants.


On 08/06/1889, Walter John Corlett married Christian Goldsmith Radcliffe (born 03/03/1867, Maughold), daughter of John and Isabella Radcliffe, at Braddan, Isle of Man.  The couple had at least the following children:


John Corlett

born 1891/92, Onchan IoM

Walter Corlett

born 1894/95, Peterburgh, South Australia

Emily Corlett

born 1896/97, Semaphore, South Australia

Ella C Corlett

born 18/07/1898, Bunbury, Western Australia

Florence Corlett

born 1900/01, Bunbury, Western Australia

Frances Ada Corlett

born 24/12/1902, Bunbury, Western Australia

Caesar Corlett

born 1904/05, Sandycroft, Flintshire, Wales

Mona Corlett

born 1906/07, Birkenhead, Cheshire

Albert E Corlett

born 28/01/1911, Blackburn, Lancashire


The 1891 census found “Walter J. Corlett” and “Christian J. Corlett” visiting widowed Elizabeth Hughes at 51 Wyatt Street, Kirkdale, Liverpool.  Although Christian’s middle initial was clearly given as “J”, implying she was Walter’s sister, her age was given as 24 and her place of birth was given as Maughold, in north-east I o M.  That rather suggests Christian here was in fact Christian G Corlett, Walter’s wife.  Elizabeth, Christian and Walter were all described as living on their own means, though Walter and Christian were probably not wealthy or in receipt of unearned income of some sort.


From the places of birth of the children it is evident Walter and Christian emigrated to Australia in 1893, give or take a year or two, probably to be a farmer, then in about 1902/03 come back to the UK, to live in Wales for a while, before returning to England (Birkenhead then Blackburn) in time for the 1911 census.


This itinerary makes it clear that the W. J. Corlett, ironmonger and plumber, of 21 Nelson Street, Douglas, IoM was a different “W. J. Corlett”.


The 1911 census found parents and three children living at 18 Furthergate, Blackburn, Lancashire.  Walter was a tramcar driver, son John was a tripe dresser’s apprentice, son Walter was a baker’s apprentice, Emily was a spinner’s apprentice, Ella went to school, while the youngest two were of pre-school age.


The 1939 Register found the parents and three children living at 25 Woodstock Street, Rochdale, Lancashire.  Walter was described as a retired farmer, wife Christian as “Retired Incapacitated”, Frances Ada and Ella C. as a cotton weavers, and Albert E as an India-rubber belt maker.  Ella was also serving at an A.R.P. first-aid post in the Meanwood area of Rochdale.




The death of Walter John Corlett, at the age of 88, was registered in the last quarter of 1954, in the Littleborough registration district of Lancashire, which covered Littleborough, Milnrow, Wardle and Whitworth.




In 1883/84, he played in a handicap chess tournament played over a number of months in the Isle of Man, probably at a chess club in Douglas.  A report in the Isle of Man Times of 05/01/1884 listed results to date of the competitors, who at that stage had played a varying number of games.  W. S. Corlett was a class 2 player and had played more games (15) than anyone else at that stage, while cousin was a relatively late entrant and had played only 7 games, wining 6 and losing 1.


W. J. Corlett (class 2) finished first in the 1885-86 Douglas handicap tournament, pushing cousin R. S. Corlett (class 1) into second place.


Years later, bottom board (bd. 30) for Lancashire in the 1911 Yorkshire v Lancashire match was named simply as “Corblets” of Liverpool by the Sheffield Daily Telegraph.  There was nobody of that surname, it seems, but one can believe is was a corruption of “Corlett”.  As R. S. Corlett was playing on board 17, one might suspect board 30 was Walter John Corlett.  However, a Manchester paper gave that player’s name as “T. W. Corlett”.






Copyright © 2021 Stephen John Mann

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

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