Yorkshire Chess History
Alfred Crosskill was a son of William Crosskill (born 1800), who was described as “the father of mechanised farming in East Yorkshire” – the East Riding’s answer to Jethro Tull, it seems.
William’s firm, established in the 1820s, manufactured cast-iron products, farm machinery, farm implements and various wagons, including railway wagons. Products were diverse and imaginative, some leading to patent applications. The Museum of English Rural Life holds some catalogues featuring their agricultural machinery. Alfred became a member of the Council of Royal Agricultural Society.
William and Alice Crosskill had at least three children:
The 1841 census found 40-year-old father, William, 40-year-old mother “Ellis”, 12-year-old Alfred, 11-year-old Edmund, and 9-year-old Myra, all living at Butcher Row, Beverley.
In 1844, William Crosskill supplied lamp standards for the Hamburg street-lighting system.
In 1847, financial difficulties led to the mortgaging of firm to the East Riding Bank.
In 1848, a branch in Liverpool sold kits of “emigrants' tools”.
In 1848, William became Mayor of Beverley for 1848-49.
In 1850, 2,478 clod-crushers were sold, making it the most popular item in William’s catalogue of agricultural machinery. (How many were bought by the Thorolds and Skipworths of Lincolnshire??)
The 1851 census found 21-year-old Beverley-born Alfred Crosskill, iron founder, visiting the Jackson household at Eltham Park, Eltham, Kent. The nature of this visit isunclear.
The marriage of Alfred Crosskill to Isabella Elizabeth Arden was registered in the fourth quarter of 1851, at Beverley.
“W. Crosskill, Beverley” exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London, 1851, and was one of those awarded a prize by the judges in the Agricultural Machines and Implements section.
In 1853, a paper was written by Alfred, as the first manufacturer in England of the Hussey and Bell type of mechanical reaper, comparing Hussey’s cutting method as compared with that of McCormick, is read to the British Society for the Advancement of Art and Science.
In 1854, 3,000-odd carts etc were supplied to the army for the Crimean War, but benefits were short-lived, as the war led to economic depression in the Hull area. In 1855, The East Riding Bank foreclosed.
Prior to 1855, father William resided at Register Square, according to Slater’s 1855 directory. Then from 1855, William occupied a mansion called Walkergate House, in the upper part of Walkergate, Beverley. This is still in existence, housing East Yorkshire Council offices.
In 1856, 15-18 July, Alfred is one of the manufacturers and exhibitors at the Chelmsford Meeting of the “RASE”.
Around 1857, Edmund married his wife Sarah (born 16th august 1836, died 2nd March 1915 at New Walk).
In September 1858, Alfred addressed, or had paper read, at the 28th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science [no longer “Art”] held in Leeds. The subject was again reaping machinery.
On 17/04/1860, there appeared a listing in the London Gazette of 13th March 1860 a (copyright?) petition regarding “Alfred Crosskill, Beverley, in the county of York, and James Gawan Crosskill, of the same place, machine maker, have given the like notice in respect of the invention of “improvements in reaping and mowing machines.”
The 1861 census listed 31-year-old Alfred, an agricultural implement maker employing 82 (or 22?) men, and 37-year-old Isabella Elizabeth Crosskill, with two servants, living at 7 Albert Street, Beverley.
In 1861, there was a campaign by non-electors for Beverley’s franchise to be increased. The main elements involved were Liberal working men led by Edmund Crosskill, holding meetings at the Mechanics' Institute.
In 1864, the family firm was sold to a company led by Sir Henry Edwards, Conservative M.P. for Beverley, and continued under the name of the “Beverley Iron & Waggon Company”. Sir Henry Edwards was the employer and friend of Halifax chess-player Frederick William Cronhelm and his father.
In 1864, the firm of William Crosskill &Sons was formed by brothers Edmund and Alfred, sons of William. They opened a foundry at Eastgate, Beverley, for the manufacture of agricultural machinery and vehicles, in competition with the Beverley Iron & Waggon Company. The firm continued to make railway wagons and agricultural vehicles until 1904, when Alfred died.
On 16/11/1864, Edmund’s son William Crosskill baptised at St John and St Martin, Beverley.
At the Yorkshire Agricultural Show held in Beverley 4th to 6th August, 1869, William Crosskill and Sons had stand 18 in the “implements” section. They exhibited the following:
“self-cleaning clod crushers, plain field roller, two-horse carts, strong Yorkshire waggons, iron cart, for water of liquid manure, Archimedean root washer, improved timber cart, specimens of wheels and axils, specimen of portable farm railway, two and three-horse reaping machines, pig troughs, various models of implements etc.”
“Waggon” seemed the preferred spelling of that time and place.
Alfred was a political activist, seeking to expand the electoral franchise of Beverley, becoming leader of the Liberal party in Beverley. Curiously, the person who bought up his father’s ailing firm, Sir Henry Edwards, was the employer and friend both of Halifax chess-player Frederick William Cronhelm and of Frederick’s father.
The purchase by Sir Henry Edwards of the Crosskill’sfamily firm in 1864 was seen by some as a political move to win votes by saving people’s jobs. Be this as it may, other, less legal electoral skulduggery led to Beverley’s disenfranchisement, which meant they could no longer elect their own representative in Parliament. The report of the commission investigating the alleged corruption listed over 600 people who had given or received bribes, and among the well-known names therein was that of Alfred Crosskill! In 1870, the town of Beverley disenfranchised due to bribery and corruption.
Alfred is hard to find in the 1871 census.
In 1872, Alfred was elected to the Town Council: the first Liberal candidate to be returned to a council which for some year previously had consisted solely of Conservative members.
In 1874, Alfred was elected an Alderman.
In 1875, Alfred was elected Mayor of Beverley for 1875-76, holding the office through to 1878-79. He was the first Liberal Mayor for nineteen years.
In 1878, brothers Edmund and Alfred took over some of the assets of the Beverley Iron & Waggon Company.
In 1880, Edmund was elected Mayor of Beverley for 1880-81 holding the office through to 1882-83.
The 1881 census found married 51-year-old Beverley-born engineer Alfred Crosskill at the Salisbury Hotel, St. Bride, London. He was at the same hotel twenty years later, so maybe he made period trips to London, and this was his preferred hotel for his stay.
In 1881, William, son of Edmund, was a scholar boarding at Clifton Green House, Clifton, near York.
In 1881, William, father of Alfred and Edmund, aged 81, was living with his wife Sarah, aged 66, at Adelaide Terrace, Hull, and was employed as a “distributor of stampers”.
White's Directory of Hull, 1882, listed Alfred as a borough magistrate (JP).
On 09/07/1888, William (senior) died aged 89 (“distributor of stamps for the East Riding”).
Alfred’s wife must have died at some stage from 1881 to 1891, as the 1891 census listed 61-year-old agricultural implement maker Alfred Crosskill as a widower, living at Railway Street, Beverley, presumably 9 Railway Street.
On 31/10/1891, Edmund died at Lairgate. He was buried at St. Mary’s, Coronation Gardens. Edmund’s son William inherited Edmund’s share in the family business.
Bulmer’s directory of 1892 listed the following:
as a Borough Magistrate;
At some stage in the 1890s Alfred retired from work, selling his share in the family business to his nephew, William.
The 1901 census found Alfred once again at the Salisbury Hotel, London.
In December 1903, arrangements were initiated for the sale of family business to East Yorkshire Cart & Waggon Company, with Alfred managing the arrangements.
By 01/02/1904, Alfred completed the sale of the family business to East Yorkshire Cart & Waggon Company Ltd, which thereafter continued as the East Yorkshire and Crosskills Cart & Waggon Company, though that went into liquidation in 1914.
Economic fortunes varied, but a family business in one form or another was kept going almost throughout Alfred’s life, and the business was of major economic importance to Beverley, which fact was perhaps reflected by the father, William, and his sons, Alfred and Edmund, each being Mayor of Beverley at some stage.
Alfred resided for most of his adult life in Railway Road; White’s 1867 directory places him at number 7, but that may be a misprint as Kelly’s directories for 1872 and 1879 place him at number 9. Neither of the properties numbered 7 and 9 in Alfred’s day remain, having been replaced by modern properties, but the odd numbers from 13 upwards remain from Alfred’s day, and consist of a terrace of three-storey properties with classical-style columns either sides of the front doors, which open directly onto the street, with no front garden; Alfred’s house may have been similar.
Edmund’s address is listed in the directories mentioned for 1867, 1872 and 1879 as in Butchergate. Much property in Butchergate looks old enough to be from Edmund’s day, but it cannot be easily identified from the directories as they quote no house number. He appears to have moved later to Lairgate, as he died there and that’s where his widow lived in 1892.
Today the name of Crosskill House, Mill Lane, Beverley, HU17 9JB, commemorates the family.
On Thursday 05/05/1904, Alfred Crosskill died in the afternoon, at his home in Railway Street, being survived by a widow and son. The funeral service was held at Beverley Minster, at 3 p.m. on Monday 9th May, and the burial was in Queensgate Cemetery, Beverley, in the existing grave of Sarah, wife of Arthur Crosskill. Obituary in the Beverley Guardian of Sat 7th 1904, p.5, also apparently Beverley Independent.
In 1915, Edmund’s wife, Sarah, died and was interred in the same grave as Edmund.
The inscription on the grave of Alfred Crosskill reads:
WIFE OF Arthur Crosskill
WHO DIED NOV 30TH 1898 – AGED 35
ALSO OF ALFRED CROSSKILL
WHO DIED MAY 5TH 1904, AGED 75 YEARS.
He was most famous as an endgame analyst; he analysed endings such as queen v. rook, and rook and bishop v. rook. In 1864, Alfred published analysis claiming that a win with K+R+B versus K+R could require more than 50 moves (later supported by computer analysis), in Chess Player’s Magazine Vol. II, 1864, pp.305-311.
He is said to have been the user of pseudonym “Euclid”. It was apparently he who in 1895 published “King and Queen against King and Rook”, under the name “Euclid”.
Alfred’s chess activities didn’t seem to take him far out of Beverley. He does not seem to be recorded as participating in any chess tournaments, but played local matches for Hull Chess Club. On 18th December 1879 he played board 2 for Hull Chess Club against the (Hull) Church Institute. Record of a correspondence game in which he lost to the sometime Irish champion, P Rynd, exists. Edmund Thorold visited him, apparently, in 1873 and 1875; scores of games between them, played in Beverley, are preserved.
Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information