Yorkshire Chess History
Ernest Richards Davy
Ernest R. Davy was son of Arthur Davy, founder of Arthur Davy and Sons, the provisions merchants. He is recorded as describing himself as being “from an old chess-playing family”. In 1886 he joined the family firm, the early history of which is described under Arthur Davy. After Arthur Davy’s death, Ernest Richards Davy and non-chess-playing older brother Arthur Cedric Davy continued running the family grocery business.
In 1924, Davy’s opened a shop at 8 & 9 Frenchgate, Doncaster. This shop traded until it closed on Saturday 24th June 1961. It was being sold to for demolition to the Arndale Trust who wanted it as part of the site for building Doncaster’s Arndale Centre, now known as the Frenchgate Centre (1).
Some time from 1927 to 1936 a second Doncaster shop was opened at 15 Scot Lane, Doncaster. This continued to operate after the Frenchgate branch had closed.
A Davy’s shop was opened in Chesterfield sometime from 1922 to 1925 at 38 Burlington Street. This lasted to about 1965 or 1966, when Jas. Woodhouse, furnishings, moved into the premises.
Sometime from 1922 to 1925 a branch was opened at 28 Bridge Street, Worksop; by 1932 this had moved to purpose-built premises at 44 Bridge Street, where the initials “ADS” can still be seen on the façade. These premises were occupied at the time of writing by Betfred.
By 1924 Davy’s had 16 shops and 2 cafés in Sheffield and district (2).
Capital was raised in 1932 by the issue of Preference Shares (2).
1932 saw the opening of new purpose-built premises in Rotherham. The building replaced what had previously been 16, 18 and 20 College Street. This is the building occupied above ground floor by Malcolm Foy, solicitors and overlooks what is now All Saints’ Square, with the church steps to the right. This building echoes the style of Davy Buildings in Fargate, Sheffield, in being adorned by carvings of animals’ heads. However, whereas in Fargate the animals’ heads are fairly realistic, those overlooking College Street are more in the nature of grotesques: more carnivorous-looking than herbivorous. The All Saints’ Square frontage bears the date “1932” and the single initial “D” for Davy.
The present building at 21 Haymarket, Sheffield, is a 1930’s rebuild (3), now occupied, at ground level at least, by Jack Fulton. To the right is a door clearly labelled as 21 Haymarket. Moving one’s gaze vertically upwards from the door, following the staircase tower, one finds the letters “ADS” with “Ltd” underneath. The initials are of course those of Arthur Davy and Sons for whom the premises were built. This was the location of Davy’s “Mikado Cafe”.
End of the Firm as a Family Concern
Arthur Cedric Davy JP - he’d become a magistrate in 1935 - died on 4th December 1945, and Ernest Richards Davy died 28th January 1951.
By 1951 about 25 more shops had been added to the business, but its days as a family-run business were by then numbered.
In 1958 the remaining members of the family sold their ordinary shares to Associated British Foods Ltd, though the firm continued trading and expanding as before.
The Final Phase
By 1965 the firm had over 1,000 employees (2). The firm was one of those with the practice of presenting a gold watch to employees completing 25 years of service. 123 such watches were presented from 1962 to1965 (2).
About a further 20 shops were added from 1952 to 1969, including another outside Sheffield, at 55 Chesterfield Road, Dronfield, on the way from Sheffield to Chesterfield. Some branches closed over the years, other new ones nearby taking over in some cases. About 40 more shops opened up by 1974, including another outside Sheffield, at 7 Market Street, Penistone, but about 1974 the firm was sold – to United Biscuit according to one source.
By 1974, the firm or some of its branches seem to have been taken over by Sunblest Bakeries (Sheffield) Ltd., and the name “Davy” completely disappeared from our streets as that of a grocery shop or cafe, except for the architectural evidence already described.
In his youth he played cricket for Sheffield United in the Yorkshire League, and his services to Yorkshire cricket were recognised in 1925 by his being appointed as a member of the committee of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club, to replace Frank Atkin who had died.
Ernest Richards Davy died 28th January 1951. He was survived by his wife Beatrice.
Ernest shared his father’s interest in chess. He was for many years president of the Sheffield and District Chess Association, but held various other such posts as well. Batley listed the posts E. R. Davy held in 1937 as including those of:
president of the Sheffield Chess Association
president of Sheffield Chess Club
· vice-president of the Yorkshire Chess Association,
· vice-president of the Sheffield Works Sports Association Chess Section.
In 1909 he donated to the Association the Davy Trophy, in memory of his father, for the inter-club team competition from which today’s league has developed. Hitherto there had been no such trophy.
On its front the Davy Trophy is inscribed:
Sheffield Chess Association
The “Davy” Challenge Trophy
On the base is the inscription:
Presented by Mr. Ernest R. Davy, in memory of his father
In 1937 (Thursday prior 20th Feb 1937) he donated to the Sheffield Works Sports Association the Davy Cup for their team knock-out competition.
(1) Doncaster Chronicle, Thursday
22nd June 1961, p. 3; and
(2) Sheffield Spectator, vol. 1, no. 7, October 1965, pp. 34-35, Sheffield Local Studies Library, 052.74 SQ.
(3) Pevsner Architectural Guides: Sheffield, Ruth Harman and John Minnis, Yale University Press, 2004
Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann
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