Yorkshire Chess History



Thomas Rayner Dawson











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



28/11/1889, Leeds


14/04/1890, Brunswick Chapel, Leeds


16/12/1951, Chelsham, Surrey



Non-Chess Life


26-year-old Henry Dawson, a commercial traveller of 16 Lascelles Terrace, Roundhay Road, Leeds, son of deceased boot manufacturer Peter Dawson, was married to 25-year-old Jane Rayner of 128 North Street, Leeds, daughter of deceased corn dealer William Rayner, at Brunswick Wesleyan Chapel, Leeds, by the minister, J. C. Wright, on 05/09/1888.  One of the witnesses was the bride’s chess-playing brother James Rayner.


Kelly's Directory of Leeds, 1888, listed Henry Dawson, plumber &c., at Robin Hood Yard between 24 and 25 Vicar Lane, Leeds.  It listed Mrs. Dawson (Henry’s mother) at 16 Lascelles Terrace.  This suggests a change of occupation.  26 Crawford Street, which is mentioned later, was occupied by a James Eilbeck.


The couple had at least the following four children, all born at Leeds:


Thomas Rayner Dawson

born 28/11/1889, Leeds

Florence Mary Dawson

born 1895/96

Lawrence Henry Dawson

born 1898/99

Harrie (or Harry) Dawson

born Sep/Oct 1900


Thomas Rayner Dawson was thus born in Leeds on 28/11/1889.  He was baptised on 14/04/1890 at Brunswick Wesleyan chapel, Leeds, by William J. Burrow.  The names of his parents as written in the baptism register appear to be Mary and Jane Dawson.  “Mary” seems quite clearly written, though could be an absent-minded copying of a mis-read “Harry” for Henry. The baptism register conveniently records his date of birth as 28/11/1889.  His address was given as 26 Crawford Street, Leeds.


White's Directory of Leeds & the Clothing District, 1894, Henry Dawson, plumber, at Robin Hood Yard.  (26 Crawford Street was occupied by a Henry Child.)


The death of Jane Dawson’s doubly widowed mother, Ann Brown, aged 60, was registered in the first quarter of 1895 at Leeds.


Jane Dawson’s brother, James Rayner, died on Saturday 4th June 1898, six weeks short of his 39th birthday.  It seems that at this stage Henry and Jane Dawson took over occupancy of 128 North Street, Leeds, and the running of the flour and corn business which had been run by Jane’s father and then her mother.


The death of Henry Dawson, aged 38 just as James Rayner had been when he died, was recorded at Leeds in the third quarter of 1900.  Jane Dawson had only recently become pregnant with their fourth child.  Jane was thus left to carry on the flour and corn business and raise four children.


The 1901 census found widowed 36-year-old Jane Dawson as a flour and corn dealer, and shopkeeper, at 128 North Street, Leeds, with her four children: 11-year-old Thomas Rayner Dawson, 5-year-old Florence Mary Dawson, 2-year-old Lawrence Henry Dawson, and 5-month-old Harrie Dawson.  (See below regarding the spelling of Harry/Harrie.)


The 1911 census for the first time involved householders completing census return themselves.  This gave added authority to the spelling of family members’ names etc.  The 1911 census return for 128 North Road, Leeds, was completed by Thomas Rayner Dawson on behalf of his mother, Jane Dawson.  44-year-old Jane Dawson was listed as a corn dealer and carting agent.  Unmarried 21-year-old Thomas listed himself as a “Student (Science & Chemistry)”.  12-year-old Lawrence Henry Dawson was listed as attending school.  Finally listed was 10-year-old “Harrie”, not shown as attending school yet.  We have to trust Thomas Rayner Dawson to spell the name of his brother correctly.


Thomas Rayner Dawson was in fact a student at Leeds University, where he graduated in 1913 with a first-class honours degree in chemistry.  He ended up with an M.Sc., and went on to append “F.R.I.C” and “F.I.R.I.” to his name.


In 1920 he married Louisa Drust Parish.  The marriage was registered at Goole in the second quarter of 1920.


In January 1922 he started working for the Research Association of British Rubber Manufacturers, which was founded in 1919, and was based in Croydon.  Presumably he left Yorkshire at this stage, if he had not done so already.  (The firm moved to Shawbury, Salop., 7 miles NE of Shrewsbury, in 1954.  Then in 1960 it added plastics to its remit, accordingly becoming the Rubber and Plastics Research Association.)


It seems his working life revolved around rubber, while his leisure time revolved around chess problems.




Probate records reveal that Thomas Rayner Dawson, of 31 Clyde Road, Addiscombe, Surrey, died on 16/12/1951 at Warlingham Park Hospital, Chelsham, Surrey.


Administration of his estate, with will, was granted to Louisa Dust Dawson, widow, and Dorothy Rayner Dawson, spinster.  He left effects of £5,203 7s.


Obituaries were carried by the British Chess Magazine, March 1951, the India-Rubber Journal, December 1951, and Fairy Chess Review, February 1952.




Thomas Rayner Dawson presumably played chess, but records of this are not to hand.


He was far better known as a chess problemist.  His first problem was apparently published in 1907, when he’d be about 18 years old.


About 85% of the problems he composed were “fairy” chess problems, which are ones involving non-standard chess pieces, rules etc, invented by problemists, such as pieces called “grasshoppers” etc.


His chess publishing and editing apparently spanned the period 1909 to his death in 1951.


A list of his activities and achievements in the world of chess problems can be found on the website of the British Chess Problem Society at






Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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

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