SHEFFIELD Chess History



Dr Charles Elam

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Sheffield Home







Made in Sheffield




17/05/1824, Birstall


21/03/1832, St. Peter’s, Birstall


09/07/1889, London


Family Life and Career


Charles Elam’s parents were schoolmaster George Elam and Mary Anne Elam, who had at least three children:

Judith Anne Elam

born 5th December 1819;

Elizabeth Miller Elam

born 22nd August 1821;

Charles Elam

born 17th May 1824, at Birstall, near Gomersal.


These three children were all baptised at St Peter’s, Birstall, on 21st March 1832.


In 1841, 17-year-old Charles was living in Birstall with 60-year-old Thomas Mitchell, his 50-year-old wife Mary, his 20-year-old son Walter, and 25-year-old daughter Mary.  There were also two servants in the household.  Thomas Mitchell and Walter Mitchell were both surgeons, and Charles seems to have been listed in the census as an apprentice surgeon.  He appears to have qualified as a medical doctor in London.


Charles Elam, MD, was listed at 7 Surrey Street, Sheffield, in White’s Sheffield directories dated 1849, 1852 and 1856, and Melville’s dated 1859.


Reference to him in the 1851 census is elusive, but by then he must have moved to Sheffield, as in 1851-52 he was president of the Medical Society of Sheffield and the Neighbourhood (founded 1841).  As at 1852, he was president of the Sheffield Medical Institution erected in 1829 on Surrey Street, which may be the same thing.


In 1854 he was appointed as a physician to the Sheffield Public Dispensary, along with chess-players John Charles Hall and Joseph Law.


In 1861 the census placed him, unmarried, with two servants, at 9 Surrey Street, Sheffield, describing him as “M.D. London, physician”.


On 19th September 1863, he married Helen Augusta Sa(u?)nderson, who was born 1838/39 in New York, USA.  The couple had three children born in Sheffield:

George Elam (junior)

born 1864/65;

Edward Saunderson Elam

born 1865/66;

Julia L (or Q) Elam

born 1866/67.


White’s Sheffield directory of 1862 listed him as one of the physicians at Sheffield’s General Infirmary.


He didn’t stay in Sheffield very long.  At some time from 1866 to 1871 he moved to London, taking up residence at 75 Harley Street, where he resided for rest of his life.


In London, Grace was added to the family in 1869/70.  Accordingly, the 1871 census found father, mother and four children living at 75 Harley Street, along with 4 servants.  By 1881, George and Edward had seemingly left home, though a niece of Charles, 22-year-old Judith M. Ibbotson, had joined the household, and the servants now numbered five.




Charles Elam died on 9th July 1889.  His will was proved in London, on 3rd August 1889, by his widow, Helen Augusta Elam, and two sons, George Elam and Edward Saunderson Elam, all three of 75 Harley Street, and Charles Goddard, solicitor.  His personal estate was initially £51,433 10s. 9d., but somebody must have found £4,420 somewhere, as it was re-sworn in October 1889 as £55,853 10s 9d.




In 1852 he was one of the three chess-playing doctors (John Charles Hall, Joseph Law and Charles Elam) who seem to have been members of the Lyceum Chess Club, Sheffield.  He was at that club when Howard Staunton visited it on 4th June 1852.


“Dr. Elam” is recorded as a Sheffield chess-player attending the West Yorkshire Chess Association meeting when it was held in Sheffield in 1863.





Steve Mann

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