Yorkshire Chess History



Henry Ralph Francis











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



11/07/1811, Marylebone, London


09/08/1811, St. Mary-le-bone


10/06/1900, Bath, Somerset



Variously reported in the press of the day as M. E. Francis or M. R. Francis, Henry Ralph Francis takes a little time to pin down.  Fortunately he is recorded as principal of Kingston College, Hull, and so we know from the 1841 census and Venn that the gentleman concerned was Henry Ralph Francis with initials persistently misread by compositors.


Non-Chess Life


Henry Ralph Francis was the third [2] son of Philip Francis and his wife, Elizabeth Jane Francis.  He was born on 11/07/1811, Marylebone [1, 2], and was baptised on 09/08/1811 at St. Mary-le-bone by the Rev. John Webster Hawksley [1].  His parents had at least four children as follows:


the first son (name?)


John George Francis

born c. 1809

Elizabeth Francis

born 1809/10, Cheshire

Henry Ralph Francis

born 11/07/1811, Marylebone, London


He went to school at Brentford, and from there was admitted as a pensioner to at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and matriculated in Michaelmas 1829.  His family around this time lived at Ranelagh House, Fulham, Middlesex.  He got his BA in 1834. He was a fellow from 07/04/1835 to March 1839.  He got his MA in 1837. [2, 3]


On 11/04/1839 Henry Ralph Francis married Beata Lloyd Jones of Plâs Madoc, Denbighshire [2] (born 1806/07, Marylebone, Middlesex [1851 census]).


Jane E Francis

born 1838/38, Sculcoates, Hull

Philip Francis

born Jun/Jul 1840, Sculcoates, Hull

Beata Francis

born 1842/43, Sculcoates, Hull

Philip Henry Francis

born 1844/45, Hurley, Berks.

Augustus Lawrence Francis

born 16/01/1848 [2], Hurley, Berks


Kingston College on Beverley Road, Hull, was built of red brick to a design by H. F. Lockwood in 1836-37, and was opened on 31/07/1837.  Henry Ralph Francis was principal of Kingston College from 1839 to 1843 [2].  Presumably he was the second to hold the post.


The 1841 census conveniently caught the Francis family while it was briefly in Hull.  Henry, his wife Beata, and first two children, 2-year-old Jane and 11-month-old Philip, were resident at Kingston College, Beverley Road, Hull, where the father was the college principal.


In 1843 the family moved to Hurley-on-Thames, Berkshire, where he worked as a private tutor, taking some residential pupils.  This period of private tuition ran through to 1855 [2].


During this period at Hurley, Henry Ralph Francis was admitted to the Inner Temple on 03/06/1844, and went on to be called to the bar on 28/01/1848 [2].


The 1851 census found the family of parents, five offspring, six resident private pupils (of whom one was a nephew), and six servants, living at Hurley House, Hurley, Berks.  Father Henry was described as a barrister not practising at present, engaged in private tuition, M.A. Cantab.  His wife was named “Elizabeth” on this occasion.


For two years from 1856 he studied under F O Haynes, a well-known lecturer in Equity [3].


At some stage from 1851 to 1862 his wife, Beata (aka Elizabeth) must have died, which may have been the reason in part for his decision to emigrate to Australia to practise law, or she may have died in Australia.  He had a fair prior idea of life in Australia from friends he had living there.


The Francis family arrived in Sydney on 11/08/1858. [3]


He was admitted to the New South Wales Bar on 27/08/1859.  Legal posts he held were as follows [3]:



Judge of the District Courts for the Northern District of New South Wales


Chairman of the Northern District Quarter Sessions


Judge of the District Courts for the South‑Western District of New South Wales


Chairman of the South-Western District Quarter Sessions


Much travel was involved in his work as a judge.  His estimates of the distance he travelled per year amounted to anything from 3,000 to 5,000 miles. [3]


On 11/02/1862 he married Anne Cooke (born 1817/18, Cheshire), daughter of Rev. Joseph Cooke D.D., late of Newark-on-Trent. [2]


He was active in the promotion of the National Mutual Life Association of Australia from its formation in 1869, and went on to become a director of it. [3]


Besides pursuing the day job, he wrote newspaper articles and poems for the Sydney Morning Herald. [3]


From 1871 his health became a problem.  He took a period of unpaid recuperative leave in Tasmania from 11/12/1871, and took subsequent periods of unpaid leave:25/01/1872-19/04/1872, 17/05/1872-08/07/1872, and 09/08/1872-19/10/1872.  He took 12 months’ leave in 1873, taking the opportunity to pay a visit to England. [3]


In 1874 he resumed his legal posts, but he took a final period of unpaid leave due to “family problems” and ill-health from 09/01/1875 to his retirement date, 07/06/1875, whereupon he returned to England for good. [3]  (Venn incorrectly gives his tenure of Australian legal posts as running to 1883.)


The 1881 census found 69-year-old Henry and 63-year-old Anne living with Henry’s unmarried sister Elizabeth and two servants at 6 Milner Terrace, Cadogan Square, London.  Henry had no stated occupation, being merely credited with his M.A.


The 1891 census found Henry and Anne living with seven servants at 5 Montpellier Square, Westminster, London.  Henry was described as a retired barrister and writer for the press, and, seemingly, as a “school occasional examiner”, though the writing wasn’t very clear.


Probate records appear to imply that Henry Ralph Francis moved at some time to 13 Pulteney Street, Bath, but if that is so then it was for so short a period of time that he was never recorded in the annual directories.  The 1899 Bath directory listed Miss Worthing, a lodging house keeper, at 13 Pulteney Street, with a George Carpenter lodging there.  Other directories of the period, earlier and later, listed Miss Worthing there, usually also George Carpenter, but never Henry Ralph Francis.


Pulteney Street, erected 1789-1792 to designs of architect Thomas Baldwin and others (according to the plaque), is not shown on modern street maps of Bath because it was renamed “Great Pulteney Street” around 1973.  Numbers 13 to 15 are now the Carfax Hotel, with the door to number 14 serving as front entrance, and the doors to numbers 13 and 15 replaced with windows and the typical painted numbers “13” and “15” erased from stones above the doorways.


Henry Ralph Francis liked fishing, and besides contributing articles on the subject to magazines, and contributing to the book on fishing in the Badminton series, he wrote a book Thames Trout Fishing.  A more obscurely-title book he wrote was 'Junius' revealed, by his surviving grandson.




Henry Ralph Francis “of 13 Pulteney Street, Bath,” died on 10/06/1900.  Probate was granted to Philip Francis, civil servant, and Augustus Lawrence Francis, headmaster.  His effects totalled £666 3s. 4d.  [4]


His passing seems not to have been noted by either the Bath Herald or the Bath Weekly Chronicle.


His place and date of death suggest he may have been buried near Edmund Thorold and the Rev. Edward Pelham Pierpoint in Bath’s Locksbrook Cemetery.




During his brief residence in Yorkshire he attended two of the annual meetings of the Yorkshire Chess Association, those of 1842 and 1843.


At the 1842 YCA meeting, at Halifax, he was one of those serving as vice-presidents, which was more an honour than a function.


At the 1843 YCA meeting, at Huddersfield, he played a number of games the results of which are known.  Against Marmaduke Wyvill he played two and lost two, which is excusable.  Against “Dodson” of Nottingham, presumably one of that town’s stronger players, he played three games and won all three.  Against Robert Cadman of Leeds, who was in time to prove one of Yorkshire’s strongest players of the day, he played three games, winning two and losing one.  In all that suggests he was reasonably strong by amateur standards.





1 St Marylebone baptism register

2 Venn

3 New South Wales government on-line records at http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Entity.aspx?Path=%5CPerson%5C193

4 Probate records





Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann

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

Last Updated