Yorkshire Chess History
Identity of the Chess-Player
“W. Gregory” was both a notable player and administrator in Sheffield Chess between the World Wars, being on occasion Sheffield Chess Champion, and leading player in Sheffield’s Woodhouse Cup team of which he was captain for some time . His name is not uncommon, and identifying the right “W. Gregory”, with reasonable certainty, could be difficult. Bill Batley records that W. Gregory came from an Ecclesfield family which combined interest in music and chess, and that part of his early youth was spent in Ireland and in Hull. He also records his involvement in the cutlery industry. Together, this information enables us to identify the correct “W. Gregory”.
There was a Walter Gregory born in 1879/80, at Ecclesfield, to John Gregory, a table-fork grinder, born 1852/53 at Ecclesfield, and Jane Gregory, born 1855/56 at Ecclesfield. Following through his census records indicates that this is our man.
In 1891 he was a scholar living with his parents and three younger siblings in Lower Ecclesfield. In 1901 he had become an engine fitter and general turner, living with his parents and five younger siblings at Albion Terrace, Ecclesfield. The period in Ireland may have been at some time from 1901 to 1909.
In 1909, in Ecclesfield, he had married Alice Fleetwood (born 03/02/1883, Ecclesfield).
White's Directory of Sheffield & Rotherham, 1911 (probably reflecting 1910 data) listed Walter Gregory as a penknife manufacturer involved managerially in a firm trading under the name of John Edward Gregory, and living at 32 Ratcliffe Road, Sheffield. White's Directory of Sheffield & Rotherham, 1905, had listed John Edward Gregory, pen- and pocket-knife manufacturer, working at Smith’s Works, Sydney Street, Sheffield, and living at 32 Ratcliffe Street; but this directory didn’t mention Walter.
The 1911 census found Walter, wife Alice and Hull-born one-month-old daughter Eileen living at 180 Newland Avenue, Hull. Walter described himself in the census return as a “musician (theatre)”, while he recorded wife Alice as working on her own account from home as a milliner. The family was at the time being visited by Walter’s twenty-six-year-old sister-in-law Eleanor Allott, and his four-year-old niece Doris Fleetwood Allott.
The eponymous John Edward Gregory was born around February 1841 (since aged 3 months as at 6th June 1841), a son of John and Ann Gregory, resident in 1841 in Granville Street, Sheffield. He became a spring-knife cutler in Sheffield. He’s likely to have been an uncle or the like of our man, though the actual connection isn’t immediately clear. In 1891, John Edward Gregory had a 14-year-old nephew called Walter living with him and his sister, but this Walter doesn’t fit the information we have on our Walter.
This John Edward Gregory died during Jan-Mar 1910, aged 68. His death may have resulted in Walter being summoned from Hull in about 1911 to take over the reins at the Sydney Street penknife factory. Thus the 1911 directory listed Walter Gregory living where John Edward Gregory had previously lived, and being associated with his pen- and pocket-knife business. White’s 1912 directory re-iterates the situation described by the 1911 directory. Then, however, White’s 1913 directory no longer listed the business of John Edward Gregory at Smith’s works, though Walter continued to be listed as resident at 32 Ratcliffe Street, without any stated connection with a cutlery concern.
In 1913, daughter Alice was born, in Sheffield.
Walter himself then seems to have disappeared from the directories, apparently being absent from White’s directory of 1915. This is another period when our man may have been in Ireland. He reappears, however, in White’s directory of 1919-20, wherein Walter was listed as living at High Greave, Ecclesfield, and is listed as a cutlery manufacturer involved in Gregory and Co. of 7 Cambridge Street, Sheffield. How closely Gregory & Co was connected with the earlier firm of John Edward Gregory is unclear, but it continued functioning right through to Walter’s death, and possibly beyond.
There was a “Mr. W. Greaves” who was a churchwarden at St. Mary’s Parish Church, Ecclesfield, from 1920/21 through to 1943/44. This may well have been the local chess-player of that name.
The firm of Gregory & Co. moved from 7 Cambridge Street to 57-59 Eyre Street at some time from 1923 (when at Cambridge Street in Kelly’s directory) to 1933 (when at Eyre Street in Kelly’s directory). Kelly’s directory of 1939 shows it had become a limited company at some time from 1933 to 1939, under the name “Gregory & Co., Cutlers (Sheffield) Ltd”. There seems also to have been a shift at some stage from penknives and the like to table-knives.
Kelly’s Sheffield directory of 1933 detailed Walter’s address more specifically as 201 High Greave, Ecclesfield. In 1948, Kelly’s directory gave his address as The Poplars, Townfields, Ecclesfield. Walter himself was then described as director of the cutlery firm.
The 1951 directory repeated the same information as in 1948. Then, at some stage from 1951 to 1957, Walter moved to 27 Creswick Lane, Grenoside. The1957 directory continuing to list the cutlery firm, and showed that High Greave, Ecclesfield, continued to be occupied by people called Gregory, with Ernest Gregory at 197 High Greave, Mrs Elizabeth Gregory at 203, and Stephen Gregory at 215.
Walter Gregory died in Sheffield’s Royal Hospital on 23/09/1957, at the age of 77. He was buried in Ecclesfield Cemetery, plot 2295, on 28/09/1957. Wife Alice died on 18/03/1973, in Eccl0esfield, aged 90, and was buried in the same grave, as was daughter Joyce who died 29/03/1994, aged 80. (For an image of the headstone see here.)
He’d picked up chess around the age of ten, by watching his father playing chess with friends, but it wasn’t until he returned to Sheffield, in about 1911, that he had the opportunity to devote much time to chess. He joined the YMCA Chess Club, and had some success in internal competitions.
Rather like Walter Parrat of Huddersfield, Walter Gregory came from a family which combined pursuit both of chess-playing and of music. Because he held positions as a violinist in theatre orchestras, he tended not to be able to commit himself to match play. He also had the cutlery business to run.
Round about 1925 he gave up his involvement in theatre orchestras. Although he maintained some musical activity and still had a cutlery firm to run, he had greater opportunity to play in chess matches. He became both captain and a leading player at Sheffield YMCA, and in 1927-28 and 1928-29 he played for Sheffield II in the I M Brown Shield competition. In 1929 he became a member of Sheffield’s Woodhouse Cup team, taking over the captaincy from 1932-33 onwards.
He won the Sheffield Championship in 1929, then again in 1934. On each occasion W Batley was his opponent in the final. On the second occasion the finalists scored two draws before Walter managed to win the third game and thereby regain the title. The games were as follows.
Sheffield Championship 1923-24, Sheffield; final round, game 1
White: Batley, William, Black: Gregory, Walter
1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nf6 3. cxd5 Qxd5 4. Nc3 Qd8 5. e4 e6 6. Be3 Nbd7 7. Rc1 c6 8. Nf3 Be7 9. Bd3 Ng4 10. Bf4 a6 11. O-O Nf6 12. Qc2 h6 13. Rfe1 Nh5 14. Be3 Bg5 15. Nxg5 hxg5 16. Qd2 e5 17. Bxg5 f6 18. Be3 exd4 19. Bxd4 c5 20. Be3 Ne5 21. Be2 b6 22. Qxd8+ Kxd8 23. Rad1+ Ke8 24. Rd6 Rb8 25. h3 Nf7 26. Rd5 g5 27. Rd1 Bb7 28. Nd5 Bxd5 29. Rxd5 Ke7 30. Red1 Ne5 31. a3 Nf4 32. Bxf4 gxf4 33. f3 Rhg8 34. Kh2 Rg3 35. Bf1 Rbg8 36. Kh1 c4 37. R5d2 b5 38. Rd6 Nd3 39. Bxd3 cxd3 40. R6xd3 Rxg2 41. Rd7+ Ke6 42. R7d6+ Ke7 drawn by perpetual check, ½-½
Sheffield Championship 1923-24, Sheffield; final round, game 2
White: Gregory, Walter, Black: Batley, William
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. Nd2 Nf6 9. Ne5 Nc6 10. c3 Bd6 11. f4 Ne7 12. Qc2 c5 13. Nf3 c4 14. Be2 Bf5 15. Qd1 Ng6 16. h3 Bxe5 17. fxe5 Ne4 18. Qe1 Qe7 19. g4 Be6 20. Bxc4 Qd7 21. Nh2 f6 22. exf6 Nxf6 23. Bd3 Re8 24. Qg3 Ne4 25. Bxe4 dxe4 26. Be3 Qb5 27. b3 Qa5 28. c4 Bd7 29. Qe1 Qc7 30. Kg2 Qd6 31. Qg3 Qa3 32. Rf2 Rxf2+ 33. Qxf2 Rf8 34. Qd2 Qd6 35. Rf1 Nh4+ 36. Kh1 Rxf1+ 37. Nxf1 Nf3 38. Qf2 h5 39. Qg3 Qxg3 40. Nxg3 hxg4 41. hxg4 Bxg4 42. Nxe4 Nxd4 43. Kh2 Nc6 44. Kg3 Bh5 45. a3 Bg6 46. Nd2 Kf8 47. b4 a6 48. Nb3 Bf7 49. Nd2 Ke7 50. Kf4 Ke6 agreed drawn, ½-½
Sheffield Championship 1923-24, Sheffield; final round, game 3
White: Batley, William, Black: Gregory, Walter
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be3 O-O 6. Bd3 e5 7. d5 Ng4 8. Qd2 Nxe3 9. Qxe3 f5 10. Nf3 f4 11. Qd2 Nd7 12. O-O-O a5 13. Be2 Nc5 14. Qc2 Bd7 15. h4 h6 16. h5 g5 17. Nh2 Qc8 18. Rdf1 Na6 19. Qd1 Nc5 20. Bf3 a4 21. Re1 Rf7 22. Kb1 b6 23. Bg4 Bxg4 24. Nxg4 Qa6 25. Nb5 Qa5 26. Rh3 Qb4 27. Na3 f3 28. Rxf3 Rxf3 29. gxf3 Nd3 30. Re2 Nxb2 31. Rxb2 Qxa3 32. Ne3 Rf8 33. Nf5 Rxf5 34. exf5 e4 35. Qe2 Qxb2+ 36. Qxb2 Bxb2 37. Kxb2 exf3 38. Kc3 Kf7 39. Kd4 Kf6 40. Ke4 a3 and wins, 0-1
mainly those explicitly stated, and a biographical article by Bill Batley in the Yorkshire Telegraph & Star of 28/04/1934.
Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information