Yorkshire Chess History



Robert Gregson











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



1824/25, Manchester




07/06/1902, Bradford




Identity of the Chess-Player


Chess-players called “R. Gregson” or more specifically “Robert Gregson” pop up first in Manchester, then in Leeds and then in Bradford.  The ubiquity of the name Robert Gregson in the Manchester area means without further information the Manchester player would not be easily identified.  (At least five people called Robert Gregson are buried in Tonge Cemetery alone.)  However, there is one Robert Gregson whose appearances in successive censuses exactly match the appearances of the chess-players, making it clear the chess-related appearances are of this single Robert Gregson.


Non-Chess Life


Identifying the appropriate birth record from among the various possible candidates is not possible without chess-sourced information on the subject.  Equally, pinning down the right Robert Gregson in the 1841 census is too difficult.  By 1851, he might have been isolatable in the census, but people of that name seem remarkably few in the census of that year.


There was a Robert Gregson who married Mary Ann Taylor in Manchester in 1850.  This is the marriage record best-fitting the chess-player.  Mary Ann Taylor was a common enough name in Manchester, so cross-checking is difficult.


The first certain census sighting is in that of 1861, where 36-year-old Robert Gregson appears as a master tool-maker, and iron foundry master, employing 55 men and seven boys, living at Mills Hill, Tonge, in the parish of St Michael.  Mills Hill appears to be in Chadderton, to the west of Oldham, now in Greater Manchester.  “Tonge Hall” is in Middleton slightly further to the west, as is St Michael’s church.  (This was thus not the Tonge in Bolton.)  He is found living with “36”-year-old (really 30) Manchester-born wife, Mary Ann Gregson, 2-year-old Tonge-born daughter Mary Ann Collier Gregson, a live-in nurse and a domestic servant.  They were receiving visitors Henry Cockbain and Mary Elizabeth Cockbain (née Moxon, married Oldham, 1858).


The 1871 census found 46-year-old Robert Gregson, his 40-year-old wife, and 12-year-old daughter (now a scholar) still living at Mills Hill, Tonge, now with just one domestic servant.  Robert was in the same line of business except that brass now featured in his foundry.


At some time from 1871 to 1877 (on the basis of chess records), the family moved to Leeds.


Kelly’s West Riding directory dated 1881 listed:

Gregson Robert, 16 Spencer terrace, Louis street, New Leeds.


The 1881 census found 56-year-old Robert Gregson, his 50-year-old wife, his 22-year-old daughter, a boarder and a domestic servant living at 16 Spencer Terrace, Louis Street, Potternewton, Leeds, though nearer what is now the Sheepscar area than “Potternewton” might suggest.  Robert was now a coal merchant, while daughter Mary Ann C. Gregson was a high school teacher.


At some time from 1884 (on the basis of chess records) to 1887, the Gregson family moved to Bradford.


The 1887 Bradford Post Office directory listed Robert Gregson as a coal merchant operating from the Great Northern coal depot in Manchester Road, Bradford, and living at 14 Cunliffe Terrace, Manningham, Bradford.


The Gregson family is not immediately obvious in the 1891 census, but the 1891 Bradford Post Office directory listed Robert Gregson, coal merchant, working from the Great Northern coal depot, and residing at “Penrhyn”, Emm Lane, Bradford


The 1901 census found 76-year-old Robert and his 70-year-old wife now living in Bradford without their daughter, but with unmarried Manchester-born 57-year-old niece Hannah Gregson, and two servants, one a cook and the other a seamstress.  Robert was still a coal merchant.




Robert Gregson died in Bradford on 07/06/1902, and wife Mary Ann Gregson died a week later on 14/06/1902.  Their daughter was executor of both their wills.




An “R Gregson” attended the 1852 meeting of the original Yorkshire Chess Association, in Hull, and it’s probable that this was Mancunian Robert Gregson visiting along with more-notable Manchester players.  By 1864 or earlier he was a member of Manchester Chess Club and remained so, it seems, until some point in the mid-1870s.


Among matches he’s recorded as playing in for Leeds are those against Bradford in 1877, against Manchester Athenaeum in 1879, and against Hull Church Institute in 1882.


R Gregson of Leeds attended the WYCA meetings of 1878 and 1884.  “N” Gregson of Leeds attended the WYCA meeting of 1879, which was presumably him.  “Gregson” of Bradford attended the WYCA meeting of 1889, this also presumably being him.





Copyright © 2017 Stephen John Mann

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

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