Yorkshire Chess History



Walter Grimshaw











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



12/03/1832, Dewsbury


02/09/1832, Rawdon


27/12/1890, Whitby


30/12/1890, Larpool Cemetery, Whitby




Walter Grimshaw was born on 12/03/1832 to James Grimshaw (born 1797/98, Daventry, Northants.) and Mary Grimshaw (born 1803, Guiseley, Yorks.).  His place of birth was given in censuses as Dewsbury.


James and Mary appear to have been a couple married at Guiseley parish church, on 29/11/1824.  This James Grimshaw was resident at the time in Rawdon, spelt “Rawden” in earlier times but becoming “Rawdon” at about this time, while the bride, Mary Hague, was resident in Horsforth.  Rawdon was then a township in the parish of Guiseley, about two-and-a-half miles SE of Guiseley itself..  Although he was born in Daventry, James’s residence in Rawdon and the fact that most of his children were baptised in Rawdon, suggest the family regarded its “roots” as being around Rawdon.


There have been numerous Grimshaws in Yorkshire and Lancashire.  There had been Grimshaws in and around Rawdon since the mid-1600s.  In the past, a number of Grimshaws around Rawdon were Quakers, and consequently some fell foul of the religious intolerance of the law in the second half of the 17th century.  Walter seems not to have had any strong religious inclinations, and there seems no evidence of a Quaker connection between this Grimshaw family and Rawdon.


James and Mary had at least the following eight children:


Edwin Grimshaw,

born 1825, Rawdon;
baptised 01/01/1826, St. Peter’s, Rawdon.

Elizabeth Grimshaw,

born 1828, Silkstone;
baptised 06/07/1828, St. Peter’s, Rawdon.

George Grimshaw,

born 1830, Dewsbury
baptised 12/08/1830, St. Peter’s, Rawdon.

Walter Grimshaw,

born 12/03/1832, Dewsbury;
baptised 02/09/1832, St. Peter’s, Rawdon.

Harriet Grimshaw,

born 1835, Dewsbury

baptised 27/09/1835, St. Peter’s, Rawdon.

Emma Grimshaw (1),

born Jan/Feb 1837, Cleckheaton,

baptised 02/07/1837, St. Peter’s, Rawdon;

buried 16/09/1837, St. John’s, Cleckheaton.

Mary Ann Grimshaw,

born 20/05/1838, Cleckheaton;

baptised 17/06/1838, Cleckheaton.

Emma Grimshaw (2),

born 17/11/1841, Hightown, Liversedge,
baptised 20/03/1842 , St. Peter’s, Rawdon.


When James Grimshaw reached Rawdon is unclear, but he’d evidently moved there by 1824.  Baines’s History, Directory & Gazetteer of Yorkshire, Vol. I: West Riding, 1822, listed in Rawden (the older spelling) a Samuel Grimshaw under “Grocers &c”, and a Samuel Grimshaw (the same?) under “Woollen Manufacturers”.  No record of James appeared under Rawden.


The children’s baptismal records provide a way of tracing the family’s subsequent wanderings around some of the smaller towns of the West Riding of Yorkshire.  They also track the father’s changes in occupation.  Despite the family’s peregrinations, most baptisms took place at St. Peter’s, Rawdon.  These Rawdon baptisms were all conducted by the Rev. A. Ibbotson.  White’s Leeds & Clothing District Directory, 1830, mentions “Ibbotson Rev. A. gents bdg school” [gentlemen’s boarding school?] at Rawdon.


On 01/01/1825, the father was a maltster resident at Rawdon.  There is a link between the business of a maltster, brewing, and inn-keeping.  It is not so surprising then to find that on 06/07/1828 the father was an innkeeper resident at Silkstone, about seven miles west of Barnsley, and now in South Yorkshire.  Thereafter the father remained an innkeeper by occupation, but still moved about geographically.


In 1829, give or take a year, the family moved to Dewsbury, where on 12/08/1830, 02/09/1832 and 27/09/1835 baptismal records report him to have been an inn-keeper in Dewsbury, about two-and-a-half miles SE of Liversedge.  White’s Leeds & Clothing District Directory, 1830, seems not to list any Grimshaws in Dewsbury.


In 1836, give or take a year, the family moved to Cleckheaton, where the father was recorded as an inn-keeper on 02/07/1837 and 20/05/1838.  It was at Cleckheaton that the first Emma died at the age of only seven months and was buried on 16/09/1837 at St. John’s, Cleckheaton, by John Seaton, who also baptised Mary Ann there on 20/05/1838.


In 1840, give or take two years, the family moved to Liversedge, where the father was recorded as being an inn-keeper at High Town, Liversedge, as at 20/03/1842.


The Grimshaws at Liversedge


At some time from mid-1838 to early 1841 the family moved to Liversedge, a township in the parish of Birstall, about ten miles south of Rawdon.  Liversedge remained the focal point of the family for decades thereafter.


Liversedge is a smallish community which many will not have heard of, roughly in the centre of the modern West Yorkshire, with roads radiating to bigger places which people are more likely to have heard of; to the SW the A62 leads to Huddersfield, to the WNW the A649 leads to Halifax, to the NW the A638 leads to Bradford, to the NE the A62 leads to Leeds, and to the SE the A638 leads through Dewsbury to Wakefield.


Liversedge consisted of the villages of Hightown, Littletown, Mill-Bridge and Robert-Town.  As the population increased, the Heights and the Smithies sprang into existence.


The 1841 census listed the members of the family in Hightown, Liversedge, as father James (“Jas”), mother Mary, and children Edwin (“Ed’n”), Elizabeth, George, Walter and Harriet.   The census describes James as an inn-keeper, but he was elsewhere described at this time as also being a farrier, which would tie in with keeping an inn with attached stables 28.


White’s Directory of Leeds & the Clothing District, 1842, listed “Grimshaw Jas., White Hart, High Town (and farrier)” as well a listing “Parr Thomas, White Hart, Little Town”, illustrating the existence of two White Harts in Liversedge.


The inn which James kept was thus the White Hart, High Town, Liversedge, which is not to be confused with the White Hart Inn, Littletown, Liversedge.  Hightown is just over a mile from the centre of Liversedge, along the Halifax road.  A certain William Hammond is recorded in 1828 and 1830 as running the White Hart at High Town.  White’s Leeds & Clothing District Directory, 1830, listed one David Smith as running the White Hart at High Town. The White Hart seems no longer to exist as an inn or public house by that name, though there are buildings which could formerly have been the White Hart.


The 1851 census described James living in Liversedge, with no further detail of the address, with wife Mary, second son George, Mary Ann and the second Emma.  Curiously, inn-keeping was not mentioned, James and George both being described as veterinary surgeons.  The girls were scholars.  As described below, Edwin and Elizabeth were in Snaith, while Walter was in York, and Harriet was in Huddersfield.


The 1861 census found James, a veterinary surgeon and innkeeper, his wife Mary, son George, also a veterinary surgeon and innkeeper, widowed daughter Mary A Jackson, and 7-year-old grandson James Pheasant.  (James’s place of birth was given as York, rather than the more plausible Snaith quoted in 1871.)  The address (on Halifax Road) was given as “1566 High Town”.


Deaths of the Parents


The family’s mother, Mary, died on 24/07/1862, and was interred at Liversedge parish church on 28/07/1862.  Barely two years later, on 31/05/1864, the father, James, died and was interred in the same grave at Liversedge on 03/06/1864.  The grave inscription reads as follows:





DIED JULY 24TH 1862 ;



DIED MAY 31ST 1864 ;






(Click here for a photograph of the grave.)


Dispersal of the Family


Sons Edwin and Walter left home fairly early on, to seek their fortunes in the world outside Liversedge, but George remained at the focal point of the family, the White Hart Inn, 1566 Halifax Road, Hightown, Liversedge, and took over the family business after his parents died.  The daughters for the most part were in time taken under the wings of their brothers until they found husbands or died.


Edwin became a veterinary surgeon in and around Snaith, taking in sister Elizabeth until she married.


Walter, after serving an apprenticeship in York, became a pawnbroker in Whitby, where he appears to have been joined by Harriet, perhaps as a housekeeper, but she died at Whitby in 1856.  After that, Emma appears to have joined Walter in Whitby for a while, but she then got married.  Mary seems have joined Walter after the death of his first wife, presumably to help look after his son, but she died in Whitby in 1869.


Fuller details of Walter’s siblings appear in Walter Grimshaw’s Relatives.


Walter Grimshaw in York


In time Walter moved to York, though why he should be drawn to York is unclear, though there were Grimshaws resident in York at the time, who may have been related.


Walter seems to have moved to York by 1850, as The Chess Player’s Chronicle of 1850 and 1851 published a number of chess problems attributed to a W. Grimshaw of York.  Walter was listed in the 1851 census as a 19-year-old living at 57 Lady Peckitt’s Yard, York (click here for photographs of Lady Peckitt’s Yard), in the household of pawnbroker John Wood (born 1795/96), his wife Grace (born 1805/06), son Henry (born 1831/32), daughter Mary (born 1833/34), daughter Eliza (born 1837/38) and son John (born 1839/40).  In due course Walter was seemingly to marry Mary Wood.  Walter’s relationship to John Wood was stated as “servant”, and his trade was described as “app.” [apprentice] pawnbroker.


White’s History, Gazetteer and Directory of the East and North Ridings, 1840, had listed John Wood at Lady Peckitt’s Yard, 27 Pavement, York, as his residence, and under “Pawnbrokers” it listed his business premises as at Church Lane, 28 Spurrier Gate, and Lady Peckitt’s Yard.


White’s General Directory of Kingston-upon-Hull, and York, 1851 lists “Wood Jno” as a pawnbroker in Lady Peckitt’s Yard, York. 


Lady Peckitt’s Yard still exists as an alley running off the south-east side of the road called simply “Pavement”, and today contains the preserved former premises of “J. H. Storey, Cordwainer”, which is a York Conservation Trust property.  Quite where John Wood’s premises were is unclear.


Walter was evidently still resident in York in 1853, as the British Chess Review of 1853, on page 343, recorded a game between “Mr. W. Grimshaw, of York, and Mr. J. Watkinson.”


By 1855 4, 21 Walter had moved to Whitby, but he later got married back in York to one of the daughters of his former employer.  After his death he was reported to have been a native of York which, though untrue, confirms that he had previously lived at York.  The 1861 census lists Dewsbury-born Walter in Whitby, which is where he resided for the rest of his life.


Walter Grimshaw in Whitby


When Walter moved to Whitby is a little unclear.  After his death it was recorded that he “came to live at Whitby in 1856, when he took the pawnbroker’s business of the late Mr. Thomas Appleby”.  This is clearly near the truth.  Gillbank’s 1855 directory of Scarborough and district, and White’s directory of Whitby of 1855, both list Walter in Whitby, so the year of the move was no later than 1855, and probably before; in any event it was at some time from 1851 to 1855, and most probably 1854.  Although Thomas Appleby may well have been deceased at the time of the quoted report, both he and Walter were both listed by directories as pawnbrokers in Whitby for some time after Walter’s arrival.


A pawnbroker called Robert Cockburn is listed in Whitby in 1823 22, but none called James Appleby.  In 1834 23, however, James Appleby is listed as a pawnbroker but Robert Cockburn is not.  In 1840 24 James Appleby is still the sole Whitby pawnbroker listed.  In 1855 4, however, both Thomas Appleby and new-comer Walter Grimshaw are listed by Gillbanks, both with premises in Church Street, though Slater26 lists only Thomas Appleby, suggesting Walter arrived in 1854, after Slater’s data were collected, but before Gillbank’s data were collected.  The same two pawnbrokers are still listed in 1857 8.  In 1858 9, however, Walter Grimshaw is listed as a pawnbroker in Church Street still, but James Appleby is listed only in the non-commercial section, at 2 Cleveland Terrace.  Appleby continues to be listed in the non-commercial section, at 2 Cleveland Terrace, in 1864 10 and 1867 11.  It is possible that Walter bought out Thomas Appleby when the latter retired, around 1858, which could have been the basis of the remark made after his death that he “took” Thomas Appleby’s business.


Walter presumably wished to set himself up in business so that he could support a wife.  Why Walter chose to do this in Whitby is unclear, unless John Wood had knowledge of a desire on Thomas Appleby’s part to retire soon.


By 1855 4,21, at the latest, the adult Walter was living in Whitby, working as a pawnbroker and general dealer in Church Street 4, on the east bank of the River Esk, over which there was a bridge to the west-bank part of Whitby.  He continues to be listed as a pawnbroker with his business in Church Street in directories for 1857 8, 1858 9, 1864 10, 1867 11, 1872 12 and 1879 13.  In the earlier directories no number was listed for the address in Church Street, but from 1867 11 onwards, his business address was more precisely stated to be 145 Church Street.  In 1867 he was further listed under the trade category of “Furniture brokers” as well as “Pawnbrokers” 11.


It appears Walter’s sister Harriet followed him to Whitby, probably to function as his housekeeper, as did Emma later on.  A report in the “Deaths” column of the Malton Messenger of 27th September 1856 6 reads:

On the 25th inst., at Whitby, suddenly, Miss Grimshaw, sister to Mr Grimshaw, pawnbroker, aged 20 years.

The deceased’s age makes her clearly Harriet, in which case she would appear to have died around her birthday.  Younger sister Emma is listed in 1861 as living with Walter in Whitby, at the shop, being explicitly described as his housekeeper.  Emma may have lived in Whitby while Harriet was alive, though in that case the death notice would be likely to have quoted Miss Grimshaw’s first name for clarity.  It seems more likely that Emma moved to Whitby after Harriet died.


The present 145 Church Street is the “Whitby Jet Store” (click here for photograph).  The building looks as though it could date from Walter’s day.  Down the right-hand side of 145 Church Street is the short Brewster Lane, where Walter’s friend, Ramon Peguero live for a while.


The 1861 census lists Walter as living, with sister Emma as housekeeper, at his premises in Church Street, Whitby, along with one George Turton who is listed as a “pawnbroker’s assistant”.


On 10/10/1861, Walter got married.  Entry number 283 in the marriage register of St. Crux records that Walter Grimshaw, a 29-year-old bachelor, described as an “outfitter” and a son of James Grimshaw, veterinary surgeon, was married on 10/10/1861 to Mary Holliday, a 27-year-old spinster residing at Pavement, York, daughter of Thomas Holliday, gent., by H. V. Palmer, officiating minister (or Hy. Palmer, who would be the Rev. Henry Palmer of 25 St. Saviourgate).  The description of the groom matches the chess-player completely except for the unexpected “outfitter” reference, which is hard to explain.  The identity of the groom as the chess-player and chess problem composer is clinched by the fact that the marriage register was signed, as a witness, by Henry Edwin Kidson, fellow chess-player and problemist.


The entry in the St. Crux marriage register seems straightforward, but the Whitby Gazette reported the wedding as follows:

“On Thursday, the 10th inst., at York, Mr. Walter Grimshaw, pawnbroker, to Mary, daughter of Mr. John Wood, pawnbroker, Pavement, York.” 15


The identity of the bride in the Whitby Gazette is clearly that of a daughter of the household where Walter was a pawnbroker’s apprentice in York, and seems inconsistent with the marriage register as to surname and the father.  However, the first name, age, marital status and place of residence agree, suggesting that Walter did indeed marry the Mary Wood as described by the Whitby Gazette, but that her more formal identity was as daughter of John Holliday.  Explanations involving either adoption of Mary Holliday by the Wood family, or Mrs. Wood having previously been married to Thomas Holliday seem possible.  Adultery even presents itself as a possible murky explanation.


The idea that the bride was involved with the Wood’s family is supported by the fact the second witness signing the register was “Eliza Wood”, the name of another of John Wood’s daughters.  Was Eliza Mary’s sister, step-sister, or neighbour?  (More research is needed to resolve this Holliday-Wood inconsistency.)


Walter’s marriage appears to have resulted in sister Emma returning to Liversedge, which is where she married Edward Cockill in 1868.


Walter’s mother, Mary Grimshaw died on 24th July 1862, and was interred at Liversedge on 28th July 1862.  She’d died four weeks before the birth of Walter’s first child.


The Whitby Grimshaws’ first child, Walter Edwin Grimshaw, was born in Whitby, and was baptised on 21st August 1862.  This son was presumably named after his father, and his eldest paternal uncle Edwin.


On 31/05/1864, Walter’s father died, and was interred with his wife Mary at Liversedge on 3rd June 1864.  The family business of running the White Hart Inn, High Town, Liversedge, was taken over by second-eldest brother George, who like his father coupled this with being a veterinary surgeon.


Directories up to 1864 seem never to have attributed to Walter a home address separate from his business address in Church Street, and the 1861 census shows him living at Church Street, presumably over or behind the shop.  So it seems that as a bachelor he had probably always resided at his business premises, probably with sister Harriet living with him until she died in 1856, and certainly with sister Emma living with him in 1861.  In 1867, however, he is recorded as having a home address at 14 York Terrace.  York Terrace runs along the north side of Fishburn Road.  The present 14 York Terrace (click here for photograph) looks old enough to be where Walter lived.


On 20th October 1868, Walter’s wife, Mary, gave birth to a baby girl who was also called Mary.  The naming of the child may was probably in memory of Walter’s mother as much as copying his wife’s name.  All was not well and the mother died just ten days after the birth of the baby 7.  This was reported in the paper as follows:

October 30th, at York Terrace, aged 34 years, Mary, wife of Mr. Walter Grimshaw, pawnbroker. 16


Mary, Walter’s wife, was interred in Whitby’s Larpool Lane Cemetery.


Things then went from bad to worse as the baby Mary died on 1st September 1869, and was interred in the same grave as her mother.  Walter had lost his wife and baby daughter in less than eleven months 7.  He was left with a seven-year-old son, who he had to raise on his own, apart from the help of a housekeeper.


The 1871 census lists Walter living at 14 York Terrace with eight-year-old son Walter Edwin Grimshaw, and a 20-year-old Whitby-born housekeeper called Elizabeth Ann Hall.  Emma seems to have left Walter’s household by now, perhaps having married.


In the fullness of time, in 1878, Walter got married again, to Mrs. Jane Trattles (born in 1834/35 at Aislaby, a village inland from Whitby).  The local newspaper reported the marriage as follows:

“May 18th at the Parish Church, by the Rev. J. Dingle, Mr. Walter Grimshaw, Church Street, to Mrs Jane Trattles, Bagdale.” 20


Jane Trattles had been born Jane Trowsdale.  The 1861 census lists Jane’s father, Joseph, as a widowed 50-year-old inn-keeper living on Flowergate, Whitby, with four daughters Jane (born 1834/35), Ann (born 1836/37), Hannah (born 1843/44), and Sarah (born 1845/46).  In the quarter July to September 1866, Jane married ship-owner George Trattles.


George Trattles was the son of ship-owner Seaton Trattles (born 1771/72, son of Seaton Trattles senior, who married Mary Walker in July 1803) and Ann Trattles (born 1780/81 as Ann White).  The three of them are listed by the 1851 census as living in Bagdale (presumably at the address later identified variously as Bagdale House, and 9 Bagdale).  George’s age appears to be given as 27, but 47 seems a more plausible reading.  Seaton Trattles died in March 1860, being buried 20th March 1860, and the 1861 census lists 79-year-old “Nanny” Trattles (presumably Ann), 58-year-old George (described as a landowner) and two servants.  George’s age reads either as 53 or 58, the latter being more consistent with the 1851 census record.


No member of the Trattles family is listed at Bagdale in Baines’s directory of 1823.  Seaton Trattles is listed at Bagdale in Pigot’s 1834 directory.


The marriage of George and Jane Trattles appears not to have lasted long, as George Trattles died on 14th September 1866 at Aislaby, Jane’s birthplace.  George left £12,000, which in those days was a considerable sum.


George Trattles, gent, is listed at 9 Bagdale in White’s directory dated 1867.  This clearly represents data from 1866, before George died, but it serves the purpose of identifying the Trattles residence as 9 Bagdale.


The 1871 census lists the widow Mrs Jane Trattles living at Bagdale with her 61-year-old widower father Joseph Trowsdale, her four-year-old niece Julia S Greenbury, and two servants.


In 1872 “Mrs Trattles” was recorded by Kelly’s as living at “Bagdale House”.  The name “Bagdale House” could be misconstrued, as there is a large mansion dating from the early 1500s, situated at the lower end of the road called simply “Bagdale”.  This mansion, known more simply as 1 Bagdale, has been known variously as “Bagdale House” and “Bagdale Hall”.  The Trattles were a ship-owning family and so may have been in a position to own this mansion, but the 1867 directory pins down the Trattles residence as 9 Bagdale.


The 1881 census supports the identity of “Bagdale House” as 9 Bagdale (click here for photograph), as the numbered dwellings on Bagdale are listed in numerical order, and between 7 and 10 are listed “Brewery House” and “Bagdale House” in that order, the latter with the Grimshaw household listed as living there.  There is no 8 or 9 explicitly listed, so “Bagdale House” appears to be number 9 Bagdale, where George Trattles had lived, rather than the mansion numbered 1.


Walter presumably moved into Bagdale House, to live with his new wife, in 1878.  By the time of Walter’s death his second wife, Jane, was “a confirmed invalid”, but when she became such is unclear.


Walter’s son, Walter Edwin Grimshaw, was 15 years old at the time of his father’s re-marriage in 1878.  He was listed at Bagdale House in 1879, under “Private residents” (as opposed to the commercial listing), though his father and step-mother are not so listed, which is somewhat confusing 13.  The 1881 census found him in Bradford.


The 1881 census records Walter still working as a pawnbroker, and living with his wife Jane at Bagdale House, Ruswarp.  This part of Whitby was confusingly in the parish of Ruswarp, which takes its name from the outlying village of that name.  Living with the Grimshaws were Jane’s widowed sister-in-law, Sarah Greenbury (born 1847 at Whitby), and Sarah’s two school-age daughters, Julia S. Greenbury (born c. 1867/68 at Whitby) and Florence E. Greenbury (born c. 1869 at Whitby).  The household at Bagdale House was completed by a domestic servant, Sarah Ann Davis (born 1857/8 in Wales) 2.  Walter was still at Bagdale House in 1883 3, and was still resident there at his death in 1890.


Sarah Trowsdale had married Robert Greenbury, the marriage being registered at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the first quarter of 1866.  Robert Greenbury had clearly died by 1871, as the census of that year found Sarah Greenbury living as a widow, with daughter Florence, in the household of her brother-in-law, Anthony M. Bower, headmaster of Southend College, resident as Milton Lodge, Prettlewell, Essex.


The widowed Sarah Greenbury, re-married on 19th December 1881, to Robert Forth (baptised 7th August 1838, Whitby), a mariner resident at Thompson’s Yard, Whitby.  Robert Forth was a brother of the chess-playing William Forth.


Immediately after Walter’s death in 1890, in connection with his being a pawnbroker, he was described as having “retired from that business many years ago, having acquired a moderate competency”; one might guess his retirement from being a pawnbroker to have been about 1882 or a little later.  Thereafter he apparently invested in shipping enterprises, and held many shares in locally owned-and-managed steamers.  His advocacy of a self-insurance scheme for Whitby steamers apparently led to its acceptance by shareholders.


The death of Mrs. Sarah Forth, Walter’s sister-in-law, at Bagdale House, was registered in the second quarter of 1890.  Whether Robert and Sarah Forth, and Sarah’s two daughters, had normally resided from the time of their marriage with the Grimshaws at Bagdale House is unclear.  It is possible that they lived elsewhere, but that Sarah had been taken ill while Robert was at sea, and she (with her daughters, presumably) had been taken in by the Grimshaws.  (Robert Forth lived on to the age of 76, his death being registered at Middlesbrough in the fourth quarter on 1914.)  It may also have been that Sarah helped look after Walter’s invalid wife, Jane.  It is evident from the inquest into Walter’s death that he had engaged a widow called Mrs. Raw to act as nurse and attendant on his wife in about April, suggesting maybe that Sarah Forth died in very late March or in April 1890.


On 20th June 1890, the Whitby Gazette carried the following death notice:

June 18th at Hightown, Liversedge, aged 60 years, Mr. Geo. Grimshaw veterinary surgeon.

This refers to Walter’s brother, though that is not explicitly stated.  The notice may have been inserted by Walter himself, or else by William Forth, fellow chess-player, and distant family member by marriage.


Walter’s Public Life in Whitby


Walter Grimshaw was not given to ostentation or the limelight of prominent public office; nevertheless he played a part of various aspects of public affairs, especially where it resulted in helping others.


Relatively mundane posts he held at one time or another were that of member of the Town Improvement Board, and that of member of the Whitby Burial Board.


One pet project he pursued was the idea that Whitby should become incorporated.  Whilst the idea was generally popular, opposition from an influential minority meant that the scheme was shelved.


A fascinating post he held for many years was that of member of the committee of the Whitby Christmas Beef Fund.  It would seem the purpose of this fund was to raise money to purchase beef to be distributed to the poor and needy at Christmas.  At his death he was the second oldest member of the committee.  He had assumed the presidency of the committee in 1883 after the death of Mr. James Maule.


The Beginning of the End


In the second half of 1890, Walter appears to have suffered from what these days would be described as clinical depression.  In early December he appears to have consulted someone in London regarding his condition, though he appears not to have enlarged on the subject when asked.  From London he sent a telegram to his son, Walter Edwin Grimshaw, in Liverpool, asking him to meet his father in London, though without giving a reason.


Accordingly the son arrived in London on Thursday 11/12/1890, and he realised his father wanted him in London to provide company.  The father seemed in moderately good physical health but seemed depressed and had a haggard expression; though his appetite was good, he complained of weakness.  After a few days in London they returned to Whitby, where the son remained to keep his father company.


Walter had asked his son to move to Whitby, to which the son had agreed in principle if his father wished it.  The night before the death, father and son had been out for a drink at the Angel on Baxtergate.  His underlying state of depression was still evident to that time.


Reasons suggested for Walter’s depression were the recent death of his brother, the earlier death of Mrs. Forth, and the fact that his wife was a cripple.


A longer-term review of Walter’s life, and a deeper analysis of recent events, could be more depressing still:


Death of 7-month-old baby sister Emma, in Cleckheaton


Death of sister Harriet in Whitby


Death of his mother at Liversedge


Death of his father at Liversedge


Death of first daughter, Mary, at Whitby


Death of first wife, Mary, after childbirth, at Whitby


Death of sister Mary Ann Jackson in Whitby


Death of wife of brother Edwin in Snaith

May 1872

Death of husband of sister Elizabeth in Brighouse


Death of sister Elizabeth in Mirfield


Death of Ada, 4-year-old daughter of brother George

Q2 1890

Death of Mrs. Sarah Forth, Walter’s sister‑in‑law, at Bagdale House


Death of brother George, in Liversedge


The fourteen years prior to 1890 had been relatively grief-free, but 1890 carried new troubles.


The death of Sarah Forth was probably significant in that she presumably helped her sister, Walter’s invalid wife.  After her death, Walter was obliged to hire outside help, which might be less agreeable to his wife.  The death of his brother George had the effect of severing links with his parental home, a kind of severing of his taproot.


Edwin and Emma were the only two of his siblings who remained alive.  Mary Grimshaw was the only spouse of a sibling who remained alive.


He still had his son.  He had asked his son to join him in Whitby, but that was asking his son to wind up his business affairs in Liverpool and start a new life in Whitby.  Was it fair to ask him to do this?  (In the event, Walter Edwin Grimshaw moved to Whitby after his father’s death, got married, raised seven children, and eventually retired to live in the Channel Islands.)


Walter’s Death


Walter’s dead body, with a gash in the throat, and a razor nearby, was found in his room at Bagdale House on the morning of Saturday 27/12/1890.  An inquest was held the same day, concluding that he had taken his own life while his mind was unhinged, and that he was not responsible for his actions.  The verdict was quoted as being “That the deceased gentleman killed himself by cutting his throat with a razor while in an unsound state of mind.”


The notice of his death in The Times of 29th December 1890 read: 5

“On Saturday, the 27th Dec., at Bagdale House, Whitby, Mr. Walter Grimshaw, aged 58 years. Interment will take place at Whitby Cemetery on Tuesday morning: funeral leaving the house at 10.30. Friends will please accept this (the only) intimation.”


Death notices appeared in a surprising number of widely distributed newspapers.


The Leeds Mercury of Monday 29th December carried the following:


SAD DEATH OF GENTLEMAN AT WHITBY. – On Saturday morning, about eight o’clock, Mr. Walter Grimshaw, a man of independent means, residing in Bagdale, Whitby, was found dead in bed with a terrible gash in his throat, the wound having been evidently self-inflicted with an old razor, which was found by his side.  Mr. Grimshaw had been in a somewhat desponding way, though there was no apparent cause for it, except that his wife was a confirmed invalid.  The deceased gentleman distinguished himself in the chess world, and was probably acknowledged to be one of the best chess-players in England as an amateur.  Certainly he was the best amateur composer, and among chess-players of the first order his problems are well known.  In local matters Mr. Grimshaw took a deep interest, and there are few men who were better known and so generally esteemed as he was.  In shipping affairs his chief interest lay, and at the time of his death he was the holder of a vast number of shares in Whitby owned and managed steamboats.  The inquest on the body was held on Saturday evening, when a verdict to the effect that [the] deceased committed suicide while temporarily of unsound mind was returned.


The Saturday chess column in the Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement on 3rd January 1891 carried an obituary in which his strength as a player was more accurately assessed as being of “a fair average amateur standard”.


Walter Grimshaw was interred in Whitby’s Larpool Lane Cemetery in the same grave as his first wife, Mary, and their baby daughter, Mary. 7


A report on the coroner’s inquest mentioned that Walter’s brother had died about 6 months earlier, and that his sister-in-law, Mrs. Forth, had died a little time previously at Bagdale House.


Walter Edwin Grimshaw sorted out his father’s estate, which amounted to £9,499 2s. 11d., “proving” at York on 2nd March 1891.


Grimshaw Grave at Larpool Lane Cemetery


The inscription on the Grimshaw grave in Whitby reads:


In Affectionate Remembrance of
















(Click here for a photograph of Walter Grimshaw’s grave.)


Death of Jane Grimshaw


Walter’s wife Jane, the “confirmed invalid”, died at Whitby on 26th January 1891, only 30 days after Walter’s death.  On 24th April 1891, administration of her personal estate, amounting to £4,996 13s. 8d., was granted to her two surviving sisters, Ann and Hannah, Sarah (Mrs.Forth) having recently died as mentioned above.  Ann was now Mrs Ann Bower, wife of Anthony Maw Bower of Thornton Dale, near Pickering.  Hannah was now Mrs Hannah Wagner of Park Alleé 2, Hamburg, Germany, and Whitby.  Ann and Hannah appear to have sold Bagdale House, or rented it out.  Kelly’s directory of 1893 lists Peter George Coble (a subscriber to the beef fund) at Bagdale House, and Cook’s directory of 1901 lists Harland Hart, engine driver, at Bagdale House.


Walter’s Chess Activities


Outside the North Riding of Yorkshire, Walter was not that well known as a player, but was well known as a chess problemist.  Various underlying themes to chess problems have names, and one is named a “Grimshaw” after Walter Grimshaw.  His name frequently crops up in chess publications of his day, in the context of chess problems.


He was obviously acquainted with another quite eminent contemporary problemist who may have been resident in York for a while earlier, namely Henry E. Kidson who attended Walter Grimshaw’s wedding and signed the register as a witness, at which time he was resident in Liverpool.


Ten of the forty-four problems listed by their composers’ names in the contents of Staunton’s Chess Player’s Chronicle for 1850 were contributions from Grimshaw, who was only 18 years old at the time.  There were none in the previous year’s edition.  The 1851 edition carried only two of Grimshaw’s problems, five being the highest number from any other one contributor.  The 1852 edition had no problems from Grimshaw, but it may be that he was sending them elsewhere.  The 1853 edition carried two Grimshaw problems.  Then in 1854 the total shot back up to ten.  Then in 1855 there was only one, and in 1856 none.


Some skill at chess-playing was evidenced by his defeating John Watkinson of Huddersfield in one of three games played, presumably, in 1853, the circumstances of which were not described [British Chess Review, 1853, p. 343].  Watkinson won the other two games.  Grimshaw’s win went as follows:


White: Grimshaw, Walter (York), Black: Watkinson, John (Huddersfield), 1853

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Nge2 d5 6. exd5 cxd5 7. Bb5+ Nc6 8. Bg5 Be6 9. O-O O-O 10. Ng3 Be7 11. Qe2 Nd4 12. Qxe5 Nxc2 13. Rac1 Nb4 14. h3 d4 15. Nce4 a6 16. a3 Na2?!


Position after 16 … Na2?!


17. Rc7! axb5 18. Rxe7 Qxe7 19. Nxf6+ Kh8 20. Nf5 Qd8 21. Nxg7 h6 22. Nxe6 Black resigned, 1-0


In 1854 he won the first-ever chess problem-solving competition, in London.


As a chess-player, Walter Grimshaw appears to have limited his activities mainly to Whitby, the North Riding and the county town of York.  Within that limited sphere he got involved in everything going, not just as a player, but helping on the administrative side, and supporting events financially.


In 1855, Johann Löwenthal, who had recently become chess editor of the Era, decided to run a problem composing competition in connection with his chess column.  Not being a problemist himself, he formed a committee of people he felt of adequate reputation in the problem world to manage matters.  This committee of twelve people included Walter Grimshaw.  He was also one of the six judges.


The York Herald of 03/04/1884 said of Walter Grimshaw, “He is the president of the Whitby Chess Club, and has been for over twenty-five years.”  He was also apparently the first president of Whitby Chess Club, implying he was a founder member.  That sets the start of the club at 1859 or before, four years or less after Walter had moved to Whitby.   Walter held the post of president to his death in 1890.


Walter played in the 1st Redcar tournament, of 1865, finishing second behind the Rev. Arthur Bolland Skipworth, and winning a chess set as his prize.  The other participants were not nationally well-known players.


In the 2nd Redcar tournament, of 1866, he played in the12-player second section, the first section being radically stronger than in the year before.  Grimshaw drew with the section winner, Rev. F. R. Drew, but finished in 6th place out of 12 players, with 6 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses.  The prospectus for this event lists him among the members of the “General Committee”, and more specifically as on the smaller “Executive Committee”; he was also listed in the prospectus as one of those from whom “further information” could be sought.


At the North Yorkshire and Durham Chess Association meeting held in York in October 1867, which was essentially a re-badged and re-located continuation of the series started at Redcar by the Reverend Arthur Bolland Skipworth, Walter Grimshaw came second in the Class I tournament, behind M. E. Werner of Bradford who won £10 as 1st prize.  He competed also in the Class II tournament, where he came first, winning £5.


On 13th December 1867 he represented North Yorkshire in the match with West Yorkshire in Leeds.  He was on board three, below the Reverend Arthur Bolland Skipworth and J Wisker.  He lost to John Rhodes of Leeds.  Theirs was the only board on which only one game was played, so it was probably a relatively long-lasting game.  Two games were played on each of the other three boards.


In about February 1868, the Chess-Players’ Weekly Chronicle recorded that Grimshaw had won the BCA’s problem-setting competition, which was perhaps at the 1867 BCA meeting at Dundee.


When the arrangements were in place for the Skipworth’s “Yorkshire Chess Association” meeting held at York in 1868, which was Skipworth Enterprises appearing under yet another name, Walter Grimshaw was listed among the “subscribers”, having donated £1 1s 0d, i.e. a guinea.  He was once more on the “General Committee” and more specifically on the “Executive Committee”, but appears not to have participated as a player, which could be explained the fact that his wife was in an advanced state of pregnancy.


At the (Skipworth’s) “Yorkshire Chess Association” meeting held in York in 1869, Walter Grimshaw entered the second class tournament.  Only 19 of the 28 games of the 8-player all-play-all were actually played, the unplayed ones being between players at the lower end of the table.  Grimshaw was one of four players ending on zero.  This was nine months after the death of his first wife.


After York 1869, Skipworth’s organisation became the Counties Chess Association, holding its meetings all over the country, not returning to Yorkshire until the Bradford meeting of 1888.  Though being sometimes listed as on the “General Committee”, Grimshaw seems not to have played in Counties Chess Association Events.


Grimshaw was invited to represent Yorkshire in the Yorkshire-Lancashire match played on 20th May 1871, in Bradford, at the annual meeting of the West Yorkshire Chess Association, but he declined.


It would appear that while on a trip to London, around 1875, Grimshaw won a casual game against Wilhelm Steinitz at Simpson’s Divan.  Etiquette would require that a “known” person would introduce himself to Steinitz, whereas the ordinary man-in-the-street would be expected merely to sit down and lose, un-introduced.  It seems Grimshaw aimed to play a joke on Steinitz, not introducing himself until after playing a game and showing a two-move problem of his own composition.  The Austrian master being unaware of the identity of his opponent, was perhaps less attentive than he would otherwise have been.  Grimshaw was not of the calibre which would normally be necessary to defeat Steinitz.  This embarrassing defeat apparently got mentioned humorously in the chess press, but apparently no score of the game was published at the time – but see below under 1884.


When the Leeds Mercury started a chess column in its Weekly Supplement, edited by James White, Grimshaw specially composed a problem for the first column, that of 27th September 1879.  There were in fact two problems that day, and Grimshaw’s was numbered No. 2:


White to move and mate in two moves.


One of the recorded games of Walter Grimshaw was one played on 26/01/1884, at Whitby, against A. Love, and went as follows:

Walter Grimshaw - A. Love, Whitby, 21/01/1884:

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4 exf4 4. Nf3 Bc5 5. d4 Bb4 6. Bd3 d6 7. Bxf4 Bg4 8. O-O O-O 9. e5 Nh5 10. Bxh7+ Kxh7 11. Ng5+ Kg8 12. Qxg4 g6 13. Nd5 Nd7 14. Nxf7 Rxf7 15. Qxg6+ Ng7 16. Bg5 Rxf1+ 17. Rxf1 Qe8 18. Ne7+ Kh8 19. Qh6# 1-0


Another of his recorded games was one in which he defeated the Rev. A. B. Skipworth, again in Whitby on an unspecified date:

Walter Grimshaw – Rev. Arthur Bolland Skipworth, Whitby, date?:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Nc3 Bc5 5. d3 h6 6. Ne2 d6 7. h3 O-O 8. Ng3 Qe7 9. Be3 Bb6 10. Qd2 Be6 11. Bxh6 gxh6 12. Qxh6 Re8 13. Ng5 d5 14. Nh5 Black resigned, 1-0 [Whitby Gazette, Friday 02/01/1891].


In 1884, what purported to be the score of a 17-move game in which Grimshaw defeated Steinitz was published in the Illustrated London News, though it was asserted that it was played in 1880.  Steinitz denied the authenticity of the published game, sparking sometimes-acrimonious debate in the chess press.  James White commented briefly on the publication of this game, in his column in the Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement of 26/07/1884, at the end of a section titled “FOREIGN”, as follows:

We lately saw a game published in one of our chess columns at home represented as being played in 1880 between Herr Steinitz and Mr. Grimshaw, the English problemist.  The game has just been shown to Herr Steinitz in America, who says such a game was never played, and further stated he has not seen Mr. Grimshaw for nine years.  Captain Mackenzie drew Steinitz’s attention to the game.

A week later, in the Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement of 02/08/1884, an explanatory letter from Walter Grimshaw himself was published, seemingly in response to previous week’s comments.  The quoted date of Grimshaw’s letter was 25/07/1884, the day before the publication date of the piece he was commenting on!  Either White had sent Grimshaw an advance copy of what he proposed to publish, or else “25” is a misreading of “28” or, more probably, “29”.  The piece including Grimshaw’s letter was as follows:

EXPLANATORY. – In reference to the remarks we made last week on the subject of the game between Mr. Grimshaw and Herr Steinitz, we have received the following letter of explanation from Mr. Grimshaw, which we publish with pleasure, hoping some of our American exchanges will copy the remarks and give them the same publicity as was given the previous statement: -

Whitby, July 25th [sic, 29th?]

Dear Sir, - Your paragraph in last Saturday’s Weekly Supplement respecting a game I played with Steinitz (which, I presume, was taken from an American paper) omits to state that Steinitz told Captain Mackenzie that he lost a game with Grimshaw about nine years ago.  That statement is quite correct, as it was the only time I ever saw him or played with him.  This game was played at the Divan in London.  I won the game, but did not keep a record of it.  A gentleman who was present it appears did so, and sent a copy of it to the Illustrated London News in 1880.  The mistake seems to have been made by the American papers stating that it was played in 1880.  If you refer to the Glasgow Herald or Detroit Free Press of nine years ago, you will find an account of our encounter and the amusement it caused at the time.  “Mars,” in the Sporting and Dramatic News for March 8th says he was present at the Divan, and saw the game played.  I may say that I never expected to see the game in print, and was surprised to find that any one had taken the trouble to copy it; as for my part, I could not have recollected the moves. – I am yours &c. W. GRIMSHAW.


An interesting curiosity came to light when chess items of all sorts belonging to former Exeter University chess-player and chess writer Kevin O’Connell were advertised for auction.  It appears Walter had composed a chess problem for the purpose of offering a prize, in 1884, for the first correct solution supplied by a member of Whitby Chess Club.  The prize was Poems and Chess Problems by John Augustus Miles, published privately at Fakenham in 1882.  The free front endpaper was inscribed:

“Whitby Chess Club 1884:
Prize given by the President of the Whitby Chess Club (Mr Grimshaw)
for the first solution of the annexed problem.
Won by Ramon Peguero Esq.”

On the reverse of the frontispiece was pasted the chess problem concerned with the text “By Walter Grimshaw” and “White to mate in Three Moves”.


Walter was a vice-president of the Yorkshire County Chess Club formed in 1885 to oversee those aspects of county-wide chess in Yorkshire not run by the West Yorkshire Chess Association, who ran the inter-town team competitions.  One function of the YCCC was to organise county matches, and Walter played at board 17 of a 50-board Yorkshire v Lancashire match in 1887.


The Whitby Gazette of Saturday 19/12/1885, p.4, col.5, gave advance notice of the inclusion of a picture of Walter Grimshaw in the January 1886 issue of the British Chess Magazine, as follows:

CHESS. – The British Chess Magazine for January will publish a portrait group of the most distinguished British probable composers.  The central figure will be the veteran Healey, supported by Grimshaw, Campbell and the Rev. Cyril Pearson; also several of the modern school of authors, Messrs. Planck, Laws, Frankenstein, etc.  The Rev. A. B. Skipworth and Mr. Grimshaw are the judges of the Counties Chess Association problem tourney.


With his YCCC hat on he visited the Bradford 1888 tournament.


He may have had relatives in Farsley, as the WYCA meeting of 1888 was attended by D. Grimshaw and J. T. Grimshaw of Farsley, and the 1889 meeting which Walter attended was also attended by D Grimshaw.


He did not normally attend meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association but, at its 1889 Leeds meeting, in addition to the usual tournaments, there was a problem-solving competition.  (It seems there may have been one in 1888 as well.)  This proved a sufficient attraction to draw Walter Grimshaw to the meeting, where he won first prize in the problem-solving competition, ahead of “Gregson” (presumably Robert Gregson) of Bradford (2nd), “Shepperd” of Leeds (3rd), and “Scholefield” (presumably W R Scholefield) of Wakefield (4th).  On that occasion he also entered the Class B knock-out tournament, but lost with white in round 1 to L. H. Browne of Bradford.





1 http://www.chess-poster.com/english/chesmayne/brief_notes_on_the_history_of_chess_1800_1.htm

2 1881 census

3 The Court Guide, Gazette and County Blue Book of Yorkshire, 1883 [Hudds. LSL]

also Decon’s 1883 Court Guide to Yorkshire

4 BH Gillbanks & Co’s 1855 Directory of Scarborough &c.

5. http://www.angelfire.com/ga/BobSanders/WhitbyDeaths2.html

6 http://www.glamorganfamilyhistory.co.uk/maritime/Malton56.html

7 Grimshaw gravestone in Whitby Cemetery, Larpool Lane, Whitby (block C, plot 2471)

8 Kelly’s Whitby directory of 1857

9 White’s Whitby directory of 1858

10 Slater’s Whitby directory of 1864

11 White’s Whitby directory of 1867

12 Kelly’s Whitby directory of 1872

13 Kelly’s Whitby directory of 1879

14 Bulmer’s Whitby directory of 1890

15 Whitby Gazette, Saturday October 12, 1861

16 Whitby Gazette, Saturday November 7, 1868

17 Whitby Civic Society plaque on side of building

18 Paget’s Whitby directory of 1834

19 Whitby Gazette, Friday 2nd January, 1891

20 Whitby Gazette, Saturday May 25, 1878

21 White’s Whitby directory of 1855

22 Baines 1823

23 Pigot 1834

24 White’s Whitby directory of 1840

25 http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/Misc/Transcriptions/WRY/GuiseleyMarriages1820-1829.html

26 Slater's Commercial Directory of Durham, Northumberland & Yorkshire, 1855

27 White’s Leeds & Clothing Towns directory of 1830

28 Pigot’s Directory of Yorkshire, 1834

29 Whitby Gazette Friday 20th June 1890





Copyright © 2012, 2013, 2014 Stephen John Mann

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

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