Yorkshire Chess History



Sigismund Hamel











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



1823, Hamburg, Germany



17/05/1897, Radcliffe‑on‑Trent



Sigismund Hamel was a German merchant who became a United States citizen but by 1861 had settled in England, more precisely Nottingham, where he became one of the stronger provincial players of the day.


Non-Chess Life


He was born in Hamburg, German in 1823, and in time became a merchant, travelling to England and the United States.


On 18/09/1848 he arrived at Hull on the “Achimedes”, from Hamburg, and was described in the “Alien Arrivals” schedule as “Gentelmann”, i.e. a German gentleman.  This would appear to have been merely a visit, as on 25/07/1850 he again arrived in Hull, this time aboard the “Marshall”, again from Hamburg, but this time he was a merchant, and this time the schedule of arriving aliens declared that all in the list were emigrants (from Germany) en route for (a new life in) the United States.


Once in the U.S. he must have taken out U.S. citizenship, which would have involved a declaration of intent to become permanently resident in the U.S.  Accordingly, when on 01/07/1852 he arrived as a merchant at New York aboard the “Africa” from Liverpool, the country to which he belonged (the word “nationality” wasn’t used) was given as the Unites States.  The last column in the schedule of arrivals was headed “Died on voyage”, and bizarrely about 75%, including our man, had “Yes” entered in this column.  (Sometimes such columns referred to having luggage in the hold, etc., so presumably the captain was using this column for some such purpose other than the heading.)


Anyway, despite having apparently died on the voyage to New York, he returned to England by about 1859 to take up permanent residence, as the 1861 census found him living at Welbeck Terrace Nottingham with his wife, two children and two servants.  The place of birth of the eldest child, 4-year-old Malvina, was given here and later as St.Gall, Switzerland, suggesting he spent some time previously in Switzerland.  Sigismund was described as a commission merchant, and as a United States citizen.


His wife’s name was given in census returns alternately either as “Cacilie” or “Cecilia”/“Celelia”.  Much later, probate records, which tend to get things right, called her “Caecilie”, which is presumably the German equivalent of Cecilia.


Wright's Nottingham Directory, 1862, listed Sigismund Hamel, of Hamel and Wright, living at Welbeck Terrace, Mansfield Road, Nottingham, and listed Hamel and Wright, lace manufacturers, Commerce Square.  It also listed was Leopold Hamel, lace maker, with business at Stoney Street, and home at Shakespere [sic] Street, whose business was longer-established.  The “Wright” in Hamel & Wright was William Wright.


The 1871 census found the family at Newcastle Terrace, Nottingham, with six children and two servants.  Sigismund was now described as a shipping merchant.  The six children, all girls, were:


Malvina Hamel

born 1856/57, St. Gall, Switzerland

Elisa Hamel

born 1858/59, Nottingham

Theresa Hamel

born 1860/61, Nottingham

Caroline Hamel

born 1861/62, Nottingham

Alice Hamel

born 1866/67, Nottingham

Florence Hamel

born Nov/Dec 1870, Nottingham


Kelly’s Post Office Directory of Nottinghamshire, 1876, listed Sigismund Hamel living at Newcastle Drive, Park Row, Nottingham, and listed Hamel & Wright, lace manufacturers, 8 Commerce Square, High Pavement, Nottingham.


The 1881 census found the family at 3 Newcastle Drive, Nottingham.  Sigismund was now described as a lace merchant, and living with him were his wife, the youngest four daughters, and two servants.


The 1891 census found they’d moved to 34 Zulla Road, Nottingham.  Sigismund was now a “shipping merchant (lace)”.  Of the daughters only Alice and Florence remained at home.  They now had only one servant.


Wright's Directory of Nottingham, 1894-95, seemingly listed no Hamel, suggesting retirement and removal to a more-rural locality, though after his death Wright's Directory of Nottingham, 1898-99, listed widow Mrs. Cecelia Hamel living at 12 Devonshire Parade, Nottingham.





Probate records relate that Sigismund Hamel of “Ratcliffe-on-Trent” (means Radcliffe-on-Trent), former lace merchant, died on 17/05/1897.




He was present at the Redcar chess meeting of 1866, and played at 1867 British Chess Federation meeting at Dundee, scoring 2 out of 9.


Julius Hamel of Melbourne Chess Club was a brother of his, according to the Chess Player’s Chronicle.  And L. Hamel is said to have been a founder of Dundee Chess Club, and may have been another brother.


A match in 1870 between Manchester and Liverpool featured “Hamel” playing on board 1 for Manchester.  This looks like yet another relative.


He was president of Nottingham Mechanics Institution Chess Club in, at least, 1881-82 and 1882-83.


The Leeds Mercury of 27/10/1883 recorded “S. Hamel” playing on board 4 for Nottingham Mechanics on 17/10/1883.





Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann

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

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