Yorkshire Chess History



Samuel Wharton Kirke











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



1813/14, Irby, Lincs



19/06/1907, Clee, Grimsby



Identity of the Chess-Player


There had been Kirke’s in North Lincolnshire for centuries.  Theophilus was a popular name for eldest sons, and Theodosia for the eldest daughters, while Samuel was a popular name in the family.  The potential for confusion was greatly increased when one Theophilus Kirke named a son Samuel Wharton Kirke.  Thereafter there was one of that name for at least three more successive generations.  That makes identifying a chess-player of that name all the more difficult.


There was an S. W. Kirke at Caistor in 1851, but in principle could have been either the one baptised at Elsham, Lincs, in 1792, who died 03/01/1875, or his son born at Irby, Lincs, in 1813/14, and who died 19/06/1907.


The chess column by James Crake in the Bellman helps identify the chess-playing Samuel Wharton Kirke, as the 6th September 1879 issue contained a game won by “S. W.Kirke (Waltham)”.  The player of that name at Caistor, 1851, was most probably the same person, though he lived at Hull in 1851.


Strictly, the player mentioned by the Bellman could have been the Samuel Wharton Kirke born 07/12/1857 and baptised 03/01/1858, St. James, Great Grimsby, nephew of the Caistor player, but that seems less likely.


Non-chess Life


Our man’s parents were another Samuel Wharton Kirke (baptised 10/06/1792, at Elsham, Lincs) and his wife Isabella, who was roughly ten years older than her husband.  This couple had at least six children as follows, all born at Irby-on-Humber:

Samuel Wharton Kirke

born 1813/14

Robert Kirke

born 1816/17

Ann Kirke

baptised 26/08/1819

Mary Kirke

born 1820/21

Phoebe Kirke

born 1826; baptised 09/10/1826

Mathew Armstrong Kirke

baptised 20/08/1830


A younger Samuel Wharton Kirke, born 07/12/1857 and baptised 03/01/1858 at St. James, Great Grimsby, seems to have been the son of Robert Kirke, brother of our man.


Samuel Wharton Kirke senior, our man’s father, was a shopkeeper (later more specifically a grocer).  Samuel Wharton junior moved to Hull by 1849, but probably before 1841, becoming a hosier.  Robert Kirke became a farmer, ending up at Waltham.  Ann probably got married, but Mary and Phoebe remained unmarried to their deaths in 1898.  Mathew Armstrong Kirke died in infancy, aged thirteen-and-a-half months, on 5th October 1831.


The 1841 census listed only Ann and Mary living with their parents at Irby.  Phoebe must have been away visiting somewhere.  Isabella Kirke seems to have died at some from 1841 to 1851.  The1851 and 1861 censuses found Ann and Mary living with their father, with Ann functioning as housekeeper, and Mary working in the shop.  In 1871, the father was listed as a more specifically as a grocer.


Phoebe’s name was usually spelt “Phebe” in census and other records, but in the 1861 census the spelling was “Phoebe”.  This has to be accorded greater authority, as the enumerator was Samuel Wharton Kirke!  “Phoebe” is was also used in the probate record regarding her estate after death, and such records tended to be accurate.


Our man’s move to Hull looks like being probably by 1847, as on 25th August, 1847, he married Mary Boyle, born 1810/11 in Hull, daughter of Richard Boyle, at Holy Trinity Church, Hull.  The couple had at least three children:

Bertha Kirke

baptised 19/02/1849, at Holy Trinity, Hull

Agnes Kirke

baptised 17/08/1850, at St. John's, Hull

Gertrude Kirke

baptised 13/09/1851, at St. John's, Hull


F. White’s General Directory of Kingston-upon-Hull, and York, 1851, listed Kirke and Simpson, hosiers, 84 Queen Street, Hull, with Samuel Warton , with no “h”, Kirke living at 72 Lister Street, Hull.


The 1851 census listed our man as a “master hosier” living at 72 Lister Street, Hull, being a partner in a firm employing five men.  With him were listed his wife, eldest daughter, Bertha, and two servants.  Gertrude doesn’t seem to have been recorded. 


Slater's Commercial Directory of Durham, Northumberland & Yorkshire, 1855, listed Samuel W. Kirke, hosier, at 84 Queen Street, Hull.


At some time from 1851 to 1861 he moved home to 34 Dock Street, Hull, which is where the 1861 census found him, with one servant.  His wife happened to be paying a visit to the Maw family at Grove House in Barton-on-Humber at the time of the census.


In the first quarter of 1870, his wife Mary, died.  The 1871 census thus found him alone, except for a servant, at 34 Dock Street, Hull.


At some time from 1871 to 1879, he moved to Waltham, which is four miles south of (Great) Grimsby.  (Little Grimsby, in case you wondered, is three miles north of Louth, Lincolnshire.)  This moved may well have come after the death of Samuel Wharton Kirke, senior, our man’s father, in the first quarter of 1875.  Sisters Mary and Phoebe moved to Waltham, probably as a result of the death of their father.  The significance of Waltham is that that is where Robert Wharton, brother of our man, Mary and Phoebe.


The 1881 census listed Irby-born, widowed, retired hosier, Samuel Wharton Kirke living at Waltham.


The Post Office Directory of Lincolnshire, 1868, listed R. Kirke, a farmer, at Grange, Waltham, Great Grimsby.  White's History, Gazetteer & Directory of Lincolnshire, 1872, listed Robert Kirke, farmer, at Grange, Waltham.


Our was still living at Waltham during the 1891 census.


1898 saw the deaths of three of the Kirke women-folk at Waltham.  It is as if Waltham had experienced an epidemic disease in 1898.  Our man’s daughter Bertha died 4th March 1898; sister Phoebe Kirke died 10th March 1898; sister Mary died 23rd March 1898.  It was probably after these deaths that our man moved to Clee (as in Cleethorpes).


The 1901 census listed him at 18 Welholme Road, Clee, Grimsby.  He had a Laceby-born servant called Sarah Kirk (no final “e”), who was presumably not tangibly related to him.




The chess-playing Samuel Wharton Kirke, of 18 Park Terrace, Welholme Road, Clee, Grimsby, died on 19th June 1907.  Probate was granted on 4th July 1907 to Henry Kirke (a brother, nephew or son?) and Frederick William Riggall.  He left effects of £316 3s 6d.




An S. W. Kirke attended the Caistor chess meeting of 1851.  A few Hull players were present, so this was presumably the Irby-born S.W. Kirke, who was living in Hull at the time, later moving to Waltham.


He was listed as secretary of Hull Chess Club in 1854 [Chess Player’s Chronicle, 1854 monthly listing of chess clubs].


S. W. Kirke, of Waltham, is recorded as playing around 1879.  The Bellman of 6th September 1879 contained the following game:

White: Kirke, SW (Waltham), Black: Smith, G (Laceby), 1879

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Bc5 6. O-O Nf6 7. d4 exd4 8. e5 Ng4 9. cxd4 Bb6 10. Ng5 Nh6 11. Nc3 O-O 12. Qd3 g6 13. Qh3 Kg7 14. Nxh7 Nf5 15. Nxf8 Qxf8 16. Bg5 Bxd4 17. Bf6+ Kg8 18. Qh8+ mate.





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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

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