Yorkshire Chess History



John Capner Marks











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



30/07/1819, Witton‑cum‑Twambrooks, Cheshire


22/08/1819, Witton‑cum‑Twambrooks, Cheshire


31/01/1892, Wakefield


03/02/1892, St. John’s, Wakefield




John Capner Marks was born on 30th July 1819, at Witton-cum-Twambrooks, Cheshire, and was baptised there on 22nd August 1819.  His parents were John and Elizabeth Marks (the latter born about 1780/81).


Witton-cum-Twambrooks, was a township in the Great Budworth parish, and was a civil parish from 1866 to 1894, when it became part of Northwich, which is also sometimes quoted as his place of birth.  The parish church for Witton-cum-Twambrooks was in 1819 St. Mary and All Saints, Great Budworth.


By the time of the 1841 census, his father had died, and he and his mother had moved to Leeds.  The census named our man simply “John Marks”, nominally 20 years of age living with his 60-year-old mother, Elizabeth, who was recorded as of independent means.  John’s occupation was recorded as “Cl” which seems to have meant “clerk”.  The two were living at Reuben Terrace, Leeds.  White’s Directory of Leeds & the Clothing District, 1842, lists “John Mark” (no “s”) as a clerk living at 26 Reuben Terrace, Leeds.  His move to Wakefield was presumably in the mid 1840s.


Life in Wakefield


Prior to 1847 he had been clerk to the Court of Record.  His involvement in the county court system dated from the year of the passing of the County Court Act, 1847, when he was appointed clerk to Mr. George Brooke Nelson, who was himself clerk of various County courts in the Wakefield area of the West Riding.


By 1849, John must have married, as the 1851 census listed him as a 31-year-old living at 7 Bond Terrace, Wakefield, with his 32-year-old wife, Mary A M Marks, and one-year-old daughter, Martha E. Marks.  His wife, whose full name was Mary Ann Martha Marks, was born 1818/19 at Wadebridge, Cornwall, which is six miles NW of Bodmin.  By occupation, our man was assistant clerk of the county court in Wakefield.


It may be that our man took a new job in Leeds, and then returned to Wakefield.  This is suggested by the fact that one of the children born in the mid-1850s was listed as born in Leeds by the 1861 census.  There could, however, be other explanations for this circumstance.


White’s Directory of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield etc, 1858, shows he’d taken a step or two up the ladder at work, as John Capner Marks was listed as High Bailiff of the County Court, Southgate, Wakefield, a post he was to hold for over thirty years.


The 1861 census was the first to give the family members’ names in full.  At least four children had been born over the previous ten years, but Martha E. Marks, who should have been 11 years old, seems to have fallen by the wayside.  The family lived was now living at Northgate, Wakefield, and the household consisted of the following:

John Capner Marks


High Bailiff of the County Court

Mary Ann Martha Marks



John William Marks


born 1851/52, Wakefield

William Woodfine Marks


born 1854/55, Leeds

Henry Capner Marks


born 1857/58, Wakefield

Marcia Annie Marks


born 1859/60, Wakefield

Jane Brown


an aunt of Mary Marks, born Albrighton, Shropshire

and 2 servants



Jane Brown was described as “Proprietor of Houses”.


White’s Directory of Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield &c, 1866, listed John Capner Marks, high bailiff of county court, Strafford Square, Wakefield.  White listed Strafford Square as on Northgate, so this very likely didn’t represent a change of home address.


White's Directory of Leeds & the West Riding, 1870, listed John Capner Marks, high bailiff of county court, now with his home at Middle Row, St. Johns, Wakefield.  (Other addresses in “Middle Row” also quote the number of a house on St John’s Place.  This area seems to have be re-developed since then.)


The 1871 census gave the family’s address loosely as “St. John’s”, Wakefield.  The immediate family comprised the same members as before, except that Marcia Annie Marks was absent; she had not died, however, as she reappeared in 1891.  Jane Brown was still with them, now 81 years old and listed as “dependent on head of family”.  There were still two servants.  19-year-old John William Marks was now “High Bailiff’s Clerk” which meant he worked for his father!  William and Henry were scholars.


He became a member of the Wakefield School Board, and a Governor of the Charities in Wakefield.  He also became involved in the Clayton Hospital and the School Institution.  He became a churchwarden at the cathedral, and a superintendent at the Sunday School.  Besides playing chess he also played cricket.


Entries in the London Gazette reveal that part of the High Bailiff’s job was administering bankruptcies under The Bankruptcy Act, 1869.


The History of the Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth at Wakefield, founded A.D. 1591, written in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of its foundation, tells us that in June 1880, John Capner Marks, High Bailiff of County Court, of St. John's, Wakefield, was appointed one of the school’s governors representing the Wakefield School Board.  Appointments were made every five years in June, or as required by resignation or death.  Our man was re-appointed in 1885 and 1890.


On 30th November 1880, William Woodfine Marks married Lucy Annie Smith, daughter of Alfred Smith, at Wakefield.


Mary Ann Martha Marks died at some time from 1871 to 1881, as the 1881 census listed “John C. Marks” as a widower, still living at Middle Row, St. John’s, Wakefield.  Most of the family had now left home, with the youngest member, 23-year-old Henry Capner Marks, left as the only one of the children still living with his father.  They still had two servants.  Jane Brown, who’d now be 91, had obviously died as well.  Henry was now a land-surveyor.


Kelly's Directory of West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881, John Capner Marks, high bailiff of county court, King Street, Wakefield.  It also listed him as lay secretary of the Church Institution.


White's Directory of Bradford, Halifax &c, 1887, listed John C. Marks, high bailiff of county court, living at. St. John’s Place, Wakefield.


On 13th April 1887, Henry Capner Marks married Louisa Georgina Green, daughter of George Henry Green, at Wakefield.


The 1891 census found our man, now 71 years old, living at 12 St. John’s Square, Wakefield.  This cannot have been far from the Middle Lane address, and may even have been the same, by a different name.  Henry Capner Marks was no longer residing with his father (having married in 1887), but the still-single “baby” of the family, Marcia Annie Marks, now 31 years old, was residing with her father.  Out man was still listed as high bailiff of Wakefield county court.  They had one live-in servant.




John Capner Marks of St. John’s, Wakefield, High Bailiff of the County Court, died on the 31st of January, 1892, at the age of 72.  He had been in failing health for many months.  “He suffered from gangrene of the foot, attended towards the close of his days with general feebleness, produced probably by advancing years.”


The funeral took place on Wednesday 3rd February, 1892, at 11.45 a.m.  The coffin was carried from his home to St. John’s churchyard by the bailiffs of the court.  A personal friend of the deceased officiated at the funeral, namely the Venerable Archdeacon Norman Dumenil Straton, D. D., who had been vicar of All Saints’ Cathedral, Wakefield, since 1875 and Archdeacon of Huddersfield since 1888, and was then shortly to assume the position of Bishop of Sodor and Man.  He was assisted by the vicar of St. John’s, the Rev. Frederick la Trobe Foster.  The Rev. J. M. Harris, senior curate from the cathedral, was also present.


He was buried in plot 1087 in the churchyard of St. John’s Wakefield.  The grave was bought on 29/07/1875 for £3 3s. 0d. and was of stone.  The plot was towards the centre of the southwest part of the church grounds, where there are now few graves still visible; there is now no visible evidence of the Capner grave.


Probate was granted at Wakefield on 9th June 1892, to William Woodfine Marks, solicitor, and Henry Capner Marks, borough engineer.  The deceased’s effects amounted to £934 10s 9d.




He attended the annual meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association in the sixteen years 1866, 1867, 1869 WY, 1870 to 1880, 1882 and 1883.





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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

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