Yorkshire Chess History



Henry Mercer and Arthur Emerson Mercer











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site


Henry Mercer


Arthur Emerson Mercer


11/05/1839, Hull



1873, Gainsborough







05/01/1908, Sheffield



12/06/1964, London







Identity of the Chess-Player


Censuses show that Sheffield chess-player Henry Mercer was born in 1839, in Hull, but that the family spent decades in Gainsborough before Henry moved to Sheffield.  Finding him in censuses prior to 1871 is difficult.  It is evident from the 1841 and 1891 censuses that Henry Mercer has a brother called William Mercer, and baptismal records show that William Mercer was a son of Fletcher Mercer (born 04/10/1802 [1], Gainsborough) and Milicent Ann Mercer (née Moxon, 1815/16, Gainsborough), who were married in Lincoln on 20/12/1832 [1].  Initial difficulty in piecing together the picture stems from the 1841 census listing the Mercer children farmed out to relatives of their mother, perhaps due to the imminent arrival of a new baby in the Mercer household.  (It seems younger children were sometimes placed with relatives at such times.)  To make things worse, relevant entries in the 1851 census are elusive.


Non-Chess Life


38-year-old Fletcher Mercer and 25-year-old Millicent Mercer are evident in the 1841 census living on Morton Terrace, Gainsborough, but they have no children listed with them, just a 70-year-old Mary Dennis.  The 1841 census nevertheless listed Mercer children in two Moxon households.  7-year-old Fletcher Mercer and 6-year-old William Mercer were listed in the household of 55-year-old Francis Moxon, which included 10 members of the Moxon family, in Silver Street, Gainsborough.  This Fletcher Mercer is recorded in a baptism record as being a son of Fletcher senior and Milicent Ann Mercer.  It seems this Francis Moxon was probably the father of Milicent Ann Mercer.  Additionally, 5-year-old “Paler” [meant “Palmer” – paternal grandmother’s maiden name] Mercer and 2-year-old Henry Mercer were listed living in the Morton district of Gainsborough, with 60-year-old Fanny Audas and 30-year-old Fanny Moxon.  The 1891 census identifies Henry and William as brothers, thus suggesting these Mercer children in Moxon household were siblings, and offspring of Fletcher and Milicent.


If we assume these scattered Mercer children were all offspring of Fletcher Mercer, senior, and Millicent Ann Mercer, née Moxon, then their children included at least the following four children, all born on Hull:


Fletcher Mercer

born 1833/34

William Mercer

born 1834/35

Francis Palmer Mercer

born 1835/36

Henry Mercer

born 1839


There were other births which could have been to the same parents, but these are difficult to confirm as the Mercers are elusive in the 1851 census.


Fletcher Mercer (senior) was listed in the 1852 Poll Book as eligible to vote in Gainsborough.


The 1861 census found Fletcher Mercer and Milicent Mercer living at Caskgate Street, Gainsborough, with two servants, but no children.  All the children would be old enough to have left home by this time.  Fletcher senior was a seed crusher employing 16 men.


21-year-old Henry Mercer seems absent from the 1861 census.


On 05/10/1864 [1], in Gainsborough, Henry Mercer married Louise Juliette Emerson, born 1845/46( or 02/06/1844 per a personal family website [1]), Le Havre, France).  The couple had at least the following six children, all born in Gainsborough:


Walter Louis Mercer

born 1865

Caroline Amelia Mercer

born 1867

Eleanor Louise Mercer

born Dec 1870 or Jan 1871

Arthur Emerson Mercer

born 1873

Milicent Ethel Mercer

born 1874

Henry Lancelot Mercer

born 1880


The 1871 census found the parents and first three children living with three servants at Trinity Street, Gainsborough.  Henry was a seed-crusher, perhaps working with his father, of running his father’s former business.


On 03/07/1876 [1], Henry’s father, Fletcher Mercer senior, died in Gainsborough.  Brothers Fletcher Mercer junior and Henry Mercer took over running the seed-crushing business, with brothers William Mercer Francis Palmer Mercer acting as an agents in Hull and Liverpool.


In 1877, Mary Beatrice Mercer was born in Gainsborough but died in 3 to 6 months of birth.  Similarly, in 1878 Constance Enid Mercer was born and died within a year.  Both girls were probably born to Henry and Louise.


In 1878, his mother, Milicent Ann Mercer, died in Gainsborough.  She was buried in Morton churchyard.


The 1881 census found parents and all six children living at Lord Street, Gainsborough.  Henry was still a seed crusher.


At some time from 1881 to 1883 the Mercer family moved to Sheffield, where Henry became an insurance and commission agent.


Henry’s wife, Louise Juliette Mercer died, aged 39, on 06/03/1884, at 21 Botanical Road, Sheffield.  [Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 07/03/1884].


Henry’s brother Francis Palmer Mercer died in Hull in 1889.


The 1891 census found “married” Henry Mercer, his five children, and his brother William living at 21 Botanical Road, Sheffield.  It seems he should have been recorded as a widower.  (In 1890, a Henry Mercer married Mary Elizabeth Lane in Sheffield, but this appears to have been “Harry” Mercer of Attercliffe, and not the chess-playing Henry Mercer.)  Henry was an insurance and commission agent.  Caroline was an author of magazine articles.  Eleanor was a silver chaser and designer, Arthur was a merchant’s clerk, Milicent was a silver chaser, and Henry was a scholar.


On 03/12/1892 [1], Henry Mercer remarried, to Charlotte O'Brien.  This may have taken place in Ireland, as a record of the marriage is difficult to trace.  The couple had at least one child:


Kathleen O’Brien Mercer

born 1897, Sheffield


The 1901 census accordingly found Henry, Charlotte and Kathleen living at 49 Cavendish Street, Sheffield.  Henry was a commission agent, seemingly dealing in malt and whiskey (or perhaps malt whiskey).


The 1901 census found Arthur Emerson Mercer now living on his own, as a boarder at 75 South View Road, Sheffield.  He was an accountant’s clerk.


At some time from 1902 to 1908, on the basis of chess records, Arthur Emerson Mercer moved to London.


The 1911 census found Arthur Emerson Mercer, still unmarried, living at 64c Fulham Park Gardens, Fulham, SW London, with his sister Milicent Ethel Mercer.  Henry was still a clerk, and Milicent was still a silver chaser.




Father Henry Mercer died in 05/01/1908, in Sheffield, aged 67.


Son Arthur Emerson Mercer died on 12/06/1964, at Whittington Hospital, Highgate Wing, London.  At the time he was resident at 10 Glenhurst Avenue, St. Pancras, London.




One imagines Henry Mercer will have played for Gainsborough, but evidence is not to hand at the time of writing.  One of the first things he did on reaching Sheffield, more or less, was to join the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club.


Henry Mercer played in the 1883 Blackburne exhibition in Sheffield, in the 1883 Bird exhibition in Sheffield, in the 1885 Zukertort exhibition in Sheffield, in the 1892 Blackburne exhibition in Sheffield, and in the 1896 Blackburne exhibition in Sheffield.


Henry Mercer played in the 1884 Sheffield & District v Huddersfield & Holmfirth match.


Henry Mercer played for Sheffield &DCA Club in the Woodhouse Cup over the period 1885-86 to 1892-93 at least, playing also in ad hoc matches such as Manchester v Sheffield & DCA on 14/04/1888, and the 1890 Sheffield Athenaeum v. St. George’s, Birmingham match.


Arthur Emerson Mercer joined the Sheffield YMCA Chess Club, seemingly at its formation in 1893.  In matches between the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club and the Rest of the S&DCA, father Henry represented the Athenaeum, while son Arthur Emerson Mercer played for the Association (1893 Sheffield Athenaeum CC v Sheffield & District CA.)


Arthur Emerson Mercer played for Sheffield YMCA in the Sheffield league from the start, in 1893-94.  He played for Sheffield in the Woodhouse Cup over the period 1899-1900 to 1901-92, at least.  He also represented Yorkshire, as in the away match against Cumberland on 18/01/1902.


Arthur Emerson Mercer played for Sheffield in the 1893 Sheffield & DCA v Derbyshire match, and for Sheffield YMCA in the 1900 Gainsborough v Sheffield Y.M.C.A. match.


A. E. Mercer played in the British Chess Federation’s third annual meeting in 1906, at Shrewsbury.


A. E. Mercer represented Middlesex in the Middlesex-Yorkshire match on 12/12/1908, after leaving Sheffield for London.





[1] These exact dates have been taken from http://home.global.co.za/~mercon/mercer/Henry%20Mercer.htm





Copyright © 2015 Stephen John Mann

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

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