Yorkshire Chess History
This French gentleman’s surname was definitely “Moriau”. It quite frequently got rendered “Morian”, as to the eyes of an English speaker lacking a knowledge of French, a handwritten letter which looked like “u”, following “ia”, would seem most probably to be a badly written “n”; “Moriau” would seem clearly wrong. (See comments in connection with the 1911 census, where Camille’s own best efforts were confounded by “e-posterity”.)
The ages given for Camille Moriau in the censuses of 1891, 1901 and 1911, and his stated age at death, imply he was born at some time from 25/11/1850 to 31/03/1851. The 1901 and 1911 censuses recorded his place of birth as Lyons, France.
Evidence of his family in France is hard to uncover. There was a Camille Jean Baptiste Moriau who, with his wife Estelle Joséphine Carbonnelle (presumably her maiden name), had a daughter Sidonie Joséphine Moriau, whose birth on 20/01/1871 was registered in Denain, Nord, France. This Camille J B Moriau was presumably not the chess-player, as the latter was always represented as unmarried.
Quite when he came to England is not clear, but he was resident and working in London by 1881, but is not evident in the 1881 census, so he possibly arrived around mid-1881. As late as 1911 he had not become a naturalised British citizen, and presumably never did become one.
The 1882 London Post Office Directory listed Moriau & Nuttall, manufacturers' agents, with business premises at 5 Carey Lane, London EC. The type of merchandise handled seemingly varied over time, and the 1884 London Post Office Directory listed Moriau & Nuttall, silk agents, at 5 Carey Lane Cheapside, London EC.
The partnership between Camille Moriau and Robert Nuttall, junior, as lace agents and warehousemen, at 5 Carey Lane, was dissolved on 31/12/1885 (per the London Gazette of 15/01/1886), and Camille set out in the same line of business on his own, independent account.
According to the 1885 electoral register Camille was at this time resident as 389 Strand London.
The 1891 census found 40-year-old France-born agent Camille “Morian” lodging at 1 Lloyd Street, Clerkenwell, London.
Directories of 1895 and 1899 listed Camille Moriau as a manufacturers’ agent operating at 7 Trump Street, London. Meanwhile electoral registers from 1996 to 1903 listed him as resident at 4 Holford Street, King’s Cross, London, in the earlier years as “Morian”, then later as “Moriau”.
The 1901 census recorded 50-year-old Camille “Morian” as boarding at 4 Holford Street, King’s Cross, London. Not only did it record him as having been born at Lyons, France, but stated him to be a French subject. Also, after his occupation as manufacturers’ agent, was added “ex-Chess Champion”, as though this were a second line of business!
Camille Moriau clearly had a sense of humour, as the following letter to the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, published 12/09/1901, shows:
In time Camille moved his business premises to 20 & 21 Lawrence Lane, London EC. The 1910 Kelly London directory listed him at this address as an agent both for canvas and sail cloth.
The 1911 census found Camille visiting the Stroud household at 2 Athelston Road, Margate, Kent. 1911 was the first year census returns were normally completed by the householder. In this case Edward John Stroud completed the five entries for himself, his wife and three young children. Then, two adult daughters added their own entries, and Edward then added the entry for a grandson. That left Camille, who, in his best cursive handwriting, completed his own entry. “Moriau” was written noticeably larger than “Camille” and the other entries, just so that there could be no doubt, and the final letter of the surname was very clearly “u” not “n”. (Nevertheless, the entry was transcribed in computer digitisation as “Morian”! Élas, mon pauvre Camille.) Camille declared himself to be still single, by occupation a manufacturers’ agent for buttons and canvas, to have been born in Lyon, France, and to have been of French nationality.
A 1914 directory listed Camille Moriau, as a button, sail cloth & canvas agent, and the sole agent for A. Raymond's push & glove buttons &c., operating still at 20 & 21 Lawrence Lane, Cheapside, London EC, with telegraphic address "Storeroom, Cent".
By 1926, Camille had moved (possibly after other intervening addresses) to 10 Gainsborough Road, North Finchley, which was his residence at the time of his death.
Camille Moriau died on 24/11/1926, in the Barnet registration district, which includes Finchley, so he probably died at his home, 10 Gainsborough Road. The executors of his will were Marten Llewellyn Evans, and Germaine Antoinette Alderson, neither of whom would appear to have been closely related, unless the latter were a married sister.
The chess career of Camille Moriau started in his native France. The Westminster Papers of 01/03/1872 relayed from La Stratégie, which had apparently recently been revived, reporting, “already a new star has appeared, in the person of M. Moriau, of Lyons, who is destined, says La Stratégie, to take a high place among the very strongest players.”
In 1872, there was to be an Exposition Universelles at Lyon, and local chess-players, seemingly led by Moriau, sought to organise a major chess event as part of this, or alongside it. In an effort to enlist support also from English players, Moriau wrote to the Illustrated London News, and under the “To Correspondents” part of the chess column of 23/03/1872, interested parties were exhorted to contact “M. Morian [sic], Café de France, 26 Cours Morand, Lyon.” (Illustrated London News of 23/03/1872)
The Illustrated London News of 27/04/1872 published a game “between Messrs. Charpine and Moriau, two young amateurs of Lyons.”
There was obviously little coverage in the English chess literature of his chess career in France, but the 1901 census, as mentioned above, provided a curious epitaph to his former chess life with the words, “ex-chess champion”.
It appears that he had initially been inactive as a chess-player since arriving in England until about 1888, when he became noticeable in chess reports, which continued through to at least 1916.
In December 1888, The British Chess Club elected nine new members, “the most notable of whom was Mr. Moriau, a strong representative of France.” (Illustrated London News of 08/12/1888)
The club he was most closely involved appears to have been the City of London Chess Club where he engaged in matches and internal events from 1889 to 1892. In the annual championship of the club, he played in 1889, probably his first year of participating. In 1891 he came second, then in 1892 he came first.
Around 1890, perhaps, the City of London club introduced weekly simultaneous displays, and those giving such display included Messrs. Vyse, Moriau, Zangwell and Jacobs. (Illustrated London News of 24/01/1891).
The Morning Post of 27/02/1893 reported that Mr. Moriau had given a 21-board simultaneous display at the Sydenham and Forest Hill Chess Club, and a 14-board simultaneous display at the Guildhall on 24/02/1893, and added, “As an amateur simultaneous player Mr. Moriau is certainly in the front rank.”
On 25/02/1893 a new London chess club known as “The Chess Bohemians” was formed, with Camille Moriau as president, despite his assertion that the president ought to be an Englishman. Moriau continued as president in subsequent years. The City of London Club, however, continued to be the club he represented competitively.
His chess-playing may have wound down after this.
Over the period 1898-1916, at least, he was one of the 5 or so vice-presidents of City of London CC.
Copyright © 2020 Stephen John Mann
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