Yorkshire Chess History



John Vernon Newton











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



1857, Boston, Lincs.




15/12/1928, Chesterfield




Name of the Chess-Player


Most representations of his name are consistent with him being known as “John” rather than “Vernon”, but he signed his 1911 census form “J. Vernon Smith”, suggesting that, in some contexts at least, he adopted the forename “Vernon”.


Non-Chess Life


John Vernon Newton’s parents were William Newton (born 1819/20, Gainsborough) and Ann Newton (née Johnson, 1823/24, Gainsborough), who married in Gainsborough in 1844, and had at least the following ten children:


Ann(ie) Newton

born 1845, Camden Town, Middx.

William Newton

born 1847, Leicester

Jane Newton

born 1848/49, Lincoln

Henry Newton

born 1853, Lincoln

Mary Newton

born 1854/55, Lincoln

Elizabeth Newton

born 1855/56, Boston

John Vernon Newton

born 1857, Boston

Fanny Newton

born 1859, Boston

Emma Newton

born 1861, Boston

Alfred L Newton

born 1866, Doncaster


The places of birth of the children suggest father William’s work on the railways took him from one place to another with changing jobs.


The 1861 census found the family at an unnumbered address on West Sheet Road, Boston, Lincs., with two servants  This street name isn’t on modern maps, but is substantiated by the 1860 PO directory to Lincolnshire, which gives “Newton Mr. William, West street road” in the Boston section.  This may have been the modern West Street, or a road nearby.  Father William was a railway superintendent.


It is evident that the family had moved to Doncaster, an important town for the Great Northern Railway, by 1866.


The 1871 census found the family at Mineral Cottage, Doncaster, now with only one servant.  The location is unclear, though it was listed after Hexthorpe Road entries, which was handy for the railway.  Father William was now a rail traffic manager.  The house may have gone with the job, as the 1881 census described William as a “mineral traffic manager”.  “John V. Newton” was a scholar.


The 1881 census found the family at Elm Field Cottage, Doncaster (listed between 1 Hall Cross and 63 Bennetthorpe), with one servant.  This was clearly in the vicinity of the modern Elmfield Park, which has Bennetthorpe running along one side.  Father William was a “mineral traffic manager”, while 23-year-old “J. V. Newton” was a commercial traveller.  (The other family members had the first name given in full.


White’s 1881 directory of the West Riding gave William Newton as manager of the Great Northern’s “mineral department”, with his home as Elmfield cot., “Bennitthorpe” (a recurrent variant of “Bennetthorpe”).


On 04/07/1883, at Clay Cross (to the south of Chesterfield), Derbyshire, “27”-year-old John Vernon Newton married 25-year-old Maude Emma Askew (born 1858, Clay Cross).  The groom’s age seems to have been overstated by one year.  The couple had at least the following three children:


Phyllis Ann Newton

born 1887, Chesterfield

Stephen Guy Newton

born 1889, Chesterfield

Marjorie Maude Newton

born 1892/93, Chesterfield


The place of birth of the children makes it evident the newly married couple, immediately or soon, set up home on Chesterfield.


The 1891 census found the family living at Sheffield Road Chesterfield (probably no. 51), with Maude’s unmarried sister, Helen (“Nellie”) Grace Askew (born 1865, Clay Cross) and two servants.


Kelly’s 1891, 1895 & 1899 directories for Derbyshire &c listed “Newton John V. St. Helen's house, Sheffield road” (Chesterfield), the address being perhaps no. 51.


Maude Emma Newton died in 1895, in Chesterfield, aged 37, perhaps in childbirth.


The 1901 census found John V. Newton living with his three children, sister-in-law “Nellie”, and two servants at 51 Sheffield Road, Chesterfield.  John was still a travelling salesman of some sort.


The 1911 census found the same family of five, with two servants, had moved to 22 Queen’s Street, Chesterfield, a move of barely a quarter of a mile.  Our man described himself as a sales agent for a colliery.  Interestingly, he signed his name as “J. Vernon Newton”.  Stephen Guy Newton was now a travelling agent for a colliery, presumably the same one that his father worked for.


Kelly’s 1912 directory of Derbyshire listed “Newton John Vernon, 22 Queen's st.” (Chesterfield).




John V. Newton died on 15/12/1928, in Chesterfield, at the age of 71.




Neither Doncaster not Chesterfield were major centres of chess, and much of what went on may have gone unreported, or difficult to track down.


“J. V. Newton” played for Doncaster in the 1879 Doncaster v Rotherham match.  There must be more evidence of his chess activity to be unearthed.


The establishment of a vigorous chess club in Chesterfield came only in 1924, though earlier activity, in 1902 and later, is recorded.






Copyright © 2017 Stephen John Mann

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

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