Yorkshire Chess History



Rev. John Owen











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



08/04/1827, Marchington, Staffs.



24/11/1901, Twickenham



Non-Chess Life


The chess-playing Rev. John Owen’s parents were John Owen of Field House, Marchington, Staffs., three miles SE of Uttoxeter, near the racecourse, and Sarah Owen, who had least two children:

Roger Deaville Owen

born 23/10/1823, Marchington, Staffs.

John Owen

born 08/04/1827, Marchington, Staffs.


There is a curious inconsistency regarding the use of the name “Deaville” in the Rev. John Owen’s brother Roger’s name, and the name “De Ville” used in his sons’ names.


The family home of Field House, Marchington, near Uttoxeter racecourse, became a Grade II listed building on 12/01/1966.  It is now an equestrian centre.  Pigot & Co.'s directory of northern and north midland counties, 1828-29, listed John Owen, gentleman, Marchington, in the Uttoxeter section.


Both above brothers were educated at Repton School.


Robert was admitted as a pensioner to Trinity College, Cambridge on 01/02/1841, and went on to matriculate, graduate and become a priest.  He held the following posts: curate of Boroughbridge 1847-54; vicar of Boroughbridge 1855-99; Hon. Canon of Ripon 1878-1904; chaplain to the Bishop of Chester 1884-1895; chaplain to the Bishop of Oxford 1888-1904.  In later life (probably from 1899) he resided at 6 Vanbrugh Park, Blackheath.  He died 20/10/1904 at 55 Cambridge Terrace, Hyde Park London, and was buried at Boroughbridge at whose church he has officiated for about 53 years.


John was admitted as a pensioner at Trinity College, Cambridge, matriculating Michaelmas 1846.  He got his BA in 1850 and MA in 1853.  He was ordained a deacon at Chester in 1851, and a priest in 1852.  The Rev. John Owen was curate of Grappenhall, Cheshire, from 1851 to 1852, then curate of All Saints, Paddington, London, from 1852 to 1862, according to Venn, though the 1861 census has him as curate of St. Mary’s Putney, suggesting Venn missed a switch from Paddington to Putney.


At the time of the 1841 census he was probably at Repton School, at Repton, Derbyshire, a hamlet about 6 miles SW of Derby, and 5 miles NE of Burton-on-Trent.  The school was founded in 1557.


At the time of the 1851 census he was probably either at Cambridge or at Grappenhall, Cheshire, two-and three-quarter miles SSE of Warrington.


By 1858, the Rev. John Owen had married Mary Ann Solly (born 1833/34, Camberwell, Surrey).  The couple had at least the following five children:


John De Ville Owen

born 1858, Brighton, Sussex

Reginald Solly Owen

born 1862, Hooton, Cheshire

Gurth Owen

born 1863/65, Hooton, Cheshire

Arthur Alan De Ville Owen

born 05/10/1868, Hooton, Cheshire

Mary Owen

born Dec. 1870 or Jan. 1871, Hooton, Cheshire


Quite how Mary came to be born in Brighton is unclear.


The 1861 census found John and his wife with 2-year-old son John de Ville Owen and three servants living at 5 Putney Hill, Putney, Surrey.  The 34-year-old Rev. John Owen was curate of St. Mary’s, Putney.  The household included three servants


In 1862 the Rev. John Owen became perpetual curate of Hooton, Cheshire, a district three miles NE of Elsmere Port, on the Wirral peninsula.  At least four of the children were born here.


It would appear that Mary Ann Owen died giving birth to daughter Mary, or shortly thereafter.  The death of Mary Ann Owen was registered in the first quarter of 1871, at the Wirral, Cheshire.


The 1871 census found recently-widowed Rev. John Owen, Arthur A. Owen and Mary Owen living in the household of John’s 68-year-old mother, Sarah Owen (born 1802/03, King’s Bromley, Staffs.) in Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, six miles SE of Ripon, and ten miles NE of Harrogate.  Sarah Owen was a landowner, John Owen was still vicar of Hooton, Cheshire, so residence at Boroughbridge was presumably a temporary situation consequent on his wife’s death.  The household included five servants.  Reginald and Gurth were at this time away as scholars, living at Mostyn House, Neston Cheshire, seven miles west of Elsmere Port.  (Arthur lacked his “De Ville” which is given by Venn.)  Boroughbridge was also the place of residence of John’s brother the Rev. Roger Deavillle Owen, vicar of Boroughbridge.


The Rev. John Owen seems absent from Morris & Co.'s Directory & Gazetteer of Cheshire, 1874.


The 1881 census found the family back on the Wirral, at Little Sutton, about three miles west of Elsmere Port.  John Owen’s 73-year-old mother-in-law was now living with him.  Also at Little Hutton were Reginald, Gurth and Mary.  Father John was still vicar of Hooton, Reginald was an Oxford undergraduate, Gurth was a commercial clerk, and Mary was a scholar.  The household included three servants.


The Rev. John Owen seems elusive in the 1891 census.  (In Switzerland !?)


Son Reginald Solly Owen became a schoolmaster after leaving Oxford.


Son Arthur Alan De Ville Owen had been educated at Oswestry Grammar School and thence had been admitted as a pensioner at Corpus Christi College Cambridge on 01/10/1887, matriculating Michaelmas 1887.  He’d got his BA in 1890, and went on to become ordained as a deacon (Chester) in 1892, and as a priest in 1893, and got his MA in 1895.  He was curate of Hooton, Cheshire, while his father was vicar, from 1892 to 1896; curate of Wallasey 1896-99; curate of St. Paul’s, Stalybridge, 1899-1900; curate of Hartford 1900-03; then vicar of Marchington with Marchington Woods, Staffs., where his father and uncle Roger had been born, 1903-15.


The 1901 census found the 73-year-old Rev John Owen living in retirement at 14 Morley Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, with son Gurth (clearly written “Gwith” in the census return).  Also living with them was Gurth’s 11-year-old daughter Harriet M. M. Owen, who had been born at Geneva, Switzerland.




The Reverend John Owen of 14 Morley Road, Twickenham, died on 24/11/1901.  Probate was granted to Reginald Solly Owen, schoolmaster, and Gurth Owen. He left effects of £1,438 6s.1d.




At the 1857 Chess Association meeting at Manchester, he won the minor section, a 16-player knock-out.


At the 1858 Chess Association meeting at Birmingham, he played in the top section, a 16-player knock-out, losing to Löwenthal in the semi-final.


In 1858, he won a game as Black against Paul Morphy, replying to Morphy’s 1. e4 with 1. ... b6.  This defence came to be known as Owen’s Defence:


White: Paul Morphy

Black: John Owen

London (casual), 1858

1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 e6 4.Nh3 c5 5.c3 cxd4 6.cxd4 Nc6 7.Be3 Nb4 8.Nc3 Nxd3+ 9.Qxd3 Bb4 10.O-O Bxc3 11.bxc3 Nf6 12.e5 Nd5 13.c4 Ba6 14.Bd2 Rc8 15.Rac1 O-O 16.Qb3 Ne7 17.Bb4 Re8 18.Rfd1 Nf5 19.g4 Nh4 20.f4 f6 21.Be1 fxe5 22.dxe5 Qe7 23.Ng5 h6 24.Ne4 Bb7 25.Qd3 Rf8 26.Bxh4 Qxh4 27.Nf6+ Rxf6 28.exf6 Qxg4+ 29.Qg3 Qxg3+ 30.hxg3 Bc6 31.fxg7 Kxg7 32.Kf2 Kf6 33.g4 h5 34.g5+ Kf5 35.Ke3 h4 36.Rd2 h3 37.Rh2 Bg2 38.Rc2 d5 39.g6 dxc4 40.g7 Rg8 41.Rcxg2 hxg2 42.Rxg2 Kf6 43.Rc2 Rxg7 44.Rxc4 Rg3+ 45.Ke4 Ra3 46.Rc2 Ra4+ 0-1


A subsequent match between the two, with Morphy giving odds of pawn and move, was won by Morphy, + 6, = 2, - 0.


He played in the British Chess Federation’s international 14-player all-play-all tournament in London in 1862.  Draws didn’t count, and each pair of players had to replay after a draws until one of them won.  Owen finished third, with 10 wins (7 played, and 3 defaulted) out of 13, after Adolf Anderssen (12 out of 13) and Louis Paulsen (11 out of 13).  Not only was Owen the highest placed British player, but he was the only player to beat Anderssen.  Interestingly, Owen scored six draws, more draws than any other player, suggesting his success was in part his approach to what was in effect match play, keeping the draw in hand rather than risking over-pressing and losing, then probing for a safe win in the next game.  His prize for finishing third was £30.


He visited the Redcar chess meeting of 1865, when the only tournament was for locals.


At the Redcar chess meeting of 1866 he played in the top section, finishing 2nd to 4th equal win Edmund Thorold and John Wisker, on 5 out of 7, behind Cecil Valentine De Vere on 6 out of 7.


The Chess Player’s Chronicle of 1868, page 24, mentioned that the Rev. John Owen had been visiting Yorkshire and that he and the Rev. A. B. Skipworth Owen had played a series of six games at the home of Rev. R. D. Owen.  The score was 2 wins apiece and 2 draws.  Two of the games appeared on pages 8 and 10 of the same issue of the magazine.  “Rev. R. D. Owen” was obviously John Owen’s brother Roger Deaville Owen, vicar of Boroughbridge, and this Skipworth-Owen match was therefore played at Boroughbridge.  John Owen will have been visiting his mother and his brother in Boroughbridge.


At the British Chess Association meeting of 1868-69, in London, he finished 3rd to 5th equal with GA MacDonnell and Robert Bownas Wormald on 6 out of ten, behind Blackburne and Cecil Valentine De Vere on 9 (Blackburne winning the play-off).


He played at various later Counties Chess Association meetings, Craigside tournaments, and British Chess Association meetings.  The following are what come immediately to hand without searching records.

1876 CCA, Cheltenham, 2nd-4th= on 9 out of 12, after Amos Burn;

1881 CCA, Leamington, 2nd on 7½ out of 9, after Rev. Charles Ranken;

1882 CCA, Manchester, 8th on 4 out of 9;

1885 CCA, Hereford (Masters’ Tournament), 11th on 1½ out of 10;

1888 BCA, Bradford (Masters’ Tournament), 14th-15th= on 5 out of 16;

1890 CCA, Cambridge (Class I, Section I), 3rd on 6 out of 9, after William Gunston and Joseph Henry Blake;

1890 BCA, Manchester (Masters’ Tournament), 15th on 7½ out of 19;

1891 CCA, Oxford, 3rd-6th= on 4½ out of 9, after Joseph Henry Blake and Rev. Arthur Bolland Skipworth;

1894-95 Craigside, 2nd-3rd= on 4 out of 6, after Herbert Jacobs;

1895 Craigside, 3rd-4th with Herbert Jacobs on 2 out of 4 (only 5 players), after Edward Owen Jones and Joseph Henry Blake;

1896 Craigside, 3rd out of 4 players with 1 out of 3;

1897 Craigside, 8th out of 10 players with 3 out of 9;

1898 Craigside, 7th out of 11 players with 4 out of 10.

(By no means a complete list.)


Other chess appearances included a win for Lancashire over Dr. James Heaton Bennett of Bradford in the Yorkshire v. Lancashire match of 1884.





Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann

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

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