Yorkshire Chess History
Rev. Henry Hunt Piper
Identity of the Chess-Player
A chess-player from Sheffield, named “Piper” was listed as present at the second meeting of the original Yorkshire Chess Association, at Wakefield on 8th November 1841. No initials or other attribution are given, just the surname. In the absence of other candidates of the name “Piper”, this chess-player must have been the Rev. Henry Hunt Piper, a Unitarian minister living in the village of Norton, 3 miles south of Sheffield and 8 miles north of Chesterfield. Norton was then in Derbyshire, but is now part of Sheffield, and in Yorkshire. The eldest son, Henry Hunt Piper junior, wasn’t listed in the Norton household in the 1841 census, and appears to have died in London on 1842, so is unlikely to be the “Piper” at the Yorkshire Chess Association meeting.
The date of birth comes from History of Upper Chapel, Sheffield; founded 1662: built 1700, a bicentennial volume. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 16th January 1864 reported “The Rev. H. H Piper died at his home in Hampstead on 14th January 1864, aged 82.” This implies he was born in 1781 or possibly during the first two weeks of 1782. Probably the Telegraph should have said he died in his 82nd year.
Henry was originally expected to be destined for his Congregational father’s trade, that of a builder, but, because he developed a desire to enter the ministry, he was sent to Hoxton Academy, a dissenting academy in London. He then went to Homerton College, Homerton High Street, Hackney, London, an institution for the education of Calvinist ministers. His theological stance evolved from Trinitarianism, via Arianism, to Unitarianism.
His first post was as Unitarian Minister at Rochford in Kent. Dates up to this point aren’t clear.
In 1805 he married Alicia Lewin, eldest daughter of Samuel Lewin, of Hackney.
It was also in 1805 that he took up a post as the Unitarian Minister at “Mr. Shore's Chapel” at Norton. [Samuel Shore of Norton Hall, Lord of the Manor of Norton; died at Meersbrook Hall on 16/11/1828, aged 90.] Besides being a minister, he ran a boarding school for the sons of gentlemen. (See advert below.)
Henry and wife Alicia had nine children, all born at Norton:
The Rev. Piper clearly didn’t set too much store by the baptism of infants. The birth of Lewin precipitated a batch baptism on 17/04/1816 of Emily, Henry and Lewin, but not Frances at this stage. The birth of Eliza precipitated a second batch baptism on 24/02/827 of Frances, Frederick, Mary, Octavia and Eliza. [What about Alicia?]
The fate of Lewin and Frederick isn’t clear. They may have died in Norton. A letter date 23/04/1900, written by a former pupil at the Rev. Piper’s school from 1825 to 1827, recalled that the elder son [Henry, jun.] was educated at York, and also recalled younger son, Lewin, and “several daughters - Alicia, Emily, and Fanny [i.e. Frances] - who were great favourites with the schoolboys.” So Lewin survived at least to his teens, it seems.
Mr. John Holland is said to have described the Rev. Piper as "plain, plump, genial, and frank."
Virtually as soon as he’d got established in Norton, he began to engage in the cultural affairs of Sheffield.
He was one of the first six members of The Sheffield Book Society which was formed on 12/12/1806, was limited to 20 members, and was as much a social as a literary organisation. It met monthly at the King’s Head Hotel, n the nearest Tuesday to the full moon.
He was involved in the founding, on 12/12/1822, of the Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society, and was elected president in 1828. (While President, he appears to have lost the Report for 1828, which has ever since been missing.) He frequently lectured at its meetings. One paper he presented in 1824 was on The newly-discovered Treatise by Cicero, 'De Republica'. Later, in the same year, he read a paper on The Dialect of Sheffield and its Neighbourhood. In 1827 he lectured on Music. In 1829 he presented The History of Greece, and on The Epicurean and Stoic Philosophy. His subjects were extremely diverse.
While at Norton the Rev. Piper developed a widespread respect among Unitarians.
On 23/06/1830 he addressed the annual Hull meeting of the Unitarian Association for Hull, Doncaster, Gainsborough, Lincoln, Thorne, and the neighbourhood, at the
Bowl Alley Lane chapel, Hull. He took as his text 1 Corinthians ii. 5: "That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
An advert for his school appeared in The Monthly Repository and Review of Theology and General Literature of June 1830, reading as follows.
When an interregnum arose at Sheffield’s Unitarian Upper Chapel, the Trustees wrote on 10/03/1837 both to the Rev Henry Hunt Piper of Norton, and the Rev Peter Wright of Stannington, requesting that between them they undertook “the supply of the pulpit” (did the preaching) until a new minister was in post, to which they agreed. This arrangement lasted until a new minister was appointed in 1838.
In 1839 he was requested by Sheffield Unitarians of to reply to attacks on Unitarianism made by the Rev. Thomas Best, a Church of England clergyman who was at the time a secretary of the Sheffield Reformation & Protestant Association. For doing this he was presented with a silver inkstand and £100!
The 1841 census found the family in Norton. Living with Henry and wife Alicia at the time were Alicia (junior), Emily, Frederick and Octavia. The whereabouts of Frances, Lewin and Eliza are unclear. Henry junior was probably in London. Mary had already died.
He became friends with sculptor Francis Chantrey (born 07/04/1781, Jordanthorpe, near Norton; died 25/11/1841, London) during the latter’s difficult early career. He was also friends with poet James Montgomery (born 04/11/1771, Irvine, Scotland; died 30/04/1854, Sheffield), who had moved to Sheffield in 1792.
Sir (as he had become) Francis Leggett Chantrey R. A. died in Pimlico on 25/11/1842. The Rev. H. H. Piper was in the third coach of mourners following the hearse at the procession preceding the funeral, which took place on 06/12/1843 at Norton. Chantrey was interred in a vault built by Chantrey himself on the north side of the church in 1840. The grave and monument were moved to the grounds of Sheffield Cathedral in 1971.
In 1843 he left Norton and moved to a post in Banbury, where he was recorded in 1851 as living at Norton Lodge, Banbury, presumably reflecting his affection for his previous place of residence.
The Rev. H. H. Piper, by then “of Banbury”, preached at the 37th annual general meeting of the Warwickshire Unitarian Tract Society, on 25/07/1943, at Wolverhampton.
At Banbury, in May 1844, daughter Octavia Piper married Edward Cobb, Esq., of Calthorpe House, Banbury. Octavia seems to be the only Piper daughter to get married.
The construction of Christchurch Chapel, Banbury is attributed to his drive. The architect was J. H. Underwood, Esq., of Oxford. The builder was Mr. John Chesterman, of Abingdon. The first stone was laid on the 11/09/1849, and it was finished in August 1850.
The 1851 census found the family in Banbury. Living with Henry and wife Alicia at the time were Alicia (junior), Emily, and Eliza. The whereabouts of Frances is again unclear, as were hose of Lewin and Frederick. Octavia was living in Banbury with her husband and growing family.
Gardner’s Oxfordshire directory dated 1852 listed Mrs. Piper, presumably the Rev. Piper’s wife, as secretary of the Banbury Dorcas Society.
The retired from the ministry in 1853, moving to the Hampstead area of his native London.
The 1861 census found Henry, wife Alicia, Alicia junior and Emily living in Hampstead.
His writings included:
Christian Liberty Advocated, 1808;
Sunday evenings, or Practical discourses, 1833, a volume of sermons;
Sylvanus, a religious romance;
Common Prayer Book Revised, 1841 (Pickering) – sometimes attributed to other authors – being a version of the Church of England Prayer but with non-Unitarian features removed.
The Rev. H. H Piper died at his home, 2 Church Row, Hampstead, on the 13th or 14th of January 1864. Sources differ as to the date. He was butied at Highgate Cemetery, London.
A chess-player from Sheffield, named “Piper”, was listed as present at the second meeting of the original Yorkshire Chess Association, at Wakefield on 8th November 1841. This reverend gentleman is the only person to fit the bill.
As a resident of Norton, the Rev. Henry Hunt Piper would potentially be acquainted with the Cockayne family of drapery fame in Sheffield, which family contained some chess-players. “Piper” may have played socially against one or other of the Cockaynes form time to time in Norton.
Copyright © 2016 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information