Yorkshire Chess History



William Rea











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



06/09/1844, Greenwich


01/01/1845, St. Alphege, Greenwich


19/11/1909, Nottingham


23/11/1909, Church (Rock) Cemetery, Nottingham


Non-Chess Life


William Rea was one of at least six children born to fisherman William Rea (senior; born 1808/09, Birmingham) and Mary E Rea (born 1814/15, Woolwich, Kent).  These children were as follows, all born in Greenwich, or Woolwich in the case of Mary Ball Rea:


Mary Ball Rea

born 1836/37

Eliza Ann Rea

born 1840/41

William Rea

born 06/09/1844

Ellen Rea

born 1849/50

Ann Louisa Rea

born 1851/52

Louisa Ann Rea

born 1855


William Rea’s date of birth, 06/09/1844, was recorded in the baptism register of St. Alphege, Greenwich, where William Rea, son of fisherman William Rea [senior] and Mary Rea, of George Street, Greenwich, was baptised on 01/01/1845 by I. (?) S. (?) Masters.  The birth was registered at Greenwich in the fourth quarter of 1844.


Father William Rea seems to have been away from his marital home, presumably fishing, for the 1851 and 1861 censuses.


The 1851 census found mother Mary, a fisherman’s wife, living at 17 Woodland Grove, Greenwich, with the first four children above, including 6-year-old William Rea, the future chess-player.


The 1861 census found mother Mary, still a fisherman’s wife, with all the above six children, living at 14 Tyler Street, Greenwich.  Eldest son 16-year-old William was now a pupil teacher.  Ellen and Ann were scholars.


William was not destined to be a schoolteacher, but entered the Civil Service, to which he was appointed on 22/05/1865 (1).  More specifically he joined the prison service, as it would be known today.  His first prison job may have been that at the prison on the Isle of Portland, which was opened in 1848.


Kelly’s 1867 directory for “Dorsetshire”, as it was then known, listed “Mr. W. Rea” as one of three “clerks” under a “chief clerk” in the Steward’s Department at Portland Prison, which was situated on Grove Road, which ran out of the village of Easton to the NE.   The better-appointed east-facing cells will have had a sea view (assuming one could see out of the window, which may not have been the case).  You were there to break up stone for the construction of Portland Harbour, not to look out of the window.  This prison is now a Young Offenders’ Institute.


Whether he got the job in Portland, then met his future wife as a result, or whether he met his future wife elsewhere then moved to her home town is unclear.  The former seems more likely, so he presumably joined the prison service and moved to Portland at some time from 1865 to 1867.


The banns of marriage between William Rea and Matilda Bearman were read on 14th, 21st, and 28th April 1867, at Portland, so the couple presumably married a little later in 1867.  Matilda had been born 1849/50, at Portland.  The couple had at least the following six children:


William Lloyd Rea

born 1868, Portland

Henry Flavel Lloyd Rea

born Dec/Jan 1870/71, Portland

George Lloyd Rea

born 1872, Portland

Nora Lloyd Rea

born 1874, Portland

Esmond Lloyd Rea

born 1877, Rochester, Kent 

Raymond Lloyd Rea

born 1883/84, Wakefield


Where the repeated middle name Lloyd came from isn’t immediately clear.


The 1871 census found 26-year-old William and 21-year-old Matilda, with the eldest two children living at Wakeham, a road running SE from the centre of the village of Easton, on the Isle of Portland.  William was recorded as a second class clerk in the civil service, more specifically the Home Office, at a convict prison, which was obviously Portland prison, about three-quarters of a mile from his home, as the crow flies.


By this time, William’s parents’ household had move to 225 Freeman Street, Grimsby, where the 1871 census found the household consisted of William (senior), who was owner of a smack (seagoing boat) and was a fish merchant, his wife Mary E. Rea, and unmarried daughters Mary Ball Rea, Eliza Ann Lindley, Ellen Rea and Ann and Louisa Rea.


White’s 1872 directory for Grimsby listed William Rea (senior) as a smack-owner and fish merchant living at 225 Freeman Street, Grimsby.


In 1874, at Grimsby, sister Eliza Ann Rea married lace-maker John Lindley, of John & James Lindley, lace makers, Upper Church Street, Basford (pronounced “Baseford”).


Kelly’s 1875 directory of Hants., the Isle of Wight, Wilts. and Dorset listed “W. Rea” as one of two second-class clerks in the department of the steward at Portland Prison.


The place of birth of son Esmond suggests a move to Rochester around 1875 to 1877.  In 1901, Esmond was in Bakewell.


At some stage William Rea took up employment at the prisons in Wakefield.  (There were a House of Correction and Convict Prison on the same site, sharing some resources.)  He was active as a chess-player in Wakefield in the period 1883 to 1888, so the family must have arrived in Wakefield at some time from 1876 (birth of son Esmond) to 1883 (chess activity).


The Wakefield prisons had earlier been the place of employment of William Ledgar Robinson and Edward Shepherd, who were contemporaries of each other but had both died before William Rea came along.


William (junior) seems not to be listed in Kelly's Directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881, but if he were resident at the time within the prison walls, as some of the staff were, then that may be partly why he wasn’t listed in, say, the street section.


William (junior) and his family are elusive in the 1881 census.


William’s parents’ household was still at Freeman Street, Grimsby, where the household consisted of William (senior), who was owner of a smack, wife Mary E. Rea, and unmarried daughter Mary Ball Rea, married daughter Eliza Ann Lindley (apparently a visitor), and unmarried daughters Ellen Rea and Ann Louise Rea.


Eliza Ann Lindley’s own family home in 1881 seems to have been that of John Lindley (born 1832/33, Basford, Nottinham), lace-maker employing 24 men, 6 boys and 13 Girls, who was listed in the census with a daughter, three sons, an aunt and a servant at Albany Road, Basford.


White’s 1885-86 directory for Nottinghamshire listed John Lindley, lace manufacturer, at 1 Vivian Avenue, off Sherwood Rise, Nottingham.  This was about quarter of a mile away from Albany Road.  (Number 4 Vivian Avenue was not mentioned, so perhaps 1 was put in error for 4.  Later the numbering system seems to have been the evens only, 2, 4 &c.)  The business premises of J. & G. Lindley, lace manufacturers, were at Simpson's factory, High Church Street, New Basford, Nottingham, about half a mile from Vivian Avenue..


In 1883 the directory listed him as storekeeper at Wakefield Prison, 16 Love Lane, Wakefield, which address appears to mean he was resident inside the prison premises.


In 1889, in Wakefield, wife Matilda died, aged 39.


The 1891 census listed William living outside the prison, at 9 Love Lane, Wakefield.  Love lane runs along the NE side of Wakefield prison. By now he was a widower.  All the children except William junior were still living with him.  He was described by occupation as a prison depot storekeeper.  The household now had one servant.  Number 9 Love Lane would appear to have been on the opposite side of the road to the prison, and the site of William Rea’s home would appear to have been redeveloped so that his former home is no longer there.


In 1892, William married Edith Annie Colls (born 1870, London, 26 years or so younger than William), at St. John’s, New Clee, Cleethorpes.  William had at least one further child by his second wife:


Phyllis Lloyd Rea

born 1893, Wakefield


John Lindley, brother of William’s married sister Eliza Ann Lindley, died at Basford in 1895.


The 1901 census found William, a store-keeper at HM prison, and wife Edith living at 2 Love Lane, Wakefield, along with children Nora, Raymond and Phyllis, as well as mother-in-law Ann Elizabeth Colls, and 3-year-old grandson Esmond Lloyd Rea, junior, (born 1898, Castle Bytham, Lincs), who may have been being looked after while a sibling was being born.  Apparently they’d moved from number 9 to number 2.


The 1901 census found William’s widowed sister, Eliza Ann Lindley, living at Strathmore, Sherwood Rise, Nottingham, with unmarried sister Mary Ball Rea, widowed sister Louisa Skelton, niece Ursula Mary Skelton, and two servants.  At the time they were being visited by 31-year-old Crewe-born Bertha Rea (a niece?) and two who appear to have been Bertha’s children, 4-year-old Winifred Lloyd Rea and 1-year-old Edward Lloyd Rea.  The house containing 13 “rooms” as specified by the later 1911 census form.


Kelly’s 1904 and 1910-11 directories for Nottinghamshire listed Eliza Ann Lindley as householder at 4 Vivian Avenue, which clarifies the identity of “Strathmore, Sherwood Rise”, where William in due course died.  (The “Avenues” – First, Second, Vivian and Fourth – were dead-ends turning orthogonally off Sherwood Rise.)


In May 1907, he gave up both work and chess due to ill health, and made plans to move to Cleethorpes where he had family and friends (1).  The British Chess Magazine quoted a letter in which he said, “It grieves me very much to give up chess, but I dare not venture among chess players yet, as I fear the temptation would be too great.  I hope, however, I shall not altogether sever from Yorkshire chess, especially in its social side.”


Kelly’s 1909 Lincolnshire directory listed “Miss Rea” at 6 Knoll Road [sic], Cleethorpes.  The 1911 census (which gave Knoll Street, which still exists with that name) makes it evident that this was 40-year-old, unmarried, Hull-born music-teacher Gertrude Rea, who seems likely to have been William’s cousin.  There were others called Rea in Grimsby or Cleethorpes, which were in close communication (by sea) with Hull where there were others called Rea.  Whether William moved to Cleethorpes for a while, and, if so, how long he stayed there, are unclear.  Either way he appears sooner or later to have moved on, to Nottingham.  Presumably wife Edith and youngest child, Phyllis, went with him.




William Rea died on 19/11/1909, at Strathmore, 4 Vivian Avenue, off Sherwood Rise, Nottingham, the home of widowed sister Eliza Ann Lindley, “after a long illness bravely and patiently borne.” (2)


The order for the interment (number 18643) in Nottingham’s Church (aka “Rock”) Cemetery was made on 20/11/1909, for which a 9-foot-deep family grave (number 8025, in section M) was purchased by Mrs. Edith Rea, widow of the deceased.  The £8 8s. cost of the grave was paid on 22/1/1909.  The interment took place on 28/11/1910, at 2 p.m., the officiate being with the Rev. Edward St. John Morse M.A., Cantab., vicar from 1882 to 1940 of Shelford (small village to the NE of Nottingham).  There seems no evidence of the grave on the ground now, though identifying the exact location is tricky. (3)


Although this was a family grave, William was the only one buried there.  The fate of his second wife Edith is unclear; she may have remarried.  His children will all have gone different ways away from Nottingham.




William Rea attended the annual meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association from 1883 to 1888, except, seemingly, 1887.


He was presumably the “Ray” of Wakefield who played in the 1883 Yorkshire v Lancashire match.


He played in the Yorkshire-Lancashire match of 1884.


In 1885, at least, he was secretary of Wakefield Chess Club.


He played in the Yorkshire Amateur Championship tournament played at the British Chess Association’s 1888 congress at Bradford.


He played in the 1888 match between West Yorkshire and Tyneside and Tees-Side.


As late as 1907 he came second in Wakefield chess club’s handicap tournament.




1.  British Chess Magazine October 1907.

2.  British Chess Magazine January 1910.

3.  Burial and grave records.





Copyright © 2013, 2016 Stephen John Mann

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

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