Yorkshire Chess History



William Ledgar Robinson











Made in Yorkshire



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William Ledgar Robinson worked for some years at Wakefield prison, where fellow chess-player Edward Shepherd was for much of that time governor.  He was also the most noticeable Wakefield chess-player on the Yorkshire chess scene from the start of the original Yorkshire Chess Association in 1841 to his death in 1877.


He was the son of Samuel Robinson (b. 1780/81) of Leicester, being born there on 9th (?) January 1806, and was educated at Leicester Grammar School.


He moved to Wakefield in 1830(? legibility), entering into partnership with his cousin, John Robinson (brother of Henry Robinson, who became manager at the bank on Wood Street, and was also a chess-player), carrying on a business as worsted spinners, first in Goody Bower (off Church Yard), then at St. John’s.


Pigot & Co.'s Directory of Yorks, Leics, etc, 1841, apparently didn’t list our man, but the 1841 census listed him as a woollen yarn and hosing merchant living at Bradford Road, in the St John’s area of Wakefield, with 55-year-old Maria Robinson (presumably his mother) and 30-year-old Maria (presumably an unmarried sister).


White’s Directory of Leeds & the Clothing District, 1842, listed William “Leidger” Robinson as a yarn-spinner at St John’s, and cousin Henry Robinson as cashier at Wood Street.


His connection with the prison, which was and still is off Westgate, commenced in February 1843(? legibility).


He left the prison in the Spring of 1845(? legibility) and began business as a share-broker, but returned to the prison the following year, and was shortly-after appointed steward.


White’s Directory of Leeds & the Clothing Districts, 1847, seems not to list our man, but it still listed cousin Henry Robinson, now specifically as bank clerk, at Wood Street.  It also listed Robert Hodgson, at Market Street; an aunt of his was married to this Robert Hodgson.  No yarn-spinners by the name of Robinson seem to have been listed.


As yet our man seems not to have been allocated residential premises within the prison, as the 1851 census listed the unmarried William L. Robinson as steward of the House of Correction, living at Pemberton Place, Wakefield (off Back Lane, near the prison).


On 14th September 1853, the 47-year-old William Ledgar Robinson married 23-year-old Wakefield-born Hannah Mary Brittain, daughter of Edward Brittain, cloth-dresser of Westgate.  The marriage register described our man as a “bookkeeper” resident at Westgate.  The witnesses signing the register were James Baxendale Hodgson and Elizabeth Hodgson, who were presumably relatives of his aunt Mrs. Robert Hodgson.


At some stage our man moved to residential premises within the prison, perhaps being allocated them as a result of his having married.


The couple had at least three children:

Clara Robinson

born 5th December 1853,

baptised along with brother Arthur 8th December 1858 at All Saints, Wakefield;

Arthur Ledgar Robinson

born 15th January 1855;

baptised 8th December 1858 at All Saints, Wakefield;

Blanche Robinson

born 8th July 1866;

baptised 6th September 1867 at All Saints, Wakefield.


White’s Directory of Leeds, Bradford etc, 1854, listed W Robinson, steward at Convict Prison in Westgate.  His cousin Henry Robinson was listed as a cashier at Wood Street.  His uncle, Robert Hodgson, was listed at South Villa.


White’s Directory of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield etc, 1858, listed W. L. Robinson as steward at the prison.


The 1861 census saw our man living with his wife and first two children within the confines of the West Riding prison in Wakefield, being described merely as a prison officer.


At the close of 1864, after the resignation of Edward Shepherd as prison governor, our man was appointed trade accountant at the prison, as well as steward, and, with Thomas R. Whiteley, trade manager, had charge of the earnings’ department until his death.


White’s Directory of Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield etc, 1866, listed in one place Wm. S. [sic] Robinson as steward and trade accountant at the prison.  In another place it gave Wm. Ledgar Robinson as steward at the West Riding Prison.  Cousin Henry was now listed as bank manager at Wood Street.


A sad event for the Robinsons was the death in the last quarter of 1868 of 13-year-old Arthur Ledgar Robinson.


White's Directory of Leeds & the West Riding, 1870, again listed William S. [sic] Robinson still as steward and trade accountant at the prison, but in another place Wm. Robinson as steward at the West Riding Prison.  It also listed Henry Robinson, bank manager, 1 Wood Street. (The bank appears to have been that of Leatham, Tew & Co., bankers, the West Riding Bank.)


The 1871 census described our man as steward and cashier at the West Riding prison, living within the curtilage of the prison with his wife and two daughters.




Prior to dying, he had first complained of being unwell on Saturday 24th of March.  At first this was deemed “irritation of the brain” cause by the excitement of a recent trip to London, but on the following Tuesday it was realised he had pleurisy, which at his age soon brought him to a serious condition.  There were yet fair hopes of his recovery, until the following Tuesday night.  He quietly passed away at two o’clock in the morning of Thursday 12th April 1877.


He’d died with “effects under £1,500” and his will was proved by his executors, who were his cousin, Henry Robinson, bank manager, and George Britton, licensed victualler, Golden Lion, 10 Westgate, Wakefield.


The 1881 census found the widowed Hannah Mary Shepherd living with her two daughters and a servant at Snow Hill View, Alverthorpe with Thornes, at the edge of Wakefield.




He attended the WYCA meetings of 1841 (both), 1842, 1843, 1845, 1848, 1850, 1856, 1857, 1859, 1864, 1866, 1867, 1869, 1870, 1871, 1872 1873, 1874, 1875, and 1876.  He attended the meeting at Nottingham Chess Club in 1844.  He was a subscriber to R. A. Brown’s book of problems etc.  He was one of the Wakefield players who attended the 1856 Huddersfield Chess Club annual meeting to play in a Huddersfield-Wakefield match.





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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

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