Yorkshire Chess History



Norcliffe Blakey Spenser











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



1841, Stainland, Halifax







Non-Chess Life


Records of the birth of Norcliffe Blakey Spenser are elusive.  Ages quoted in censuses are consistent, and combined with his declare age at death, imply a date of birth from 08/04/1841 to 24/10/1841.


His father was named in Norcliffe’s marriage certificate as Frederick Charles Knight Spenser (born 1797/98, Halifax).


The 1851 census found 53-year-old Frederick C. Spenser and 9-year-old son Norcliffe Blakey Spenser living at 25 Waterhouse Street, Halifax.  Living with them were a stonemason and his wife, who were listed as servants, meaning perhaps that the wife acted as housekeeper to the Spensers.  Frederick’s widowed older sister, Elizabeth Mattherman, happened to be visiting during the census.  Father Frederick was secretary and agent to an insurance company.


The curious thing is that Norcliffe’s mother was not listed, and his father was described as unmarried.  Father Frederick appears to have died at some time from 1851 to 1861.


The 1861 census found 19-year-old “N. B. Spenser” living with 72-year-old maiden aunt Anne Spenser, a former schoolmistress, and Norcliffe’s 10-year-old half-sister Anne Maria Inman, a scholar, at 43 Hampden Place, Halifax.  Our man was now clerk to a worsted manufacturer.


It would appear that half-siblings Norcliffe Blakey Spenser and Anne Maria Inman shared the same mother, and it would also appear that their three parents had, by 1861, probably died, leaving Norcliffe the breadwinner for the two, with Norcliffe’s aunt to help in the home.


On 04/10/1862, Norcliffe Blakey Spenser, 21-year-old bachelor bookkeeper of Halifax, son of Frederick Charles Knight Spenser, deceased, was married at the Huddersfield parish church, by W. Barker, to Ann Sykes (born1837, Almondbury), 25-year-old spinster of Huddersfield, daughter of Luke Sykes, warehouseman.


Norcliffe and Ann had 7 children, of whom only 5 survived to the 1911 census:


Edith Spencer

born 1864,

baptised 18/12/1864, St James, Halifax

a child who died at birth

or early childhood

born probably 1863, or 1865/66


Annie Spencer

born 1867/68


Frederick Spencer

(died 1877)

born 1868/69,

baptised 23/05/1869, St Paul, King Cross, Halifax

Norcliffe Spencer

born 09/06/1870 [per baptism register],

baptised 10/07/1870, All Hallows, Almondbury

Kate Spencer

born 1871/72,

baptised 03/05/1874, St Paul, King Cross, Halifax

Bertha Spencer

born 1873/74,

baptised 03/05/1874, St Paul, King Cross, Halifax


The places of abode recorded in baptism registers was King Cross area (a mile or so SW of the town centre) in 1869, when the father was described as a clerk (as he was also in 1870), and again in 1874, when the father was described as a cashier, suggesting a slight change in job.


The 1871 census found the parents, Edith, Annie, Frederick and Norcliffe junior, living with one servant at 11 Skircoat Road, which is due south of the town centre.  Whether this fell within the scope of the “King Cross” recorded in baptism records is unclear.


Frederick Spenser died in 1877.


The 1881 census found the parents and five surviving children (but no servant) living at 15 Skircoat Moor Road, Skircoat, Halifax.  Our man was now an accountant rather than a mere cashier.


The 1891 census found the parents, the three youngest children and a servant living still at 15 Skircoat Moor Road, Skircoat, Halifax.  Our man was now a chartered accountant.  Norcliffe junior was now a commercial clerk, and Bertha was a student teacher.


The 1901 census found the family had moved slightly nearer the centre of Halifax, to 1 Norfolk Place, Halifax, where parents and all five surviving offspring, except Edith, lived, again without a servant.  Norcliffe senior and Norcliffe junior were now both chartered accountants.


The 1911 census found Norcliffe senior, wife Ann and unmarried daughters Bertha and Kate had moved to the Grange, Wilberfoss, which is about 8 miles E of York, along the road to Market Weighton, and in the East Riding.  They had one servant with them.  Norcliffe senior was now retired.


By 1921, Norcliffe senior had moved to the Vicarage (presumably no longer used by the church), Wilberfoss.




Norcliffe Blakey Spenser died on 24/10/1921, at the age of 80.  It may be that he’d outlived his wife and children, as probate was granted to the public trustee.  He left £8,593 14s 3d.




He attended the 1869 WY, 1870 WY.


He was presumably the “Spencer” of Halifax who played in the 1882 Leeds v Halifax match.





Copyright © 2014 Stephen John Mann

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

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