Yorkshire Chess History



William Peverill Turnbull











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



08/10/1841, Hackness



24/01/1917, Church Stretton



A close-up of a person with a beard

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(Photograph supplied by Ronald Turnbull)


In census returns and other records, “Peverill” is often erroneously given only one “l” at the end, and often is given with an “e” instead the “i”.  He had a younger brother whose first name was “Peverill”.  However, his son who bore that name spelt it with only one “l”.  William Peverill Turnbull himself completed his 1911 census return with “Peverill” for himself and “Peveril” for his son!  The name of the castle which is the eponym of Castleton in North Derbyshire is “Peveril Castle”, so perhaps our man felt he was correcting his father’s spelling mistake.


Non-Chess Life


The parents of William Peverill Turnbull were Robert Turnbull (born 05/03/1812, Knaresborough; died 18/01/1891) and Mary Turnbull (née Watson, 04/04/1812, Scarborough, daughter of John Watson of Scalby, between Hackness and Scarborough; died 05/08/1890).  This couple had at least the following eight children, all born at Hackness, about four to five miles WNW of Scarborough:


John Turnbull

born 18/02/1838

Anne Turnbull

born 1839

Henry Turnbull

born 1840

William Peverill Turnbull

born 08/10/1841

Mary Watson Turnbull

born 1843

Elizabeth Turnbull

born 1844

Robert Edward Turnbull

born 1847

Peverill Turnbull

born 11/11/1850


The 1851 census found the parents, the above eight children except Anne, and 73-year-old mother-in-law Ann Watson living at an unspecified location in Hackness.  Also in the household was an “agricultural pupil” from Van Dieman’s Land (not renamed “Tasmania” until 1853), another “pupil”, and eight servants.  Father John was a land agent.  The children, apart from Robert and Peverill, were scholars at home.


William later went to St. Peter’s School in York, and on 01/03/1860 was admitted as a pensioner to Trinity College Cambridge, and matriculated Michaelmas 1860.  Older brother John had gone to Cambridge earlier.


The 1861 census found parents, Anne, Henry, William, Robert, Peverill, two wards with the surname Kidd, one boarder and five servants livng at Low House, Hackness.  Father Robert was a land agent and a farmer of 340 acres.  Anne was a governess.  Henry was an articled attorney’s clerk.  William was an undergraduate of Trinity College, Cambridge.  Robert and Peverill were scholars.


William got his BA in 1864, finishing 2nd Wrangler and winning 2nd Smith’s prize.  He became a fellow in 1865, and was an assistant tutor from 1865 to 1870.  He got his MA in 1867.


William Peverill Turnbull authored a number of mathematical textbooks, including An Introduction to Analytical Plane Geometry, originally published by Deighton, Bell and Co., 1867, and still available in reprint.


James Stuart, in his Reminiscences (see below), helpfully states: “After Turnbull took his degree he was for a few years a college lecturer.  But he left this to become an inspector of schools.  This was soon after the commencement of the Education Act of 1870.”


The 1871 census found 29-year-old William visiting the Bell family who resided at Westcroft, Hampstead, London.  He was “Fellow of College, M. A.”  He was perhaps on a trip to attend a job interview.


Later in 1871 [Venn] he embarked on his “day job” as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools.


In 1879 he became a fellow of St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge.


The 1881 census found 39-year-old William P. Turnbull, an inspector of schools, and his 36-year-old sister Elizabeth Turnbull lodging at 15 Merridale Lane, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.


On 21/12/1882 he married Fanny Hayes (born 1853/54, Wolverhampton), daughter of Edwin John Hayes of Ashby House, Handsworth, Birmingham, the marriage being registered at West Bromwich.  The couple had at least the following six children:


Herbert Westrum/Westren? Turnbull

born 1885, Wolverhampton

Edwin Laurence Turnbull

born 1887/88, Wolverhampton

Peveril Hayes Turnbull

born 1889, Wolverhampton

Derwent Christopher Turnbull

born 28/08/1890, Wolverhampton

Alan William Turnbull

born 1893/94, Wolverhampton

Margaret Frances Turnbull

born 1898/99, Sheffield


Our man’s parents died in 1890 and 1891 as above memtioned, and were buried side by side in a double grave at Haxby church.


The 1891 census found married William P Turnbull, H. M. Inspector of schools, to be a “boarder” at 14 Front Street, Brampton, Cumberland.  Since the householder was described as a hotelkeeper and farmer, it seems our man may simply have been staying there while doing his job of inspecting schools in the area.  The whereabouts of his wife and family is unclear from the 1891 census, but the Wolverhampton Red Book (directory) dated 1892 gave W. P. Turnbull, M.A., H.M. Inspector of Schools, residing at Stockwell End, Wolverhampton.  Wife Fanny was given as Hon. sec. of the Girls’ Friendly Society Lodge and also the Mrs. Hay Memorial Home for Friendless Girls, which all sounds very laudable.  Stockwell End seems to have been in Tettenhall, a village 2 miles WNW of Wolverhampton, which is probably where five of the above six children were born.


In 1894, he became a Divisional Inspector of Schools for the Northeast of England.


At some time from 1890 to 1895 (presumably 1894) William Peverill Turnbull moved to Sheffield.  He wasn’t mentioned in Kelly’s 1890 directory but was listed in the 1898 directory as HM Chief Inspector of Schools, living at 459 Glossop Road, Sheffield.


The 1901 census found William and wife Fanny living with the above six children and four servants, at 459 Glossop Road, Sheffield.


Our man was still listed in Kelly’s of 1905 at 459 Glossop Road, but was absent from the directory of 1908


After retired from the schools’ inspectorate in 1906 [Venn, & Bradford Observer Budget], he left Sheffield, initially to reside in Settle.


The 1911 census found 69-year-old Hackness-born William Peverill Turnbull, retired HM Inspector of Schools, living with wife Fanny, sons Peveril, Derwent and Alan, daughter Margaret, and three servants, at Holly Bank, Settle.  The census return stated the Turnbulls had had seven children, all still living.  The child not among the above-listed six was probably either Arthur Peveril Turnbull, born 28/01/1884, Wolverhampton, or else Kathleen May Turnbull born 1896, Wolverhampton.


Derwent Christopher Turnbull, R.A.M.C., died in Belgium on Sunday 14/03/1915, from injuries received on 10/03/1915 while trying to save the life of a wounded officer, which fact was noted in The Chess Amateur of May 1915, suggesting Derwent was himself perhaps also a chess-player.


By the time of his death, William Peverill Turnbull he was resident at Durway House, Church Stretton, Shopshire.


Politician James Stuart (1843-1913), in his Reminiscences (produced for private circulation, printed by Chiswick Press, London, 1911), referred to him at some length, starting on page 203 with the following:


One of the cleverest men whom I have known was W. P. Turnbull.  He was two years before me in college, but I had got to know him soon after I entered.  He had an extraordinary memory, and it was a specially good verbal one, so that he could repeat whole poems without a single misplaced word.  He was the only person who ever made me understand Browning.  When he repeated any of his poetry it all seemed quite plain.  He was a very elegant mathematician, and specially interested in pure mathematics, which were then rather at a discount.  His mind was essentially paradoxical. For instance, he was once staying with a friend of his and mine at Nottingham, and he did not come down to breakfast. His host, who told me the story, went to see him in his bedroom, and found him lying in bed. He said to Turnbull, "What are you doing?"  Turnbull said, "I am thinking on how to keep Lent."  His host said, "What conclusion have you come to?" to which Turnbull answered that you should conceive a strong desire to mortify the flesh, and then you should mortify that desire.


A curious tribute to our man lies in the fact that when Messrs. G. Routledge & Sons in 1918 published the revised “British Chess Code” it was dedicated to “the late Mr. W. P. Turnbull, a Yorkshire player and chess-writer.”




William Peverill Turnbull died from pneumonia on 24/01/1917 at Durway House, Church Stretton, Shropshire.  Probate was granted to son Peveril Turnbull, gentleman.  He left £10,287 5s.


An obituary appeared in The Times of 27/01/1917 (unseen).




While an assistant tutor at Cambridge, he was a subscriber to Skipworth’s Yorkshire Chess Association meeting at York in 1868.


On Thursday 17/01/1895 he played on board 2 for Sheffield versus Hull in the Woodhouse Cup.


He represented Sheffield in the Woodhouse Cup from 1895-00 (and possibly before) to 02/11/1905.


He was an adjudicator for the Sheffield & District Chess Association in season 1895-96, and elected (or re-elected) a Vice-President thereof at the 1896 AGM.


He played in Yorkshire v Lancashire matches of 1898 through to 1904.


In the season 1903-04, at least, he was a vice-president of the Sheffield & District Chess Association.


In The Chess Amateur of September 1907 there commenced a discourse by Turnbull on “the opposition”, which ran on from month to month to month.


Sydney Peverill Turnbull who played for Scarborough in matches against Whitby in 1894, home and away, was a nephew of William Peverill Turnbull, being a son of William’s brother Henry.


A great-grandson, Ronald Turnbull, himself a problem composer (mainly “Fairy” ones), advises that his grandfather published a chess book, 'Chessmen in Action' (Routledge 1914), and supplies the following images for which I thank him:


A book cover with a chess board

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An open book with a chess board

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Sources include:

the usual census and birth/marriage/death sources

Venn (Cambridge Alumni)

James Stuart Reminiscences





Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann

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

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