Yorkshire Chess History



Dr. Arthur Cobden Jordan Wilson











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



1852, Cheetham, Manchester



16/04/1933, Penistone


20/04/1933, Netherfield Congregational Chapel, Penistone


Non-Chess Life


Arthur Cobden Jordan Wilson was born in Manchester in 1852, the youngest son of George Wilson (born 1808, Hathersage, Derbyshire) and Mary Wilson (born 1809/10, Pendleton/Salford).  This was the George Wilson who advocated the abolition of the Corn Laws and more specifically was chairman of the Anti-Corn Law League.  George Wilson was also chairman of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company.


George and Mary had at least the following seven children, all born in Cheetham, Manchester:


John Rawson Wilson

born 1839/40

George David Wilson

born 1841/42

Thomas Bright Wilson

born 24/07/1843

Frances Anne Wilson

born 1844/45

Charles Villiers Wilson

born 1846/47

William Henry Wilson

born 1850/51

Arthur Cobden Jordan Wilson

born 1852


The student of chess chronometry will immediately recognise the name of Thomas Bright Wilson.


The 1851 census found parents George, his wife Mary, his widowed 65-year-old Hathersage-born mother, also called Mary, his first six children, and four servants, living at Cheetwood Lodge, Cheetham, Manchester.  Father George was at this time a corn dealer.


Arthur’s birth was registered in the fourth quarter of 1852 at Manchester.  Earlier references lacked the “Jordan”.


The 1861 census found parents George, his wife Mary, his mother Mary, the six youngest children (not John), and three servants, living at 24 Ardwick Green, Chorlton-on-Medlock.  Father George was now a railway director.  George junior was a warehouseman.  Thomas was a civil engineer, whose skills would eventually be directed toward the design of clocks for timing chess-players deliberations.  The youngest four children were scholars.


George Wilson senior must have died while Arthur was still quite young as the 1871 census found Mary Wilson a 61-year-old widow living at 40 Ardwick Green, Chorlton-on-Medlock, with the youngest four children, all unmarried, and George junior’s 1-year-old daughter Mary T. Wilson, whose parentage is unclear.  Frances had no stated occupation, Charles was an architect, William was a mechanic, and Arthur was still a scholar.  There were also two servants in the household.  (See separate entry for Thomas Bright Wilson from 1871 onwards.)


Arthur was educated at Chorlton High School, and from there went to Manchester Medical School and Royal Infirmary.  In due course he became a Member of Royal College of Surgeons in London, and Licentiate of College of Physicians in Edinburgh.


His first medical appointments were as one of the surgeons at Withington (Manchester) Workhouse, and as surgeon to the home patients of Manchester Royal Infirmary.  A few months later he was appointed house surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary.


In 1876 he married Ada Beatrice Clarke (born 1852/53, Manchester), daughter of a Manchester merchant.


Though employed in connection with a hospital, he seems to have had his aims set on general practice, as in 1876 he became a general practitioner in Penistone, which is where he lived for the remaining 57 years of his life.


Penistone is a small town (more like a large village) then in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and now in South Yorkshire.  Penistone is about 7 miles west of Barnsley, and is on the railway line from Sheffield to Huddersfield, and so was in rail-commuting distance from Huddersfield and Sheffield, as the nearest chess centres.


Arthur and Ada had nine children, all born at Penistone:


Arthur Gordon Wilson

born 1877/78

Eleanor C Wilson


Sydney R Wilson

Herbert Clark Wilson


Beatrice Wilson

born 1883/84

Mary Gladys Wilson

born 1884/85

Doris Wilson

born 1888/89

Freda Wilson

born Mar/Apr 1891

Vera Katherine Wilson

born 1896/97


Besides being a general medical practitioner, he soon became district surgeon to the M. S. & L. Railway Company.  In the later years of his life he was Medical Officer of Health for the village of Thurlstone, a mile west of Penistone.


In 1877 he was, with his permission, nominated by the recently-formed ratepayers’ association as a candidate for election to the Local Board.  He came first in the voting and was duly elected.  Some years later, he was elected to the Board of Guardians.  When the Local Board was replaced by an Urban District Council, he was elected vice-chairman of the latter, later becoming chairman.


The 1881 census found “Arthur C. J. Wilson” with his wife and first three children, along with two servants, living at 2 Old Station Road, Penistone.  (Old Station Road seems not to appear on modern street maps.)  Arthur Wilson was described as a general practitioner with the qualification M.R.C.S.Eng.


Kelly's Directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881, listed Arthur Cobden Jordan Wilson, M.R.C.S.Eng as a “Private Resident” of Penistone, as well as a surgeon under the “Commercial” list.


The 1891 census found the parents, Mary, Doris and Freda, living at Willow House, High Street, Penistone.  The youngest child was at the time less than a month old and had yet to be named at the time of the census.  Willow House remained his home for the rest of his life.


He became governor and chairman of board of governors of Penistone Grammar School, and chairman of the Penistone District Education Sub-Committee.


In 1898 he was elected to the West Riding County Council, and remained a councillor for nine years.


The 1901 census found parents, Arthur, Eleanor, Sydney, Doris, Freda and Vera, and two servants, living at Willow House, 35 High Street, Penistone.  Arthur senior was still a surgeon, while Arthur junior and Sydney were both medical students.


In 1903 he became a county magistrate, serving in Barnsley County Court.


Ada Wilson must have died at some time from 1901 to 1911.


The 1911 census found Arthur junior, Herbert, Mary, Doris, Freda and Vera resident at Willow House, with two servants.  Arthur senior put himself down on the census return, but them crossed himself out adding a note to the effect that he spent the whole of the night in question in Sale, where he was recorded in the Sale census return.  Arthur junior was know a medical practitioner, Herbert an electrician, Doris a student of music, Freda a student of unspecified type, and Vera was still at school.


The high regard in which he was held apparently led to him being known affectionately as “The Little Doctor”, suggesting he was somewhat short in stature.


In his youth he had been a keen cyclist and had won the first cycle race run in Manchester, riding a cycle known as a “bone shaker”.  He later won a cycle race in Leeds.




Dr. Arthur Cobden Jordan Wilson was taken ill while attending a patient, and a week later, on the morning of Sunday 16/04/1933, he died, at his home, Willow House.


The funeral service took place at 11 a.m. on Thursday 20/04/1933, and he was interred at .Netherfield Congregational Chapel on Huddersfield Road, Penistone.


He left two sons and five daughters.


The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 17/04/1933 carried on page 3 an obituary which mentioned his playing in the Woodhouse Cup when Sheffield won the Cup in 1884, and his participation in the 1884 match against Lancashire.


Netherfield Congregational Chapel has since been made into residential accommodation called Tolson Court.  Roughly half of the adjacent small graveyard was converted into vehicular access and parking area for Tolson Court, with no sign of preservation of displaced headstones.  The remaining part of the graveyard is now severely overgrown, and no public way of access is evident, unless the overgrown gap between the wire fence and wall constitutes a public access.  Attempting to seek out the headstone doesn’t seem feasible.


Such is Penistone’s memorial to its “Little Doctor.”




W. R. Bland’s Chess Club Directory for 1880 records Penistone Chess Club as having been started in 1876, rather suggesting the newly-arrived Dr. Wilson was responsible for the initiative.


As “A. C. J. Wilson” he played in matches for Arundel Chess Club (Sheffield), before the formation of the Sheffield & District Chess Association.


Dr. Wilson was also a member of Penistone Chess Club, which was one of the initial affiliates to the Sheffield & District Chess Association.  He represented “The Rest” in the “match Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club versus Rest of S&DCA, 17/04/1883.


He played for Yorkshire on board 33 in the 1884 Yorkshire versus Lancashire county match, while his brothers, John Rawson Wilson and Thomas Bright Wilson, were playing on boards 12 and 28 respectively, for Lancashire.


He, rather than Dr. Wilson of Clay Cross, was the “Dr. Wilson” who represented Sheffield in the Woodhouse Cup, e.g. in 1886 versus Leeds.


(The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 17/04/1933 carried on page 3 an obituary which mentioned his playing in the Woodhouse Cup when Sheffield won the Cup in 1884, and his participation in the 1884 match against Lancashire.)





Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann

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

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