Yorkshire Chess History



Joseph Algernon Woollard











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



05/07/1860, Plumstead, Kent





17/10/1929, Utley Cemetery, Keighley


Woollard, James.jpg

(photo from The Chess Bouquet)


Joseph Algernon Woollard was born in Kent, but spent most of his life in Yorkshire, where he developed an interest in chess, became a strong player by club and county standards.  He developed an interest in writing chess columns in newspapers and periodicals, and in due course edited the chess column of the Bradford Observer for forty years.


Parents and Siblings


His mother, Martha, had been born as Martha Walter, in 1826/27, at Southwark, Surrey, and was a daughter of travelling salesman Thomas William Walter and Elizabeth Jane Walter.  Martha Walter’s first husband was Herbert Calvert, whom she married in 1854, at Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.  Herbert Calvert had been born in 1827/28, at Derby, and had become a seaman on passenger ships.  One way or another, the two ended up in Australia, married, and had at least one child, Alice Calvert, born 1855/56 at Sydney, Australia.  It was not long, however, before Herbert Calvert died, and Martha Calvert returned to her native England, with daughter Alice.


On 1st October 1859, at Mary Magdalene’s, Bermondsey Street, Southwark, the widowed Southwark-born Martha Calvert, née Walter, married congregational minister Joseph Woollard, who had been born in 1829, at Southwark, the son of a plumber called George Woollard.


Joseph Algernon Woollard was born 5th July 1860, at Plumstead in Kent, a kilometre SE of Woolwich.  At the time of the 1861 census, the family was living at 73 Crescent Road, Plumstead, Kent, and consisted of 32-year-old Joseph Woollard, a “city missionary”, his 35-year-old wife Martha Woollard, his 5-year-old step-daughter Alice Calvert, and 9-month-old son Joseph Algernon Woollard.


Around 1861/62, Herbert Woollard was added to the family at Plumstead.


Around 1862/63 the family seems to have moved to nearby Charlton, Kent, as that is where daughter Catharine Woollard was added to the family in 1863/64, followed by George Walter Woollard in 1865/66.  George’s middle name was of course his mother’s maiden name.


In about 1867, when young Joseph Algernon Woollard was about 6 years of age, the family moved to Leeds, presumably in connection which the father’s job as a congregational minister.


Frederick Woollard, seemingly the final addition to the family, was born around 1867/68, in Leeds.


Around 1869/70 the family then moved to the village of Muker, in upper Swaledale, North Yorkshire.  This remote rural location, on the way from Richmond to Kirkby Stephen, on the modern B6270, must have been a far cry from Joseph and Martha’s origins in Southwark.


Thus it was that the 1871 census found the family at Muker vicarage.  Joseph (senior) must have had business of some sort to attend to, and was not at home at the time of the census, which lists only the mother, Martha, and five children: Joseph Algernon (10), Herbert (9), Catharine (7), George Walter (5) and Frederick (3).  The latter was denied his second “e” by the census recorder.  15-year-old Alice Calvert was at that time at boarding school in Selby.


Around 1875, he started work at the Bradford Observer newspaper, on the administrative side as opposed to the journalistic side.


By 1881, the family was living at 7 Elm Grove, Burley-in-Wharfedale.  At the time of the 1881 census, Joseph Woollard (senior) again happened to be away from home.  Herbert, who’d be nineteen years old, had apparently left home.  On the other hand, Alice Calvert had returned to the fold.  The household, apart from the father, consisted, therefore, of the mother, Martha, her oldest daughter, Alice Calvert, and five Woollard children: Joseph Algernon (20), Catharine (17), George Walter (15) and Frederick (13).  Joseph Algernon was described as a commercial clerk in a newspaper office, George was described as a commercial clerk in a stuff and woollen merchant’s business, and Frederick was still at school.


At the time of the 1881 census, the father, Joseph Woollard, was visiting 5 Midland Road, in the Hyde Park area of Leeds, that being the home of John Clarke, a 56-year-old civil engineer born at Allendale, Northamptonshire, the latter’s 52-year-old wife, Jane Clarke, born at Bywell, Northamptonshire, and their Hunslet-born niece, Adelaide J. Rowall, who attended school.  (Was Jane Clarke a sister of Joseph Woollard?)


Leaving Home and Marriage


At some time from 1881 to 1883, Joseph Algernon Woollard left home, and by 1883 was living in Keighley, where he seems to have remained based for the rest of his life, ultimately being buried there.  It was at this time that he got involved with the Bradford chess scene.


At some time from 1881 to 1891 Martha Woollard died, and sooner or later her husband Joseph, and daughter Catharine, joined Joseph Algernon Woollard in Keighley.  The other children had presumably gone their separate ways by then.


Thus by the time of the 1891 census, 62-year-old now-retired widower Joseph Woollard, 30-year-old unmarried Joseph Algernon Woollard, and 27-year-old Catherine Woollard were living together at 57 Cliffe Street, Keighley.  Joseph Algernon was now described as a cashier.  Though it’s not explicitly stated, this was still with the Bradford Observer.


Joseph Algernon Woollard got married to Maggie (born 1868/69 in Keighley) in the period July to September 1895, at Keighley.


Before he had time to see his first grandchild, Joseph Woollard, senior, died at the age of 67 on 11th January 1896, at which time he was resident at 40 Drewry Road, Keighley.  He left effects of £132, his unmarried daughter, Catharine, being granted administration of the will.


Catharine bought a grave plot (C-105) in Keighley Cemetery (known now as Utley Cemetery), which is to the north of Keighley, on Skipton Road, and the Rev. Joseph Woollard was interred there.


Joseph and Maggie’s first child was George Frederick Woollard, born 1896, at Keighley, and he was closely followed by David Woollard, born 1897, at Keighley.


The 1901 census found 40-year-old Joseph Algernon Woollard and his 32-year-old wife Maggie, with 4-year-old George, 3-year-old David, and a domestic servant, living at 4 Hartington Street, Keighley (running between Holker Street and Strawberry Street).  Joseph was now described as a newspaper manager, though that probably didn’t mean he managed the enterprise overall, merely that he managed certain activities within the concern.


In May/June 1901, Philip Woollard was born to Joseph and Maggie, but he died at the age of seven months, and on 21st January 1902 became the second to be buried in family grave at Keighley.


In 1907 his home address was given as 32 Greenhead Lane, Utley, near Keighley.  [Chess Amateur, 1907, p.31]


The First World War impacted on the family when George Frederick Woollard, who had joined the RAF and was based at Tadcaster aerodrome, was killed in a flying accident at Tadcaster, aged 22 years.  On 3rd September 1918, George was flying Avro 504 C700 when it was in a collision with Avro 504 B8762 flown by 26-year-old Lieutenant Joseph V. Arnold from Stockport, resulting in the death of both pilots.  On 7th September 1918 George became the third to be interred in the family grave at Keighley.




Joseph Algernon Woollard died, aged 69, on Tuesday 15th October 1929.  At the time he resided at Highfield Lane, Keighley.  Bill Batley, in the Yorkshire Telegraph & Star of Saturday 19th Oct 1929, reported on his death as follows (summarised):

Prominent in Bradford Chess Club and Yorkshire Chess for over 40 years.

One of the strongest players in the county, reaching final of the county championship three times, though never actually winning. 

Played for Bradford in the Woodhouse Cup. 

For several years secretary of the Yorkshire Chess Association. 

Conducted a chess column in the Bradford Observer Budget, which became the Yorkshire Observer Budget, for forty years.


He was buried in the family grave in Keighley cemetery on Thursday 17th October 1929.


Second son David, at the time an advertising agent, was the fifth and final person to be buried in the family grave, on 10th March 1934, having died at the age of only 36 years in Bingley Hospital.  The plot was now “full”.  (Click here for images of the Woollard grave.)


Chess Career


His initial interest in chess appears to have been as a problem solver, but the London tournament of 1883 apparently stimulated his interest in actually playing chess, and so he joined Bradford Chess Club in the 1883-84 season, travelling to the club from Keighley.  At Bradford Chess Club he experienced that off-putting experience of turning up at the club room to find oneself the only person there.


About that time, a colourful local character, Herr Cassel, had started a new club, the Bradford Exchange Chess Club, which proved a much more vibrant club than the old Bradford Chess Club, and, like others, young Woollard joined the new club.  Soon after that, the two clubs did in fact merge under the management style of the new club, but the name of the old one.  Under Herr Cassel’s enthusiasm, Bradford chess had a new lease of life.


Joseph Woollard’s first participation in the Bradford club championship was in 1884.  He entered the first class, to get practice against stronger players, scored some wins over some leading players, and so stayed on, for subsequent years, in the first class section.  In the same year he played for the first time in a county match versus Lancashire.


He attended West Yorkshire Chess Association meetings regularly from 1884 onwards.


When in 1884 the British Chess Association’s congress was held in Bradford, he entered the Amateur Championship tournament, finishing third to fifth equal with Charles G. Bennett and James S. West of Leeds, sharing 3rd and 4th prizes.


He served on the committee at Bradford Chess Club for a number of years, being secretary for a while, and one his retirement the club presented him with a set of large Staunton chessmen and board.


One of his sources of inspiration was James White’s chess column in the Leeds Mercury, and in 1889, when Herr Cassel moved to New York, Joseph Woollard took over from him the column in the Bradford Observer Budget, which by the time of his death had become the Yorkshire Observer Budget.  This chess column was perhaps his most important contribution to chess.


By county standards Joseph Woollard was relatively strong, reaching the final of the Yorkshire Championship three times during the period 1888 to 1891, but then losing the final to a Leeds player on each occasion, and he never actually won the Championship.  During the county championship in 1890, he won the best-game prize offered by the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent for the best game in Class A.


In 1890 he played a match with the then Bradford Champion, John Edmund Hall, scoring two draws and two losses from the first four games, then winning two in a row.  The match was then agreed drawn, rather than being resolve by further play.


He was for some time secretary of the Yorkshire Chess Association.





The usual census, directory, birth, marriage and burial records:

The Chess Bouquet, F. R. Gittins, 1897 (collection of biographical articles on then-extant chess problemists, source of photo).





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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

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