Yorkshire Chess History



John William Young











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



1834/1835, Southwark, Surrey



08/09/1889, Wakefield


11/09/1889, St. John’s Church, Wakefield




John William Young was born probably in 1835, in the London area, more specifically Southwark in Surrey.  The year is based on stated ages in censuses and elsewhere, but a safer estimate might be 15/09/1834 to 03/04/1835, based on ages in 1881 census and at death.


The 1841 census listed a John W Young (junior) as a child of appropriate age, living with 41-year-old labourer John W Young (senior), at an indecipherably-named street in Lambeth.  This is quite likely possibly was our man, though this humble background is not easily reconcilable with his becoming as schoolmaster.


He is elusive in the 1851 census, when he’d be about 16 years of age.  Since he became a schoolmaster, he must surely have had at least a good basic education, so it seems possible he was at this time away from home, at school. He trained to be a schoolmaster at Cheltenham, so maybe that is where he was in 1851.




At some stage he married Alice, who had been born in 1835/36, in Rochester, Kent, suggesting the marriage took place before the move to Yorkshire, otherwise she’d have more likely been a Yorkshire lass.  There was a John William Young whose marriage was registered at St. Pancras in the third quarter of 1854; this was possibly our man.  John and Alice Young seem never to have had surviving children.


Life in Wakefield


Soon after leaving Cheltenham, he took a job as master at St. Mary’s School, Primrose Hill, Wakefield, where he remained until 1860.


The earliest record found of him being in Huddersfield is his attendance as a Wakefield player at the West Yorkshire Chess Association meeting of 1857, conveniently held in Wakefield.


In 1860 he was elected master of Wakefield’s Greencoat School, remaining there until the school was abolished in 1875.


The Green Coat Schools


White tells us that Wakefield’s Boys’ and Girls’ Green Coat Schools were founded in 1707, with charity property, and were, by our man’s time, among the charities administered by a body known as the Governors of Wakefield Charities, as was the Free Grammar School.  There were about 60 boys and 30 girls educated at the Green Coat Schools.  Some of the children were also clothed by the schools.


The schools seem to have had a master and a mistress, who in White’s Directory of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield ..., 1858, were recorded as Joseph Lupton and Elizabeth Hinchliffe, so our man presumably succeeded Joseph Lupton.


The Green Coat Schools had been located at 111 Westgate, Wakefield, but White (1858) noted that in future the Boys’ Green Coat School was to be housed in the old Free Grammar School premises at Goody Bower.


Life in Wakefield (continued)


The 1861 census lists him as a 26-year-old London-born schoolmaster living at College Grove, Wakefield, with his wife Alice.  College Grove is behind the present Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, but in 1861 it was the known as the Free Grammar School.  The house number wasn’t given, but it was presumably number 5, as below.


White’s Directory of Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield &c, 1866, lists John William Young as a master at the (boys’) Green Coat School.  No specific address was given for him, but he will have still been at College Grove, as White's Directory of Leeds & the West Riding, 1870, listed John William Young, “master of Green Coat School”, living at 5 College Grove.


The 1871 census repeated the details of 1861, adding the house number 5, and showing the Youngs now had a live-in servant.


In 1875, on the closure of the Green Coat Schools, our man became a master at Wakefield Grammar School.  He taught English and music.


Free Grammar School


Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield, familiarly known by the acronym “QEGS”, pronounced “Quegs”, originated as the Free Grammar School, founded in 1592 by a charter of Queen Elizabeth I.  The Free Grammar School was originally located in Goody Bower, off Church Yard.


White’s Directory of Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield &c, 1866, explains that in 1833, the West Riding Proprietary School was built at St. John’s, by a company of shareholders, but was not a success, and was sold in 1854 to the governors of the Free Grammar School, which duly moved from Goody Bower to these premises at St. John’s.  In time this Free Grammar School became the present Queen Elizabeth Grammar School.


Life in Wakefield (continued)


Kelly's Directory of West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881, listed John William Young, at a new (and final) address, 8 Westfield Terrace, Wakefield.


The 1881 census listed 46-year-old John W Young and 45-year-old Alice Young living at Westfield Terrace, with a live-in servant.  At the time of the census they had two visitors.


Besides teaching music in school, our man was much in demand as a conductor, at musical events both in-door and out-door, and both choral and instrumental.  Besides playing chess, he was apparently skilled with a billiard cue, and was an angler.


He was apparently welled loved and respected by his pupils, present and past.


He appears to have disliked intense, entrenched politics, and did not involve himself with politics.


Tragedy occurred one Sunday evening in January 1888, when our man fell down some stone steps at his home, seriously injuring his head.  Despite the best medical attention and nursing available, his condition deteriorated and psychological problems began to compound physical debility.  In March 1888 it was found necessary to move him from home to the “Asylum”.  The West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum (full title) was located at Eastmoor, and was opened in 1818.  Its premises became part of what is now Stanley Royd Hospital.


It seems he did not have adequate financial reserves to fall back on, and a subscription was opened to assist him, and about £1,000 was raised and invested by trustees for the benefit of him and his wife.




Even when he was in the asylum there had been hopes for a recovery, it seems, but his condition deteriorated, and when the end came it was not wholly unexpected.  William Young died at about 6 o’clock in the morning of Sunday 8th September 1889, at the West Riding Lunatic Asylum in Wakefield.


He was interred on Wednesday 11th September 1889 in plot 188A of the churchyard of St. John’s, Wakefield, a plot which, as its number suggests had been squeezed in as an afterthought (being absent from early grave plans), adjacent to the southwest side of the path running diagonally across the grounds to the south of the church building.  This grave, like most in that area, is no longer visible, and has been grassed over.


The Wakefield Express of Saturday 14th September, 1889, carried on page two an obituary which ran almost to a full column.


His will was proved by his widow, Alice Young.  He left £612 4s.




He was a regular attender of the Annual Meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association, attending the meetings of 1857 to 1862, 1864, 1866 to 1874, 1879, and 1884.  He was a subscriber in 1868 to Skipworth’s Yorkshire Chess Association.





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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

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