Yorkshire Chess History



Frederick William Cronhelm











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



28/05/1787, in Exeter


02/06/1871, Crow Wood, near Halifax


Holy Trinity Church, Halifax


During the middle of the 19th century, there lived near Halifax a father-and-son pair of chess-players by the name of Cronhelm; Frederick William Cronhelm was the father, and Edward Cronhelm was the son.  Frederick was born in Exeter to “an Hanoverian Gentleman” who had got stranded in England as a result of the Napoleonic wars.


Origins of the Cronhelms in England


The Halifax Cronhelms’ family was of German origin.  The family name was originally Schwesinger, but in 1677 one Andreas Schwesinger was ennobled and so acquired the epithet “von Kronhelm”.  The word “Kronhelm” means a “crowned helmet”, more specifically a helmet with a crest.


F. W. Cronhelm’s father, Wilhelm Georg Otto von Kronhelm (son of Ernst Philipp von Kronhelm and Johanna Erdmuth von Diebitsch), was born on 12th May 1748 at Cleve, in the Rheinland.  He entered the army, but at one stage in the Napoleonic Wars found himself attached to some English forces serving under General Murray at a time when they were defending St. Philip’s Castle against Franco-Spanish forces.  The fate of this branch of the “Schwesinger von Kronhelm” family took an unexpected turn when these English forces, along with Wilhelm Georg Otto von Kronhelm, were defeated and taken prisoner.  The English captives were eventually repatriated, and Wilhelm was sent with them to England.


Thus it was that Otto landed at Plymouth in 1782.  He was demobilised in 1783 and chose to settle in England, dropping the “von” and changing “Wilhelm” to “William”, replacing “K” with “C” in accordance with English spelling convention, so becoming the Anglicised “William Cronhelm”.  He moved to Exeter, where he worked as a teacher, mainly of languages, but also covering some commercial and even military subjects, setting up his own “academy”, successively located at various addresses in Exeter.


He married Caroline Bennett Clarke on 3rd April 1783, in the parish of Stoke Damerel, Plymouth, when he was recorded in the marriage register as "an Hanoverian Gentleman”.  Caroline died two years later, on 7th April 1785, leaving no children.


William then married Sarah Clarke, a relative of Caroline and daughter of the Reverend Henry Vaughan Clarke, Rector of Rockbeare in Devon.  This second wedding took place on 2nd July 1786 [?] in St. Peter's Cathedral, Exeter.  William and Sarah’s first three children were born in Exeter:

1.  Frederick William Cronhelm, born 28th May 1787, died 2nd June 1871, in Halifax;

2.  Henry Clarke Cronhelm, born 2nd July 1789, died c. 1837, in Dublin, Ireland;

3.  Louisa "Elisabeth" Cronhelm, born 12th July 1791, died 7th November 1810, at Chorlton Row, Manchester.


Their next two children were probably also born in Exeter:

4.  Charles Augustus Cronhelm, born c. 1793, [died ?].

5.  George Otto Cronhelm, born c. 1795, died 5th July 1822, Bunkers Hill, Yorkshire;


By 1796, the family had moved to Halifax, where their sixth child was born:

6. Edward Theodore Cronhelm, born 1798, died Sunday 18th June 1815, Battle of Waterloo, Belgium (an Ensign with the 4th Battalion King's German Legion).


In Halifax, William Cronhelm served as “advisor” to Henry Edwards (later Sir Henry Edwards), a woollen magnate of Pye Nest, Halifax, who in 1868 became MP for Beverley, whereby hangs a tale of political corruption, and a link to the Beverley chess-player Alfred Crosskill.


In later life William appears to have moved to Manchester, perhaps to life with daughter Louisa, who predeceased him, dying on 7th November 1810, at Chorlton Row, Manchester.  William himself died in 1813, and was buried at Birch-in-Rusholme, on 28th May 1813.


The story continues with William’s first son, Frederick William Cronhelm, who was a chess-player.


Frederick William Cronhelm


Frederick William Cronhelm was born 28th May 1787 in Exeter but lived from about the age of 9 in the Halifax area.  He became an accountant, and took over from his father working for later-Sir Henry Edwards. 


In fact Frederick William Cronhelm seems to have made quite a name for himself in the world of accountancy.  In 1818 his 375-page book Double entry by single, A New Method of Book-keeping, appeared, dedicated to “Henry Lees Edwards” (the father of his employer, Henry Edwards).  This work has recently been republished as a facsimile reprint.  His memory lingers on for accountants; he was the subject of an article in the September 1995 edition of Abacus (“A Journal of Accounting, Finance and Business Studies” published on behalf of the Accounting Foundation of the University of Sydney), and a paper titled Cronhelm: A European Englishman, was presented at the 19th Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association at Bergen, Norway, in May 1996.


Besides the above book on accountancy, he published diverse other works.  One was "Memories of the Right Reverend Robert Ferrar" (1842) about Halifax-born Robert Ferrar who became prior of St Oswald’s Priory at Gloucester, was made bishop of St David’s in Pembrokeshire by Edward VI in 1548, but was “martyred” under Mary I in 1551.  Another was “Rivers & Streams of Halifax” (1847).  On more-abstract subjects he wrote "Thoughts on the Controversy as to the Plurality of Worlds” (1851), and "Inquiry into the Origin of the Belief in Predestination" (1860).


On 16th November 1811 he married Elizabeth neé Wigney in Halifax.  The couple had five children, all born at Sowerby Bridge:

Henry Cronhelm,

born 08/11/1812, died 09/11/1836 in Halifax, aged 24;

William Cronhelm,

born 10/08/1814, died 06/05/1885 in Halifax;

John Cronhelm,

born 07/11/1816, died 10/06/1887 in West Leeds;

Edward Cronhelm,

born 24/08/1820, died 24/01/1889 at 125 Strand Rd, Sandymount, Dublin;

Catherine Cronhelm,

born 19/07/1828, died 11/10/1840 in Halifax, aged 12.


The family went to church at Holy Trinity Church, Halifax, at the corner between Harrison Road and Blackwall.  The family appear to have had a family pew in the south-west corner of the church, as evidenced by the fifth verse of Frederick William Cronhelm’s poem written on the death of his daughter Catherine.


In 1834 he became editor of the Halifax Guardian, which had been first published 1st December 1832.  An obituary suggested this was more for philanthropic reasons than for monitory gain.  He appears to have handed over editorship in 1837, but seems to have retained sufficient influence to ensure coverage of chess in the local rag!


1840 saw the death of daughter Catharine.  This prompted her father to right a poem, “A Wreath for Catherine's Grave.


The first record to hand regarding his chess activity is a reference to him being president of the Halifax Chess Club when it was founded in 1840 [Chess Player’s Chronicle New Series Vol.1 1854].  In this capacity he attended the first meeting of the original Yorkshire Chess Association, held on Monday 18th January 1841 at Scarbro’s Hotel in Leeds.


Howard Staunton’s Chess Player’s Chronicle Vol.II, 1842, carried an article by Cronhelm, dated 14th October 1841, from his home at Crow Wood, about the introduction of chess into Europe.


He served as Vice-President at the second meeting of the Yorkshire Chess Association, held on Monday 8th November 1841, at the Corn Exchange Rooms in Wakefield.  On this occasion he proposed the third toast, and “descanted in an ingenious and pleasing manner on the resemblance of chess manoeuvres to military tactics”, referring to Scipio, Fabius and Marcellus.  This perhaps shows some of his father’s military grounding had rubbed off on him.


By 1841 he was resident, presumably as tenant, of Crow Wood Mansion, part of the Crow Wood estate owned by employer Henry Edwards.  Chess references to F.W. Cronhelm often involve “Crow Wood” as his address or the location of some activity.  “Crow Wood [Mansion]” was situated on the road called “Upper Bolton Brow”, on the right going uphill away from Sowerby Bridge and towards Halifax.  The entrance was opposite that of Willow Hall (now Willow Hall Drive).  “Crow Wood” was a large stone-built functional edifice, lacking any elegance, and the term “Mansion” which some have included in its name might create the wrong idea.


In the First World War Crow Wood was used as a hospital, continuing with that function until 5th March 1920.  On 28th May 1919 Sowerby Bridge Council had agreed to the purchase of the Crow Wood Mansion and estate, for a maternity home and child-welfare centre, and a public park.  The leisure gardens opened on 14th April 1923.  Since most of the park is on a slope, there wasn’t anywhere very convenient for facilities requiring flat ground, so the former “mansion”, built on level (or levelled) ground, was demolished to create space for the tennis courts, bowling green and leisure gardens in what is now Crow Wood Park: a little chess history gone, but perhaps an eyesore removed judging from a photograph.


Frederick William Cronhelm was again Vice-president at the third Yorkshire Chess Association meeting, held on Wednesday 2th November 1842 at Halifax.  On this occasion he observed “that Chess was more than a game, that it was a science which was a beautiful illustration of the powers of the human mind, being a science of pure human invention.”  He said “that consisting of a few simple elements invested with a variety of powers, it involved combinations, which, in the discipline of the mind, equalled the influences of mathematics themselves, while they afforded greater scope for invention than the exact sciences.”


Cronhelm’s literary activity was not limited to factual or philosophical works; in the Chess Player’s Chronicle Vol.III, 1843, on pages 29 and 30, there appeared a poem consisting of twelve four-line verses with rhyme pattern AABB, titled “The Ennobling of the Pawn”.  By way of attribution, there are appended merely the initials “F. W. C.”


Later in the pages of the Chess Player’s Chronicle, a poem in French, apparently celebrating a game won by La Bourdonnais from McDonnell, had been published under the title “Une Revanche de Waterloo” (“A Revenge for Waterloo”), starting on page 318.  This prompted Cronhelm to hit back on page 413 with “The Battle of the Knights, A Commemoration of the 50th Game between M. de la Bourdonnais and Mr. McDonnell.”  The initials “F. W.C.” are again appended, but if more evidence of the originator is needed, then it is supplied by the accompanying letter which was sent from “Halifax Chess Rooms, Oct. 13, 1842.”


At the fourth Yorkshire Chess Association meeting, held on Wednesday 8th November 1843 at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, he left the more pompous speeches to the President, the Right Honourable the Earl of Mexborough, and others.  He did, however, propose “The health of Mr. Staunton, of London, and success to him in his combat with M. St. Amant, of Paris.”  This was a reference to the impending match played in Paris from 14th November to 20th December 1843, which resulted in a famous win for Staunton.  He played two games with Marmaduke Wyvill, losing both of them, though his son Edward beat Wyvill +2 =1 -1.


When, at the Yorkshire Chess Association’s 1843 meeting, Samuel Newham invited the Yorkshire players to the Nottingham meeting in 1844, Frederick Cronhelm had accepted on behalf of Halifax, pledging four from that town.  Two Halifax players are specifically mentioned in the write-up in the Chess Player’s Chronicle Vol. V, 1844, p. 279, namely “Mr. Forbes and Mr. Cronhelm”.  “Mr. Forbes” would be N. M. Forbes; “Mr. Cronhelm” could have been Edward Cronhelm, but was more probably Frederick Cronhelm.


Frederick was a subscriber to R. A. Brown’s book of problems published in 1844, and to the Souvenir of the Bristol Chess Club published in 1845.


St Amant was in England in 1846, and was a guest at the Yorkshire Chess Association’s meeting, held on 13th May 1846 in Wakefield.  The Rev. Robert Garvey of Wakefield proposed the toast to St Amant.  In recent history, France had not been too popular in Britain, due to the activities of Napoleon and others, but feelings had mellowed since then, and Medley reports Garvey as saying,

"Would that our heart-felt aspirations for the continuance of the entente cordiale could penetrate the halls of St. Cloud, that its venerable monarch might know, and feel, how much we Englishmen love peace with France, and how ardent are our wishes for the health and long life of that wise and great man who now rules the Gallic empire.”

(The Palace of Saint-Cloud was the country residence of the French king.)


St Amant responded in French, with F. W. Cronhelm of Halifax translating, chunk by chunk.  An English version appeared in the Leeds Mercury of 16th May 1846, and St Amant published his speech in Le Palamède of June 1846.  Linguistic skills seem to have been another of the father’s skills which rubbed off on the son.


His wife, Elizabeth, died on 27th October 1846.  Two years later, at the age of 61, he married again, on 5th November 1848 in Halifax.  His second wife was Mary Jane neé Thwaite who was born in 1831, and was thus only 17 years old.  This couple had three children

Mary Jane Cronhelm,

born March 1850 in Sowerby Bridge, [died ?];

Frederick Ernest Cronhelm,

born September 1851 at Halifax, died 29/01/1852 in Halifax aged 4 months;

Charles Theodore Cronhelm,

born June 1853, died 03/12/1854 at Crow Wood in Halifax, aged 12.


Perhaps not surprisingly, neither Frederick nor Edward Cronhelm attended the 1847 Yorkshire Chess Association meeting in Hull on Wed 14th May.  Frederick’s wife had died fairly recently.  His 60th birthday was a little later that May, and he may not have relished the prospect of a trip to Hull.  Edward’s wife was carrying her first child, due in early December.


The next Yorkshire Chess Association meeting was held on Wednesday 17th May 1848, in Halifax.  Mr Henry Edwards MP, former employer and of both William and Frederick Cronhelm, and fellow member of Halifax Chess Club, had agreed to be president at the meeting.  However, he had to withdraw because of the recent death of his father, Henry Lees Edwards.  The funeral had been on 6th May 1848, and the chess meeting was too soon after that.  This had the knock-on effect that the Cronhelms as friends of the family didn’t attend either.


Both Cronhelms attended the next Yorkshire Chess Association meeting, held at the Assembly Rooms, Leeds, on Wednesday 22nd May 1850, but neither attended the 1852 meeting, in Hull, which was the last before the Association was expanded in scope.


He subscribed to the London Tournament of 1851 at the amount of £2.


The Chess Player’s Chronicle Vol. XIII, 1852, on page 30, reports the formation of a new Chess Club at Halifax, with both F. W. Cronhelm and son Edward as founder members.  It was called “Halifax St George’s Chess Club”.  The name may have been in imitation of the St George’s Chess Club in London, initiators of the 1851 London Tournament which both Frederick and Edward had supported.  The earlier Halifax Chess Club was still in existence, though the fate of the Halifax Clarence Chess Club is unclear.


The first meeting of the Yorkshire Chess Association after it had been transmuted into the Northern and Midland Counties Chess Association, in Manchester in 1852, had set up a committee to consider the Laws of Chess.  At that time different versions existed.  One difference of opinion concerned the options on a pawn reaching the eighth rank.  Current practice was to allow promotion to any piece other than a king, but some people argued that promotion only to a piece available from those previously captured should be allowed.  Also, some held that a pawn should be allowed to remain a pawn, and be replaced only at a later move.  In 1853 F. W. Cronhelm wrote to the Chess Player’s Chronicle, arguing against the current practice, and suggesting that if two queens be allowed then two kings ought also to be allowed! [1853 CPC New I p.218]


His association with Sir Henry Edwards may have made live a little uncomfortable in 1870.  After Sir Edward won the election at Beverley in 1868, he and another candidate, Captain Edmund Hegan Kennard, were accused of electoral corruption.  An inquiry held in 1869 decided that about 900 electors had been bribed.  As a result, Sir Henry was tried at the 1870 York Spring Assizes on a bribery charge, it being alleged that private funds given by him and F. W. Cronhelm to Sir Henry’s agent in Beverley, a Mr Wreghitt, had been used for the purposes of bribery with his knowledge and consent.  However, Mr Justice Brett instructed the jury that, on the evidence heard, they should declare Sir Henry not guilty.  Nevertheless, the costs of the proceedings, £10,000, were borne by Sir Henry, presumably because those bringing the case had had a legitimate grievance; he was perhaps in effect admitting negligence on his part in being unaware of the bribery taking place.  The Beverley election was declared void on 11 Mar 1869, and for their part, the people of Beverley were disenfranchised by an Act of Parliament which received the Royal assent on 4th July 1870.  Had the verdict gone the other way then F. W. Cronhelm might also have been tried in turn!




The illness which caused Frederick William Cronhelm’s death, a little before nine o’clock on the evening of Friday 2nd June 1871, was attributed to his having sat on damp ground at Bolton Woods, near Bolton Abbey, while celebrating his 84th birthday.  He was buried in the family vault in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church, Halifax, with his first wife, four children and three grandchildren, who had predeceased him.  The Reverend Charles Musgrave officiated at the funeral.  His surviving wife and children had a stained-glass window, depicting a nativity scene, installed at the church to his memory.


Holy Trinity Church, Halifax, has since been converted to offices, and most of the burial ground has disappeared under car-parking space.  However, a number of gravestones have been preserved, and the Cronhelm Memorial stone lies against the wall of the church.


The death notice in the Halifax Guardian of 3rd June 1871, on page 8, read:

“CRONHELM  June 2nd, aged 84, F. W. Cronhelm, of Crow Wood, near Halifax.”


An obituary was published on page 4 of the same issue.  This was self-confessedly relatively brief due to the time factor, the paper being published weekly on Saturdays, which made deaths on Fridays a trifle inconvenient.  As a former editor, Frederick would have realised this, and would doubtless have died with better timing, had he been able!  The obituary read as follows:




We received with sincere and unspeakable regret the death last evening at his residence, of F. W. Cronhelm, Esq.  The sorrow of a bereavement so great forbids us to record this week at any length the distinguishing abilities and merits which made Mr. Cronhelm beloved and respected by all who knew him.  To a warm heart and an able head he added literary attainments, which, had he been able to devote himself entirely to their cultivation, would have enabled him to write his name prominently in the history of this country.  A poet, fertile in imagination, and singularly felicitous in diction, he yet for a long life fulfilled the arduous duties consequent on an honoured position in the management of large mercantile affairs; and hardly can his nearest relative mourn his loss more deeply than will the warm hearted Baronet (Sir Henry Edwards) to whom and to whose father he has been a confidential and a beloved adviser.  In the earlier days of the Halifax Guardian, Mr. Cronhelm, for a considerable time, was its editor, labouring in the work solely for love of the Constitutional principles in was established to maintain; and for that voluntary additional toil he was rewarded by the Conservatives of that day with a handsome service of plate.  When, a few years later, the editorial duty fell into the hands that now, not without emotion, pen this tribute to the memory of a man of whom Halifax has need to be proud; he was ever ready with his sound counsel, and warm in his cheering encouragement.

Lucid in philosophical thought, and bright in glowing imagination, he was in the prime of life foremost in the little constellation of poets and prose-writers of which Halifax society could boast; and in later years he has been emphatically an “old man eloquent.”  His intimate acquaintance with the Spanish language and literature was shown (as in the case of Southey, the Poet Laureate) in the refinement and chivalry of his poetry.  And many short romances which he fancifully made upon the moves in chess have a grace and a charm that fit them to take rank amongst the best English poetry.  But the hour permits us not to recount – even if the shock of the news of his death would allow the mind to recall – more of the incidents of a life which has been extended beyond “the three score years and ten” – beyond even “the fourteen score years that mark the usual measure of human life.  Mr. Cronhelm, with all a young man’s impulsiveness of feeling, had just spent the eighty-fourth anniversary of his birth in the glorious scenery around Bolton Abbey.  Whilst there he caught cold, and was seized with the illness which terminated his life a little before nine o’clock last evening.



Mary Jane Cronhelm died at 14 Pavilion Square, Scarborough, on 13th February 1882, aged 50.





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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