SHEFFIELD Chess History



Dr John Charles Hall

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1814/15, Wiseton, Notts.


26/10/1876, Sheffield


02/11/1876, Sheffield General Cemetery


John Charles Hall was the Nottinghamshire-born medical man who was a member of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club, but more importantly was a leading figure in the promotion of public healthcare in Sheffield.


Non-Chess Life


John Charles Hall was born at Wiseton, Nottinghamshire, in December 1816.  Wiseton is a hamlet less than a mile south of the Bawtry to Gainsborough road (A631), to the south-west of Gringley on the Hill.  His father was steward to Earl Spencer of Althorpe House, Northamptonshire, and lived on one of the Earl’s estates, near Thoresby.


He married his wife Susan around 1837.  The family lived for a while in Retford, Nottinghamshire, before moving to Sheffield.  In due course the couple had at least five children, the family members being as follows:

John Charles Hall

born 1814/15, at Wiseton, Nottinghamshire, died 26/10/1876, buried 02/11/1876;

Susan Hall

born 1820/21, at Shepherd’s Bush, Hammersmith, died 22/01/1873, buried 27/01/1873;

Lenate [?] (son)

born 1837/38, at Retford;

Richard James Hall

born 1844/45 at Retford, died 01/12/1878, bur. 05/12/1878;

Felice Hall

born 1845/46 at Retford;

Senet Hall

born 1847/48 at Retford, died 22/11/1878, bur. 27/11/1878;

Mary Garete Hall

born 1849/50 at Sheffield.


He was sent to London to study medicine at St. George’s Hospital, where he qualified, and he studied also in Paris.  At St. George’s he eventually became house surgeon.


His career as a medical practitioner started in Retford, Nottinghamshire, where the first four children were born.


In 1848 he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh.


He moved to Sheffield in 1848, at the suggestion of Mr Wilson Overend, who was second son of Hall Overend, and amongst other things was instrumental in establishing a medical school in Sheffield and become president of the Sheffield Medical Institution for 1842-43.  This occurred shortly after the death of Dr Charles Fox Favell, who had been president of the Sheffield Medical Society for 1843-44, and had at the time of his untimely death been involved in investigating “grinders’ disease”, work which John Charles Hall took up in due course.


White’s General Directory of Sheffield, 1849, didn’t list him, but the 1851 census listed his family living at 18 Surrey Street, Sheffield.  The family consisted of the parents, son Lenate [?] and daughter Felice, the whereabouts of 6-year-old Richard James Hall being unclear.  John Charles Hall, himself, was described as “MD and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh”.


White’s Gazetteer & General Directory of Sheffield, 1852, listed John Charles Hall, MD, at 10 Surrey Street, rather than number 18.


A “self-supporting” Dispensary had been established in Sheffield in 1828.  In 1832 it was reorganised, and moved to premises in Tudor Place.  Soon after that, the Dispensary moved to a house in West Street, between Westfield Terrace and Eldon Street.  Along with Dr Law and Dr Elam, in 1854, John Charles Hall was elected physician to the Dispensary after the resignation of Edward Martin and Mr. Porter.


Hitherto, the Dispensary had not had been able to take in-patients, but, mainly through the efforts of John Charles Hall, a 61[?]-bed hospital was added to the dispensary and was opened in 1860, giving birth to the "Public Hospital and Dispensary". In-patient provision was extended in 1870 to 105 beds.


What he achieved as senior medical officer and honorary secretary of the Hospital and Dispensary was perhaps his most important legacy to the people of Sheffield, and what he was most remembered for.


Among the diseases John Charles Hall encountered in his work were respiratory complaints exhibited by workers in cutlery- and tool-manufacturing, industries which were so important to Sheffield’s economy at that time.  The then-late Dr Charles Fox Favell had studied what became known as “grinders’ disease”, and Hall followed on from Favell’s work, publishing various works on the subject.  Besides studying the pathology and treatment of the disease, he strove to prevent boys entering this work at too young an age, when they would be more susceptible to lung-damage.  He is also believed to be one of the first to advocate the use of fans in these industries.


The 1861 census found John Charles Hall, M.D., F.R.C.S., physician, with his wife and son Richard James, now living at 47 Arundel Street, Sheffield.


In October 1865, the “Social Science Congress” came to Sheffield, and J C Hall was one of those who presented a paper there.  The youngest two children were perhaps away at school.


In 1866, he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, England.


The 1871 census found Dr. and Mrs. Hall living at “Surrey House”, 45 Arundel Street, with Richard James Hall, an agent, Senet Hall, a cutlery manufacturer, and Mary Garete Hall.


In 1871-72 he was president of the Sheffield Medico-chirurgical Society (which was a re-invention in 1869 of the former Medical Society of Sheffield and the Neighbourhood founded in 1841).


On the death of Mr. Porter, he became district medical officer for the Midland Railway.


Besides articles in the British Medical Journal, and the Illustrated London News, he wrote books including:

·      The Races of Man: And Their Geographical Distribution, 1854, Charles Pickering & John Charles Hall;

·      a book about the injuries resulting from railway accidents;

·      On The Prevention And Treatment Of The Sheffield Grinders' Disease, 1876, since republished as a facsimile reprint.


He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society.




He died on 26th October 1876, at the age of 60, after a drawn-out progressive illness.  He was interred at Sheffield General Cemetery, Cemetery Road (plot H1.57).


Of those parts of his grave above the ground there remain only the basal parts.  The upper parts bearing dedications to John Charles Hall’s wife and John Charles Hall himself have been removed, presumably having first collapsed.


The grave was first used for the interment of John Hall’s wife Susan Hall, who died 22nd January 1873, and was buried 27th January 1873.  Subsequently, after John Charles Hall himself had died on 26th October 1875, he was interred there on 2nd November 1876.


Two subsequent interments are recorded on such basal parts of the grave that remain intact, firstly that of son Senet Hall, who died 22nd November 1878, and was buried 27th November 1878, and secondly that of son Richard James Hall, who died 1st December 1878, and was buried 5th December 1878.


Richard James Hall had been a licensed victualler at the Vine Inn, Bridge Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Senet Hall had lived with him there.  The closeness of their deaths suggests they perhaps succumbed to the same illness.


Click here for image of all that remains of the Hall grave.


The inscription on the basal stone reads:














There was a John Hall who was a member of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club in 1851 to 1853.  There was a similar member from 1864 to 1874 and possibly later.  “Dr. Hall” of Sheffield attended the Sheffield meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association in 1868 and 1875.


The Dr. Hall at the 1875 WYCA meeting is recorded in the WYCA Minute Book as being J. C. Hall M.D., so it’s fairly safe to assume he was the Athenaeum member of 1864 onwards.


However, in 1852, he was a member of the Lyceum Chess Club in Sheffield, so the Athenaeum member from 1851 to 1853 may well have been John Hall M. D. of Victoria Street.


When Löwenthal visited Sheffield in January 1852, he played a game against John Charles Hall which got published in the Chess Player’s Chronicle.


Played at the (Sheffield) Lyceum Chess Club, probably on Thurs. 15th Jan. 1852;

White: Hall, Dr John Charles (Sheffield), Black: Löwenthal, Johann Jacob (London),

Löwenthal giving odds of KBP and 2 moves; remove Black’s Pf7:

1. e4 __ 2. d4 e6 3. Bd3 Qe7 4. Nf3 d5 5. e5 Nc6 6. Bg5 Qf7 7. Be3 Be7 8. c3 Bd7 9. Qc2 g6 10. h4 O-O-O 11. Ng5 Bxg5 12. hxg5 Ne7 13. Nd2 Nf5 14. Nf1 Nxe3 15. fxe3 Ne7 16. O-O-O Rf8 17. Rd2 Nf5 18. g4 Ne7 19. Rh2 Qg7 20. Ng3 Rf3 21. Rh3 Rxe3 22. Nf5 Rxh3 23. Nxe7+ Qxe7 24. Rxh3 Qxg5+ 25. Kb1 Qxg4 26. Rh1 Be8 27. Qf2 Qg5 28. Rg1 Qe7 29. Qh2 Rg8 30. Rg4 Bd7 31. Qg2 Rf8 32. Rg3 Qf7 33. Qh2 Qf2 34. Rg2 Qe1+ 35. Kc2 Be8 36. Qxh7 Rf2+ 37. Rxf2 Qxf2+ 38. Kb3 Qf7 39. Qxf7 Bxf7 40. Kc2 Kd7 41. Kd2 Ke7 42. Ke3 g5 43. Kf2 Bh5 44. Kg3 Kf7 45. a3 b6 46. Bc2 c5 47. Bd3 Bg6 48. Bf1 Bf5 49. Bb5 c4 50. Kf3 Kg7 51. Ba4 Kh6 52. b4 Kh5 53. Kg3 g4 54. Be8+ Bg6 55. Bxg6+ Kxg6 56. Kxg4 b5 57. Kf4 Kh5 58. Kg3 Kg5 59. Kf3 Kf5 60. Ke3 Kg4 61. Ke2 Kf4 62. Kf2 Ke4 63. Ke2 a6 64. Kd2 Kf3 65. Kc2 Ke2 66. Kc1 Kd3 67. Kb2 Kd2 White resigns, 0-1 [CPC Vol. XIII, p.76]


Later in 1852, John Charles Hall entertained Howard Staunton as a guest at his home when the great man visited Sheffield.  Hall was one of the three chess-playing doctors (John Charles Hall, Joseph Law and Charles Elam) at the Lyceum Chess Club, when Howard Staunton visited it on 4th June 1852.







Steve Mann

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