Yorkshire Chess History
James Pollard Lea
James Pollard Lea’s parents were butcher James Lea (born 1835, Worcester; baptised 15/07/1835, St. Swithin, Worcester) and Elizabeth (née Pollard, 1835/36, Worcester), of the Shambles, Worcester, who married in Worcester in 1856, and had at least the following children:
The 1861 census found the parents and three children living with James’s brother Charles, and 2 servants, at 2 The Shambles, Worcester.
James Pollard Lea became apprenticed to a mechanical engineer in Bath, and the 1881 census found him lodging with a Charlotte Clark in Sydenham Terrace, in the Lyncombe and Widcombe district of Bath, south of the river.
Having finished his apprenticeship he moved to the general vicinity of Birmingham.
In 1886, at West Bromwich, James Pollard Lea married Caroline Matilda Wilson, with whom he went on to have a daughter, Caroline Dorothy Clara Lea (apparently known as Dorothy Clara, the birth being registered under both names), born Jan/Feb 1890/91, in Moseley, now part of Birmingham but then counting as in Worcestershire.
The 1891 census found James Pollard Lea, now a gas engineer’s manager, living with wife, daughter, and mother-in-law Caroline Wilson (1836/37, Staffs.) at 30 Kingswood, Moseley. The daughter was recorded merely as Dorothy Clara Lea.
About a year later (by 1893 from chess sources) the family moved to Bath, where James had served his apprenticeship. The 1895 post Office Directory of Bath listed James P. Lea living at 16 Park Road, Lower Weston, in the western suburbs of Bath, with business premises as an engineer at 7A Northgate Street in the centre of Bath.
At Bath Chess Club James Pollard Lea will have encountered sometime Sheffield chess-players Edmund Thorold and the Rev. Edward Pelham Pierpoint.
He was still in Bath in January 1896, according to chess sources.
By 1901, James Pollard Lea’s father had retired, and the 1901 census found him living with his wife, eldest son Edward, and a servant on the south coast in Highcliffe, Hampshire (now moved to Dorset).
The 1901 census found James Pollard Lea, wife Caroline Lea, and 10-year-old daughter “Caroline D C Lea” living at 59 Soho Hill, as three of a number of boarders with a family called Taylor in the Handsworth district of Birmingham, then counted as in Staffordshire. James was a mechanical engineer.
In 1909, wife Caroline Matilda Lea died in the Lichfield district of Staffordshire, to the north of Birmingham.
Death in 1910, the Honiton area, and burial in Sidmouth, Devon, suggest he perhaps retired as a widower to the south west of England, as had his parents, who were still living.
The 1911 census found father James Lea, a “gentleman”, and his wife, now both 75 years old, as lodgers in Highcliffe.
Daughter (Caroline) Dorothy Clara Lea may be the “Dorothy C Lea” who in 1933, in the vicinity of Wigan, married a Jack Milner.
The death of a 50-year-old “James P. Lea” was registered in the latter part of 1910 in the Honiton district of Devon, which included Sidmouth. “James Pollard Lea” was buried 04/11/1910, Sidmouth parish church, by Rev E Adams
While resident in the Birmingham area “J. P. Lea” played in Class II, Section A, at the 1885 Counties Chess Association meeting in Hereford.
He became a member of Birmingham Chess Cub at some time. In 1889/90 he won the club championship, with 12 wins and 3 draws. He beat Blackburne when, in October 1890, the latter gave a simultaneous display in Birmingham.
When reporting local players’ results in the 1893 North v South match, the Birmingham Daily Post of 30/01/183 said, “We may almost claim as a local success, too, the victory of Mr. J. P. Lea, of Bath, for he was once a prominent player of the Birmingham club.”
He was usually present in Bath teams playing against Bristol (usually 2 matches per year) and Wiltshire, and in Somerset teams against Wiltshire, over the period 1890 to 1896, for example:
26/11/1890, Bath v Wiltshire, board 6 out of 20, scored 2-0 v. E. F. Hill
27/10/1892, Bath v Bristol & Clifton, board 4 out of 12, scored 0-1 and 1-0 v. A. C. Clarke (second game adjudicated)
22/04/1893, Bath v Bristol & Clifton, board 4 out of 12, scored 1-0 v. F. Hutchins
05/05/1894, Bristol & Clifton v Bath, board 4 out of 11, scored 1-0 v. W. Berry
18/01/1896, Somerset v Wiltshire, board 4 out of 20, scored 1-0 v. C. J. Woodrow
13/02/1896, Wiltshire v Somerset, board 3
26/05/1896, Bristol & Clifton v Bath, board 4 out of 12, scored ½-½ v. G G Parnall on adjudication
He was absent from the 13/01/1897 Bristol & Clifton v Bath match, having by then presumably moved to Staffordshire.
A “J. P. Lea” is listed as playing for Glasgow against Liverpool on 01/05/1897 [Amos Burn, Richard Forster] though this seems unlikely to have been this Worcester-born chess-player, unless he had moved in 1896/97 from Bath to Glasgow, and then from at some stage from 1897 to 1901 moved from Glasgow to Handsworth.
The Burnley Gazette of 19/01/1907, in connection with the Burnley Mechanics’ Institute, said, “The recent visit of Mr. J. P. Lea, chess master, and his playing along with his advice was of great interest.”
Copyright © 2020 Stephen John Mann
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