Yorkshire Chess History



Francis Alexander Leyland











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



1813/1814, Halifax


27/03/1814, St. John the Baptist


20/01/1894, Halifax


24/01/1894, All Saints, Salterhebble


Identity of the Chess-Player


The chess-playing Francis Alexander Leyland appears to be one whose father was a bookseller called Roberts Leyland.


There was a different Francis Alexander Leyland, a schoolmaster who was married by licence to Susanna Swallow on 10/07/1823 at St. John the Baptist’s, Halifax, by J. Knight, in the presence of Roberts Leyland.


There was also a Francis Alexander Leyland, who was a cardmaker and/or worsted spinner.  This was either not the one who married on 10/07/1823, or he made a radical switch in occupation.  This one died 55 days too soon to attend all the meetings attended by “F.A. Leyland”.


The other Francis Alexander Leyland(s) must surely have been related to the chess-player.


Non-Chess Life


Francis Alexander Leyland, son of bookbinder Robert Leyland and Susan Leyland was baptised at St. John the Baptist’s, Halifax, on 27/03/1814, by William Willmott.


A relevant 1841 census entry seems wanting.


The marriage of the chess-playing Francis Alexander Leyland to Sarah Ann Highley was registered the first quarter of 1845, at Halifax.  Sarah Ann Highley was a daughter of James Highley, a scrivener, and Helen Highley, and had been baptised at St. John the Baptist’s, Halifax, on 16/04/1815, by Robert(?) Hudson.  There seem to have been no children by this marriage.


The death of our man’s father, Roberts Leyland, was registered in the fourth quarter of 1847, at, Halifax.


The death of his wife, Sarah Ann Leyland, was registered in the fourth quarter of 1849, at Halifax.


The 1851 census found the 37-year-old widowed Francis Alexander Leyland, who was described as “stationer etc”, living on his own at 16 Corn Market, Halifax.  He had presumably taken over his father’s business.


Also in the 1851 census was the other Francis Alexander Leyland, his wife Susanna, 24-year-old son John Henry Leyland, 22-year-old son Edward Leyland, and two servants, living at 25 Wade Street, Halifax.  The father was a cardmaker employing 60 people, son John was also a cardmaker, and son Edward was a worsted spinner and manufacturer.


In time our man took a second wife.  Thus Francis Alexander Leyland, widowed bookseller, son of bookseller Roberts Leyland, was married to Ann Brierley (born 1818/19, Halifax), full-aged daughter of grocer William Brierley, on 18/08/1853, at St. John the Baptist’s, Halifax, by George Harrison(?), in the presence of William Henry Brierley and Eliza Ann Brierley.  (One suspects a link between the bride and Halifax chess-player Joseph Henry Brierley – cousins?).  The couple had at least two children, both born in Halifax:


Robert William Leyland

born 1855/56

John Leyland

born 1857/58


The worsted spinner called Francis Alexander Leyland died on 27/03/1859, at Halifax, leaving under £14,000, his will being proved by Thomas Whitley, woolstapler of Halifax, and a son of the deceased, John Henry Leyland, worsted spinner.


The 1861 census found our man, his second wife, their two sons and two servants living at 15 Corn Market.  Thus our man had apparently moved from number 15 to number 16 Corn Market.  He was a bookseller, printer and stationer employing six men and one boy.


A relevant 1871 census entry is elusive.


The 1881 census found our man, his wife, the two sons and one servant living at Oak Wood, Skircoat, in the Sowerby area of what we now call Halifax.  “Oakwood”, it transpires, was a villa of that name (per probate records), in the Savile Park district (per burial register); it proved to be our man’s final residence.  67-yearold Francis Alexander Leyland was still a printer, now employing only three men.  Son Robert was a commercial clerk, while son John was a publisher’s assistant – presumably working for his father.


The 1891 census found father, mother and older son still living at Oak Wood.  All three were now living on their own means.  In other words they’d retired.




Francis Alexander Leyland, retired publisher of Oakwood Villa, Skircoat, died on 20/01/1894, according to probate records.  He was aged 80 years. 


He was buried on 24/01/1894 at All Saints, Salterhebble, by Canon James M. Gordon of the Catholic Church, Halifax.


Probate was granted to Robert William Leyland, gentleman, and John Leyland, journalist.  Effects were £188 17s.




“F. A. Leyland” attended the annual meetings of the original Yorkshire Chess Association in 1841 (the second of that year), 1842, 1848 and 1852.  He attended the meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association of 1858 and 1859.  On the basis of the years involved, this could have been the worsted spinner rather than the printer and stationer.  However, the 1859 WYCA meeting was held on 21/05/1859, and the worsted spinner had, by then, been a-mouldering in the grave for 55 days.  Of course, the worsted spinner might account for earlier manifestations, such as the YCA meetings, and the printer and stationer might account for the later manifestations, such as the WYCA meetings.


Whichever it was at the time, “F. A. Leyland” is recorded as being secretary of Halifax Chess Club in (at least) 1842, 1848, 1952 and 1854, though again, two men may have been involved in the Halifax secretaryship.





Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann

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

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