Yorkshire Chess History



Gustav Christian Schwabe











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



10th May 1813, Hamburg, Germany






10th January 1897, London



18th January, Henley-on-Thames



Gustav Christian Schwabe was born into a Jewish family in Hamburg, Germany, simply as Gustav Schwabe.  His parents were merchant Philipp Benjamin Schwabe and his second wife, Rosali Levi Schwabe.  He had a half-brother, Ludwig Philipp, son of his father’s first wife, and three full brothers.1  The spelling “Gustav” is normally used; though “Gustave” is occasionally encountered, there seems no justification for it.


In June 1819, the family was apparently forced to “convert” to Lutheranism, at which point Gustav Schwabe acquired the middle name Christian.1


Quite when the family came to England isn’t clear, probably the 1820s, but our man had moved to Liverpool by 1838, though as time went by, he apparently spent more time at a home in London, whither he more or less retired in 1893.


He became a merchant, industrialist, ship-owner and financier, accumulating enough wealth to acquire works of art, enabling him in October 1886 to donate 128 paintings to the Hamburger Kunsthalle, an art museum in his place of birth, for which he was made an honorary freeman of Hamburg.1


In May 1842 he married Helen Dugdale (born 6th June 1819, at Padiham, 3 miles west of Burnley), daughter of local businessman John Dugdale of the Wirral, but they had no children.  The marriage was registered at Chorlton, Lancs.


The 1851 census found GCS, described as a merchant, and his wife, Helen, at Yew Tree Lane, West Derby, Liverpool, with three servants.


The 1871 census described GCS as a retired merchant.  He and his wife were still in West Derby, Liverpool, though a corner of the census form carrying the address has been torn off.  They now had seven servants.  One footman, it seems, is not always enough.  At the time of the census they had two visitors, described as artists, namely George D. Leslie and John E. Hodgson.


In 1872, GCS and “Ellen Schwabe” (presumably his misspelt wife) took a trip to America.  They are recorded as arriving at New York, from Liverpool, on the Republic, on 8th April 1872.


The 1881 census found the Schwabes at 22 Cleveland Street, Paddington, London, still with seven servants.  GCS was now more specifically a retired china merchant, but that’s a bit like calling William Shakespeare a songwriter.


The 1891 census found them at their final home, 19 Kensington Palace Gardens, London.  GCS was still describes as a retired china merchant.  The servant count had risen to eight.


The London home to which he retired in 1893 was at 19 Kensington Palace Gardens, London.  He is listed there in electoral registers for 1892, 1893 and 1897.




He died on 10th January 1897, at 19 Kensington Palace Gardens, and he was buried on 18th January 1897 at Henley-on-Thames on 18 January.  He left effects of £125,135 7s 10d.


Helen Schwabe, his wife, died on 26th October 1898 at the same address, only twenty-one months after her husband.




Liverpool Chess Club is said to have been formed in 1837.  The Chess Player’s Chronicle, volume II, 1842, page 223 reported that at the Liverpool Chess Club annual dinner of 1842, Schwabe was congratulated on “the exertions he had made, some twelve months ago, in inspiring fresh vigour into the club, when it was apparently on the brink of dissolution.”  Schwabe is then reported as saying, in reply, “that much of the praise bestowed upon him was due to Mr. Jones, who formed the club, and, when it was nearly defunct, revived it.  He begged, therefore to give the health of Mr. Jones, and was sorry that they had lost him.”  Schwabe’s part in resuscitating the club was probably based on taking on the secretaryship of the club, as in reports of the first Yorkshire Chess Association meeting, on 18th January 1841, he was described as secretary of Liverpool Chess Club.



1 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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

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