Yorkshire Chess History
Rev. Arthur Bolland Skipworth
The Immediate Skipworth Family
Arthur Bolland Skipworth’s father was farmer Philip Skipworth, Lord of the Manor of Laceby, Lincolnshire, just inland from Grimsby, but he was not born to his father’s first wife.
Philip Skipworth married Mary Marris on 13th February 1819, at Sculcoates, Hull. Soon afterwards their child, Henry Green Skipworth, was born. Mary died in childbirth, but her son lived, and was baptised on 12th April 1819 at Sculcoates. Mary was buried in Aylesby, Lincolnshire, just north of Laceby, the day after her baby was baptised. There were people by the name of Marris in the same general area of Lincolnshire as the Skipworths, and it is apparent the families were not only known to each other, but remained on good terms.
The dates of his parents’ marriage and his date of birth show that Henry was conceived out of wedlock, and that probably explains why the couple went to Sculcoates for the marriage and birth. They may have gone to stay with a Marris family living in Hull at the time. White’s directory for 1826 lists two people with the surname at the same address, presumably father and son, these being Henry Marris, gentleman, of 28 Prospect Street, and Henry Marris, merchant and shipping agent working at 37 High Street, with home address of 28 Prospect Street. No Skipworths are evident in Hull in White’s 1826 directory.
Philip married his second wife, Lucy Gray, on 29th May 1822, and with her had fourteen more children, though very few survived to adulthood. Lucy’s father was the Rev. George Gray, vicar of Aylesby. Their first child lived only five years, and the next five all died within two years of birth at the most. These seem all to have been buried in Aylesby, as were a number of other Skipworths.
Then Arthur Bolland Skipworth was born in 1830, at Laceby, and was baptised there, on 30th June 1830. His only surviving sibling at the time was half-brother Henry Green Skipworth. Those of his subsequently-born siblings who survived to adulthood where
Arthur had another five siblings, who died early.
Arthur was destined to be a prominent actor on the chess stage. Henry Green Skipworth and Julia Owen Skipworth both had cameo non-speaking parts. Patricius Grey Skipworth, known as “Grey”, followed Arthur to Cambridge, and became a cleric, but seemingly didn’t show any interest in chess. Septimus Patrick Skipworth, also went to Cambridge, but was not a cleric, and similarly seems not to appear in the chess records.
Arthur’s Early Years
In June 1841, his parents had seven surviving children, Henry Green Skipworth, Arthur Bolland Skipworth, Louisa Goodwin Skipworth, Julia Owen Skipworth, Patricius Grey Skipworth, Edward Delamotte Skipworth, and Septimus Patrick Skipworth. That’s not counting Henrietta Lucy Skipworth who was born four months later. All seven are accounted for at Laceby in the 1841 census except for Arthur. He was at a school run by the Rev. George Simpson and his wife, Mary, at Lansdown Terrace, Sculcoates. Apart from Grimsby, Hull was the nearest place to Laceby were a suitable school might be found for Arthur, but one wonders if there was an underlying link with Henry Green Skipworth’s place of birth.
The date of the 1841 census, 6th June, was about a fortnight before the unexpected death of his father whilst making and electioneering address.
In 1842, Arthur’s immediate family was still living at Laceby Manor House. Henrietta Lucy Skipworth had died virtually at birth. However, following Philip’s death, Laceby Manor, and with it the Lordship of the Manor of Laceby, was sold off to William Coates. Lucy Skipworth and children moved to Caistor, further inland. At about this time. Lucy and her step-son Henry Green Skipworth acquired control of Rothwell farm, about one-and-a-half miles from Caistor.
In 1849, Lucy was recorded as a farmer living at Brigg Road, Caistor, so that will have been where Arthur was living, assuming he had returned from Hull. By 1851 the family had moved to High Street, Caistor, except for Henry, who was living with a retired uncle, Thomas Marris, in Rothwell.
Arthur was being educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth, and then got admitted as a Pensioner to St. John’s College Cambridge 17th May 1851, matriculating in Michaelmas 1851, moving to St Catherine’s 11th October 1852.
By 1854, mother Lucy, step-son Henry, son Arthur, daughter Julia and son Grey (as Patricius Grey Skipworth was known) were living at Rothwell House, Rothwell, though on 5th June 1854 Grey went as a Pensioner to Emmanuel Cambridge, matriculating at Michaelmas. Septimus will have been a boarder at Tonbridge school at this time.
Arthur eventually got his BA in 1856. This led to his moving away from his mother and siblings.
Mother Lucy continued farming in Rothwell up to her death on 15th February 1864. She was buried at Aylesby, in the same grave as husband Philip and four of their children who’d died in infancy.
Henry became a prominent pillar of the local community, farming at Rothwell until his death in November 1879. He was buried on 1st December 1879 in a “plain” grave in the grounds of St Mary Magdalen, Rothwell, where half-brother Arthur would later be buried. Whilst Arthur’s gravestone is still evident and in good condition, no trace of Henry’s grave is evident now (2011); there’s one with the stone broken off at the base, and there’s one where the stone lies flat on its face, but many plots have no visible evidence of their occupants. There is said to be a brass plaque in memory of Henry inside the church, which is not normally open. Neither the present writer nor the electricity-meter reader could gain access to read what we would have liked to read on the day we visited.
Septimus also farmed at Rothwell from 1868 or before, to about 1882 or later, though he moved on to other things.
Arthur’s Career in the Church
As was so often the case with younger sons of well-to-do families, Arthur took holy orders. He was ordained as a deacon at Lincoln, 7th June 1857, then became a priest in 1858. Clergymen often moved quite widely from cure to cure. Arthur managed to spend the greater part of his career in his native Lincolnshire, yet the twelve years he spent in Yorkshire were in some ways the most importance as regards his impact on the chess scene.
He held the following jobs, three in the church, and one a curious diversion into the pre-OFSTED world of an inspector of schools:
1857-60, curate at Croxby, Lincs.;
1860-72, vicar of Bilsdale, N. Yorks.;
1872-75, inspector of schools for the diocese of Lincoln;
1875-98, Rector of Tetford, Lincs.
Marriage and Family Life
On 27th July 1859, at Fulford, York, he married Eliza Mary Browne (born 1826/27 at Fulford, daughter of George Browne Esq of Nun Munkton Hall; died 1909, Bead Cottage, Sandgate, Kent).
In 5th October 1860, their first child, George Philip Skipworth, was born at Croxby. He lived into his 60s.
The 1861 census lists Arthur and his 7-month-old son living at Bilsdale Kirkham, then a Hamlet in the township of Bilsdale Midcable, in the registration district of Stokesley. His wife is recorded as a visitor of the Rev. George Dixon and his wife, vicar of Helmsley, Ann Maria Dixon, though why she was visiting them is not evident.
There is frequent reference chess literature of the time to the Skipworth residence in Bilsdale, being often referred to as “Bilsdale Parsonage”, or just “Bilsdale”. It was from here that most of his seminal organisational chess work was carried out.
Arthur Henry Skipworth was born 6th September 1861 at Bilsdale. He lived to the age of 42.
Lucy Mary Skipworth was born June/July 1863, but lived only 6 months, and was buried at Bilsdale.
The 1871 census saw the Skipworth family still resident at Bilsdale, but at some stage it appears there may have been a cooling of the marital relationship as Mrs. Skipworth pops up in the 1881 census somewhere else entirely. She is shown with her married sister, Harriet Atkinson Metcalfe (née Browne), brother-in-law, John W. Metcalfe (retired doctor) and the Metcalfe’s daughter, as well as Harriet’s and Eliza’s unmarried sister, Ann(i)e Forest Browne, residing at (not visiting) Amitie Cottage, Grouville, Jersey. She doesn’t get listed thereafter with Arthur in any census.
Arthur Bolland Skipworth died 27th November 1898 at Holbeck Hall, Ashby Puerorum, Horncastle, apparently of cancer of the pancreas, and was buried at St Mary Magdalen church, Rothwell, where half-brother Henry was already interred.
The inscription on Arthur’s Gravestone reads:
SACRED TO THE MEMORY
REV. A. B. SKIPWORTH,
RECTOR OF TETFORD,
WHO DIED NOVEMBER 27, 1898,
AGED 68 YEARS.
LOOKING FOR THAT BLESSED HOPE, AND
THE GLORIOUS APPEARING OF THE GREAT
GOD AND OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.
The use of simple initials, instead of full forenames, is an unusual feature.
A brief obituary in the American Chess Magazine of December 1898, p. 312, read:
We learn with much regret of the death of the Rev. A. B. Skipworth. For many years he was the ruling spirit of the Counties Chess Association, and was also one of the strongest English amateurs, frequently winning the first prize at its meetings. He also took part in more than one international tournament. Lately, however, he was not so much to the front, either because increasing years impaired his powers, or because of the general improvement in the play of English amateurs. – Brighton Society
First Caistor Chess Meeting
Skipworth will have been aware of the meetings of the original Yorkshire Chess Association over the period 1841 to 1850, and it was perhaps these which prompted him to organise a similar event in North Lincolnshire. It’s possible he got wind of the fact that there wasn’t going to be a YCA meeting in 1851. Anyway, a “Grand Chess Meeting” organised by him was held at the Red Lion in Caistor, on 9th October 1851.
It set part of the style of future events run by Skipworth, in that it was awash with local dignitaries and clergymen, and had a significant number of ladies in attendance.
The list of those present included a person described in one source as H. Staunton, and in another source H. Stainton. On the face of it you’d guess this was Howard Staunton, yet Staunton didn’t report the event in his magazine, suggesting either that “Stainton” is correct, or that Staunton felt snubbed by not being made sufficient of a fuss of.
Another reported attender was “T. Lowenthal”. That was quite possibly a mis-transcription of “J. Lowenthal”, that is to say the famous Johann Jacob Löwenthal, though it occurred with “T” in two newspapers.
Chess at University
While at university, Skipworth played chess at the Cambridge Chess Club, where he is recorded as playing two games in December 1851 with Löwenthal, who was visiting Cambridge as part of a tour of the country. In telling Staunton about this part of the tour, Löwenthal refers to his meeting Skipworth as a renewal of his acquaintance with him, so maybe the earlier acquaintance was at the above Caistor meeting of 1851. Skipworth here received odds of the QN, one game finishing a win for Löwenthal and one a win for Skipworth, as follows:
Löwenthal, Johann Jacob (London),
Remove White’s Nb1
1. e4 e6 2. f4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. d3 Nh6 6. c3 Be7 7. Be2 b6 8. O-O Ba6 9. Qa4 Bb7 10. d4 O-O 11. Be3 cxd4 12. cxd4 Nf5 13. Bf2 f6 14. Bb5 Nb8 15. g4 Nh6 16. exf6 gxf6 17. h3 Kh8 18. Re1 a6 19. Bf1 Bc8 20. Qc2 Rg8 21. Kh1 Bd6 22. Qd2 Nxg4 23. hxg4 Rxg4 24. Be3 Qe8 25. Re2 Bb7 26. Rh2 Rg3 27. Bd3 Rg7 28. Rg1 Rxg1+ 29. Bxg1 h5 30. Ne5 fxe5 31. fxe5 Bxe5 32. Qh6+ Kg8 33. Qh7+ Kf8 34. Rf2+ Black resigned, 0-1 [CPC Vol. XIII, 1852, p.1]
White: Löwenthal, Johann Jacob (BCA), Black: Skipworth, Rev Arthur Bolland (Caistor)
Remove White’s Nb1
1. e4 e6 2. f4 d5
3. e5 c5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. c3 Nh6 6. Be2 f6 7. d4 Be7 8. Be3 O-O 9. dxc5 fxe5 10.
fxe5 Nf5 11. Bd4 Nxd4 12. cxd4 Ne3 13. Qb3 Nxg2+ 14. Kf2 Nh4 15. Rf1 Nxf3 16.
Bxf3 Bh4+ 17. Kg1 b6 18. Kh1 Ba6 19. Rg1 Rf4 20. Qe3 Bg5 21. Rg3 Bh6 22. Rg1
Rh4 23. Qf2 Qe7 24. b4 Rf8 25. Rd1 Bf4 26. Rg2 Bxh2 27. Rxh2 Rf4 28. Rh3 Qf7
29. Qc2 g5 30. Bg2 Rf2 31. Rd2 Rf5 32. a4 g4 33. Rg3 Qh5+ 34. Kg1 "And
Black gave Mate in four moves" according to the Chess Players Chronicle,
though it’s mate in three with 34. ... Rf1+ 35. Bxf1 Rxf1+ 36. Kg2
Second Caistor Meeting
At the time of the 1851 Caistor meeting, Skipworth was an undergraduate at Cambridge, so organising chess events in North Lincolnshire might not have been particularly easy, yet in 1854 he organised a second chess meeting at Caistor, held on Wednesday and Thursday, 25th and 26th October 1854.
This second Caistor chess meeting established another two standard features of series of events organised by Skipworth. The first such feature was that when organising a second event of its kind, he’d describe himself as secretary of some appropriately named chess organisation. On this occasion he described himself as honorary secretary and treasurer of the North Lincolnshire Chess Association. The second such feature was that he retrospectively label the previous event as the first of a series. On this occasion he named the 1854 meeting as a “triennial meeting”.
There appears not to have been any more triennial meetings of the North Lincolnshire Chess Association as such. During his incumbency at Croxby, from 1857 to 1860, he seems not to have organised any chess meetings. Such activities don’t seem to have resumed until he was vicar of Bilsdale, whither he moved to become vicar in 1860.
Bilsdale was once described as being near Northallerton, but there’s no direct road from Bilsdale to that town. “Bilsdale” is on the one hand what it says, a dale or valley, with Bilsdale Beck running through it. On the other hand it is a hamlet in that dale, up in the Cleveland Hills.
The B1257 runs southwards from Stokesley up into the Cleveland Hills. Once you are over the top and going downhill you enter the top end of the dale called Bilsdale. Bilsdale Beck runs down Bilsdale until it enters the river Rye about 3 miles upstream from Rievaulx Abbey. About 6 miles southwards from Stokesley, the B1257 reaches the hamlet of Seave Green, and a mile further on is the hamlet of Chop Gate. The B1257 continues another 12 miles or so southwards from Chop Gate, before hitting the Thirsk-Scarborough Road at Helmsley.
Bilsdale Midcable Chopgate C of E School is in Chop Gate on the north side of the junction of Raisdale Road with the B1257, opposite a public house, while Bilsdale Hall in up a side-road turning off the B1257 in Sieve Green. It is the hamlet by Bilsdale Hall which on some maps bears the name Bilsdale, so this presumably is where Skipworth’s remote rural parsonage was located, though his parish will have included, and extended beyond, the three hamlets mentioned.
The nearest built-up area of any size was Middlesbrough, and it is in this general direction that people in rural North Yorkshire most-conveniently turned for the benefits of civilisation.
First Redcar Tournament
When Skipworth organised his next chess meeting, it was held in the seaside resort of Redcar, to the east of Middlesbrough. Skipworth’s first chess meeting at Redcar was held 14th to 16th September 1865. One reason for running the event may well have been disenchantment with the British Chess Association into which the original Yorkshire Chess Association had gradually evolved. The BCA hadn’t run a chess event since 1862. Another reason may have been a desire to provide a rough equivalent, in his part of the world, of the meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association, albeit in his own style. He seemed to be seeking to meet the needs of those “provincial” chess-players for whom the British Chess Association was arguably failing to provide.
This first Redcar tournament followed the Caistor pattern in involving local dignitaries and clergymen, though in the number of ladies present it may not have equalled the Caistor meetings. It differed from the Caistor events, and the meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association in having as its main component an all-play-all tournament, which became the basis of Skipworth’s subsequent events.
Second Redcar Tournament
It was a moderate success, and a second meeting was held in 1866 at Redcar, this time in the name of the North Yorkshire and Durham Chess Association. Clearly on this occasion there were numerous ladies in attendance.
Three York Tournaments
For 1867, Skipworth moved his chess meeting to York. This was stage one in a progressive expansion which mirrored that of the original Yorkshire Chess Association. For the 1868 meeting in York, he adopted the name “Yorkshire Chess Association”, which upset some members of the West Yorkshire Chess Association. The same recipe was repeated in 1869.
The Counties Chess Association
For 1870, Skipworth decided to focus his chess meeting on the whole country’s “provincial” players by adopting the title of the Counties Chess Association, which in effect became the alternative, for ordinary chess players, to the London-focused British Chess Association.
The Counties Chess Association subsequently held annual events, missing only very occasionally, to 1896. In 1897 and 1898, the Craigside Tournaments nominally were combined with Counties Chess Association events as “Counties & Craigside” Chess Tournaments. The Counties Chess Association died with Skipworth.
Skipworth at the West Yorkshire Chess Association
While he was the incumbent at Bilsdale, Skipworth was a welcome guest at the meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association on a number of occasions, first in 1866. In 1868, he attended partly in response to complaints about him adopting the title “Yorkshire Chess Association” for his series of annual chess meetings. He attended also in 1869, 1870 and 1871. He appears not to have attended WYCA meetings after leaving Yorkshire to take up jobs in Lincolnshire.
Besides being an organiser of chess meetings and tournaments, and being a notable player, he also was involved in producing chess magazines. He was one of those involved in the Chess Players’ Quarterly Chronicle, for the four years 1868 to 1871. This provided him with an excellent communication organ for his chess-organising activities during a crucial phase in their development. From 1872 to 1875 he was involved in the Chess Players’ Chronicle.
As late as 1892 he was involved in editing minor chess columns, as evidenced by a note in the British Chess Magazine of 1892, page 56, which said:
Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann
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