Yorkshire Chess History



Joseph Wilson (of Louth)











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



30/04/1849, Halifax








Identity of the Chess- player


It is difficult to identify a player with a indistinctive name like “J. Wilson” without a non-chess clue of some sort.  “J. Wilson, Louth” gets frequent mention, but even the added reference to Louth leaves plenty of possibilities, mainly called “John Wilson”.  Fortunately, the Boston Guardian of 23/12/1905, on page 5, reported,


CHESS—Mr. J. Wilson, H.M. Inspector Schools for the district, paid another visit to the Waverley Club on Monday evening last, and played (simultaneously) a number of games with...


This occupational clue to the chess-player leads to an entry in Venn (a source for some of this page) relating to a Joseph Wilson who becomes an inspector of schools in the Lincoln district, then in time in the Louth district.


Non-Chess Life


Joseph Wilson was a son of bookseller Daniel Wilson (born 1800/01, Southowram) and Miriam Wilson (born 1812/13, Northowram), who had at least the following children, all born in Halifax:


Sarah Wilson

born 1830

George Wilson

born 1832/33

John Wilson

born 1834/35

Elizabeth Wilson

born 1836

Mary Jane Wilson

born 1847

Joseph Wilson

born 30/04/1849

Samuel R Wilson

born 1850/51


White’s 1847 directory of Leeds, Bradford and the woollen district listed Daniel Wilson as a bookseller in Union Street, Halifax.


The 1851 census found parents and first 4 children living at 1 Cross Street, Halifax.  Father Daniel was a bookseller, with sons George and John as assistants.


White’s 1854 directory of Leeds, Bradford and the woollen district listed Daniel Wilson as a bookseller at 43 Northgate, Halifax.


Joseph was sent away to boarding school, at King William’s College, Isle of Man, which was (and is) situated near Castletown, and is now clearly visible from Ronaldsway airport.  The foundation stone was laid on 23/041830, and the college opened on 01/08/1833.


The 1861 census presumably fell outside term time, as it found parents, all the children except for George, and Daniel’s widowed sister-in-law, living at 44 Northgate, Halifax (presumably adjacent to or opposite the shop), with one domestic servant.  However, Daniel was seemingly about to broaden his portfolio employment-wise.


White’s 1866 directory of Leeds, Bradford and the woollen district listed Daniel Wilson as a “bookseller, vapour bath owner &c” at 53 Northgate, Halifax.


The 1871 census again found Joseph at his parental home in Halifax, being recorded as a student.  The family now lived at 101 & 103 Northgate, Halifax.  Daniel was now a bookseller employing 2 boys.  There was no mention of the “vapour bath”.  John had now flown from the nest.


From King William’s College Joseph was admitted as a pensioner to Christ’s College, Cambridge, on 12/07/1871, at the relatively late age of 22.  He matriculated in Michaelmas 1871, becoming a scholar, and going on to get a BA, as 9th Wrangler (maths) and History Tripos 1st Class, in 1875.  He was a Fellow of the college from 1876 to 1880, getting an MA in 1878.  Brother Samuel R Wilson went to Cambridge in 1873.


From Oxford, he went more or less directly into the Civil Service to take up a post in 1879 as HM Inspector of Schools for the Lincoln district.


In early 1880, he married Sarah Duckitt (born 1855/56, Queensbury, 3 miles north of Halifax), at Halifax.  The couple had at least two children of which the first was:


Mabel Heaton Wilson

born 1880, York


The place of birth of the daughter suggests Sarah was merely staying with relatives for the birth.  If the family had moved from Lincolnshire, then a change of job would have been mentioned by Venn.  The fact that they subsequently had a second child is indicated in the 1911 census which said they had at that point had produced 2 children, both of whom were still living.


Father Daniel Wilson died aged 80 in late 1881, in Halifax.


The 1881 census did little to clarify matters regarding place of domicile as Joseph, wife Sarah and daughter Mabel were listed as visitors in the household of schoolmaster John Wright and his wife Maria, in Hatfield, 7 miles NE of Doncaster.  The Wilson’s home address might have been Louth, York, or somewhere else, but it was probably Lincoln or thereabouts.


Venn keeps things on track by telling us in 1883 our man became Inspector of Schools for the Louth district.


The 1891 census found Joseph Wilson to be an Inspector of Schools visiting the family of the widowed Emma Shoebridge(?) at 21 Wade Street, Halifax.  Perhaps he was on a visit from Lincolnshire to see his widowed mother, or other relatives.


Mother Miriam Wilson died aged 84 in 1896 in Halifax.


The 1901 census found the family of Joseph, Sarah and York-born Mabel living in the seaside Lincolnshire village of Sutton-le-Marsh, now called Sutton-on-Sea, where the nearest town and chess club would be Louth.  Joseph was still a schools inspector.


In 1902, daughter Mabel married Herbert William Layng, in the registration district of Louth which included Sutton-le-Marsh.  This may be what precipitated a move from the seaside to the conveniences of civilisation in the Lincoln area.


By 1904, “J. Wilson” was being given the epithet “Lincoln”, suggesting he had moved from Sutton-le-Marsh to Heighington on the outskirts of Lincoln at some time in 1903 plus or minus a year.


The 1911 census found 61-year-old Joseph and his wife now living at the Manor House, Heighington, 4 miles east of Lincoln.  Grandchildren William Edward Layng and Dorothea Mabel Layng were with them, possibly visiting their grandparents.  The household now had a cook, a housemaid and a nurse.  Joseph was still one of H.M.’s Inspectors of Schools.


The death of a 66-year-old Sarah Wilson was registered in the Lincoln district in 1922.  This is likely to have been Joseph’s wife.




No record of the death of Joseph Wilson is easily uncovered.  It seems most probable he died in Lincolnshire, but no death registration seems to match as regards age and location, though his age might of course have been represented incorrectly.




Chess reports of J. Wilson of Louth (or latterly of Lincoln or Heighington) in Lincolnshire newspapers range in date from 1889 to 1910.  The Stamford Mercury of 17/05/1889 referred to “J. Wilson (Louth)” as “a rapidly improving player”, and 06/12/1889 mentioned him as being captain of the Louth team.


The Stamford Mercury of 07/02/1890 said “a little friendly match of nine games was played between Mr. Skipworth and Mr. Wilson”.  Mr. Skipworth will have been the Rev. Arthur Bolland Skipworth.  The Stamford Mercury of 21/02/1890 give on page 6 a game played between the two.


Often it is difficult to identify the player “J. Wilson” in reports of chess events, unless an epithet such as “Louth” is present.  However, the “J. Wilson” recorded at events such as the Counties Chess Association meetings at Hereford in 1885, Nottingham 1886, Stamford 1887, Cambridge 1890, Oxford 1891 and Woodhall Spa 1893, are likely to have been this player, partly because of relative the proximity to his home, and partly because he was acquainted with the organiser, fellow Lincolnshire resident the Rev. Arthur Bolland Skipworth who himself has been a schools inspector.


“J. Wilson, Lincoln” played in the First Class Amateur Tournament, Section C, at Hastings in 1904.


The Boston Guardian of 23/12/1905, as mentioned at the start, recorded him giving a 15-board simultaneous display at a club.


This “J. Wilson” played in the Northern Counties Chess Union Congresses of 1907, 1908 and 1910, all in Blackpool.  This might seem incongruous as Lincolnshire is in the present-day Midlands Counties Chess Union, but was not so at the MCCU’s foundation, and Lincolnshire was in fact one of the original counties making up the NCCU, only later switching to the MCCU.


In the 1908 Yorkshire v Middlesex match, this Joseph Wilson played for Yorkshire, exercising his birth-place qualification to do so.


The Lincolnshire Echo of 12/05/1910 mentioned “Mr. J. Wilson, M.A. (Heighington) playing in the final of the Lincolnshire Chess Championship, and winning the championship.  The Stamford Mercury of 25/02/1910 had reported on the first round in which our man had beaten W. Parker of Lincoln.  This was the first season this championship was contested.


There was a “J. Wilson” who played for Surrey around 1884 and 1885, but the Surrey player cannot reasonably be equated with this Joseph Wilson, as the latter had no qualification (by birth, residence or place of work etc) to play for Surrey.





Copyright © 2019 Stephen John Mann

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

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