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Ilford Chess Club
Club History

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Jef Page recounts the foundation and early history of Ilford Chess Club

The Club was founded when a preliminary meeting held on Tuesday, 3 October 1900 at 2, Cranbrook Road, Ilford met to discuss the formation of a club in the neighbourhood to be called The Ilford Chess Club,

Eighteen men were present at the inaugural meeting: AJ BENSON, J BISHOP, J BROOKS, E COLLINS, H COLLINS, PJ DROUGHT, JE ETHERIDGE, Dr C HANKS, GV HASLAM, AP HOLLINGDALE, WT JOHNS, RE KEMP, H LINDSEY, EJ RANDALL, RL RANDALL, JH ROBBINS, AM SMITH, S WICHMANN.

Dr Charles Hanks was elected Chairman and AP Hollingdale, Secretary. Two years before in 1898, Ilfordians helped found the Essex County Chess Association, It isn't clear who they were but it is known that locals attended the ECCA meeting and were playing chess either for clubs such as East London (founded 1887), Leyton, West Ham, (1896) etc, or met informally for social games,

The original Minute Books still exist, the first covering the years 1900-32. Badly in need of conservation, its preservation should become a priority. The Books record the Annual General Meetings but only give the barest details. Whilst this isn't an 'official' history of the Club it can only be written with access to the Minute Books as newspaper reports are sparse and the original members long gone.

The thrill of founding the new club was soon eclipsed by practical problems but Ilford Chess Club was one of the newest societies in the area. It reflected Ilford's urban growth as the new century beckoned: up from a rural village of 10,000 in 1891 to a startling 40,000 in 1901.

Two key resolutions were passed in 1900: that Club meetings should not be held in a licensed house and the subscription was set at 7/6d. It's unclear why they didn't want to meet in a pub, Perhaps they had had some rowdy or drunken experiences. There was also a strong element of teetotal abstinence. It is possible that some of the members came from the new Cameron Corbett and Peter Griggs estates, ie Grange and Cranbrook Estates and wanted to keep the middIe-class high moral tone as public houses were not allowed on their estates. Gentlemen's clubs such as the Athenaeum, Liberal Club etc. all played chess and had bars but Ilford wouldn't follow that road so since 1900 we've never met at premises with a bar. We were promised one at the Conservative Club at Gants Hill when we moved there but it never materialised,

The meeting decided that the Committee would make the final choice of where the Club would play regularly and on which night it shouId meet. Friday was favourite with 14 supporters, Tuesday 12, Thursday 10 and Wednesday 9 - a total of 45!? - were there proxy votes from those who couldn't make the meeting? Tuesday was eventually chosen but the Minutes don't record where they finally decided to play chess. The annual subscription was set at 7/6d. Five shillings was proposed but the need for funds was such that the higher figure was quickly accepted. To allow the Club to buy badly needed chess equipment members chipped in with extra loans to be repaid later: Dr Hanks and J Bishop both promised two guineas (2-2/-) and others offered at least 1.

Hanks was then proposed as President and the resolution carried unanimously. The offices of Secretary and Treasurer were proposed to be combined and A. Palfrey Hollingdale (they don't make names like that anymore) accepted the burden of joint posts. The members then elected Haslam, R. Randall, Johns, Drought and Hislop to the new Committee. At the conclusion of the evening it was Brooks who was thanked for providing the room: this was reasonable as it was above his work premises that they were meeting. Number 2 Cranbrook Road were the shop and offices of South Essex Recorder Ltd and Benjamin Brooks was the manager there. A few years later no. 1 Cranbrook Road, on the corner of Balfour Road, became the premises of Horace Randall, estate agents.

I had virtually given up trying to find any more information on the founding of the club. I'd gone through the Ilford Recorder microfilms at Redbridge Local History Library and found nothing in 1900. Then as a last resort I thought I'd try again, only this time try the Ilford Guardian. The library has just acquired these early years and I found the report of the 3 October meeting straight away. The Guardian (Saturday, 6 October 1900) reported that the 'proposed Chess Club had a brilliant inception and had guaranteed loans, aside from subs, of over 10 from a membership already over 20. The Presidency was to be filled by an active member - sounds familiar.

On Saturday, 10 November 1900 the Guardian proudly announced the new premises selected by the Committee: rooms above Thes and Sons, confectioners and bakers, High Road, Ilford (now the site of the Exchange, The original building is known but not the sweetshop), Why they chose these august and prestige premises is unclear: free, cheap, knew the owner, bought their lollipops and buns there? Here games would be played to determine the championship and the Club was quick off the mark to announce its inaugural and first club match - against a 10-man Forest Gate team, reported in the Guardian a week later:

ILFORD 3-7 FOREST GATE:

13 November 1900

W John 0-1 C Johnson; C Hanks /-/ A Beecroft; J Cornish /-/ W Schartan; R RandalI 0-1 EJ Gibbs; E Randall 1-0 G Haslam; W Johns 1-0 R Kemp; W Fowler 0-1 J Lambe; F Hersee 0-1 F Lambe; J Robbins 0-1 Wooltorton; CA Cook 0-1 W ColviIle.

The newspaper put the overwhelming loss down to the fact that two of Ilfords members were playing for Forest Gate (Haslam and Kemp), which had been founded in 1891. Clearly there was contact with other local clubs. It was hoped that a full-strength Ilford would prosper, John and Johns may be a misprint and is Wooltorton - Woolverton ? (Harry Woolverton was not born then - a relation?)

Reports in the Guardian soon dried up but not before it noted the formation of an East London League and Club, an Ilford Handicap Tournament to be started in 1901, entry fee 1/- and that it was a very good time to join Ilford: subscriptions had dropped back from 7/6d to 5/-!

At the next recorded meeting, the First Annual Meeting held on Tuesday 2nd April 1901 (since 1902 the AGM has always been held in September or October), the numbers present were fewer but a key far-sighted and progressive rule was passed: ladies became eligible to join the Club,

Rechecking the Minutes for 1904 and 1905 we find that Misses Glazier, Haslam and Thompson entertained the members with songs and instrumental music after the AGMs were over. Whether they were actually members is unclear as membership lists do not exist. Certainly GV Haslam was a member and he became Secretary later. The 1905 AGM must have been an enjoyable event, Ilford had just won the Essex County Chess Trophy for the first time and it was formally presented to the President for safe keeping, Ilford were rising fast, In May the final of the County Trophy had been played against Southend over 8 boards.

SOUTHEND 3+ - 4+ ILFORD

TR Ross 0-1 Dr C Hanks; F Nettleton 1-0 EJ Randall; CH Dunton /-/ S W Schartan; RW Hoof 0-1 W Johns; C Roberts 0-1 A HolIand; ER Gittins 1-0 H Leslie: HT Teakle /-/ R L Randall; HK Money /-/ EG Hobday.

Based upon Mr Markwicks chess column in the Stratford Express, board 8 was unfinished at close of play. The game was sent for adjudication but Money, claiming a win, was only given a draw giving the match to Ilford. Money was clearly winning but a drawn match would have meant that the match would have had to be replayed. There was no appeal or penalty shoot out in those days so the Championship went to Ilford. Mr Schartan won an ivory chess set (as Club Captain ?) and Mr Leslie a photographic instrument.

Our search for cheap premises has seen the Club become nomadic in Ilford; weve tried everywhere to save money, usually futilely. Ive played at CIarks College, Cranbrook Road; St Andrews Church, The Drive; the Conservative Club, Gants Hill and Dr Barnardo's in Barkingside. Of these four I still remember Clarks College with feeling. Tucked away behind Baileys (Councillor Ben Bailey) estate agency, it was spartan, small and rather cramped but it had atmosphere and the largest and best set of captain's chairs I've ever sat in.

The second AGM met at Christchurch (road or school?) Cranbrook Road, the 3rd AGM at Cranbrook Buildings, the 5th at Broadway Chambers and the 1908 AGM was held at Ilford Park Club. By 1910 the Committee were again complaining of low membership and high rent so it was back to 122, Cranbrook Road.

By 1911 membership was just 30, the Club was playing in both the Essex and London Leagues and individual scores are recorded in the Minute Book. Season 1910-11 HE Warren 9+/15, AR James 8/9, A Anderton 7+/12, EJ Randall 5+/8, A Webster 5+/11, W Collins, H Wedd 5/10, A HoIland, WR Barter 6+/9, C Tankard 6/+/8, S Brewitt 2/3, G Haslam 1/3, C Hanks 0/1 etc. Club members played in 50 board county matches representing Essex against Kent, Middlesex and Surrey and Ilford played 18 matches against Bohemians Church, East Ham, Leyton, Plaistow, Southend, West Ham and the London Rifle Brigade, We won 12, drew 2 and lost only 4.

By 1912 the Committee were seeking more commodious premises at Park Club (though membership had dropped to 28) and returned there on more favourable (rental) terms. Exhortations to recruit new and more members were as strong as ever: if the Club is to regain any of its old prosperity ...players in the neighbourhood who do not belong to any club and others who go further afield when Ilford is more convenient. With a little persuasion ... would join the club - B Farwell, Secretarys Report. But this enthusiasm didnt last, The next General Meeting was held in June 1913 at the Free Library, Romford Road, Manor Park. The first business discussed and proposed was a merger with East Ham. This was carried unanimously and the new club known as East Ham and Ilford Chess Club,

There are no background details in the Minute Book as to what had gone wrong or why, The joint club met at St Michaels Church Institute, Manor Park and from 1915 back in Ilford. The AGM in 1915 was held in Haslams house at 68 Cranbrook Road. The merger lasted till 1920 when it was formally dissolved though membership hadnt increased - no doubt the war had been a bit of an inconvenience. At the conclusion of some of the early meetings short concerts recitals were given. There was even a magic, sleight of hand show at one.

Another interesting innovation was the election of Vice-Presidents and Patrons to raise the visibility, tone and possibly funds of the Club. As early in the Clubs founding as 1901 the Lord Bishop of Barking, the Reverend W Molony and Rev Charles Vine were created VPs along with Councillors Ashmole, Lusby, Weedon and Ben Bailey. In 1914 the new Patrons were Sir John BetheIl (MP 1906-18) and WP Griggs: Ilfords estate builder who became Ilfords MP 1918-20. All of these eight men are of course famous in Ilfords history. I hope to be able to produce chess and personal biographies of the Clubs founding members. Is Charles Hanks any relation to Luke Hanks? And is Percy Drought the doctor who was divisional police surgeon during the Thompson-Bywaters murder case?

 

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