Yorkshire Chess History
Davy, Arthur (1838 - 6th November 1902)
“Mr Davy possesses a generous and kindly heart, and has [missing word] an enthusiastic interest in chess. He has a fine house in Ranmoor, but is one of the least ostentatious and most liked of its well-to-do residents.”
Unattributed newspaper article of 1902 (1)
In the second half of the 1800s there were a number of families by the name of Davy, possibly inter-related to a greater or lesser extent, but often concerned in different businesses. Our Arthur became a grocer, in simple terms, though he’d have preferred the term “provision merchant”, a term which embraces more than groceries.
The census of 1841 listed three likely people called Arthur Davy, two declared as five-year-olds and one as a two-year-old. Our man could have been two, but not five. However, very young children’s ages in the 1841 census weren’t always meant to be precise.
We know that our Arthur had a brother called Henry, but that is less help than it might have been in analysing the 1841 census, as none of the Arthurs was in listed in the same house as a Henry. The only Henry appears to have been one who a son of a grocer at Bridgehouses. Addresses make it relatively easy to infer that one 5-year-old had been born into a family of knife manufacturers resident in Broom Spring Lane, and the other 5-year-old had been born into a different family of grocers, in South Street, Sheffield Moor.
The two-year-old was recorded is listed at Harvest Lane, Sheffield, very near to Bridgehouses, with 65-year-old Mary Davy. A reasonable inference would be that the 2-year-old Arthur was a member of the Bridgehouses grocer family, but had been staying with his grandmother at Harvest Lane.
Arthur Davy’s age at death and in the 1841 and 1881 censuses imply his date of birth was some time from 07/06/1838 to 06/11/1838. Elsewhere on Harvest Lane was 40-year-old William Davy, probably a relative of Mary.
The names, ages in 1841, and inferred relationships of the Davys of Bridgehouses were as follows:
To these it appears we must add the Harvest Lane Davys:
White’s 1833 directory for Sheffield lists “Davy Dennis, gent, 38 Harvest Lane”. The directories apply the term “gentleman” to men of “independent means” in lieu of listing the person’s trade or profession.
White’s 1837 Sheffield directory lists Mrs Mary Davy at 38 Harvest Lane, implying Mary was head of the household and hence that her husband (the said Dennis?) had died before Arthur’s birth. White’s 1841 directory for Sheffield lists “Mary Davy, gentleman”, at 146 Harvest Lane. “Gentlewoman” would have been more appropriate, but either way financial independence is implied. This Mary at 146 Harvest Lane is not the Mary Ann Davy, wife of a grocer at Bridgehouses.
There were other Davy families in Sheffield. As far back as 1841 there were people called Davy in business in engineering, knife manufacturing, ivory cutting and grocery. As time went by these families tended to use the same pool of names for their children, suggesting at least some of the families were related. The heads of such families may well have been brothers or cousins of Dennis of Harvest Lane.
Directories list cases of one or other Arthur Davy in business in the early 1860, but these are all fairly clearly either Arthur Davy of the knife manufacturing firm, or the Arthur Davy of the grocery family from South Street, Sheffield Moor, who were the 5-year-olds in the 1841 census.
The earliest chess-related references to “Arthur Davy” which the writer has found are references to such a person attending the annual meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association in Wakefield in 1857 (3) and in Huddersfield in 1859 (4), but in each case he is listed as coming from Wakefield.
The young Arthur’s education and early career prior to 1865 are unknown to the writer. He’s not listed as a pupil at Sheffield Collegiate School, which was attended by so many of Sheffield’s “great and good” of that generation.
Start of the Family Business
According to one source, Arthur Davy started out in business on his own account in 1865, selling pork products in Nursery Street, a short distance into town from Harvest Lane, from premises which sound to have been built as a domestic property rather than a shop as such (7). This operation from Nursery Street seems uncorroborated elsewhere. It may be that he was working for somebody else at this time. There is a reference in a directory to an A. Davy trading from “Nursery”, but that was too early to be our Arthur.
This business expanded into Arthur Davy and Sons Limited, selling its produce throughout most of England.
Reliably documentation of Arthur Davy being in business on his own account relates to when he started trading from 32 Castle Street about 1867 (8), though that was not in the building which stands there now. Arthur appears to have taken over the former premises of Joseph Shaw, hat manufacturer, who is listed in Kelly’s directory for 1854. There was in fact a number 34 between number 32 and Haymarket up to 1904. The building now situated at the corner of Castle Street and Haymarket was built for Arthur Davy and Sons Ltd as a shop, cafe & restaurant by the architects Gibbs and Flockton in 1904. This replaced the old 32 and 34. One can still see the name “Davy” over the corner entrance.
Marriage and Start of a Family
Around 1870, or earlier, Arthur married Mary Jennie [maiden name not discovered yet] (born c. 1845). They had a son Arthur Cedric Davy was born c. 1870, followed about a year later (c. 1871) by Ernest Richards Davy. These two sons were destined to take over the running of the business after their father died. Further children followed: Dora A (c. 1874), Ethel M (c. 1875), a third son Cyril (c. 1879), Elsie Davy (c. 1880) and Petrie Davy (c. 1880). That’s three sons and four daughters. Arthur was survived after his death by three sons and two daughters, meaning two of the daughters died young (8, 9).
Early Expansion of the Grocery Business
A shop at 81 Broomhall Street had been opened by 1881. This outlet still existed in 1951, but had gone by 1961. The site of this shop is now anonymously hidden by residential developments in that area.
Also around 1880/81 a branch in Rotherham was opened at 17 High Street. Some of the buildings that now stand in High Street date back to that time, while others are more recent. The premises currently occupied by Rotherham Chamber of Commerce are currently numbered 15, which suggests that the premises to the right are where Davy’s shop was. This shop was unoccupied at the time of writing, it’s last occupant having been an Oxfam charity shop latterly specialising in books. The external fabric of the ground floor, being wooden, could conceivably date from Davy’s time.
By 1881, directories record Davy as having premises at 10 Paternoster Row. When the Fargate shop opened in 1883, that too had food production facilities as well as a slaughterhouse, but in due course Paternoster Row became the centre of production of meat products and baking. The larger factory which for a long time occupied 10 Paternoster Row was built in 1887 (8, 9). These premises served also as “head office” for an expanding business which was not just that of a retail grocer, but had its own bakery, cured its own bacon and ham, and made meat products such as pork pies, potted meat and sausages of which the tomato variety were a speciality. For a while it allegedly even had its own farm(s).
Around the early 1880s, the west side of Fargate was being redeveloped as part of an “improvement” scheme. Davy acquired premises at 38 Fargate in 1881 (9), then acquired number 40 and premises to the rear. A new building was constructed during 1881 and 1882 to a design by the architect J. D. Webster, and become known as Davy’s Building (10). It’s said that when it opened it was the largest provisions merchants’ shop in Britain. Upstairs the building later incorporated the Victoria Café.
Davy’s building at 38 and 40 Fargate is now occupied by W H Smith. Still evident on the Tudor-style façade, between the second-floor and third-floor windows, are four different carved heads of farmyard animals. A cow, sheep, pig and bull are said by some to be represented.
Determining which species each carving represents isn’t very easy, but examination of enlarged photographs suggests that the leftmost represents a bull with horns and much shaggy hair, the second from the left is a pig, on the basis of the flat-fronted snout, the second from the right is a cow with horns but less hair, and the rightmost is another pig on account of the flat-fronted snout. Sheep seem absent. These animals represent the meat aspect of Arthur Davy’s business. Whether the name Davy was cut into the masonry between ground level and first floor is unclear. No such name is now visible.
Davy’s Building seems to have housed some other businesses as well. In 1895, Wiliam M. Toplis, stationer & printer, occupied (possibly just part of) 40 Fargate.
The Sons Join the Firm
In 1883 Arthur’s elder son, Arthur Cedric Davy, joined the firm, and in 1886 his second son, Ernest Richards Davy, joined the firm (7).
By 1890, two more Davy shops had opened, at 169 South Street, Sheffield Moor, and at 106 Upper St Philip's Road, Sheffield. Next door to the latter shop, at 108, was Joseph Pollard, another grocer. By 1896 Davy had acquired this next-door shop as well.
This process of taking over other grocers’ premises continued. At some time from 1890 to 1898, Davy moved into 21 Haymarket, which had previously been occupied by Thomas Appleyard & Co., grocer. That was not the building which stands on the site now.
In about 1887/88 Davy took over 24 Castle Street which his firm occupied to about 1902, though enigmatically the directory for 1893 show 24 as occupied by the Danish & Swedish Dairy Co., butter merchants, before Davy was later again listed at that shop.
Sometime between 1887 and 1910 Davy’s opened a branch at 56 Boar Lane in Leeds; by 1929 it had moved to 53 Boar Lane. This Leeds shop existed into the post-war era.
Business success meant Arthur Davy could afford to live in ever-more costly homes. In 1876 he lived at 38 Westbourne Road, Sheffield. By 1879 he’d moved along the road to 50 Westbourne Road. Then in 1887 or 1888 he moved into a house he’d had newly built, Hill Crest, Ranmoor Cliff Road (originally “Upper Ranmoor Road”), which remained his residence until he died in 1902. Davy’s successor at 50 Westbourne Road was John William Sissons, but it is now part of a private school.
Death of Arthur’s Wife
“M. J. (Jennie)” died 25th November 1894, aged only 49 years, and was interred at Christchurch, Fulwood, Sheffield.
Incorporation as Arthur Davy and Sons Ltd
In 1896 the firm of Arthur Davy and Sons was incorporated, with Arthur Davy (senior) as chairman of Arthur Davy & Sons Ltd., and sons Arthur Cedric Davy and Ernest Richards Davy as directors (7).
Death of Arthur Davy
As he got older, Arthur Davy’s health deteriorated, and he withdrew from business activities, leaving the firm in the hands of his sons (1). He is listed at Hill Crest as late as 1902. In a 1903 directory (which presumably referred to 1901 or 1902) Arthur Davy is recorded as residing in Buxton, presumably in an attempt to aid his health, though he must have returned to Sheffield, as Arthur Davy died at Hill Crest on 6th November 1902 (2). He was buried at Christchurch, Fulwood, Sheffield. (Click here for images of the grave.)
A 1903 directory records one Thomas Cole as residing at Hill Crest.
The earliest chess record of an Arthur Davy in Sheffield is as a member of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club. The club’s cash book first records him paying an annual subscription of 2/6 on 27th September 1866. He appears to have been a member continually from then, and probably up to his death. The older Henry had joined earlier.
Arthur and Henry both played Joseph Henry Blackburne when he visited Sheffield in 1873.
The next record of “Arthur Davy” attending a WYCA meeting is at the Sheffield meeting of 1875, when he is listed as coming from Sheffield (5).
He features frequently in activities of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club.
(1) Who’s Who in Sheffield: Newspaper Cuttings 1902, collated by John Derry, Sheffield Local Studies Library, 920.04274 S.
(2) The Sheffield Daily Independent, Friday November 7, 1902, p.7
(3) Wakefield Express 5th December 1857
(4) Leeds Mercury 24th May 1859
(5) Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, 26th April 1875
(6 not used above)
(7) Sheffield Spectator, vol. 1, no. 7, October 1965, pp. 34-35, Sheffield Local Studies Library, 052.74 SQ.
(8) The Sheffield Daily Independent, Friday November 7, 1902, p.6
(9) Yorkshire Telegraph and Star (late), Thursday evening, November 6, 1902
(10) Pevsner Architectural Guides: Sheffield, Ruth Harman and John Minnis, Yale University Press, 2004
Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information