Yorkshire Chess History



Firth, Arthur











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



13/02/1862, Sheffield




Sheffield’s Firth Family


The name Firth is famous in Sheffield due to the activities of industrialist and benefactor Mark Firth.


“Firth Stainless” use to be a well-known name on cutlery.  The recreational open space called Firth Park was donated to Sheffield by Mark Firth, and that in turn gives its name to the area of Sheffield called Firth Park.  Mark Firth’s contribution to the setting up of Sheffield University is commemorated in the name of Firth Hall.


Mark Firth’s father, Thomas Firth senior, was a smelter at one of Sheffield’s steel manufacturers.  In time, Mark Firth and one of his brothers, Thomas Firth junior, joined the same firm.  The story goes that the brothers were a bit put out by the disparity between their wages and that of their father, so they set up as steel makers on their own account.  They went on to establish Norfolk Works in partnership with three more brothers, John, Edward and Henry.


Arthur Firth


The above-named John Firth married Eliza Bowden, with whom she had two children, but Eliza died a year after the birth of the second child, and in due course John Firth re-married, to Charlotte Harding, with whom he had six children.  The fourth of those six children was Arthur Firth, born 13th February 1862, at Machon Bank, Sheffield.


Thus Arthur Firth was a nephew of the famous Mark Firth.


He was educated at Clifton College, Bristol, and became a law student (on the basis of the 1881 census, when he was visiting 20 Waterloo Road, Wolverhampton).


Gwynedd Council archives catalogue lists a draft conveyance, dated 25th March 1886, relating to property in the vicinity of Little Orme’s Head, Llandudno, involving “Arthur Firth of Sheffield, co. York, gent.” [catalogue ref. XD/62/25/10, also listed with related items in the Gwyedd Archive catalogue].  It appears land was being purchase from John Ramsden, of Chester, by Arthur Firth, of Sheffield, and John Smith, of Lumpley, Stoke, Wiltshire.  What this seems to have been leading to was the establishment of a “Hydro”, which establishments were all the rage in those days, at the foot of the Little Orme.  Directories in Llandudno Archives show the said John Smith to have been proprietor in 1889, and Ralph E. Munro to have been manager in 1911, so it appears Firth was not directly involved in the running of the Hydro, though he perhaps had a financial investment it the business, but maybe he just handled the legal affairs relating to its establishment.  Whatever the case, this was adding to the establishment of the series of Craigside chess tournaments.


Arthur Firth married, and had a daughter, Violet Mary Firth, born 6th December 1890, who became famous in circles concerning themselves with the occult, under the name “Dion Fortune”.


The 1891 census found Arthur Firth and family at “Bryn-y-bia”, Bryn-y-bia Road, Craig-y-don [=Craigside], Llandudno, which was Arthur’s address in Slater's Directory of North & Mid Wales, 1895, p 231.


By the time of the 1901 census Arthur Firth and family had moved to Mortlake, Surrey.


It seems, nevertheless, that he retained connections with the Llandudno area, as in 1935 he became involved in starting a “residential chess club” at the Queen’s Hotel, Llandudno, which started in November 1935.  Arthur Firth’s address at this time was 4 Homesgarth, Letchworth, Hertfordshire.




He died.




Arthur Firth’s Craigside Hydro was to the venue for a series of Craigside Tournaments (q.v.) running from 1891 to 1898, of which with Arthur as secretary.


In October 1930, there appeared the first issue of a quarterly chess magazine called the Social Chess Quarterly, which was an organ of the Empire Social Chess Club, London.  Quite when Arthur Firth got involved is unclear, but he was editor of the magazine in 1935.  There appear to have been 23 issues, the last being that of April 1936, at which point it seems to have been absorbed into B. H. Wood’s Chess magazine.


The October 1935 edition of the Social Chess Quarterly announced the formation of a “residential social chess club” at the Queen’s Hotel, Llandudno.  This was organised by Arthur Firth in co-operation with R. J. Hollins, who was secretary of Llandudno Chess Club.  The plan was to hold chess weekends at the Queen’s Hotel, running from Friday to Monday, much like a modern weekend chess congress, with special weekend terms for the chess-players.


The first weekend ran from Friday 1st to Monday 4th November 1935.  At the opening, the England-resident world woman chess champion, Miss Vera Menchik, gave a 20-board simultaneous display, winning 15 games, drawing 3, and losing 2.  During that weekend, there took place the first round of a competition, the ultimate winner of which was to receive the Empire Social Chess Cup.  The format of the competition isn’t clear, but the winner of the first round was reported as Sheffield-born B. H. Wood, of Birmingham, with Dr. St. John of Manchester coming second.  Further rounds were to be played at subsequent monthly chess weekends, the second such being scheduled for 6th to 9th December 1935.  The final round was expected to be around Easter 1936.  Other competitions were envisaged at the weekends.





Copyright © 2012, 2013 Stephen John Mann

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

Last Updated