Yorkshire Chess History
William Forth’s parents were William Forth (senior, born 1810/11) and Margaret Forth (née Douglas, born 1812/13), both Whitby-born. They had married at Whitby on 12/06/1837, and seem to have spent the first ten years or so of married life in Whitby. They had at least the following eight children:
The 1841 census found William and Margaret with 2-year-old Robert and 8-month-old Sarah at Flowergate. William was a bookseller. A 25-year-old teacher by the name of Mary Storer appears to have been lodging with them.
The birthplaces of the children make it evident that the family moved from Whitby to Sleights, about 4 miles SW of Whitby, at some time from 1847 to 1849. This move was presumably the consequence of William senior taking up the post of local station master on the railway towards Middlesbrough.
The 1851 census found the family of parents and five children, including 8-year-old William Forth junior, living at Sleights railway station. William forth senior was described as railway station master. Sarah appears to have disappeared from the scene.
Around 1852 to 1855 the family moved back to Whitby.
The 1861 census found the whole family, except 22-year-old Robert, living at May Fields, on the SW periphery of Whitby. William Forth senior was now described as a master letter press printer, with William junior and Thomas as apprentices. Mary, Jane, John and Margaret were scholars. Robert was recorded in the census as being on board ship at the time.
The 1871 census gave the family’s address as May Field Place, Whitby, which may have been the same address as in 1861. William senior was still a master letter press printer with William junior as an apprentice. Thomas had left printing and was now a confectioner. John was a plumber’s apprentice. Jane and Margaret were laundresses. The family had no servants, and all the children, even the daughters, were in work. The Forth family was thus not as well off as the better-known West Yorkshire chess-players of earlier years.
White’s Whitby directory of 1867 and Kelly’s of 1872 didn’t seem to list the Forths, however, Kelly’s Whitby directory of 1879 listed Forth and Son, printers and bookbinders at Flowergate, Whitby.
The Forths’ printers’ premises at Flowergate were later variously specified as 45 Flowergate, and Marwood’s Yard, Flowergate. They appear to have been demolished. Marwood’sYard would seem to have been roughly where there is now a parking area in front of Poundland and Lloyds TSB. Numbers on Flowergate run sequentially up the east side to the top, then continue down the west side to the bottom again. The shop immediately below the parking space is number 47, with 48 etc to the rear.
In 1874 or 1875 William Forth junior married Margaret, born 1839/40 at Stockton-on-Tees, then in Co. Durham. The couple had at least the following five children, all Whitby-born:
The 1881 census found William junior, and wife Margaret, with the first three children, living at 3 Elgin Street, (off North Road, off Windsor Terrace,) Whitby. William Forth senior, now a widower, was a master printer still, living at Thompson’s Yard, Whitby, with unmarried eldest son Robert Forth, a mariner, unmarried youngest daughter Margaret Forth, who acted as housekeeper, and 14-year-old grandson Robert F. Turner (presumably a son of Mary or Jane), an apprentice printer.
A certain Mrs Sarah Greenbury, the widowed sister of Jane Grimshaw, the former Mrs Jane Trattles and second wife of Walter Grimshaw (fellow Whitby chess club member), lived for a while with the Grimshaws. On 19/12/1881, at Whitby, this Mrs. Sarah Greenbury married William Forth’s brother, Robert Forth, mariner of Thomson’s Yard, Whitby. Thus Walter Grimshaw’s second wife’s sister’s second husband was a brother of William Forth, and two members of Whitby Chess Club became distantly related by marriages.
William Forth senior’s death was recorded in the first quarter of 1882. This date enables us to identify William junior as the chess-player.
Kelly’s directory of 1890 listed William Forth, of Forth and Son, printer, resident at 2 Well Close Square, a turning westward off Silver Street, Whitby.
The 1891 census accordingly found William Forth junior and family living at 2 Well Close Square, Whitby. William was described as a working letter press printer, employing staff, and Christopher was an apprentice letter press printer. Wife Margaret was now described as a lodging house keeper. The remaining four children were all scholars.
Kelly’s 1893 directory of Whitby listed Forth and Son, printers, still at Flowergate, Whitby.
Kelly’s 1899 directory of Whitby listed Forth and Son, printers, Marwood Yard, Flowergate, Whitby. It also listed William Forth as resident at lodging house, 2 Well Close Square, Whitby (the lodging house run by his wife).
William Forth, like others in Whitby, seems elusive in the 1901 census.
Kelly’s Whitby directory of 1905 listed Forth and Son, printers, at 45 Flowergate, Whitby, with William Forth himself now resident at apartments, 3 East Crescent.
Kelly’s Whitby directory of 1909 continued to list Forth and Son, printers, at 45 Flowergate, Whitby, but now gave William Forth’s residence as 11 Well Close Terrace, further up the hill from 2 Well Close Square.
The 1911 census found 68-year-old William, still a letter press printer employing staff, and 71-year-old Margaret, living with 27-year-old Marguerite, living at 6 George Street, Whitby. (William and Margaret were recorded as having been married for 36 full years.) Married daughter May Harrison was visiting at the time.
Kelly’s Whitby directory of 1913 listed Forth and Son, printers, at Marwood’s Yard, Flowergate, Whitby. It also listed Frederick Douglas Forth living at apartments, 13 Windsor Terrace.
William Forth junior died 09/04/1918, at 17 George Street, and was buried on 11/04/1918 in plot 205, section C, of Whitby’s Larpool cemetery.
The Whitby Gazette of Friday 12th April 1918 carried in its “Deaths” column on page 5 the following brief notice:
April 9th, at 17 George Street, William Forth, in his 75th year.
On page 4 of the Gazette there appeared a brief obituary, but the on microfilm copy held in Whitby library, page 4 is sadly for the greater part illegible. The obituary apparently starts:
Death of Mr. W. Forth. – We regret to record the death of Mr. William Forth . . .
The piece then becomes indecipherable. It seems to end with a list of relatives, perhaps mourners at the funeral, which appears to read:
Mr. C. D. Forth, Mr. F. D. Forth, Mr. R.W. A. Forth, sons, Mr. W. D.[?] [Harrison?], son-in-law, [somebody, perhaps Mrs May Harrison], and Mrs. [initial]. W. Turner, sister[s?].
The inscription on the grave reads:
DIED APRIL 9TH 1918
AGED 76 YEARS.
WIFE OF THE ABOVE
DIED DEC 1ST 1925
AGED 85 YEARS.
He was actually only 75 years old at his death, and in his 76th year. (Click here for images of the grave.)
Probate was granted on 01/08/1918 at York to Christopher Darnton Forth, inspector of schools. The deceased’s effects totalled £267.
William Forth was a member of chess club. We know the chess-player was William junior rather than William senior, as his activities date from after the death of William senior.
The York Herald of 26/09/1884, reporting on Whitby Chess Club’s annual meeting of 1884, records William Forth as reading a report to the meeting, rather implying he was club secretary.
He played board 2 for Whitby against Grosmont on Wednesday 09/12/1886, and on board 1 for Whitby against Grosmont on Wednesday 17/12/1890.
Along with Walter Grimshaw, George Longbotham Miller and Ramon (a.k.a. Raymond) Peguero, he was one of the leading players in Whitby during the 1880s and 1890s, and possibly after.
Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information