Yorkshire Chess History



William Rea











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site



06/09/1844, Greenwich


01/01/1845, St. Alphege, Greenwich




Non-Chess Life


William Rea was one of at least six children born to fisherman William Rea (senior) and Mary Rea.  These children were as follows, all born in Greenwich:


Mary Ball Rea

born c. 1837

Eliza Ann Rea

born 1840/41

William Rea

born 06/09/1844

Ellen Rea

born 1849/50

Ann Louisa Rea

born 1851/52

Louisa Rea

born 1855/56


William Rea’s date of birth, 06/09/1844, was recorded in the baptism register of St. Alphege, Greenwich, where William Rea, son of fisherman William Rea [senior] and Mary Rea, of George Street, Greenwich, was baptised on 01/01/1845 by I. (?) S. (?) Masters.  The birth was registered at Greenwich in the fourth quarter of 1844.


Father William Rea seems to have been away from his marital home, presumably fishing, for the 1851 and 1861 censuses.


The 1851 census found mother Mary, a fisherman’s wife, living at 17 Woodland Grove, Greenwich, with the first four children above, including 6-year-old William Rea, the future chess-player.


The 1861 census found mother Mary, still a fisherman’s wife, with all the above six children, living at 14 Tyler Street, Greenwich.  Eldest son 16-year-old William was now a pupil teacher.  Ellen and Ann were scholars.


William was not destined to be a schoolteacher, but ended up in the prison service, as it would be known today.  His first prison job would appear to have been at the prison on the Isle of Portland, and he married a Portland lass.  Whether he got the job in Portland, then met his future wife as a result, or whether he met his future wife in London then moved to her home town is unclear.  The former seems more likely , so he presumably joined the prison service and moved to Portland at some time from 1861 to 1867.


The banns of marriage between William Rea and Matilda Bearman were read on 14th, 21st, and 28th April 1867, at Portland, so the couple presumably married a little later in 1867.  Matilda had been born 1849/50, at Portland.  The couple had at least the following six children:


William Lloyd Rea

born 1868/69, Portland

Henry Flavel Lloyd Rea

born Dec/Jan 1870/71, Portland

George Lloyd Rea

born 1872/73, Portland

Nora Lloyd Rea

born 1874/75, Portland

Esmond Lloyd Rea

born 1876/77, Rochester, Kent 

Raymond Lloyd Rea

born 1883/84, Wakefield


Where the repeated middle name Lloyd came from isn’t immediately clear.


The 1871 census found 26-year-old William and 21-year-old Matilda, with the eldest two children living at Wakeham (wherever that was), Portland.  William was recorded as a second class clerk in the civil service, more specifically the Home Office, at a convict prison, which was obviously Portland prison.


William and his family are elusive in the 1881 census.


At some stage William Rea took up employment at the prisons in Wakefield.  (There were a House of Correction and Convict Prison on the same site, sharing some resources.)  He was active as a chess-player in Wakefield in the period 1883 to 1888, so the family must have arrived in Wakefield at some time from 1876 (birth of son Esmond) to 1883 (chess activity).


The Wakefield prisons had earlier been the place of employment of William Ledgar Robinson and Edward Shepherd, who were contemporaries of each other but had both died before William Rea came along.


He seems not to be listed in Kelly's Directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881, but if he were resident at the time within the prison walls, as some of the staff were, then that may be partly why he wasn’t listed in, say, the street section.


In 1883 the directory listed him as storekeeper at Wakefield Prison, 16 Love Lane, Wakefield, which address appears to mean he was resident inside the prison premises.


At some time from 1871 to 1891, wife Matilda died.


The 1891 census listed William living outside the prison, at 9 Love Lane, Wakefield.  Love lane runs along the NE side of Wakefield prison. By now he was a widower.  All the children except William junior were still living with him.  He was described by occupation as a prison depot storekeeper.  The household now had one servant.  Number 9 Love Lane would appear to have been on the opposite side of the road to the prison, and the site of William Rea’s home would appear to have been redeveloped so that his former home is no longer there.


William Rea (formerly?) of Wakefield is elusive in the 1901 census.




It appears that a William Rea was buried on 05/04/1902.  If this was our man then he’d be 57 years and 7 months old.




William Rea attended the annual meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association from 1883 to 1888, except, seemingly, 1887.


He played in the Yorkshire-Lancashire match of 1884.


In 1885, at least, he was secretary of Wakefield Chess Club.


He played in the Yorkshire Amateur Championship tournament played at the British Chess Association’s 1888 congress at Bradford.


He played in the 1888 match between West Yorkshire and Tyneside and Tees-Side.





Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann

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

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