Yorkshire Chess History
James Wilson Rimington Wilson
James Wilson Rimington-Wilson was a “gentleman” chess-player who was Lord of the Manor of Bolsterstone, and lived at a splendid mansion called Broomhead Hall, near Sheffield. He had been born as James Wilson Rimington, but had changed his surname legally to “Rimington Wilson”, which contained no hyphen, so causing much confusion among compilers of directories and others, who often listed him alphabetically under “W” for “Wilson”. Apart from playing chess, he amassed an impressive collection of chess books. His lot in life was largely moulded by his decent from and marriage into, two landed-gentry families, the Rimingtons of Carlton, and the Wilsons of Broomhead.
The Wilsons of Broomhead and Broomhead Hall
Broomhead Hall was built in the 1600s in the improbably named hamlet of Wigtwizzle, in what is now part of the outer rural environs of Sheffield, not far from the village of Bolsterstone, near Stocksbridge, near Sheffield. To the west there were roughly 12 miles of bleak open moorland between the hall and the North Derbyshire village of Glossop, with nothing manmade then in sight, apart from the odd grouse-shouting lodge, though now there are Second World-War aircraft rotting and rusting where they tragically crashed in adverse weather conditions in the 1940s. The hall was in the township and chapelry of Bradfield, in the parish of Ecclesfield.
A family by the name of Wilson had lived in the area since the reign of Edward I, and had occupied earlier buildings on the site of Broomhead Hall. The Hall was completed by one Christopher Wilson who was baptised 1st March 1595 and was buried 21st March 1671, at the 15th-century parish church of St Nicholas, at High Bradfield.
“Broomhead” was essentially the area around the valley of Ewden Beck, and the name was applied to the area at least as far back as the days of Henry De Broomhead who lived during the reign of Henry IV. After a certain John Wilson married Julian, daughter and co-heir of John, son of this Henry De Broomhead, he and subsequent heads of the family appended the phrase “of Broomhead” to their names.
The hall looked down the Ewden valley, now partially filled by the Broomhead and More Hall reservoirs, towards the now still-wooded slopes of Wharncliffe, along the base of which flows the Don, of which Ewden Beck is a tributary.
The hall and estates eventually passed down to a John Wilson who was a London solicitor. On his death, in 1810, they passed to his wife, Rebecca, who sold them to a member of a different line of the Wilson family, London merchant Henry Wilson, who shared a great-grandfather with her deceased husband.
The Rimingtons of Carlton
Pedigrees of the County Families of Yorkshire traces these Rimingtons back to a John Rimington of Carlton, in the parish of Royston. This John Rimington was born in 1729, and went on to marry Elizabeth Crosland on 10th January 1757, at Royston. The couple had about eight children. John was eventually buried 30 Mar 1780. Elizabeth died 18th Apr 1797.
John and Elizabeth’s eldest son, another John Rimington (born 7th July 1760, died 31st January 1820, buried at Royston), and third eldest son, Thomas Rimington (born 3rd June 1763, died 16th September 1809) both moved to Sheffield.
The second son, Henry Rimington (born 20th December 1761, died 22nd February 1820, buried at Royston) was the eldest male member of the family remaining in the parish of Royston.
The churchyard at the parish church at Royston is a disappointment as regards gravestone evidence of the Rimington family. The village is in a former mining area, and slippage of gravestones led to many being laid down flat, by the church walls, by perimeter walls, around the war memorial, or forming paths. Few stones are left standing. An inspection of the church grounds, and the later burial ground behind some flats across the road, revealed no evidence of the various Rimington burials recorded as made at Royston.
There are apparently no Rimington graves or memorial plaques within the church. The sole evidence at the church of the Rimingtons of Carlton seems to be an 1801 plan of the church interior, reflecting tenure of pews. On that plan, which is framed and hangs on a wall inside the church, is shown, to the right of the centre aisle, a block of four pews in the name of “Mr. H. Rimington”, who was presumably the above Henry, second son of John and Elizabeth.
John Rimington (junior)
John and Elizabeth’s eldest son, John Rimington junior, became an attorney-at-law in Sheffield, and was listed in a 1787 directory at Angel Street, Sheffield. The third eldest son, Thomas Rimington, was at that time a draper in Market Place, Sheffield.
At St Mary Aldermanbury, London, on 19th June 1784, John Rimington junior married Mary Wilson, sister of the London merchant called Henry Wilson, who subsequently purchased Broomhead Hall. This marriage was the origin of the name “Wilson” entering the Rimington family, and also led to Broomhead Hall passing into the ownership of the Rimington family in the fullness of time. John and Mary’s only son was Sheffield lawyer and banker James Rimington, who was born in 1786, and was baptised 8/9th December 1786 at Sheffield’s cathedral church of St Peter.
In 1801, John Rimington junior bought Hillsborough House from Broughton Steade, who had inherited it from his father, Thomas Steade, who had had the house built in 1779. Hillsborough was then a village on the periphery of Sheffield, but is now part of Sheffield. Hillsborough House became the residence of John and Mary Rimington until both had died, and it was sold on, in 1838, to cutler John Rodgers, who renamed it “Hillsborough Hall”, which name he felt was more in keeping with its grandeur. This building now houses Hillsborough library, at the edge of Hillsborough Park in Sheffield.
John Rimington Becomes Lord of the Manor of Bolsterstone
Bolsterstone is a couple of miles NE of Wigtwizzle. It is now little more than a cluster of houses around the meeting of five roads, about a mile south of Stocksbridge and Deepcar, and north-west of Sheffield. Though it is of little significance now, historically it was more important than Stocksbridge or Deepcar. An 1861 directory records the population as 1,904. The village gave its name to Bolsterstone Manor, the land and buildings of which were sold in 1802 by Lord Melbourne (later Prime Minister) to John Rimington of Hillsborough House, who thus became the new “Lord of the Manor of Bolsterstone”.
The price John Rimington paid was £35,000, which he raised by offering to leaseholders the freehold of the land they occupied. Some took advantage of the offer, but some who didn’t were apparently evicted.
James Rimington (our man’s father)
John and Mary Rimington of Hillsborough had one son, James Rimington, who was baptised at St Peter’s, Sheffield (the cathedral), on 8th or 9th December 1786. James was perhaps named after his father’s older brother who had been buried at Royston on 8th November 1785. After initial education at Hipperholme School, he was admitted as a pensioner to Trinity College, Cambridge, on 18th December 1803, matriculating in Michaelmas term of 1804, getting a BA in 1808 and an MA in 1811. He embarked on a career in law, being admitted to the Middle Temple on 6th April 1807. Later he diversified into banking.
On 1st September 1817, James Rimington married Sarah, daughter of Charles Broomhead Ward, who was Sheffield’s Master Cutler in 1798, and lived at Mount Pleasant, at the bottom of Sharrow Lane, Sheffield, a building since used for a while as a club venue by Sheffield Area Schools Chess Association. Charles Broomhead Ward’s middle name is a curious coincidence which might conceivably relate to some ancestral connection with the Wilson family. The newly-weds took up residence at Broomhead Hall, which at the time was still owned by the Wilson family.
In time, James Rimington came to inherit the Hall, presumably from his mother’s brother, Henry Wilson. James extended the hall after becoming the owner. The terms of the will included some provision which involved James’s eldest son changing his name in due course (at age 18) to incorporate “Wilson” into his surname, so perpetuating the name of the Wilson family whose male line had come to an end.
James and Sarah seemingly had at least ten children:
That two were baptised on the same date, at Sheffield Cathedral church of St Peter, looks perhaps odd, but not necessarily incorrect.
The first four children are recognisably named after relatives, Mary after her paternal grandmother, Sarah after her mother, Henry after Henry Wilson who owned Broomhead Hall, and James after his father with Wilson after the Wilson family.
James Wilson Rimington
The future chess-player, James Wilson Rimington-Wilson was thus born as James Wilson Rimington on 1st July 1822 at Broomhead Hall. After an initial education at Shrewsbury school, he was admitted as a pensioner to Trinity College, Cambridge, on 22nd February 1841, matriculating in Michaelmas term of that year. Venn doesn’t mention when he took a degree, and it appears he did not graduate, though some years later his younger brothers, John Wilson Rimington and William Rimington both graduated, from St John’s and Trinity respectively.
James Wilson Rimington-Wilson
On 24th July 1840 eighteen-year-old James Wilson Rimington changed his surname “by Royal sign manual” to “Rimington Wilson”, without a hyphen. The change related to the terms of the will of a great-uncle, Henry Wilson.
Contemporary usage confusingly omitted a hyphen. Later, his descendants adopted a hyphen, and one is used here in the interests of clarity.
White’s directories for 1864 and 1868 have our man listed at Broomhead Hall alphabetically under “Wilson”, giving his name as “Wilson James Wilson Rimington Esq.”. To make things worse, it was not then the practice to separate the forenames from the preceding surname with a comma. Modern punctuation in such lists would show the name correctly as “Rimington-Wilson, James Wilson”.
In due course he married Jane Wallas, a daughter of Robert Wallas, a Scottish merchant who had settled on the Portuguese island of Madeira, off north-east Africa. Jane had been born in Madeira, so how James Wilson Rimington-Wilson came to meet Jane Wallas is difficult to imagine. Nevertheless, it happened, and the two were married at the British Consulate in Funchal, chief town of Madeira, on 6th June 1849.
It would appear older brother Henry had travelled out to Madeira for the wedding, as the said Henry Rimington, nephew of the Henry who is named on the 1801 seating plan of Royston parish church, is recorded as dying at Madeira on 11th July 1849, just 5 weeks after the wedding.
The brothers’ father, James Rimington, had died on 30th September 1839, and Henry had therefore become head of the family at Broomhead Hall. His death, however, meant that role now fell to newly-married James Wilson Rimington-Wilson.
One can only assume others carried on the affairs of the Broomhead estate, as newly-weds James and Jane, at some time in the eleven months after their wedding, decamped to Edinburgh, where their first child, Harriet Mary Rimington-Wilson was born, on 18th May 1850. The 1851 census shows James, wife Jane and baby daughter Harriett, still resident in Edinburgh, at Albyn Place. The household also included two servants.
The family soon went back to Madeira, however, as the first son, Reginald Henry Rimington Rimington-Wilson, was born at Madeira on 3rd November 1852, and was baptised there on 22nd January 1853. Just as his father now had “Wilson” twice in his name, so Reginald had “Rimington” twice in his name, which is recorded this way on his gravestone. The second son, and final child, was Henry (aka Harry) Rimington-Wilson, born 11th January 1854. This birth, according to those sources which state a place of birth, took place in Madeira, yet the baptism took place on 25th March 1854 at St Nicholas, Bradfield. This seems to imply the family returned to Britain around February 1854, this time taking up residence at Broomhead Hall for good.
Life at Broomhead Hall
From early 1854 onwards, the family was resident at Broomhead Hall, Wigtwizzle, Bradfield. The address in later years was sometimes quoted as “Broomhead Hall, Bolsterstone”, but it’s the same place.
By 1854, James had become a JP.
The 1854 Post Office Directory describes how in Bradfield, near Bolsterstone, there was an endowed school “supported by Mrs. Rimington, lately of Broomhead Hall, now of Rockbere, near Exeter.” This Mrs Rimington was James’s mother, Sarah. When James’s youngest brother, William, went to Trinity College, Cambridge, he was described as being “of Rockbeare House, near Exeter”. Sarah Rimington presumably made the move to Rockbeare house roughly when James and Jane moved in.
Daughter Harriett “married well”, and ended up as Lady Moncrieff.
The two sons both went to Sheffield Collegiate School, and thereafter to Cambridge University.
The chess-player’s mother, Sarah, died 5th February 1875, in Streatham, and was buried at Bradfield parish Church of St Nicholas, High Bradfield, in a grave topped with a pink, black-mottled granite supplied by MacDonald, Field & Co., of Aberdeen.
James Wilson Rimington-Wilson himself died little more than two years after his mother, on 25th November 1877, at Broomhead Hall, after having for some time previously experienced heart disease for which he had been under the care of Mr. Jonathan Barber.
The death was reported in the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of Tuesday, 27th November 1877 as follows:
He was interred in the same grave at Bradfield as his mother.
His wife, Sarah, lived on at Broomhead Hall until she died in 1906. Her death was reported in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph of Monday, 12th November, 1906 as follows:
Sarah too was interred in the Bradfield grave wherein her husband and mother-in-law were already interred.
Inscriptions on Rimington Graves in Bradfield Cemetery
[Thus James Wilson Rimington Wilson died without a hyphen to his name.]
Grave to right:
[Note the two occurrences of “Rimington”.]
Grave to left:
[The final line is on top edge of front kerb.]
A search for a grave of James Rimington, father of James Wilson Rimington Wilson, was unsuccessful, though he is said to have been interred at Bradfield.
Surprisingly, perhaps, our man was not a member of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess club, though may have been a welcome visitor when the occasion permitted. Living out at the remote Broomhead Hall would have made getting home to the wife after an evening’s chess somewhat difficult. There was possibly also the consideration that, though the membership of the club was high-class relative to most of Sheffield’s inhabitants, it consisted of the industrial and commercial nouveau riche, which might seem vulgar compared with the historic landed-gentry to which our man belonged.
He was a subscriber in 1844 to R.A. Brown’s book on problems etc.
James Wilson Rimington-Wilson played in the British Chess Association tournament of 1862, in London. On page lx of Löwenthal’s tournament book, The Chess Congress of 1862, “Rimington Wilson, Esq.” is described as being on board 8 of 10 opponents playing against Joseph Henry Blackburne who was giving a simultaneous blindfold display, which started at 1 o’clock on Friday 4th July 1862. The game was agreed drawn at 9.50 p.m. On page 173 of the same book there is listed, as a participant in the Handicap Tournament, a certain “Mr. G. W. R. Wilson”. This gentleman may safely be assumed to be Mr. J. W. Rimington Wilson.
In round one of the knock-out Handicap, or “First Section” as the tournament book described it, our man played Mr. J. M. Heathcote, Junior, giving to the latter odds of the first move in each game, winning both games.
In round two, he played Mr. S. Solomons, who he met on equal terms winning the first game, with Black; losing the second game, with White; then losing the third game, with Black again, and so being knocked out.
Game collections record our man playing two games with Wilhelm Steinitz at the congress, winning one with White, and losing the other with Black. These were probably casual games, as they are not indexed in the tournament book.
As “J. Rimington Wilson, Esq.” he was described as attending the WYCA meeting of 1863, held on Wednesday 8th May 1863, at Sheffield’s Victoria Hotel. He did not compete in the eight-player knockout tournament (won by Dr. William John Wilson, of Clay Cross). He may have played a game against Löwenthal, who was the chief visitor. The report carried by the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of 23th May 1863, mentions:
Mr. Rimington Wilson kindly sent over for inspection some extremely rare and valuable chess books, among which was a fac-simile of Caxton’s work on the game. Mr. Wilson’s Chess Library, including upwards of 700 volumes, is probably the largest collection in Europe.
George Cocking’s hand-written write-up of the meeting i the WYCA minute book, a copy of which was probably the Independent’s source, did not limit itself as regards the size of Rimington Wilson’s collection, describing it as “probably the largest and most valuable collection in existence”.
As “J. W. Rimington Wilson, Esq.” he was listed among the fourteen vice-presidents of the 1866 Redcar chess meeting, but he appears not to have played at the event.
The Chess Players’ Quarterly Chronicle of 1868, on page 32, carried under “Notices to Correspondents” the paragraph:
“J. W. R. W., Broomhead Hall. – Many thanks for the kind help you propose to give us.”
No indication is given of the help offered, but it presumably related to promotion either of the magazine or of Skipworth’s Yorkshire Chess Association.
Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann
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