Yorkshire Chess History
Etymology and Pronunciation of the Surname
The name Thorold is of Germanic (Anglo-Saxon or Norse) origin. The “-old” ending means “rule” or “power”, as in “Arnold” meaning “Eagle rule/power”, and “Harold” meaning “army rule/power”. “Thorold” is the corresponding name based on the name of the god Thor, and means “Thor rule” or “Thor power”. Originally it was a personal name like Arnold or Harold.
The Normans inherited the same name from their Scandinavian forebears, but in Norman French it manifests itself in forms like “Turold”, as in the name of Abbot Turold who failed to successfully defend Salisbury Cathedral against the combined assault by Anglo-Danish forces in 1070. Historically, the family’s origins thus appear to be Anglo-Saxon rather than Norman.
The correct pronunciation of the name is supposedly as it would be if it were spelt “Thurrold”, which is to say it is pronounced like “thorough” with “-ld” tagged onto the end. This pronunciation is represented in the IPA alphabet as [θʌrəld]. A similar pronunciation occurs with the name “Thorogood”.
The Chess-Playing Thorolds
In the 19th century there were a number of professional chess-players to be found in London. Transport limitations of the day meant that, for the country’s strongest players to meet their peers regularly, they had to be domiciled in the same place, and that place was London. Manchester attracted some strong immigrant chess-players over the years, as well as spawning J. H. Blackburne locally (born 10th December 1841 at Manchester), but most chess-players living outside London were destined never to be more than amateurs. Nevertheless, some of those amateurs were quite strong, and one of the stronger of those “provincial” amateurs was Edmund Thorold.
Edmund Thorold’s playing strength peaked while he was resident and working in the West Country, around Bristol and Bath, but his earlier years were spent in Sheffield, and he figures playing and officiating in Sheffield and elsewhere in Yorkshire.
Edmund was not the only member of his family to play chess. Edmund’s younger, brother the Reverend William Thorold, crops up playing chess in Yorkshire, bringing about some confusion in the minds of some writers who sometimes bestow his clerical title on Edmund. Of perhaps more importance than William in the history of chess is the brothers’ younger sister, Miss Eliza Mary Thorold, who played in the Redcar tournament of 1866, and later in some of this country’s better-known early women’s tournaments.
The fourth chess-playing Thorold was a nephew of the other three. He was the Reverend Michael Edward Thorold who for a while lived in Halifax and Dewsbury.
Research into the Thorold family tree reveals that Edmund Thorold, Rev. William Thorold and Eliza Mary Thorold were great-great-grandchildren of Sir John Thorold, 8th Baronet of Marston, while Michael Edward Thorold was his great-great-great-grandson (mentioned in the latter’s obituary in Western Daily Press, 04/12/1934).
For details of the Thorolds’ ancestors and historic Thorold families generally, see Thorold Ancestry).
Grandfather: Reverend Michael Thorold
The paternal grandfather of Edmund, William and Eliza was the Reverend Michael Thorold, vicar of “Heydor” (modern Heydour), Lincolnshire, about 6 miles SW of Sleaford. He is listed in Venn.
This Michael Thorold was the first son of Samuel and Susanna Thorold, and was born 28/03/1776 at Welham, Notts., six months before his parents’ marriage, as Venn points out. He went to Grantham free school, was admitted to St. John’s, Cambridge, on 30/05/1794, matriculating Michaelmas 1794, and got his BA in 1798. He went on to be ordained a deacon on 17/02/1799, then a priest on 27/04/1800. He held the following posts:
1799-1800, curate at Clareborough, Notts.
1800-1835, rector of Aunsby, Lincs., and vicar of Heydour with Kelby, Lincs.
Michael Thorold was instituted, in succession to George Hicks, as rector of Aunsby, and vicar of “Heydour with Kelby and the Chapel of Thorpe” on the 5th of June 1800 . Another source says he was instituted in 1800 as vicar of Haydor with Kelby, and curate of Culverthorpe. This suggests the “Chapel of Thorpe” was at Culverthorpe. These were all in the county of Lincolnshire and diocese of Lincoln, in 1800. Their value (stipend etc?) in 1831 is recorded as being £410.
On 28 Jun 1800 he married Elizabeth Richardson at Ordsall, on the periphery of Retford, Nottinghamshire. They had at least two sons, one son was called Michael Wynne Thorold , born 21st March 1803 at Heydour, and the other son was the father of Bishop Thorold of Rochester .
Some sort of problem seems to have developed in the Thorold household, as the Lincoln, Rutland & Stamford Mercury of 17th November 1820 contained a notice as follows:
Caution to Tradesmen: Especially in the vicinity of Retford, Nottinghamshire. Whereas, my Wife, Elizabeth THOROLD, has clandestinely left my House: I hereby give Public Notice that I will not be answerable for any debt she may contract after the date hereof - as witness my hand this 9th Day of November in the year of our Lord 1820. Michael THOROLD, Rector of Aunsby and Vicar of Heydour cum Kilby.
He was listed in a poll book for “Heydor” in 1818, and in poll books for “Haydor” in 1832 and 1834.
Rev. Michael Thorold died on 27th December 1835 in his 60th year [2, 4]
Father: Michael Wynne Thorold
Michael Wynne Thorold was born on 21st March 1803 at Heydour, Lincolnshire. On 22nd October 1828, at Ordsall, Lincolnshire, he married Eliza Morton, who was born at East Retford in 1790/91. Eliza was thus about twelve years older than Michael.
At some stage the couple took up residence at Barnby Moor in North Nottinghamshire. (Michael may have been living there before getting married.) Barnby Moor is a small hamlet on the A634, 3½ miles north-east of Retford, 3 miles south-east of Blyth, 13 miles SSE of Doncaster, and 16 miles ESE of Sheffield (national grid reference SK 6684). Barnby Moor together with Bilby formed a township within the parish of Blyth. Because Barnby Moor was in the parish of Blyth, some sources quote Blyth as the birthplaces of members of the Thorold family who were born more specifically in Barnby Moor.
White’s History, Gazetteer and Directory of Nottinghamshire, 1832, places him in Barnby Moor, and his eldest son’s date of birth suggests the parents were in Barnby Moor at least as early as 1830. The same directory says he was the principal landowner in the vicinity of the hamlet of Bolham (or formerly Bollam), about a mile north of Retford, describing him also as the lord of the manor there.
Michael Wynne Thorold is mentioned in a poll book for Barnby Moor in 1834.
He was described in directories as “gent”, implying he was of independent means. He was in fact a landowner. His presence in Barnby Moor suggests ownership of land in that area. His father had been a vicar, but Michael Wynne Thorold had clearly inherited some of the wealth of the broader Thorold family.
Directories and poll books etc seem to offer no identification of the building occupied by the Thorold family in Barnby Moor.
Births of the Chess-players in Barnby Moor
The chess-players Edmund Thorold, William Thorold and Eliza Thorold, as well as their older brother Michael Richard Thorold, were all born at Barnby Moor, and baptised at the parish church in Blyth, north Nottinghamshire. A younger sibling, probably born at Wigthorpe, who died in the first year of life, was buried at Carlton-in-Lindrick, Notts., roughly 3 miles north of Worksop:
Blyth baptism register doesn’t list their dates of birth of those born at Barnby Moor, as was quite normal practice with baptismal registers.
Edmund Thorold’s entry in the Blyth baptism register was no. 1230, which recorded the baptism on 10/09/1832 at All Saints, Blyth, of Edmund Thorold, born to Michael Wynne Thorold, gentleman, and Eliza Thorold, of Barnby Moor, by J. Rudd, A.M. [=M.A.], Vicar. His date of birth was given by Wallis .
Removal to Wigthorpe
Michael Wynne Thorold is listed at Barnby Moor in White’s Nottinghamshire directory for 1832 but not the one for 1844. Eliza’s date of birth fixes departure from Barnby Moor no earlier than about 1835. The place of burial of George Henry Thorold suggests the family moved to Wigthorpe, Notts., in the parish of Carlton in Lindrick, at some time from 1835 to 1839.
The hamlet of Wigthorpe lies on a road turning off the modern A60 from Worksop to Doncaster, about three miles north of Worksop, a mile or so south of Carlton in Lindrick, and a little over four miles west of Barnby Moor, as the crow flies, but more miles as the horse and cart wend their way through the zigzagging country lanes.
The chess-players’ younger brother, George Henry Thorold was presumably born in Wigthorpe. He died at just short of six months of age, and was buried at St. John the Baptist’s church, Carlton in Lindrick. The church is in South Carlton, and so is near Wigthorpe. The older parts of the graveyard have a minority of the headstones still visible, and many of those few are barely legible. No trace of George’s grave seems now evident. The south-west corner contains at least one contemporary grave but few other remaining headstones.
The 1841 census found father Michael (38 years old), mother Eliza (50), and children Michael (10), Edmund (8), William (7) and Eliza (5) living at Wigthorpe. The census offered no identification of the building the family occupied in Wigthorpe. Father Michael was described as “Ind.”, i. e. of independent means which obviated the need to work for his living.
Removal to Sheffield
At some stage, seemingly from 1841 to 1847 the family moved to Sheffield, most probably for the furtherance of the education of the sons.
White’s Sheffield directory for 1845 has no reference to any Thorolds. The family must have settled in Sheffield by the end of 1847, as Edmund started school there in January 1848.
The most probable date of moving to Sheffield looks like 1844, which would explain omission from 1844 and 1845 directories.
White’s General Directory of Sheffield, 1849, lists Michael Wynne Thorold, “gent”, living at Mount Villa, Glossop Road, Sheffield.
The census for 1851 lists a household consisting of the two parents, the four children, Michael Wynne Thorold’s sister-in-law Judith Neville, and two domestic servants, living together at Broomfield, Glossop Road, Sheffield. Broomfield was the general area in which Mount Villa was located, hence they were presumably still at Mount Villa. Father, Michael Wynne, was described as a “landed proprietor”, Michael Richard was described as a land agent (working for his father?), while the other three children were scholars.
The census of 1861 paints the same picture, except that by then the three sons had left home.
Sheffield Collegiate School 
In January 1848 Edmund, aged 15 years and 4 months, started at Sheffield Collegiate School on Collegiate Crescent, which was in walking distance of the family residence at Mount Villa. William started at the same school in May 1849. Brother Michael must have gone to school, but he didn’t attend the Collegiate College, going perhaps to Wesley College across the road from the Thorold home.
Sheffield Collegiate School was for the education of the sons of gentlemen, with entry to “Oxbridge” as a primary target. It had boarders and day-boys. Many of Sheffield’s important personages of the appropriate era were educated at the Collegiate School.
The original college building remains today largely unaltered externally. By the 1960s, the building housed a teacher-training college, which fielded a team in the Sheffield and District Chess Association’s league. Later it was absorbed into Sheffield Polytechnic which also acquired other buildings further up Collegiate Crescent. Now “the Poly” has become Sheffield Hallam University. Extensions to the original Sheffield Collegiate College building have been made, but these have been sympathetic to the original design.
Edmund matriculated at Worcester College, Oxford on 20th March 1852, and finished at the Sheffield Collegiate School in October 1852, presumably going more or less directly to Oxford. William had finished at the Collegiate School in June 1851, his stay being shorter perhaps because his planned career didn’t necessitate so high a level of preparation as Edmund’s.
From this point on the lives of the family’s members diverge.
Edmund at Oxford University
Edmund continued his studies at Magdalen College, Oxford, on a type of scholarship called a “demy”. He was at Magdalen from 1855 to 1857, getting a 1st Class Classics Mods BA in 1856. Then from 1857 to 1859 he was a Fellow of Magdalen College.
Chess at Oxford had received a stimulus from Charles Edward Ranken, later to become the Reverend Ranken (b. 05/01/1828, d. 12/04/1905), who had graduated in 1850, before Edmund Thorold arrived. Nevertheless, Edmund is believed to have played little chess at Oxford, applying himself instead to his studies, though he is said to have sometimes played against Robert Bownas Wormald and V. Green. Out of term time, however, he took the opportunity to travel to London, where he played some of the capital’s strong players, including Samuel Standidge Boden.
Edmund’s Return to Sheffield
In 1857 Edmund returned from Oxford to Sheffield where he took up a post as one of the vice-principals of his former school, Sheffield Collegiate School, and took up residence at 199 Western Bank, Sheffield (which previously had been occupied by “Newton, T. mfr”).
Sheffield University Chess Room Pre-Visited
Identifying exactly where on Western Bank Edmund Thorold’s home was situated is difficult due to the extensive redevelopment which has occurred over the years. When attempting to identify where it must have been, the writer concluded it was somewhere on the site of Sheffield University students’ union building, roughly where the chess room was in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
On 2nd or 25th July 1859 Edmund married Louisa, 2nd daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Gillbee, of 258 Western Bank, Sheffield, at Saint George’s, Sheffield – not the girl next door, but the girl up the road. His older brother Michael Richard Thorold, had already married Louisa’s older sister Ann in 1853.
Edward Gillbee had died on 05/06/1852. Mrs. Hannah Gillbee is recorded later as living at 133 Broomspring Lane, Sheffield, in White’s Sheffield Directory of 1862, and at Belmont Terrace, Broomspring Lane, Sheffield, in White’s Sheffield Directory of 1868. In the 1871 directory she’s listed at 107 Broomspring Lane, which may be the same address if eight addresses in Belmont Terrace are odd number 95 to 109 Broomspring of Lane. (Broomspring Terrace was listed between 93 and 111 Broomspring Lane.)
Chess Activity while Based in Sheffield
Some say that it was at school in Sheffield that Edmund developed an interest in chess, though others say he played little chess at school.
He is similarly believed not to have devoted much time to chess at Oxford, though he had contact with noteworthy players there, especially Yorkshire-born Robert Bownas Wormald with whom he attended the 1857 meeting of the West Yorkshire Chess Association.
There exists the score of a game which he lost to F Deacon in 1860, played in the margins, apparently, of a match between Kolisch and Maude.
He attended the seven annual meetings of the West Yorkshire Chess Association from 1857 to 1863, the period when he lived in Sheffield after getting his degree at Oxford. Sheffield was of course then in the West Riding. South Yorkshire was not invented until 1971. Brother William attended the WYCA of 1858 and 1859 while he was curate at St Luke’s, Sheepscar, Leeds.
At the 4th West Yorkshire Chess Association annual meeting, at the Imperial Hotel, Huddersfield, on 21/05/1859, he played in and won the First Class knock-out tournament (8-player knock-out), beating, in succession, John William Young (Wakefield), Walter Parratt (Huddersfield), and James Stanley Kipping (Manchester).
At the 5th West Yorkshire Chess Association annual meeting, in the Saloon of St George’s Hall, Bradford, on 19/05/1860, he again played in and won the First Class knock-out tournament (8-player knock-out), beating, in succession, Walter Parratt (Hudderfield), William Wilks Hunter (Wakefield), and Robert Cadman (Leeds).
The Chess Player’s Chronicle, 1860, pp.186-7, published two games between Mr. Thorold and Mr. Watkinson, each having white in one game. White won in each game.
Edmund became a member of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club. The club’s cash book reveals he paid the annual subscription of 2/6 in each year from 1860 to 1863 inclusive.
Thorold is said by to have been president of (the) “Sheffield Chess Club”. This is slightly misleading, as it suggests the existence of something called “Sheffield Chess Club”. The Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club and its individual members were the primary promoters of chess in Sheffield for about a century, and was the leading (or in earlier years perhaps only) chess club in Sheffield. References to “Sheffield Chess Club” at this time, in the sense of “the chess club in Sheffield”, referred to the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club which was a part of the gentlemen’s club called the Sheffield Athenaeum Club. Membership of the chess club was limited to members of the Sheffield Athenaeum Club.
In 1861 Thorold played a match against John Watkinson of Huddersfield. John Watkinson was later editor of the chess column in the Huddersfield College Magazine which column was the progenitor of the British Chess Magazine. The match was played part in Sheffield and part in Huddersfield. Watkinson won the match which seems to have been regarded as being for the (unofficial) championship of Yorkshire.
At the 7th West Yorkshire Chess Association annual meeting, in the Music Saloon, Wood Street, Wakefield, on 03/05/1862, he again played in and won the First Class knock-out tournament (8-player knock-out), beating, in succession, David Marsden (Huddersfield), Col. J. H. Holdsworth (Wakefield), and William Cockayne junior (Sheffield).
Thorold was one of the 44 members of the “Co-operative Committee” of the 1862 British Chess Association congress in London.
The Leeds Mercury of Saturday, 22/12/1862, reported on a meeting of Wakefield Chess Club as follows:
The West Yorkshire Chess Association’s raison d’être was an annual meeting of members of associated clubs, which was the nearest thing in those days to what we now call a chess congress, but was nevertheless very different. WYCA had no officials of its own. It was more like the original Microsoft Windows operating system in that the officials of WYCA for a year were provided by the club hosting the annual meeting that year, just as the program currently running under Windows was in control of the whole system until the next program got its turn for a slice of CPU time. In this way Edmund Thorold became president for a year of the West Yorkshire Chess Association (WYCA).
In 1863 the annual meeting of WYCA was held in Sheffield at the Victoria Hotel. Thorold was president of WYCA, and the secretary was George Bailey Cocking. That implies that Thorold and Cocking were probably the corresponding officials of the host club. The writer has no explicit information as to the officials of the Athenaeum Chess club at that time, but Cocking was certainly its secretary in the early 1880s. The WYCA meeting of 1868 was again held in Sheffield, this time at the Athenaeum’s premises, and the meetings of 1875 and 1880 are recorded as being at the invitation of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club, though they were held at premises other than those of the Sheffield Athenaeum Club. This all endorses the above assumption that references at this time to “(the) Sheffield Chess Club” were to the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club.
Edmund’s Development of his Teaching Career
White's 1857 Directory of Derbyshire (!) contains the following details for Sheffield Collegiate School.
Collegiate School, Collegiate crescent,
Rev. E. D. Ward, M.A., principal and
the Rev. G. G. Lawrence, M.A.,
Edmund Thorold, Esq., B.A.,
and the Rev. Wm. Tate, B.A., assistants;
Rev. G. G. Lawrence, French
Herr Carl Wehnert, German,
H. Thompson, Drawing,
J. Walker, Esq., Music, and
Dr. Allan, Chemistry
Of these masters, incidentally, Carl Wehnert joined the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club in 1852, but only in that year, seemingly.
Edmund had a good job, but sought a headship. An opportunity arose at the Collegiate School when the principal, the Rev. Edward Ditcher Ward, secured the post of principal of St John’s Wood proprietary School, starting in January 1861. Edmund applied for the Collegiate School’s headship, although he was only 27 years old, but the job was given to George Barnes Atkinson, who was about a year younger even than Thorold. He then applied in 1863 for the headship of Sheffield Grammar School, later known as “City Grammar”. Again he was unsuccessful and so looked further afield for a new job and was successful in an application for a post as a master at Somersetshire College in Bath. (Click here for an image of the building formerly occupied by Somersetshire College.
Removal to Bath must have been about 1863, give or take a year, since White’s Sheffield directory for 1862 shows the occupant of 199 Western Bank as Edmund Thorold, but the 1864 directory lists no occupant, while the 1865 and 1868 directories list a Mrs Mary Ann Willey. Meanwhile Edmund pops up in a Bristol Club tournament in 1864. Nevertheless, he was not listed in Post-Office Bath Directory, 1864-65, though he was listed in the Post-Office Bath Directory, 1866-67 at 15 Great Stanhope Street, Bath, which remained his residence until about 1894.
Edward Pelham Pierpoint and Edmund Thorold were chess-playing Sheffield schoolmasters of similar ages, and were both members of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club. They both moved from Sheffield to Bath at about the same time. One can’t help wondering whether Pierpoint had a hand in Thorold’s taking up a teaching post at Somersetshire College, in Bath, Pierpoint’s native town. Equally, the short period when Edmund Thorold is not listed in the directories, 1864-65, could be accounted for by the Thorolds staying with Pierpoint until they got set up in their own home.
Departure of Father to East Coast of Yorkshire
Michael Wynne Thorold seems to have remained at Mount Villa until at least 1863. He’s listed in the 1864 Sheffield directory but not in those of 1868 or 1871. As an entrant to the 1866 Redcar congress, daughter Eliza Mary Thorold was listed as from Sheffield. Thus the Thorolds appear to have left Sheffield, at some stage from 1866 to 1868. By 1871 Michael Wynne Thorold was resident on the east coast of Yorkshire, in Bridlington, but a reference in Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, Volume 3 places him at Harworth, just inside the northern border of Nottinghamshire, whilst also referring to his death in Bridlington, so Harworth may have been a secondary place of residence up to his death, or may have briefly been his place of residence between Sheffield and Bridlington.
The 1871 census found Michael Wynne Thorold, wife Eliza Thorold, daughter Eliza M Thorold and two servants living at 26 Promenade, Bridlington Quay. Old Bridlington was at that time the part of modern Bridlington which lies somewhat inland, while Bridlington Quay was the part immediately by the sea. With them was listed 37-year-old Leeds-born Fanny Thorold, who was described as daughter to the head of the household, though she was fairly clearly daughter-in-law Fanny, wife of the Rev. William Thorold.
Michael Wynne Thorold died on 06/05/1872  and was buried in Bridlington Priory Church’s cemetery on 11/05/1872. His wife, who died 28/06/1876 , and his daughter were each in due course interred in the same grave. The inscription is as follows:
MICHAEL WYNNE THOROLD
WHO PASSED FROM THIS LIFE
MAY 6TH 1872:
WHO ENTERED INTO REST
June 28TH 1876: Aged 85.
[illegible script between lines]
ELIZA MARY THOROLD
WHO DIED JANY 24TH 1904
Aged 68 Years
WITH CHRIST WHICH IS FAR BETTER
Edmund in the West Country
The Bath directories, up to and including that of 1876-77, list Edmund Thorold, of 15 Great Stanhope Street, as an assistant master at Somersetshire College, 11 Circus, Bath. (Click here for an image of the location of 15 Great Stanhope Street.)
His chess-playing colleague at Somersetshire College, the Rev. Edward Pelham Pierpoint, had left the college around 1875 to be a private tutor, whereafter he was listed in the professional and trade section of the directories under the classification “Classical & Mathematical Tutors”. Around 1877, Edmund Thorold made the same switch and was accordingly also listed under “Classical & Mathematical Tutors” in the Bath directories of 1878-78 to 1892-93 inclusive.
An entrant to Trinity College, Cambridge, who matriculated in 1871, got a B.A. in 1875 and then an M.A. in 1878, is recorded as having been a pupil of “Mr. E. Thorold, Bath”, though it’s not clear whether that meant as a pupil at school or as one being privately tutored.
His father, now resident in Scarborough, died on 06/05/1872, and was buried there, as described above.
Edmund Thorold’s wife, Louisa, died on 16/03/1876. No notice of the death appears to have been published in either the Bath Chronicle or in the Bath and Cheltenham Gazette. Unfortunately, Bath library seems not have the Bath Journal for 1878 on microfilm. The grave inscription reads, “In Loving Remembrance of Louisa Thorold, who, through suffering, went home to God March 16th 1876.” This suggests that the decision to switch from being a schoolmaster to being a private tutor might have been to allow more time at home while his wife was ill. (Click here for an image of the gravestone.)
The death of his wife was closely followed by that of his mother, on 28/06/1876, in Scarborough, as described above.
The census of 1881 records Edmund as resident at 15 Great Stanhope Street, Walcot, Bath, Somerset. Two servants are mentioned in the household.
The last reference in the Bath directory to Edmund Thorold as residing at 15 Great Stanhope Street was in that of 1892-93. He seems totally absent from the 1894 directory. He is not listed at 15 Great Stanhope Street, nor at his next residence of 28 New King Street, nor at his final residence of 5 New King Street. Also, he disappeared from the list of “Classical & Mathematical Tutors”.
When he reappeared in the directories he was no longer listed as a private tutor, whereas his counterpart the Rev. Pierpoint continued to be so listed. Also, he reappeared at a new address. There seems to have possibly been some hiatus and change in his life around 1894, beyond retirement and moving house, but quite what that was is unclear. Did he leave Bath briefly?
The 1895 Bath directory listed Edmund Thorold as resident at 28 New King Street, Bristol. New King Street is a continuation towards town of Great Stanhope Street. He was no longer listed under “Classical & Mathematical Tutors”, and never again was so listed, so presumably he’d retired from work. (Click here for an image of 28 New King Street.)
The 1896 Bath directory listed Edmund Thorold as resident at 5 New king Street, Bristol, which was his residence for the rest of his life. The 1894 Bath directory had listed only Edwin Webber, carpenter, at 5 New King Street. From 1896 to 1899 the directories listed both Edwin Webber and Edmund Thorold. The inquest report and obituary made in clear that Mr. and Mrs. Webber were Edmund’s landlord and landlady, in other words that he was living in rented accommodation at 5 New King Street. (Click here for an image of 5 New King Street.)
At the inquest into his death, it was stated that he had lodged at 5 New King Street for “nearly five years”, which would suggest his moving in during the second half of 1894, suggesting the entry in the 1895 directory, regarding 28 New King Street, may have been erroneous.
Chess Activity while Based in Bath
Most of his documented chess-playing dates from after he moved to Bath around 1863. Though he lived in Bath and was a member of Bath chess Club, he was also a member of Bristol Chess Club, which seems to have been by far the strongest and most active chess club in the West Country. Bristol is about ten miles from Bath.
He succeeded Captain Kennedy as president of Bristol Chess Club. It is as a west-country player that he conducted the greater part of his chess career.
He appeared in a Bristol Chess Club tournament in 1864 (8-player knock-out). He beat Richard F.H. Fenton in round one, but then lost to William Bolt in round two.
At a chess soiree at Victoria Rooms, Bristol, he presided, and also gave a simultaneous display over ten boards, one being blindfold, winning eight and losing 2.
Edmund visited Sheffield from time to time. In July 1865 he put in an appearance at the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club, which rather suggests he was on a visit to his parents and sister. The Chess Player’s Magazine of 1865, p. 284, gives a game he played at Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club on 11/07/1865, against two unspecified “clever amateurs” playing together in consultation.
Chess Player’s Magazine, 1865, p. 344, gave details of an all-play-all handicap tournament in which the Edmund, the only “First Class” player, finished fourth to sixth equal.
At the 1866 Redcar chess meeting he played in the Class I section (8-player all-play-all once), finishing 2nd to 4th equal with the Rev. John Owen and John, after Cecil de Vere. Thorold beat de Vere in their individual game, but lost to the Rev. John Owen and Dr. William John Wilson of Clay Cross.
He played in the first meeting of Skipworth’s Yorkshire Chess Association, 1868, winning the first-class tournament. He played in the second meeting, 1869, finishing last out of four, losing to Skipworth and Ranken, but beating Wayte.
He attended the 1875 annual meeting of the West Yorkshire Chess Association, which has held that year in Sheffield, his former home town. The first-class tournament was a handicap knock-out between four players (1st prize £3 10s, 2nd prize £1), with Thorold giving odds of pawn and two moves to the others. He beat A. Godwin of Sheffield, in round one, then shared 1st prize with Joseph Henry Scott Finlinson who also won in round one, there seemingly being no time to play off.
He played in tournaments both of the British Chess Association and of the Counties Chess Association whose parallel existences were due to ideologically differences without which there would have been only one such nation-wide organisation. This rivalry potentially doubled the number of chess tournament organised in this country! He also played matches against George Octavius Cutler, then of Sheffield, (1872), J.I. Minchin (1875), Feddon of Bristol (1882-83: 11, =3, -8 per Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, 10/03/1883), Rev William Wayte (1884), and Fisher of Cheltenham.
The Counties Chess Association had a Grand Challenge Cup, whose value in 1875 was estimated at £40. The rules provided that a player winning it twice would thereby win it outright rather than retaining merely for a year. By winning the CCA events of 1868 and 1870, Edmund Thorold won the CCA trophy outright. The rules were then changed for 1871 onward so that the new trophy would need to be won three times to be won outright, which Amos Burn did by winning it in 1873, 1874 and 1876.
Even as late as 1883, Thorold continued to be associated with Sheffield by some writers, which he clearly revisited from time to time. In a chess column carried by various newspapers, in describing the entrants to, and probable outcome of, the minor tournament at London tournament of 1883 (The Vizayanagram “Rajah’s” or Minor Tournament, open “to all players in the world except the few highest first-class, such as prize winners in great events and champions”), Staunton mentions Thorold in such a way as to imply he was one of those whose absence might be thought of as weakening the tournament.
Edmund Thorold was a surprisingly frequent visitor to chess clubs in Hull, examples of such visits being his visit to Hull Church Institute Club, on 16/01/1880, and his visit to Hull United Liberal Chess Club, 12/09/1888.
When an attempt was made to revamp the British Chess Association in 1884, Edmund Thorold was one of the committee of twenty-one.
He was “on several occasions amateur champion of the county [Somerset].”
At his death he was described as the oldest member of Bath Chess Club, though whether that meant age or length of membership isn’t clear..
Edmund Thorold’s chess games are not that well documented, partly because he wasn’t an international master, though was of high standard at a national level.
Another hindrance to documenting his career was that he didn’t retain the scores of his games. Hoffer reported in Chess Monthly that Thorold had told him in May 1893 that he could give Hoffer none of his games for publication, as he hadn’t retained records of his games. More is known of his results than is known of the moves in his games.
Edmund Thorold features in game collections as the loser in a game against Tartakower.
One way for amateur chess-players to attain “immortality” is to have an opening named after them. Edmund Thorold scored on this count as well, with the Allgaier-Thorold variation of the King’s Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. h4 g4 5. Ng5 h6 6. Nxf7 Kxf7 7. d4), and the similar Hamppe-Allgaier-Thorold variation of the Vienna Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 exf4 4. Nf3 g5 5. h4 g4 6. Ng5 h6 7. Nxf7 Kxf7 8. d4). Similar such names exist, such as the Thorold-Allgaier-Kieseritzki variation of King’s Gambit. In Bird’s opening there is the Thorold-Burn system: 1.f4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.b3 c5 which hardly seems worthy of its own name. He is said to have introduced, around 1875, the move 5.d4 in the Cochrane Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nxf7 Kf7 5.d4).
Edmund Thorold went for a walk on the morning of Monday, 19th June, 1899. He got back home, to 5 New King Street, around mid-day, and went up to his room, where his landlady, Mrs. Ellen Webber, shortly afterwards found him apparently dead, seated in a chair, with about half a glass of wine on the table, suggesting he’d drunk the other half-glass. He apparently had experienced no prior illness as such, as “he had not complained lately, no more than being a little cold.”  Nevertheless, something may have been amiss, since “for some time past [he] had had to be propped up with three or four pillows when he went to bed at night.” 
Mrs. Webber sent her daughter, Ethel Webber, to summon Mr. C. D. Rainsford, surgeon, who found the deceased “leaning over to the right, being only kept in the chair by the arms. At the subsequent inquest, Mr. Rainsford expressed the opinion that on his arrival, the deceased had been dead only a few minutes, and that he must have had sudden heart failure which caused death. 
Meanwhile Edmund’s older brother, Michael Richard Thorold, was summoned, and it he identified the body.
An inquest was held on Wednesday 22/06/1899 at Bath Guildhall by the City Coroner, Mr. B. A. Dyer, and a verdict of death by natural causes was returned by the jury after hearing the evidence of Mrs. Ellen Webber, Miss Ethel Webber and Mr. C. D. Rainsford.
Edmund Thorold was buried in Bath’s Locksbrook Cemetery on 22/06/1899, in the same grave as his wife. The obituary in Keene’s Bath Journal, 24/06/1899, described the funeral as follows:
Conspicuous by his absence from the list of those at the graveside was fellow chess-player, the Rev. Edward Pelham Pierpoint, who at 69 years of age was two years and seven months older than Edmund Thorold. However, the Journal’s obituary betrays detailed knowledge of Edmunds family’s origins, its ecclesiastical connections, and Edmund’s professional career, and more significantly an overview of the chess scene of the day. Thus it seems that the obituary may have been penned by the Rev. Pierpoint who may modestly have included himself in the catch-all “etc.”
A curious Pierpoint-related feature of the report is the reference to a wreath being sent by Mr. T. H. D. May, who was Pierpoint’s wife’s sister’s husband, so was Mr. May in fact sending a wreath on behalf of the Rev. Pierpoint?
The cleric officiating at the funeral was of course the Rev. Michael Edward Thorold, Edmund’s chess-playing nephew.
The deceased’s estate was administered by Michael Richard Thorold, land agent, his eldest brother. He left effects of £72 13s. 3d. .
1 Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, Volume 3
2 The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 5, January to June 1836
3 Lincolnshire Archives, PD 156/27and PD 156/28
4 The Clerical Guide, and Ecclesiastical Directory, of 1836
5 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 censuses
7 Probate records
Collegiate School 1836-1885, a Biographical Register;
9 Thorold gravestone in Bridlington
10 Thorold gravestone in Scarborough
11 Blyth (Notts.) register of baptisms [Nottinghamshire Archives, Nottingham]
12 Bath Chronicle, Thursday, 22/06/1899 [regarding the inquest]
13 Keene’s Bath Journal, Saturday, 24/06/1899 [obituary]
14 Thorold gravestone in Bath
15 National Burial Register
Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information