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Down in the Coal Mine

Aug 5, 2009, 12:26 PM 12
In February of 2009 a gentleman joined chess.com [apparently] only to inquire about his great, great, great, great grandfather, Peter Unger Williams. A few weeks later a woman also joined with the same apparent intention. Both messaged me on the subject and I reply similarly to both with the little I knew.

Hi Batgirl,
     I wonder if you may be able to help me, I notice in your history of the Turk you mention that a Peter Unger Williams was operator of this machine from 1819 until 1826, could you give me more info on how you know this as I am trying to peice together his life as part of my family history, ( he was my 4xgt grandfather).
     I know that he was born in 1775  Exeter,Devon of Hungarian descent on his mothers side , he practised as a solicitor in London between 1800 and 1811, the next 15 years are very obscure all that I know is that he had several children each one being born in a different part of the British Isles, you may hold the key to what he may of done for some of these years with your history of the Turk.
     In 1826 he is listed as being Proprietor of a Coal mine and Brick and Tile manufactory in Nuneaton Warwickshire, which he owned until his death  in 1837.
     Any information on him would be much appreciated.


Mr. Williams,
     I do wish I could give you some primary source for this information, but what I know about P.U. Williams is all second hand.
     Tom Standage, in his book, "The Turk" on pages 206-7 mentions P. U. Unger as having met Lewis Williams (who was operating the Turk) over-the-board (Williams and Lewis already knew each other since they were both students of Jacob Surratt, so apparently Lewis  recognized Williams from his chess syle since the operator couldn't see his opponent) and convinced the owner to let Peter in on the secret, and then  convinced Williams to become an operator. In 1826, the Turk went to the United States, leaving both Lewis and Williams behind.
     Standage didn't footnote or explain where this information about Williams came from.
     Gerald Levitt also wrote a book on the Turk, but I haven't read it.
     I don't know if you know anything about chess, but here is the notation for 2 games between William Lewis and Peter Unger Williams. (Lewis was a prolific writer and publisher of chess books - it's possible he made some mention of Williams.)

[Event "Casual"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "1819.??.??"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "?"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "William Lewis"]
[Black "Peter Unger Williams"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 Bg7 5.d4 d6 6.c3 c6 7.O-O Qe7 8.Ne1 h5 9.h4 f6 10.Bxg8 Rxg8 11.Qxh5+ Kd8 12.hxg5 fxg5 13.Nf3 Bf6 14.e5 dxe5 15.dxe5 Bxe5 16.Nxe5 Qxe5 17.Bxf4 Qc5+ 18.Rf2 Nd7 19.Bg3 Nf6 20.Qd1+ Bd7 21.b4 Qb6 22.Qd4 Qxd4 23.cxd4 Ne4 24.Rf3 Nxg3 25.Rxg3 a5 26.Ra3 a4 27.Nd2 Be6 28.Ne4 b5 29.Nc5 Bd5 30.Rf1 Ke7 31.Re3+ Kd8 32.a3 Ra7 33.Rf2 Re7 34.Rxe7 Kxe7 35.Rd2 Bc4 36.Kf2 Rf8+ 37.Kg3 Rf5 38.Ne4 Ke6 39.Nc3 Kd6 40.Rd1 Rf4 41.Rd2 Rf1 42.Ne4+ Kd5 43.Nc3+ Ke6 44.Nd1 Bb3 45.Re2+ Kf6 46.Rf2+ Rxf2 47.Nxf2 Ke6 48.Kf3 Bd5+ 49.Ne4 Kf5 50.g4+ Ke6 51.Ke3 Ba2 52.Nxg5+ Kd5 53.Kd3 Bb1+ 54.Kc3 Bg6 55.Nf3 Ke6 56.Ne5 Be8 1-0


[Event "London"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "1819.??.??"]
[EventDate "1819.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "William Lewis"]
[Black "P Williams"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. Bc4 Bg7 5. d4 d6 6. c3 c6
7. O-O Qe7 8. Ne1 h5 9. h4 f6 10. Bxg8 Rxg8 11. Qxh5+ Kd8
12. hxg5 fxg5 13. Nf3 Bf6 14. e5 dxe5 15. Nxe5 Bxe5 16. dxe5
Qxe5 17. Bxf4 Qc5+ 18. Rf2 Nd7 19. Bg3 Nf6 20. Qd1+ Bd7 21. b4 Qb6 22. Qd4 Qxd4 23. cxd4 Ne4 24. Rf3 Nxg3 25. Rxg3 a5 26. Ra3 a4 27. Nd2 Be6 28. Ne4 b5 29. Nc5 Bd5 30. Rf1 Ke7 31. Re3+ Kd8 32. a3 Ra7 33. Rf2 Re7 34. Rxe7 Kxe7 35. Rd2 Bc4 36. Kf2 Rf8+ 37. Kg3 Rf5 38. Ne4 Ke6 39. Nc3 Kd6 40. Rd1 Rf4 41. Rd2 Rf1 42. Ne4+ Kd5 43. Nc3+ Ke6 44. Nd1 Bb3 45. Re2+ Kf6 46. Rf2+ Rxf2 47. Nxf2 Ke6 48. Kf3 Bd5+ 49. Ne4 Kf5 50. g4+ Ke6 51. Ke3 Ba2 52. Nxg5+ Kd5 53. Kd3 Bb1+ 54. Kc3 Bg6 55. Nf3 Ke6 56. Ne5 Be8 57. g5 Kf5 58. g6 Kf6 59. Kd3 Bxg6+ 60. Nxg6 Kxg6 61. d5 Kf6 62. Kd4 Ke7 63. dxc6 Kd6 64. c7 Kxc7 65. Kc5 1-0

Good luck.


I was looking through my notes the other day and came across P.U.Williams' name.  I thought I'd try to see if I could come up with any more information.  First I googled reasonable variations of his name (Peter Unger Williams, Peter Williams, Peter U. Williams, P.U. Williams) and came up with nothing more than I already knew. Then I did the same in Google Books and did find:

"Peter Unger WIlliams (1775- 1837) died Feb. 7 1837 at Haunchwood house, Nuneaton, P.U. Williams, esq. formerly of Fenchurch-st." - (The Gentleman's Magazine, 1837)
"Partnerships Dissolved...
McTaggart, Charles and Peter Unger Williams, Nuneston, and Bedworth, Warwick,  coal-masters, &c. - March 9, 1830" (The Law Advertiser, 1830)

But that was it. I was at a loss how to proceed, or even whether there was any profit in trying. On a hunch I googled "Haunchwood house," and from there everything fell into place.

 Peter Unger Williams, who, for my main interest, worked as a director of the Turk from 1819 until 1826 when the Turk came to the United States, was indeed born in Essex.  He was educated as a lawyer and worked as a solicitor at Middlesex and finally at London. He married Caroline Brown, originally Caroline St. Barbe on Dec. 24, 1831.  Around 1820 he bought Haunchwood Colliery, basically, a coal mine. There he farmed 36 acres and lived in the large Haunchwood House. He apparently went into a partnership with Charles McTaggart, one that dissolved in 1830. One of Peter Unger Williams' sons was named John McTaggart Williams. After William's death in 1837 (the year Paul Morphy was born), his wife Caroline, and later with his son John, ran the Haunchwood coal mine as well as the Charity Colliery coal mine, the largest of its kind in Bedworth (which she managed into the 1850s).  Caroline died in 1858 and John, soon after giving up the family operated collieries, went bankrupt.

 The Haunchwood colliery closed on July 7, 1925.

Here are the two Lewis-Williams games listed above:




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