The Ladies' Chess Club: early years

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 The famous Ladies' Chess Club of London set up headquarters at 181 Tottenham Court Road.  A rather curious guide mentions that the club was inside a building that housed the Ideal Café.  But even more curious is that the same guide mentions another Ladies' Chess Club a mile or so away in  St. George’s Café.

If, however, I preferred the restaurants, the two he would suggest were the Ideal Café, 185 Tottenham Court Road, or the St. George’s Café, St. Martin’s Lane.
   Before trying either I thought I would reconnoitre both. I passed the Tottenham Court Road café early in the morning, when neither people nor cafés look at their best. On the brown brick front was a gilt device telling that it was a social club for gentlemen and ladies, and I gathered from legends on the windows that there was a ladies’ chess club, and that the café was a restaurant as well; indeed, was all things to all eating men and women; for on the bill of fare exposed in the window there were the prices of fish and fowl, as well as such entirely vegetarian dishes as haricot and potato pie and mushroom omelette. There was something of the appear­ance of a pastrycook’s about the windows on the ground floor, and a damsel was “dressing” one of them with yellow cloth, to act no doubt as a background to the delicacies presently to be ex­posed. I caught sight through the window of a counter with tea appurtenances on it.
It was in the afternoon that I made my second reconnaissance, this time in the direction of St. Martin’s Lane, and I found the St. George’s Restaurant to be a red brick building of an Elizabethan type, with leaded glass windows and with a sign, whereon was inscribed “The famous house for coffee,” swinging from a wrought-iron support.
The windows on the ground floor had palms in them, and the gaze of the vulgar was kept from the inner arcana by neat little curtains. From the bill of fare I gathered that I could obtain such luxuries as grilled mushrooms and seakale cream, which cost 10d., or mushroom omelette and young carrots sauté, which were 1s., or Yorkshire pudding with sage and onions and new potatoes for 7d. Before I moved on I ascertained that here also was a ladies’ chess club, and that on the first floor was a ladies’ room. I  made up my mind that the St. George’s should be my dining place, and the next question was how to secure some one to dine with me.   - Dinners and Diners, Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis, 1899



At the annual general meeting on Jan. 6, 1896, Lady Newnes was re-elected president. It was reported that they now had 85 members; they had played 20 matches in the past year for a total of 186 games with 79½ wins and 106½ losses.
On the 13th of January, Louis Van Vliet, a Dutch expatriot player of considerable strength, gave a  simultaneous exhibition at the Ladies' Club, the result being that the single player won 15, drew 2, and  lost 1.
-Jan. 20 - Ladies vs. Maida Vale, lost, 4½ to 9½

-Jan. 27 - Ladies vs. Lee - lost, 1½ to 7½
-Feb. 3 -   Ladies vs. Leytonstone Club -  won, 6 to 5
On Feb. 10, H.N. Pillsbury visited the Ladies' Chess  Club, and gave a lecture called  'Positions from actual play.'
-Feb. 17 - Ladies vs Metropolitan (third team), 20 boards, outcome unknown
-Feb. 29 - Ladies vs Maida Vale, lost 5 to 13.
-Mar. 2  - Ladies vs Sydenham and  Forrest Hill (second team), lost 4½ to 9½.

-Mar. 9  - Ladies vs. Ideal, lost 3 to 6.
-Mar. 14 - "The Ladies  essayed a very big performance indeed, for they sent a team of no less than fifty players to meet the  conquering Metropolitan Club. 'On the top thirty boards the Ladies played even, but on the remaining  twenty boards they accepted odds ranging from a Kt to a Queen. The Ladies showed excellent form, and  after a gallant fight won the match by 25½ to 24½. A match of fifty a-side, even when the sterner sex  occupied both sides of the boards, was considered a great achievement a few years ago, and now fifty  fair dames and damsels can be gathered together to do battle for their club. We heartily congratulate the  fair victors." (BCM)
-Mar. 16 - Samuel Tinsley, a publisher, chess editor and strong amateur, gave an exhibition of simultaneous chess at the Ladies'  Chess Club, when he had twenty-one opponents, the result being that he won 12 games, drew 8, and lost  1 only, Mrs. Fagan being the winner of this.
-Apr. 14 - Ladies vs. Insurance, won 6½ to 5 ½.
-Apr. 21 - Ladies vs Ludgate Circus, lost 8 to 4.

On July 6, Francis Joseph Lee, a strong London player and chess author, visited their headquarters, and played twelve ladies simultaneously defeating 10 and drawing with 2. Then on July 13, Lady Newnes distributed the prizes in the second Handicap Tournament. The winners were  Miss Field first, Miss Bonnefin second, Mrs. Holmes third, and Miss Poole fourth. Mr. Pillsbury (who was  in town en route for Nuremburg) was present during the evening.

(left) Mme Bonnefin, (top) Miss Hooke, (right) Miss Watson, (bottom) Mme. Le Vingne

"The fair dames of chess are evidently bent upon seeking out "fresh woods, and pastures new," for the  Ladies' Chess Club are considering the advisability of organising an International Ladies' Chess  Tournament, to be held in 1897, with prizes of sufficient value to attract Continental and American  competitors." (BCM)

-Oct. 12 - Ladies vs. Hampstead, lost 8½ to 11½.
-Oct. 19 - Ladies vs. Shuttleworth, won 9½ to 2½.
-Oct. 26 - Ladies vs. British Chess Club, lost 1½ to 8½.

-Nov. 30 - Ladies vs. North London Club, won 7½ to 3½
               This was a mixed North London team of all strengths.
-Dec. 3 -  Mr. Herbert Jacobs, a strong amateur from the Brixton Club and Surrey County champion played  eighteen ladies simultaneously, winning 14, drawing 2, and losing 2.

-Dec. 14 - Ladies vs. Woodside, won 6 to 2 

-Feb. 22 - Ladies vs Athenaeum (second team) won 6 to 4 (4 of the 6 wins were at the top 5 boards).
-Feb. 27 - Ladies vs. Metropolitan (third team), won 13 to 12.
-Mar. 15 - Ladies vs. City of London (third team), lost 7 to 13.
During March, the Ladies C.C. has moved its headquarters to 185 Tottenham Court Road.

-May 1   - Ladies vs. Conservative Chess Club of Rochester, lost 11½ to 3½.
-May 24 - Lady Thomas presided over the annual general meeting. Mrs. Bowles reported to the 50 members present that during the past season they played 27 matches, 14 of which were against the clubs forming the "C" division of the Metropolitan Chess League. Out of those 14 league games, the Ladies were in third place with 8 wins, 4 losses and 2 draws. Out of the 13 non-league matches, the Ladies had won 5, lost 7 and drew 1. by coincidence, the game total ended up with 144½ games won and 144½ games lost.



 The Ladies' International Chess Tournament takes up the middle of the year. 

-Oct. 9  -  Ladies vs Metropolitan (mixed team), won 16 to 9.

During October, the following were elected vice-presidents: Lady Waterlow ; Mrs. Lewis, the wife of the Rev. J. W. Lewis, the captain of the Kent team ; rs. Julyan, who is champion of Penzance, and sister to the Right Hon. Leonard Courtney, M.P. ; and Mrs. Atherley-Jones. Miss Fox was elevated to match captain, a position formerly held by the over-worked Mrs. Bowles.

Mr. Atherley-Jones, a member of Parliment, had played for Oxford and was a member of the British Chess Club. He also played in the well-known match between the British Houses of Parliment and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

-Oct. 11 - Ladies vs. Brixton, lost 5 to 7
-Oct. ?? -  Ladies vs. Woodside, won 5 to 3.
-Oct. 25 - Ladies vs. Insurance, lost 5 to 7 
-Nov. 1  - The Ladies' Chess Club "held an "At Home," which was a great success, the guests being received by Lady Newnes and Lady Waterlow. Amongst  those present were Capt. Beaumont, Capt M. Ludlam, Mr. Mocatta (president City Club), Mr. H. S.  Leonard, Mr. Gurner, and Mr. and Mrs. Robinson. In the afternoon off-hand play was largely indulged in,  and in the evening there was a match with Hampstead, which was won by the latter."
-Nov. ?? -  Ladies vs. Church House, Brixton, won 5½ to 2½.
-Nov. 22 - Ladies vs. London Hospitals , lost 4½ to 7½.


The Ladies have fully shared in the general activity, and have played several matches, some being in the League Competition, and some of a friendly nature. Amongst the latter they played a match on the 4th December, against a mixed team of the City of London Chess Club (4th, 5th, and 6th class). The match was to have been one of 20 a-side, but the Ladies only mustered 16 strong, and the contest was played on that basis, and the City Club's officials did not therefore claim the four games by default. In the result the Ladies won by 9½ to 6½; Mrs. Fagan drawing with Mr. J. Ryan, Mrs. Bonnefin drawing with Mr. H. A. Partridge, and Miss Finn drawing with Mr. O. Knofe. On the 9th, the Ladies played a mixed team of North London, 9 a-side, but met with a severe reverse, North London winning by 7 to 2. On the 20th, the Ladies were defeated by a mixed team of Ludgate Circus by 9 to 7.

-Jan. 13 - In the afternoon, Isodor Gunsberg gave an 18 board simul with the Ladies, winning 14, losing 3 and drawing 1. In the evening, Henry Bird gave a 19 board simul with the ladies, winning 15, losing 2, and drawing 2.
-Jan. 15 - Ladies vs. the  Sydenham and Forrest Hill Club (mixed strength), lost 5½ to 9½.

-Feb. - February 1898 edition of the American Chess Magazine wrote: "Herr Lasker has also been touring, giving lectures and simultaneous displays at Ealing, Basingstoke, Oxford University, Manchester, Cornwall, Devonshire, Scotland, etc. He is in good health and is seen at the Ladies' Chess Club whenever he has an 'off-day' from his many calls. The Ladies' Chess Club have had a very busy time each week since October 8, playing at least one, sometimes two and occasionally three matches per week. On the whole, as they have won the majority, they have been successful, and they have two club tournaments running, in which Mrs. Chapman and Mrs. Bowles are leading. The president and members held an "at home" on January 14, when they celebrated the fourth birthday of the club. A large number of influential people were expected."

-Mar. ?? - Ladies vs. St. George's (mixed team), won 6 to 4.
              Ladies vs. Willis Street (Poplar), won 6½ to 3½.
              Ladies vs. Great Northern Railway, won 5 to 3.

-Mar. 14 - Ladies vs. Shultleworth, lost 3½ to 4½.
-Mar. 19 - Ladies vs. Combined Universities, lost 4 to 7.
-May ??  - "The Ladies' Chess Club has moved its head-quarters, and is now located in a handsome apartment in  one of Lyon's Restaurants, 168, Regent Street, W."
-Apr. 16 - Opening Night at the new premises. J.H. Blackburne gave a 6 board blindfold display, winning 4, drawing 2. "Mr. H. L. Bowles (Rhioda Bowles' husband) was the  simultaneous player, his score being 19 wins and 2 losses. Herr Lasker, who is now in London, was  among the visitors."
-Apr. 18 - Ladies vs. Polytechnic, won 6 to 2.
-Apr. 21 - Ladies vs. City of London College, won 6½  to 1½.
-May 7  - Ladies vs. Conservative Club, won 7½ to 6½.
-May 9  - Ladies vs. Battersea (second team), lost 4½ to 10½.
-May 14 - "Major  A. K. and Mrs. Murray gave an 'At Home 'at their residence, West Norwood, to the Ladies' Chess Club.  In the course of the proceedings a silver sugar basin and tongs were presented to Miss Field (Ladies'  Club), on the occasion of her marriage to Mr. Donald Anderson, a member of the British Chess Club."
-June 6 - the annual general meeting. Lady Newnes was re- elected president. Winners of the club tournament were announced: Mrs. Fagan, Mrs. Edwards,  Mrs. Robbins, and Mrs. Parry-Crooke.

-August - "London chess has continued very quiet during August, as indeed was to be expected  considering the hot weather we have experienced.
The members of the Ladies' Chess Club continue to hold their pleasant garden parties, which have  proved most attractive. No less than nine members have entered the Salisbury Tournament, which is  fixed for September 12th to 21st. We are glad to note that Mrs. Bowles has now recovered her health."
-Sept. 12-20 - the Salisbury Chess Tournament:  In the Class II section, Mrs. Fagan came in first "with 9 wins out of 11. Miss Finn, another member of the  Ladies' Chess Club, made a good score; and Lady Thomas also demonstrated her strength, although  she was rather unfortunate in finishing several games which should have improved her score."
(Mr. G. A. Thomas,  Lady Thomas's son, took third prize.).
There was also a Ladies' Tournament: "Miss Prothero, of the Ladies' Chess Club, winning first prize, and  Mrs. Sidney (Brighton) and Mrs. Mayow (Devizes) tieing for second. Mrs. Bowles, well known as the  secretary of the Ladies' Chess Club and originator of the Jubilee International Ladies' Tournament also  competed, as well as Miss Schomberg and Miss Watson."

-Oct. 8 - Ladies vs. University College, won  7½ to ½ !!
-Oct. 10 - Amos Burn gave a 24 board simul scoring 23½.

-Oct. 13 - Ladies vs. Hampstead, draw; score, 10 each.
-Oct. 15 - Ladies vs. Toynbee Hal, lost, 3 to 5.
-Oct. 22 - Ladies vs. Metropolitan, 40 boards!  lost, 15½ to 24½.

-Oct. 31 - Ladies vs. Post Office, lost 2 to 8.
-Nov. 4 - Lasker gave a 20 board simul at the Ladies' Chess Club, result unreported.
-Nov. 9 - Ladies vs. Athenaeum, lost 6 to 2.
-Nov. 14 Ladies vs. Birkbeck, lost 1½ to 10½.

-Nov. 19 Ladies vs. the ladies of Watford, won 6 to 0.
-Nov. 21 - Ladies vs. Wallington C.C., won 8½ to  3½
-Nov. 26 - "a team of 32 players of the Ladies' Chess Club visited Anerby by invitation of Captain  Beaumont, and played a match against 32 gentlemen, led by the Captain. The Ladies (who were  captained by Lady Thomas) made a gallant start, but were ultimately defeated by 19 to 13. A musical  entertainment followed, and the whole proceedings were most successful."
-Nov. 28 - Ladies vs. London School Board, draw 6-6.
-Dec. 5 - Ladies vs. Local Government Board, won 5 to 3.
-Dec. 8 - Samuel Tinsley gave a 30 board simul at the Ladies' Chess Club scoring 24 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses (Tinsley photo from Hastings 1895)
-Dec. 12 - Ladies vs. London County  Council, lost 2½ to 7½

Mr. Harold Jacobs vs. Mrs. Fagan

Shuttleworth vs. Ladies'
October 1899




Jan. 14 - "The club celebrated its fourth birthday on the 14th January, when an " At Home "was  held, and many visitors were present, including Herr Lasker. During the evening a match was played  between twelve Ladies and a team of North London players, the former winning by 7½ to 4½. Consulting  and alternating games were freely indulged in, and a very peasant evening was spent."
-Feb. 6 - Ladies vs. Athenaeum, lost.
-Feb. 8 - Ladies vs. St. George, lost 3½ to 4½.
-Feb. 13 - Ladies vs. Forrest Gate, lost 3½ to 6½.
-Feb. 13 - Ladies vs. City of London, 20 boards, Ladies lost.
-Feb. ?? - Ladies vs. Maida Vale, lost 9 to 11.
-Feb. 20 - "a representative City team of 21 players visited the Ladies at their club, 168, Regent Street, and won by  13 to 8. Mrs. Bowles beat Capt. Rawlins, and Mrs. Glenfield, Miss Finn, Mrs. Hussey, and Mrs. Robbins  were also successful."

-March - The Hastings Chess Festival and Sussex Chess Congress:
"The ladies' championship semi-finals were played, Miss Hallaway winning of Mrs. Herring and Miss  Watson, Mrs. Sydney winning of Miss Hallaway and drawing with Miss Watson, Mrs. Herring winning of  Mrs. Sydney and drawing with Miss Watson. This gave the lead to Miss Hallaway, who then played a  match of the best in three against Miss Rawnsley, of Brighton, the present holder. Miss Hallaway won the  first two games in a spirited manner, and thus became the holder of the trophy for the current year."

-April - " A decided compliment to the Ladies' Chess Club was the placing of Miss Fox at Board No. 7,  which places the Ladies' Chess Club on a higher level than Rochester and Lee, which are considered  the strongest clubs in Kent."
-Apr. 28 - Ladies vs. Rochester, lost 11 to 7
"with a match 18 aside with the  Ladies, who were led by Miss Finn in the absence of Mrs. Fagan. Miss Finn and Miss Fox won at boards  1 and 2, while Miss Hooke drew at No. 3"
-May 19 - Ladies vs Ealing, won 5½ to 4½.

-September - "Mrs. T. B. Rowland, 6, Rus-in-Urbe, Kingstown, Ireland, informs us that Miss Rudge, winner of the Ladies'  International Tournament, has been playing in Dublin with great success during the past month. Some of  the provincial Irish clubs might with advantage invite the champion lady player to give exhibitions of  simultaneous play. A letter to the above address will find Miss Rudge."
-October - Mrs. Bowles, in Womanhood, wrote: "With great regret I have to record the death of one of the leading players of the L.C.C., Miss Prothero, late of Mai pas Court, Newport, Monmouthshire, and Kildare Gardens, London, who passed peacefully away on October 31st, after lying in an unconscious state for several days through a paralytic seizure.
     She was beloved by her fellow members in the club, and admired for her excellent play, and as a last token of the regard felt for her a beautiful wreath was sent by the members, consisting of the colours of the L.C.C., viz., red and white, composed of red flamingos, carnations, and double geraniums, with which was blended some exquisite lilies of the valley and autumn leaves.
     She was interred at Newport, where she had lived and worked, in doing good among the people of the parish, for two and twenty years, before coming to London, where she did splendid service as the hon. sec. to the Westminster Police Court Mission, which by her death has sustained a great loss.
     Miss Prothero was the daughter of the late Rev. C. Prothero (one of the Queen's chaplains). Her uncle, a Canon of Westminster, succeeded Father Whippingham as chaplain to the late Prince Albert.
     She was gifted with a rich contralto voice, and was a clever musician. She leaves many beautiful compositions behind to remind us of her talent as a composer.
     Miss Prothero won the 1st Prize in the ladies' section of the Salisbury Tournament last year."
-Oct. 14 - Ladies vs. Wellington, lost 3½ to 6½.
-Oct. 16 - Ladies vs. Alma, won 5 to 4.
-Oct. 19 - Ladies vs. Shuttleworth, won 6 to 2.
-Oct. 17 - Ladies vs. City Club (Ladies receiving Kt odds), ladies lost 14, drew 2.
-Nov. 4 - Mr. Bowles gave a lecture at the club on "How to take  advantage of odds."
-Nov. ?? - Ladies vs. Heme Hill, won 4½ to 3½.
-Nov. 6 - Ladies vs. London Hospitals, won 9½ to 2½
-Nov. 7 - Ladies vs. Polytechnic, won 6 to 2.
-Nov. 30 - Ladies vs. Toybee, won 4 to 3.
-Dec. 4 - Ladies vs. Wood Green, lost 2 to 5.
-Dec. ?? - Ladies vs. Battersea (second team), lost 2½ to 8½
-Dec. 18 - Ladies vs. Brixton, won 8 to 7.

Rita Fox

This is an early game between Miss Rita Fox of the Ladies' Club and Mr. A. Josaphat of the Metropolitan Club.  Miss Fox had played in the 1st Ladies' International in 1897 winning 9, losing 10 games. Here she is on 4th board.



Related Postings:
The Ladies' Chess Club: The First Year
Little Mother, Part 1
Little Mother, Part 2
Madame Ludovici of Wiesbaden
HN Pillsbury vs. MR. Rhoda Bowles
Pillsbury and the Ladies
Houlding, Herring and Sidney
Some Turn-of-the-Century Ladies
Miss Nellie Down and the Devil