In this feature I will explore the history of chess in the county through some of the many characters who have graced the Shropshire chess scene over the years. I will rely heavily on the work of David Everington, local chess historian, and will include extracts from his books, “Shropshire Chess 1933 – 1973”, and “D is for Dummkopf – More Shropshire Chess 1974-1984”. Much of his early material in turn came from a scrapbook kept by Jack Baldwin of chess cuttings from Rev.Lacy-Hulbert‘s column in the Ludlow Standard.

Other contributions are welcome – please email keithtabner@hotmail.com. – Keith Tabner

In the beginning

An early Shropshire chessplayer, Fulk Fitzwarin (c.1160-1258) of Whittington is depicted in the stained glass window at St Laurence Church, Ludlow. It is said that, as a young boy, Fulk was sent to the court of  King Henry II, where he grew up with the future King John. John became his enemy after a childhood quarrel during a not too friendly game of chess. As an adult, Fulk was stripped of his family’s holdings, and took to the woods as an outlaw, though later his lands were restored. John ended his days in his beloved Worcestershire, buried in Worcester Cathedral.

Thus was started the long running chess rivalry between the two counties.

Perhaps the harsh treatment meted out to Hulk detered others from taking up the game for I can find no further reference to chess in Shropshire (or Salop as it was known) for almost 700 years!

We have another early if somewhat indirect association of the county (if only by name) with the game of chess. It would appear that the early chess clubs evolved from the coffee houses, cafes and restaurants. In 1770, chess players started gathering at the Salopian coffee house and tavern at Charing Cross. In 1771 and 1773 Philidor made brief stays in London to play at the Salopian coffee-house and at the St James Chess Club.

When Mr Thomas Telford had occasion to visit London on business during the early period of his career, his quarters were at the Salopian Coffee House, now the Ship Hotel, at Charing Cross. It is probable that his Shropshire connections led him in the first instance to the ‘Salopian;’ but the situation being near to the Houses of Parliament, and in many respects convenient for the purposes of his business, he continued to live there for no less a period than twenty-one years.

Follow the links below for Keith’s remarkable history of over 170 years of Shropshire Chess: