1280-1894: Chess in Exeter before the Club
From Westward Ho! , journal of the West of England Chess Union:
Christopher Payne, the furniture expert of the Antiques Roadshow recently wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph on the subject of antique chess sets, and of interest to Devonians is the fact that one of the world’s first recorded chess set&boards was held in Exeter in the late 1200s, owned, appropriately enough, by the Bishop... He writes:
I doubt that modern champions would describe chess as a game of chance, but that is how it was rated in medieval times. Dice and backgammon were the other two main games before the introduction of cards in the 15th century. One of the earliest records of a chessboard with men is in the inventory of Bishop Thomas Britten of Exeter, who died in 1307. "
[contributed by Bob Jones]
e-mail from jcl:
The April 1903 issue of BCM on annual page 149 discusses the chess career of a Mr. H.L. Bowles. It seems to indicate that he was a member of an Exeter Chess Club sometime between his arrival in Exeter in 1878 and his departure in 1881. It seems quite possible that this Exeter Chess Club existed even prior to Bowles' arrival to Exeter in 1878. The Exeter Chess Club in those days met at the Literary Society's Rooms in Bedford Circus and its other players included Messrs. Fox, Newman, Sheppard, Surridge, and Lambert.
Apparently Mr. Bowles' wife, Mrs. Rhoda A. Bowles, also made contributions on behalf of the game of chess. She wrote about chess in "Womanhood" magazine and interviewed the likes of Pillsbury in 1902.
Also, I did see a June 1898 BCM annual page 247 reference to the Exeter Chess Club being only 3 years old, which of course confirms this stated 1895 date of establishment. Perhaps an earlier Exeter Chess Club folded and a "newer" one (re)formed in 1895? Regardless, Exeter obviously has a long and distinguished place in chess history.
— Regards, JL