Other Club Histories

The origin histories of neighbouring clubs may help to shed light on Kingston Chess Club. The quotations below are sourced from those websites.

South West London Chess Clubs c.1975 (Source: Waterton Archive)


“Battersea Chess Club has been continuously in existence since 1885, surviving and thriving from the reign of Queen Victoria through two world wars and into the 21st century.” This claim is confirmed by the existence of a fifty-years history of the club written in 1935.

Crystal Palace and Croydon

“In a well researched article on Chess Automatons published in 2018 in a magazine called Crystal Palace Matters, Martin Smith of Streatham Chess Club, mentions the formation of the first Crystal Palace Chess Club.  It came into existence around 1860 at the instigation of the great Howard Staunton. He suggested that boards and sets be provided in the reading room of the famous Crystal Palace, and subsequently a club was formed. The glass palace had been the venue for major tournaments since 1851 and a number were held there over the years including the British Championship of 1907.  The present day club was formed in 1961 by Jim Ballantyne and Oliver Stallybrass, members of the Crystal Palace Triangle Association as part of a drive to encouraging local activities. The club met in a long-since demolished church in the centre of Crystal Palace that was so cold in the winter members has to play in overcoats and gloves.” 

Dulwich Chess Club

The brief chronology dates from 2005. No connection is made with Dulwich club active in 1895.


“Ealing has a proud tradition as one of the oldest chess clubs in the country. Founded in 1885 we have met ever since, including during the two world wars! It has a long and fascinating history. Many famous people gave simuls over the years, starting in 1898 with Em. Lasker, who returned in 1934/35. F.D. Yates, the British champion, came regularly from ‘25, and in ‘32/’33 his simul is thought to have been his last public appearance. Reti gave a blindfold simul in ‘22/’23, winning 8, drawing 1 and losing 1. Others who came were Blackburne, Sir George Thomas, Maroczy, the American champion, Pillsbury, and the famous woman player, Vera Menchik. Generally the visitor won about 16 games, and drew or lost one or two.”


The website only mentions starting from 1962 i.e. Hammersmith’s modern incarnation. It is known that Hammersmith was an active club much earlier. We note that R P Michell was playing for Hammersmith against in 1885 which indicates that Kingston/Thames Valley may not have been active at that time.


“Lewisham Chess Club was founded in 1886, presided over by club secretary Mr Grantham Williams. Due to dwindling numbers, we merged with St Mary’s Chess Club, who were also meeting in Lewisham at the time, in 1915. Success came just a few years later, as the club won their first Kent County Championship in 1922. The 1930’s saw the most fruitful patch of the clubs history, as we took the Kent Championship six times in the decade, along with winning the prestigious London League title for the first and second time in consecutive years.  This was the first time a team from the Kent region had done so. That achievement was commemorated by a visit to the club of former World Chess Champion, Jose Raul Capablanca – alongside reigning Women’s World Chess Champion Vera Menchik  and reigning Girls World Champion, Ms Elaine Pritchard (nee Saunders) in October 1938. We moved to our present home of the Catford Cricket & Sports Club in around 1960, where we continued our dominance of the Kent County Cup, which as of present day, we have won 28 times (10 more than our nearest challengers).”


“Streatham & Brixton Chess Club can claim to be one of London’s oldest chess clubs with a history that goes back to Victorian times – although it started out as two clubs. Brixton CC (originally called “Endeavour”) was formed in 1870 or 71. It met initially in north Brixton, and was praised in one chess magazine for its “militant activity”, playing 33 matches in one season. It won the Surrey Trophy in 1884/5, and the London League (of which it was a founder member) in 1897-8. It used various venues including Mr Muggeridge’s residence at 138, Brixton Road; Brixton Liberal Association at 322, Brixton Road; Bon Marché, the Brixton Conservatoire of Music, and Raleigh Hall, all in central Brixton. From 1908/9, and then between the wars, it met at the Prince Regent Hotel, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill. Streatham CC started a bit later in about 1890, meeting in premises Queen’s Parade, opposite Morrisons on the High Road. There is a record in the London Standard of 5 November 1894 of the two clubs playing each other (Brixton 2nd team won 5 v 3). The two clubs ran in parallel between the wars, with Streatham meeting in the White Lion, where we play friendly chess again nowadays.

The two clubs merged in 1946, and Streatham & Brixton Chess Club continued to meet at the White Lion until the mid-1950s when it moved to Streatham Baths. Later venues included the Bedford Park and Sultan pubs in Streatham and, more recently, the Priory Arms in Stockwell. Both clubs had their ups and downs. Brixton Chess Club was notably successful in the 1920s and early 1930s when it won the Surrey Trophy in five consecutive seasons and the Eastman Cup in its first three seasons. In 1930/31 it was the second largest club in the country. Around this time Harry Golombek, who went on to be British Chess Champion as well as writing many books on chess, was a member of Brixton Chess Club. A generation later, another future British Chess Champion was a member of our club – Ray Keene.

The club hit hard times in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But a remarkable resurgence followed, prompted partly by the Fischer-Spassky world title match of 1972, which generated a wave of enthusiasm for chess. An active junior programme attracted talented young players to the club, including Julian Hodgson and Daniel King who both went on to become grandmasters. The club’s fortunes peaked during the 1970s, driven by the energy and enthusiasm of Nigel Povah, Mike Singleton and others. In 1976/77 the club won just about everything in sight, including the first divisions of both the London Chess League and the Surrey League. During this period the club produced three issues of the magazine Knightmare! which we have scanned and are available as downloads (see below). After a fall-off in membership during the late 1990s and early 2000s, membership has recovered strongly and the club now has more than 60 active members.”


“The present incarnation of Surbiton Chess Club was formed in 1949. Why use the words “present incarnation” you may ask? Well, Surrey County Chess Association (“SCCA”) records show that a “Surbiton” chess team won the Surrey Trophy in 1908-09 and the Beaumont Cup in 1905-06, 1906-07 and 1914-15. However, the Surrey Comet newspaper article dated 23rd September 1950 clearly states that “The club was formed in February of last year”, i.e. February 1949. There are also no records that have been unearthed thus far indicating any Surbiton Chess Club in existence between the two World Wars of 1914-18 and 1939-1945. Surrey records should have turned something up but did not. Thames Valley Chess League was not formed until 1947. We have two possible explanations, both of which are speculative:

a) The Surbiton Chess Club which existed until at least 1914-15 went out of existence as a result of the ravages of the First World War and a new chess club was not formed in Surbiton until 1949, after sufficient time had passed after the Second World War for normal life to have resumed.

b) Between the World Wars there was another chess club in our area, namely the Thames Valley Chess Club. In the 1927-28 season they were meeting in the Zeeta Cafe, Kingston Bridge, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with a membership of nearly 60, including many of Surrey’s leading players of that era. In 1931-32 they merged with Kingston Chess Club. Perhaps the pre-First World War Surbiton changed its name to Thames Valley Chess Club? Or did the former go out of existence because of the rise of the latter?”

West London

“The West London Chess Club was founded in 1893 by the Reverend James Thomas Chipperfield Chatto MA. It appears to have had a shaky start. On 26th September 1893, a new club calling itself the Hammersmith Chess Club was reportedly formed from the remnants of the West London Club. But then in April/May 1896, the club changed its name back to West London Chess Club at a general meeting chaired by Dr. Thornton. The vote was unanimous and as far as records show, the name has remained since.

J.T.C. Chatto also produced the Amateur Chess Magazine from 1872 onwards, nearly 10 years before the arrival of the BCM. He drew a correspondence game against JH Blake in 1894. He left the club at the end of May 1897 to become the Vicar of East Kennett in Wiltshire. Then in 1900 he became the rector of Blunston St. Andrew (slightly further north) until his death in 1907. He retained the Presidency until 1898, when it was taken over by Mr Atherley-Jones QC MP. Other founding members were Mr. W.E. Blunt (Vice-President), C. Woollacott and K. Arnst who were also strong players for the club at this time.

During World War II, very few clubs remained open, but thanks to the determination of the officers, West London Chess Club persevered and invited players from other clubs to play. This brought more strong players to the club, including the likes of Jacques Mieses, Vera Menchik, Sir George Thomas and briefly, Capablanca. In February 1944, the British Women’s Champion Elaine Saunders joined the club and for a short time, the Women’s World Champion, British Champion and London Champion (Mdlle. Amez-Droz) were all members at the same time.

Vera Menchik was the manager of the British National Chess Centre (in John Lewis, Cavendish Square) until it was destroyed by fire (during The Blitz) on the 23rd September 1940. At that time it was the largest chess club in London with over 700 members. The contents of the Chess centre were entirely destroyed. The entire property of the SCCU, the best half of the BCF library, all the finer old four-handed equipment, some Kent trophies and records were all gone. Only the SCCU’s Shannon Trophy was recovered and repaired some time later. The significance of this event to West London Chess Club’s history, is that it left a large number of players without anywhere to play. When Vera Menchik joined West London in 1941, many of the strongest players followed.”

Wimbledon (members only)

“Wimbledon beat Streatham 7½-6½ and Twickenham 8-5 in 1892 and by 1894 if not before we were playing at The Institute in St George’s Road with J W Wright as secretary. There was also a Wimbledon Central Chess Club.

Other early results: Wimbledon 1–Whitgift 5 (12/11/1889) with our Alfred Lewington winning top board and Battersea 7–Wimbledon 0 (20/11/1889) with Alfred’s brother Frederick on board 3 for us despite being Battersea champion! Early rivals Surbiton beat us 5-4 in 1902 and by 1906 we were in the Surrey Beaumont Cup, which they won, but we weren’t a County Association founder member back in 1883.

Sir Joseph Hood (Wimbledon MP 1918/1924) was one of our early club presidents. Martin Cath has researched the history from 1928, when our 28-strong club met at Queen’s Hall in Queen’s Road with A W Egleton succeeding J E Howlett as secretary in 1930. In 1935/36 we moved to the YMCA in Worple Road. Throughout the 1930s we had 25 members at most and some seasons just 11, but grew to 45 after the war. We were Surrey Champions for the first time in 1956. By 1958 we had left YMCA for Broadway – Prince of Wales, becoming Thames Valley Champions in 1959.”