The Forgotten Chess Clubs of Nottinghamshire

Article by Phil Morgan

In my last post I tagged Worksop as a forgotten Notts club. This prompted my curiosity to look into other forgotten Notts. clubs. Worksop is the Notts. Club that now plays outside our League. Lincoln before 1981, Derby before 1993, Ilkeston before 1998 and Sleaford before 1984 are teams from outside the county who played in the League.

Many teams were Works teams of large employers e.g. Raleigh, Boots, Jessops, Ericssons, Plessey , British Celanese, Mansfield Mechanics, Nottingham Mechanics, Mansfield Electricity. National Westminster Bank and Nottinghamshire Police fielded teams in the League, as did Staythorpe Electricity, Hoveringham Gravels and RAF Newton, who played in a large mess-hall. The works-linked teams would have enjoyed the benefit of no-cost premises. Some teams were based in different kinds of training or housing units e.g. Sutton Bonington, Wilford View, YMCA. At least 2 teams represented national identities - Latvians and Ukrainians. The Nottingham Boys Brigade played in the League and there have been Notts Junior teams, as well as individual club junior teams.

Other League clubs included Welbeck Colliery Village, Ollerton and Bevercotes, Whitwell, St. Joseph’s in Ollerton and Rainworth. While some teams and clubs have folded, others have changed their names , often linked to changes of playing venue. The Sophists intrigued me. I surmised they might have been a University Staff team , but although they had teachers in their ranks, they were a club in the Gedling area who later played as Gedling House, Carlton Forum and were the fore-runners of the current Nottingham Nomads club. Players may have moved between the Hucknall, Bulwell and Phoenix Clubs. I joined Sutton Chess Club, which briefly became the Sherwood House before settling on our current Ashfield identity. Mansfield Chess Club briefly played as a Sherwood Colliery team.

I’m less familiar with teams from the City e.g. Albion Knights , Castle, Albany Knights, Cosmos, White Knights, Dark Horses although I understand some of these were linked to the Oxclose group of players. Clifton, Plumtree and Keyworth were League teams in the South of the County.

This is not a full list. Apologies if I’ve omitted the team you played for. If it has ignited your curiosity, you can research further in the Archives section under NCA Competitions.

The works-based Chess Club has all but vanished in the region, with the single, notable exception of Roll-Royce in Derby. Is this model beyond revival ? The Nottinghamshire Police last played Notts League Chess in 1969. I’ll draw a veil over their performance. That was in the age when Dixon of Dock Green was still plodding the beat, pre- The Sweeney and long before Morse introduced us to the cerebral, crossword-solving officer . The Notts Police has just under 3,200 officers and staff supported by hundreds of Special Constables, cadets and volunteers. Some may be chess-players…. Can we hope for a Notts. Police team re-entering the League after a 50 year absence !?

The numbers of clubs and individuals playing League chess has contracted over the years. The Notts Chess Association would welcome enquiries from clubs or groups, new or old who might want to join or rejoin the League. Games in the bottom division are now played over 4 boards , A new team would need a minimum of four players, chess boards and sets, chess clocks and score-sheets, a venue for home games, a willingness and means to travel to away games and a resourceful captain!. A League club typically plays 14 games at fortnightly intervals between mid- September and early April.