Bristol Civil Service

by J Barnett

A history of the chess club, published in the 75th League anniversary issue of the Bristol Chesstimes in 1982.

This old established club first joined the League in 1912 under the title of Bristol GPO Chess Club. The name was afterwards changed to United Services and finally to its present title. Throughout this period its members have practically always been Bristol Head Post Office staff. Only in recent years have members from Civil Service departments also joined.

It has a fine record of achievement in the League, winning the 1st Division Championship on three occasions and the Knock-Out Championship an equal number of times.

Probably the most memorable season was 1949/50 when the 1st team became Division 1 Champions, winners of the Gloucestershire Cup and finally winners of the Bristol Cup. During this period a civil servant named Slade, with the Ministry of Fuel and Power, was Captain; a very strong player who developed the team with many lessons in openings, endings, strategy, memory and simultaneous demonstrations. It was a great loss to the club when he was transferred to Maidstone, where he went on to gain the Kent Championship.

The club played pre-war at the Victoria Café in High Street just below the 'Old Dutch House' and then moved to the Priory Restaurant next to the Hippodrome. This, however, was an unfortunate move; a fire destroyed every bit of playing equipment. The Bristol & Clifton Chess Club kindly offered to share their accommodation at Keens Café in Park Row; this gesture was very much appreciated.

During the 1939-45 war, several of the club members living in the Horfield area became fire watchers. During these activities, chess was played in various houses with local Gloucester Road shopkeepers: Milton, a grocer, and Coles, a chemist, participating. These two were subsequently the nucleus in the formation of the Horfield Chess Club.

The club has, on occasions over its long span, been able to enter up to five teams in the League. The club floundered slightly around 1966; it was then that Bill Knight revitalised the playing members and the club subsequently had some good seasons. Bill Knight was recently mentioned in Bristol Chesstimes October 1982, in Borkowski's profile of David Jarrett.

There are now two teams currently playing under the captaincy of 'A' team, Ivan Lines, and 'B' team, Mike Dibble.

I am indebted to R F Davey, a member of the 1949/50 Championship team, for the help in compiling some of the Club's history.

1997 postscript: with the demise of Bristol Y.M.C.A., Civil Service are now probably the longest serving members of the League (Bristol & Clifton did not join at the start). At the start of the 1997-98 season they have one team, in Division 4. - JR