Hanham & Kingswood

by K Whitrow and Alan Williams

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

When 14 people attended the meeting at Kingswood Youth Centre in the High Street on 2nd April 1946 to form a chess club in Kingswood, it was not the first occasion the district had supported chess. A Kingswood Chess Club existed in pre-war days with headquarters at Kingswood YMCA. Although confining its activities to one team, the Club was sufficiently strong to win the League with such players as Cyril Welch, Dr. Macdonald, Gilbert Davis, M.Payne and S.Coles. The man responsible for the post-war revival was the late W.A.Ellis whose enthusiam for chess aroused his friends.

The accommodation in the High Street was of a temporary and unsatisfactory nature, noise the main problem. In July the Club moved to the Zion Methodist Schoolroom in Grantham Road. A friendly match with Lysaghts in August was won convincingly by Kingswood, and a team was entered in division 3 of the League. This team won promotion in its first season.

Early in 1947 the Club affiliated to the Kingswood Community Association who wanted to start a chess section. This entailed another move to the Arch, headquarters of the KCA. The link with KCA provided publicity for the chess club through the Community News and the Kingswood Observer.

The Club fielded three teams in 47/48. The A team reached the 1st Division in 1950. It played in this division from 1954-1966, and from 1970 onwards.

In May 1964 the Club moved to another KCA building, Romsdale House in the High Street. This seemed ideal initially since it was much quieter, but the winter revealed inadequate heating and lighting, and a concurrent ballet class. This did not upset an outstanding season for the Club, the A team winning the League Championship and the B team winning Division 3. The A team had to beat Downend B in a play-off to achieve this.

In 1969 the Club returned briefly to the Arch after Romsdale House had been sold, but the new rooms were so cramped and dilapidated that the Club left Kingswood and went to the Hanham Folk Centre. This spacious building soon attracted new and stronger players.

In 1971 a change of management at the Folk Centre forced a further change of venue, to Memory Hall in Hanham. The following season saw the formation of a D team. An E team was fielded from 1972 to 1975.

In 1973 the Club staged the British Chess Federation's Lightning Chess Tournament at Hanham Abbots Junior School. David Jarrett was the driving force behind this successful venture.

With Memory Hall about to be demolished, 1976 saw the Club on the move again, this time to the Hanham Methodist Church. Once again the move was followed by a successful season, with two teams in the 1st Division, and the capture of both the League and Gloucestershire knockout trophies.

The Club now meets at the Air Balloon Tavern, St. George. It has always played an active part in supporting junior chess, and continues to do so.

1997 postscript: the Club left the Air Balloon sometime in the mid eighties and returned to the Hanham Folk Centre. At roughly the same time it was decided to drop the Kingswood part of the name and become 'Hanham Folk Centre'. Hanham returned to Division 1 in 1992, was relegated in 1993, and promoted again in 1994. Since then they have held on to their place. - JR