Horfield & Montpelier

by Howard Millbank

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

During the Second World War, a number of air-raid wardens in Horfield discovered that they had another interest in common - chess! At first, meetings were held at the home of a Mr. Hill, at 83 Radnor Road, but by the end of the war membership had grown to over 30 and the club moved to the Friends Meeting House in Gloucester Road.

For 15 years or so the club successfully maintained 3 teams and won the League Championship on at least 4 occasions. The outstanding player at Horfield during this period was Mr. Chapman, whilst the running of the club was largely taken care of by the tireless Mr. and Mrs. Dewfall. It is to commemorate their efforts that the trophy for our club championship is so inscribed.

Following harassment by an unpleasant landlady (her most disconcerting trick was to flick the lights off and on just after 10 p.m.) the club moved to the Montpelier Hotel in 1980 and joined the recently formed Montpelier Chess Club. This influx of strong players helped the A team re-establish itself in Division 1.

No history of Horfield Chess Club could be without mention of John Webb, secretary throughout the sixties and seventies. He was an extraordinary character, seemingly never so happy as when there was something to complain about. He had an unshakeable distrust of the League Management Committee, based in part upon the admission of such 'alien' clubs as Thornbury and Keynsham to the Bristol League. He got very irate about the travelling that this incurred. On the other hand, John was the soul of reliability. Week after week, year after year, he opened up the premises at Gloucester Road. He was a canny, homemade player with his own treatment of the French Defence and Reti's Opening. Sadly, he died of a heart attack at the end of last year.

Other Horfield stalwarts still with us are Jess Whitaker and Jim Brunton, not forgetting that seasoned Gloucestershire warrior Jim Draisey - our longest serving member. These and many others now enjoy their chess at our new and excellent premises at 31 Redland Grove.

1997 postscript: The club is now called Horfield & Redland and plays at 1 Redland Park. Although ever-present in Division 1 since 1981, it has failed to add to its four league championships, the last being in 1962. Jess Whitaker died in 1991, and Jim Brunton has retired from chess, but Jim Draisey is still very much there and actively playing.- JR