Sea Mills

by Alan Ashby

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

Sea Mills Chess Club was started in 1949 when the warden of Twyford House, Shirehampton, advertised for someone to start a chess club as part of their facilities. Len Dorrington replied and thereby got stuck with the job of Secretary until last year. The club was then called Twyford House Chess Club. C.A.Yeo (Chairman) and K.Dansie are survivors from that first year, and O.H.Taylor left because of ill health only last year.

One of the original members, J.Bowman, presented the club with its Championship Cup and named it the Wenman Cup -- because P.Wenman was ex-Scottish Champion and also his father-in-law.

While at Twyford House we were asked if, as a special favour, we could cope with a lad who was terribly disabled. Of course we did, but the favour was the other way round. He was the most regular attender of all club members and became Club Captain and Captain of the A team. He qualified as an accountant and was founder and Secretary of a now large national organisation -- Possum Users Association. Most readers will remember him -- Robert Bowell, who died three years ago aged 32.

The move to Sea Mills was in 1962 -- there were fears of Twyford House closing down and this coincided with the offer of the present accommodation at Sea Mills; hence the change of name. While at Twyford, the club had proceeded from one team in div 4 (bottom division then) to three teams in Div 1, Div 3 and Div 4, respectively. The League K.O. Cup has Twyford House inscribed a couple of times. The K.O. Cup also has the name of Sea Mills on it; on this occasion the final was won 6-0.

Other activities include telephone matches, both at Twyford and Sea Mills. One telephone match was a Bristol League Ladies team of 10 boards (Capt. Mrs. I.M.McKeag) v London Ladies. The match was drawn. This was in 1962. A recent match was Bristol League v Glasgow over 10 boards. This match was lost on just one adjudication.

In 1972 the club's name was changed again following a marriage with Headley Park. The marriage was not a success and a divorce was arranged after only one season, so Sea Mills & Headley Park became just Sea Mills again.

Sea Mills have twice had two teams in Div 1, but it must be admitted that both times the B team went straight back to Div 2. The season before last it seemed that Sea Mills might for the very first time become Div 1 Champions but poor results from the last couple of matches produced a three-way tie with equal points too (Bristol & Clifton, University and Sea Mills). In the last match a default could have been claimed through a late arrival of one of the opposition. It pleased everyone that the game was not claimed even though the game was lost and also the match as a result.

Sea Mills has become popular in recent years as a venue for County matches. Devon have played many of their matches at Sea Mills, including the Minor Counties Championship final this year. Gloucestershire and Somerset find it convenient, and for a number of years the North/South match has alternated between Sea Mills and Dowty's, Cheltenham. This year too, a Junior Teaching session was accommodated on behalf of W.E.C.U. This occupied a Saturday and Sunday and was organised by Richard Johnson (then WECU Jun. Sec.).

Len Dorrington is establishing quite a reputation for brewing tea at all these events which compensates somewhat for declining abilities at playing chess.

1997 postscript: Sea Mills continued as a major club until Alan Ashby's tragic death in October 1993. Sea Mills A finished bottom of Division 1 that season and the team was disbanded, leaving Sea Mills with just one side - in Division 5. In the Summer of 1994, they moved to play at the Lawrence Weston Community Rooms, Stile Acres, and renamed themselves Sea Mills & Lawrence Weston. - JR