Charles Thomas Blanshard   M. A.     (26th Jan.1852   -   Aug. 1924)

25/08/2008 13:37



Charles Blanshard was born in Leeds in 1852, the son of the Rev. Richard Blanshard of Lincoln College, Oxford. An ancestor of his was William Isaac Blanshard, a barrister at law and an expert at taking notes in a shorthand he devised himself, and published a book on it in 1779, though it never reached the popularity of Pitman's method. He also helped defend Warren Hastings when he was impeached in 1787 for corruption in his position as first Governor General of India.

Charles attended Clifton College and took a scholarship to Queen's College, Oxford, and in 1874 took first class degrees in both Chemistry and Physics, the first person at Oxford to do so. In 1880 he took up the study of phonography, much like his forefather, William. He started the Oxford School of Shorthand and tried to get the University authorities to take the subject seriously, without any lasting success.

His main occupation was teaching, natural science, shorthand and modern languages being his forte. There was a Charles T. Blanshard listed as headmaster of Calday Grange Grammar School, on the Wirral, between 1886 - 1891, which could be our subject - the name, initials, profession and dates are exactly right, but there is, at present, no corroboration.

He was a great traveller, having visited most countries of Europe, including Scandinavia and Russia. Three of these trips he made in a canoe. He was fond of mountaineering and cycling.

Apart from his many writings on shorthand and articles on various scientific topics, he published five books on chess, including a series entitled Chess Master Play, which gave the best games played in international tournaments between 1887 and 1896. There were also three small volumes called Classified Chess Openings. These were later published in one volume.

He started a chess column in the Plymouth-based Western Daily Mercury in August 1902, which he edited for a year, together with Philip Dancer, General Secretary of the new Cornwall C.A., who contributed the Cornish input.

That he was not among the strongest of Devon players at that time, is illustrated by the fact that he lost to Mrs. Rhoda Bowles on Board 8 of the North v South Devon match in 1902. But at the same event, he gave a blindfold exhibition, conducting two Knight's Tours simultaneously, so clearly possessed a considerable mental dexterity. In fact, the Knight's Tour held a special fascination for him, as it did for several other chess-playing mathematicians. H. E. Dudeney was a leading expert at the time, but Blanshard, working independently, made several discoveries in this field which he published in the Chess Amateur in August 1923 (p.349).

At the Southern Union Congress in Plymouth in 1903, he played in the third American Section, where he won but a solitary point out of seven, and that was against a Miss Hunt from North Devon, who scored a complete blank. Henry Bremridge came 1st= with 5˝.  Yet the fact that in the photograph below he was seated front centre hints at the esteem in which he was held by his peers.


A group from the Southern Union Congress at Goodbody's Café, Bedford Street, Plymouth, September  1903.

Front row: G. E. H. Bellingham, A. Clark.

Seated (l - r): C. J. Lambert (Exeter); Rhoda Annie Bowles (born in Dawlish); R. F. B. Jones; C. T. Blanshard (Totnes); Rev. W. C. Palmer; Mrs Joughin; F. W. Forrest.

Standing: E. D. Fawcett; Thomas Taylor (Plymouth); A. Emery; Henry L. Bowles; W. P. Weekes; C. F. Lewis; Rev. J. F. Welsh; C. F. Cooper.

Back row: F. J. Welsh; J. A. Parry; W. P. MacBean; W. H. Watts; A. Axtell.

When the Devon Association was founded in October 1901, Blanshard was on the committee, and he founded the Totnes club at this time. It is not clear whether he stayed in Devon throughout the remaining 23 years of his life. He certainly played postal chess for the county during this period, and as late as 1922 was paying an annual fee of 52p to be one of the Association's 28 Vice Presidents, but was not listed among the membership of any Devon club. So perhaps he was living a distance away in his later years, but maintaining contacts.

At the DCCA's A.G.M. in October 1924, the General Secretary, George W. Cutler, reported  on the passing, that year, of a great swathe of Pioneers, including Carslake Winter-Wood and his sister, Mrs. W. J. Baird, the Secretary of the Totnes Club, the "genial and much loved J. Darley Dingle", and followed by "Mr. C. T. Blanshard, who was playing for Devon in a correspondence match at the time of his death, and whose name and connection with Devon Chess from the foundation of Association will be familiar to very many of you".

Having been so active at the time of Devon's Chess "Big Bang" (1901 -02) Charles Blanshard was indeed a true Pioneer.

R. H. Jones.


Bibliography: BCM 1903.

Website: Knight's Tour Notes by George Jelliss.

                   Website: Calday Grange Grammar School, The Wirrall.