Carslake Winter-Wood (1849 - 1924)

  25/08/2008 13:37    

Carslake was the middle of Thomas Winter-Wood's three children, his older brother being Edward and younger sister Elena, all four being significant Pioneers. The unusual Christian name was taken from one of his mediaeval ancestors. His family background is described in his father's portrait, elsewhere on this page.

After returning from his family's wanderings on the continent, he spent most of the1870s in the London area, as did his brother, Edward, and like him, joined the City of London Chess Club, arguably the greatest collection of top chess players in one place at that time.

Around 1880 he settled for a time in Torquay, where he took up residence with his mother's brother, Major Sole of the 5th West York Militia, the son of Edwin Sole, a Devonport solicitor.

In conjunction with the Rev. H. C. Briggs and Morton Sparke he founded the Torquay Chess Club in about 1880, well before the Plymouth Club (1888) and the Exeter Club (1895). On 22nd November 1882 he started a successful chess column in the local paper, the Torquay Directory.

While living in Torquay, he was asked by the Rev. George A. MacDonnell in 1885 to assist in the erection in Torquay cemetery of a memorial to Cecil de Vere, the first British chess champion, who had died of TB in the town in 1875. The full story of this is told in the book by Hindle & Jones, "The English Morphy"?  In short, 10 years after De Vere's death,  MacDonnell launched an appeal for money to pay for a suitable memorial to the pioneer. Carslake was the local contact, and arranged for the memorial, a stone obelisk of a kind popular at the time, to be made, paid for and erected.

How was it that the great G. A. MacDonnell should know of Carslake's whereabouts and presume upon him in this way? In fact, both MacDonnell and De Vere had been fellow members of the City of London Chess Club for some years and Carslake would have known both.

At this point it is worth considering a photograph taken in the summer of 1873 at a garden party at the home of the club president, H. F. Gastineau.

This has appeared in several chess history books and shows a small selection of the 40 guests. Steinitz (lame) and De Vere (clearly showing the signs of the TB from which he was to die within months) are seated either side of the host. Standing at the back are (left - right) unknown (Fred Wilson in his Picture History of Chess names him as Baron Kolisch, but this is wrong); Bernard Horwitz; William Norwood Potter; L÷wenthal; unknown (Wilson calls him Bird, but he is wrong again - Bird was bald at this time); Blackburne and finally someone referred to as "an unknown amateur".

This "unknown amateur" bears more than a passing resemblance to Carslake Winter-Wood. There is no firm evidence, of course, but what clues are there?

Carslake was 24 at this time, and the amateur looks about that age. He was a paid up club member and fully entitled to be present. Carslake was seriously into photography, later becoming Treasurer of the Torquay Camera Society. The amateur is situated at the end of the standing line and his body language (look at the left arm) suggests that he is somehow concerned with the actual taking of the picture, and has set up the shot either for someone else to press the shutter button, or as a time-lapse shot. Not everyone would agree with this interpretation, of course, but it is worth considering before rejecting. What do you think?

In 1888, Carslake moved back to Plymouth, where he did exactly the same as he had done in Torquay. Again with the help of his father and the Rev. H. C. Briggs, he immediately founded the Plymouth Chess Club and became its first secretary and treasurer. He continued in office until 1894 when he retired. The club presented him with a large golden pencil case, suitably inscribed "as an acknowledgement of the club's appreciation of his untiring energy, unvarying courtesy and attention during the six years he so successfully held office".

In 1891 he started the chess column in the Western Morning News, where he wrote under the nome de plume "Queen's Knight". This increased his readership from just Torquay to the whole of Devon and Cornwall. This was followed in 1898 by an Exeter-based column in the Devon & Exeter Gazette by a secretive "King's Rook".

  In the absence of other forms of mass media, the role of the newspaper chess column was significant at the time. It was a means of disseminating information and ideas, and played a part in creating the collective mindset that facilitated the creation of the Devon and Cornwall Chess Associations in 1901 and 1902 respectively. It both reflected the growing interest in the game and generated further enthusiasm.

He was always serious as a player, in that he did not play a great many games, but those that he did he aimed to learn as much as he could from them. He didn't involve himself in skittles or off-hand games. In the spring of 1896 he played 18 games in the Plymouth Club's Gambit Tournament, and won them all. In 1891, he played H. E. Bird in a simultaneous match, and drew his game.

Around 1880, he was, like his siblings, attracted to problem composition, getting over 100 two-movers published in the leading chess columns of the time.

In a letter of 1897 written to Frederick Gittins, compiler of The Chess Bouquet, Carslake wrote :- "One thing which strikes me as very unfair to chess is that, while those who in the merest way distinguish themselves in pastimes where physical ability is called into play, are interviewed, portrayed, and in other ways made prominent by the leading periodicals, one finds that those who master the great mental science of chess are almost entirely ignored by them; strange, indeed, that a man or woman, who can handle a golf club, a tennis racquet, a cricket bat or a billiard cue, should be considered more worthy of honour than he or she who can master the thousands of variations and intricacies of the science of chess".  It could have been written today.

Carslake aged c. 50.

He seems to have withdrawn somewhat from chess activity in the last two decades of his life, possibly giving more of his time to other interests. In 1894 he retired from office at the Plymouth Club, while his father and brother remained as Club Presidents for a further 22 years. In 1906 the Western Morning News chess column stopped for a time, though whether this was his or the Editor's decision, is not recorded. Up to the time of his death, he continued, along with 21 others, to pay an annual subscription of half a guinea to the D.C.C.A. which made him a Vice President. Apart from this, there is little evidence of activity after 1906.        His brother, Edward, on the other hand, was President of the DCCA for 13 years, right up to the time of his death in 1920.                                                                                 

Towards the end of his life, Carslake returned to Paignton and lived with his widowed sister, Edith (Mrs. W. J. Baird). She died unexpectedly on 1st February 1924, and he followed just three weeks later, bringing the curtain down on a Devon chess dynasty that had lasted for the best part of a century.

 

Bibliography:

Gittins,  F. R: The Chess Bouquet     Fielden   1897