British Chess Company Royal Staunton Chessmen, Club Size

Lot #653. British Chess Company Club Size Royal Staunton Chessmen

British Chess Company Royal Staunton Chessmen, Club Size.

An early full Club-size British Chess Company Royal Chess Set, heavily weighted,  with green baize base pads. The chess pieces are crafted from Boxwood and Ebony. The King stands 4-1/4″ tall with a 2-0″ diameter base. The Kingside Knight and Rook from each army are stamped with the red King’s crown. The chessmen are housed in a period stained Mahogany hinge-top box with a reproduction British Chess Company label. Also included is an original Sales Receipt from A. E. J. Mackett-Beeson showing the purchase price, £12 (!!), and the purchase date of June, 1960. Of particular note is Mackett-Beeson’s claim that the chessmen were made by Jaques prior to the introduction of the “Modern” Staunton chessmen (1849). Obviously, he was mistaken. Mackett-Beeson’s very popular book, Chessmen, is copyright 1967.

Early British Chess Company chess sets are characterized by the innovative use of cast Xylonite to reduce the cost of the Knight heads. This feature was also used for the Imperial Chessmen and Improved Staunton Chessmen Knight heads. The King’s finial is a modified Maltese cross. The British Chess Company Royal Chess Set was offered for sale in the early 1890s. This original British Chess Company design is registered number 177079. The chessmen play and display best on a chessboard with 2-1/2″ squares. The chessboard shown is not included, but a suitable chessboard can be found here. An extensive inventory of our antique and contemporary chess timers can be found be clicking here.

British Chess Company Royal Staunton Chessmen

Some Background on the British Chess Company.

The British Chess Company (BCC) was founded by William Moffatt (1843-1918) and William Hughes. They began manufacturing chess pieces in 1891 and remained a minor competitor to Jaques of London in the high-end chess set market until their apparent demise around 1907 or so. This particular design, originally referred to as the “Royal Chessmen“, was renamed the British Chess Company Improved Staunton Chess pieces. By reinforcing the collars of the Pawns and changing the look of the Knights, Moffatt hoped to differentiate his chessmen from the more popular upscale Jaques Staunton chessmen.

Moffatt’s unique contribution to the design of Staunton chessmen, aside from their patented Imperial and Royal chessmen, was his use of Xylonite. Invented in 1869, Xylonite is a Celluloid, a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor. (Xylonite is generally considered the first thermoplastic.) Moffatt devised a method of reducing the cost or producing chessmen by molding the Knight heads from Xylonite. Carving the Knight heads can represent almost 50% of the total cost of producing a set of quality chessmen. In this manner, BCC was able to manufacture a set of high quality chessmen at half the cost of its competitors. It is sometimes claimed that BCC stopped producing their own chessmen around 1903, with other chess activities continuing for a few more years. However, that claim has not been substantiated and there is ample evidence that shows their still offering chessmen as late as 1907. Additional information on the British Chess Company can be found in the following article.


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