George Merrifield Saint George Chessmen.
Offered here is a fine quality set of George Merrifield Saint George Chessmen in Boxwood and Ebony, unweighted and unfelted. The King height is 4-1/8″ with a base diameter of 1-1/2″. The chessmen are in excellent condition and are housed in a replacement box. The chessmen are early Victorian period, around 1840. These chessmen were most likely produced and sold by George Merrifield from his London workshop. Merrifield Saint George Chessmen are quite rare and very few of these sets have appeared in the marketplace. The antique Chess board shown in the image is not included in this sale, but is available elsewhere on this site.
The Saint George (or St. George) pattern chessmen are a variation of the ubiquitous English Playing sets designed with minor modifications, among which was the replacing of the cross finial with a simpler ball or plume, for the Saint George Chess Club. The St. George Chess Sets were designed for the Saint George Chess Club and first appeared around 1840. This is a very practical chess set design and was in common use through the early 20th Century. Aside from Merrifield, chessmen of this type were produced by John Calvert, William and Thomas Lund, F. A. Ayres, British Company, and John Jaques, among others (see Jaques 1860 Pattern Book Image).
About George Merrifield.
George Merrifield was an ivory turner and woodworker from around 1819 until his death in 1855. His workshops were located at 33 East Street, Queen’s Square, London. This set was produced somewhere in the period between 1840 and the early 1850’s, before he joined the Jaques company. Merrifield’s chessmen have a unique style and are easily identifiable. Merrifield also manufactured the ill-fated “Philidor” style chessmen in 1850/1851 to compete with the new Staunton chessmen. An advertisement from Staunton’s 1850 “Chess-Player’s Chronicles” is shown on the left. The advertisement was rather ironic, given that Staunton was merciless in his criticism of the Philidor chessmen.
About the Saint George Chess Club.
The Saint George Chess Club was formed soon after the dissolution of the Westminster Club (of which Staunton had been the Secretary) in 22nd December 1839 and reported on that date by George Walker in the newspaper Bell Life in London and Sporting News. The formation of the St George’s Chess Club was reported by Walker in the same newspaper on 29th December 1839. It would appear that the membership of the Westminster Club was encouraged to leave the Club and to join the newly formed Saint George’s Club that Walker had apparently already organised. So, the Saint George Chess Club was in existence since December, 1840 and not 1842 as has been previously reported.