British Chess Company Royal Chess Set
An early full Club-size British Chess Company Royal Chess Set, unweighted, with green baize base pads. This original British Chess Company design is registered number 177079. The Kingside Knight and Rook from each army are stamped with the red King’s crown. These style chessmen are characterized by the innovative use of cast Xylonite to reduce the cost of the Knight heads. This feature was carried over to the Imperial Chessmen. Of special interest is the lack of the Bishop’s miter in this earlier Royal Chessmen design. The miter cut was added in later production sets. The King’s finial is a modified Maltese cross.
The chess pieces are crafted from natural and ebonized Boxwood. The King stands 4-3/8″ tall with a 1-7/8″ diameter base. The British Chess Company Royal Chess Set was offered for sale in the early 1890s. The chessmen are housed in a period stained Mahogany hinge-top box with a reproduction British Chess Company label. The chessmen play and display best on a chessboard with 2-1/2″ squares. A suitable chessboard can be found here. An extensive inventory of our antique and contemporary chess timers can be found be clicking here.
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.
The House of Staunton name is now recognized World-Wide as synonymous for quality and exquisite design – the chessmen for those with exquisite taste. The perfect gift for the man or woman who has everything. They are so well respected that they even made the comics!