British Chess Company Improved Staunton Chessmen.
Shown here is a set of reproduction British Chess Company Improved Staunton Chessmen, Boxwood and Ebony, heavily weighted, with green baize base pads. The King stands 4-1/2″ tall with a 1-7/8″ diameter base. These British Chess Company Improved Staunton Chessmen are an exact reproduction of the Improved Staunton Chessmen offered by The British Chess Company in the early 1890s. The improvements basically involved doubling the Pawn collars and thickening the lower bases to minimize damage typically found in more traditional Staunton designs. The chessmen are new and are housed in a Red Mahogany Premium House of Staunton veneered box with an authentic reproduction British Chess Company label. This set of chessmen includes an extra pair of Queens to assist during Pawn Promotion, a feature pioneered by us in 1995. The Signature Contemporary Tiger Curly Maple framed chessboard with 2-1/2″ Amboyna and Bird’s-eye Maple squares with Ebony inlays and delimiter is not included. A wide selection of suitable chessboards may be found elsewhere on this site.
About 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 – the chessmen for those with exquisite taste. They are so well respected that they even made the comics!