The South Shields Chess Club had its first open Chess night on Monday the 1st of October 1866, at the Mechanics Institute in Ocean Road, South Shields. This information was verified with the help of the British Newspaper Archives and in particular to an article in the South Shields Gazette printed that simply said “It was hoped that there will be a good muster of not only the lovers, but the learners of the game”. The club also placed an advert promoting the event , which would then become a bi-weekly event for many years to come, playing at venues such as the Golden Lion Hotel, King Street (which eventually became the now defunct Marks and Spencer Shop) and the Criterion Pub, Ocean Road. Information is a bit sparse on the original committee but I am sure it will surface in time. I do believe that the first president of the club was a Mr John Williamson JP, Alderman and Major of South Shields 1858-60 and 1868-69. There is a mention of supper arranged after a chess evening and held at the Deans, where a muster of 19 men gathered (Deans being short for Deans House). There is a fine painting of Alderman Williamson hanging in the South Shields Museum.
N.B The word Muster is not often used these days, generally it related to a Muster of Men going into battle. Wayzgoose was another great word from times gone by.
The Mechanics Institute opened its building in 1860, a few years later once it have fulfilled it educational mission it became the home of the South Shields Public Library and in 1973 when the new Library opened, it then became the home of the South Shields Museum. In 2010 the building celebrated its 150th Anniversary and in 2016 the Chess Club will follow suit. It is testament to the popularity of the game over this time that despite many other challenges to our free time, Chess has remained a pursuit worth following!