England

In England, or better the British Islands, you find the most variety in types/patterns. They are sometimes called after a town or a famous maker. This does not always mean that the set is actually made in that town or by that maker. In other cases reference is made to a famous person or a chess club.

On my Google photo pages more photos of English pieces.

I call this set "Old English". However this name is also used for sets better known as "St.George". Actually, there is no common accepted naming convention for sets like these. Maybe because these sets are extremely rare.

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  • England, "Old English"
  • 1st half 18th century
  • Ivory K 6.9; p 3.5

The "George Washington" sets are called that way, because George Washington did own a set that is similar. Here some examples. The 2nd set is identical to the set in Liddell's book. Note that the 3rd set has rooks which are not typical, i.e. not tapered in one line, for these sets. Maybe that set is of a bit later date like early 19th.

The set of George Washington (picture taken from the book of M. Liddell). The Washington pattern is named after this set.
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  • England, "George Washington"
  • Late 18th century
  • Bone K 8.5; p 4.0
  • Box 16.7×11.3×7.3
  • England, "George Washington"
  • Late 18th century
  • Ivory K 8.6; p 3.6
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  • England, "George Washington"
  • Late 18th century
  • Bone K 10.7; p 4.6

These "Spiked" sets were made in the 18th century, but I'm not sure when the production stopped. Probably early 19th century. They exist in a wide variety. This set is a nice example of one of the later sets of this type.

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  • England, "Spiked"
  • 18th-19th century
  • Bone K 7.8; p 3.5

This "Playing" set was made in the 18th or early 19th century.
I do not know a better description. If you do, please let me know...

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  • England
  • 18th-19th century
  • Ivory K 8.6; p 3.8



The name of "St.George" sets is derived from the London's chess club "St.George", where these kind of figures were used. They are definitely the most widespread type of sets in Britain, apart from the later Staunton sets.

Here some examples of British "St.George" sets. These are often called "Old English" as well, but in my opinion that name is better to reserve for the English designs of the 18th century.

The 1st set is almost certainly made by Calvert, although it is not signed and came with a box like those of Hezekiah Dixon. It is one of my favourites because of the most beautiful Knights I have seen on English sets of this type. The Knights are made in one piece, which is rare in this kind of set.

The following other 5 sets are more common sets of unknown makers.

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  • England, by Calvert? "St.George"
  • 1st half 19th century
  • Boxwood + rosewood K 9.3; p 4.7
  • Box by Hezekiah Dixon? 22.1×14.5×7.1
  • Knights are made of one piece of wood!
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  • England, "St.George"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Boxwood + rosewood K 9.1; p 3.9
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  • England, "St.George"
  • 19th century
  • Boxwood + ebony K 7.9; p 3.5
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  • England, "St.George"
  • 19th century
  • Boxwood + ebony K 9.2; p 3.9
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  • England, "St.George"
  • 19th century
  • Boxwood + ebony K 10.6; p 4.3
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  • Engeland, "St. George"
  • Early 20th century (or earlier?)
  • Boxwood K 8.5; p 3.6

The "slope Knight" set is in fact a cheaper variant of the "St. George" pattern as no cutting is required apart from some simple incisions.

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  • England, "St.George with slope knights"
  • ca. 1900
  • Wood K 5.6; p 2.4
  • Original box 11.8×8.5×4.8

You see the "st.George" pattern also in travel sets. These are pieces of a set by Merrifield.

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  • England, by George Merrifield, "St.George" (pegged)
  • Early 19th century
  • Ivory K 4.2; p 2.3

I got information of this travel set sold under the name "THE TRAVELLERS' CHESS BOARD, WITH CHESS MEN COMPLETE." by W.H.Smith & Son, 136, Strand, London and the railway station. W.H.Smith were sellers of a wide range of goods at railway stations from the late 1840's. It's believed that the sets were made over a long period and the turned pieces changed in later years. Maybe the sets were made by a London maker for W.H.Smith?

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  • England, by Jaques or W.Howard? "St.George"
  • Mid 19th century (sold as 1900)
  • Bone K 3.3; p 1.6
  • Box/board 15.3×7.7×2.8

Next 2 sets are listed here because their relation to "St.George". One is a vegetable ivory set with "Dublin" influence and the other is a German set similar to the "St.George". Often the latter is confused with the English "St. George" sets, but the quality of German sets is usually much less than the British ones. Also the type of wood used is mostly of lesser quality.

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  • England, by F.H.Ayres, "St.George with Dublin influence"
  • ca. 1900
  • Tagua nut (vegatable ivory) K 8.6; p 4.3
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  • Germany (in Engllish St. George style)
  • Early 20th century
  • Maple? K 6.5; p 2.5
  • Box/Board 26.0×25.8×5.2


Next sets are all "Barleycorn" sets. Strictly spoken, the Jaques "Nr.24" set isn't a "Barleycorn", because there is no real barleycorn grain motive except for some leaves. There is also a kind of ropetwist pattern on the barrel. But it is commonly accepted to call it a "Barleycorn" set. The other 2 sets do have a clear barleycorn grain motive on their barrel.

The essence for the name is in fact decoration with the grain. But often you see leaves as well. Occasionally you see sets with an acanthus motive, which mistakenly are called "Barleycorn". Another  mistake, in my opinion, is that these sets (especially when they have no decoration) are called "Ropetwist" by many. But the latter I like to be reserved for the scarce set as you see on the "Ropetwist" page, where the central drum has a decoration simulating a twisted rope and not only have the sight of a coiled rope as in the plain Barleycorns.

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  • England, by Jaques, "Nr. 24", "Barleycorn"
  • Early to mid 19th century
  • Bone K 13.6; p 4.9
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  • England, "Barleycorn"
  • Early to mid 19th century
  • Bone K 10.0; p 4.1
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  • England, by F.H.Ayres, "Barleycorn"
  • Early to mid 19th century
  • Bone K 13.3; p 4.7

Next sets are all "plain Barleycorn" sets. They are still called "Barleycorn" by most people, although there is no barleycorn motive. But the shape is alike the decorated "Barleycorn" sets. These sets are very common, except that the last set of the four has a less common pattern.

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  • England, by F.H.Ayres, "plain Barleycorn"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Bone K 12.1; p 4.5
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  • England, by F.H.Ayres, "plain Barleycorn"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Bone (repainted black) K 11.1; p 4.1
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  • England, by Jaques? "plain Barleycorn"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Bone K 9.0; p 3.4
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  • England, "plain Barleycorn"
  • ca. 1860
  • Bone K 9.3; p 3.8
  • Box 17.7×11.4×9.5

This set is a "Ropetwist" set, called so because of the decoration that simulates a twisted rope. In this set at the upper and lower side of the central drum of the King and Queen. Sometimes it is on rooks as well. Very often that name is, in my opinion mistakenly, used for ordinary "(plain) Barleycorn" sets with have a central drum looking like a coiled rope. On the other hand "Ropetwist" sets aren't recognized always as such. I think it is because these sets are extremely scarce. I have seen only a couple of them.

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  • England, "Ropetwist"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Bone (or ivory?) K 9.3; p 3.4
  • Box (chinese!) 13.8×11.4×9.1

Next sets are "Playing" sets, without a specific naming convention. One or two of them may be called "Barleycorn" by some, but they are not. In auction catalogues you see always just "Playing set", so I do not know a better description.

If you know, please let me know...

The secret of the first set is that it actually has been composed of 2 sets. The Kings, Knights and Rooks are of a Dorothy Calvert set and the Queens (which actually are Kings!), Bishops and pawns of a Captain Cook set. It came in a nice box, which is not pictured (yet). I bought this set recently and should have looked better. Even if you have some experience, then always be alert. Be warned!

The last set in this series has been made by F.H.Ayres and could have been placed in the "small Playing" sets category as well. The shape is very similar, but it just has some bigger proportions. Note that this same set was mistakenly called "Barleycorn".

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  • England, composed set
  • ca. 1830
  • Ivory K 8.2; p 3.6
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  • England, some call it "(plain) Barleycorn"
  • 1st half 19th century
  • Ivory K 12.2; p 4.4
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  • England
  • Mid 19th century
  • Ivory K 8.6; p 3.5
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  • England
  • ca. 1860
  • Ivory K 7.8; p 3.3
  • Box 19.5×12.4×7.5
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  • England
  • ca. 1870
  • Ivory K 8.7; p 3.7
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  • England, by F.H.Ayres
  • Mid to late 19th century
  • Bone K 8.1; p 3.0
  • Box 19.2×9.0×6.3

"small Playing" sets are extremely common. There was a time that you could find even more than 1 every week on Ebay. Nowadays the offer is much less, but still is it one of the most offered ones. I do have several of these sets, but some of them do have a few replacement pieces.

The list starts with a wooden set. That is extremely rare! I have asked several, most English, collectors/dealers and nobody did have seen it before. Most likely it is a one of a kind, maybe to practise or show some turning skills?

For these small playing sets it is even more difficult to know who the maker is. Some of the listed sets here have a makers name which was told to me by other collectors.

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  • England
  • Late 19th century
  • Wood K 5.9; p 2.6
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  • England
  • Late 19th century
  • Bone K 6.3; p 2.5
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  • England, by F.H.Ayres
  • Late 19th century
  • Bone K 6.7; p 2.6
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  • England
  • Late 19th century
  • Bone K 6.6; p 2.6
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  • England, by W.Howard?
  • Late 19th century
  • Bone K 5.6; p 2.3

"The Rose Chess" was produced and patented by The Rose Chess company of Mildred Rose in 1941. It is generally believed that it has been designed by W.B.Tattersall, London. The lead set is based on the Staunton design, although the pieces are flat, but with supports at the base for stability. According to the patent specifically designed to be small. Weight was apparently less important for this lead set. "The Rose Chess" is very common and can be found on eBay on a weekly base. Often dated to 1900-1920, which of course is wrong.

There are boxes in 3 sizes, labels in 3 variants, 2 different patent numbers, large and small sets. You see large sets in large boxes, large and small sets in medium boxes and small sets in small boxes. The patent describes an associated board in which the pieces do fit and can be secured by turning. It is hard to believe because it would ask for a construction in the board, on each field, that makes it possible. I have never seen such associated board.

There is one variant, which is extremely scarce. I bought mine 8 years ago and only now (August 2018) I saw another which I bought as well (sic). It is a large set in the medium box with label stating, "THE" and "Rose Chess" in 2 straight lines, "( Prov. Patent 5280/41 )" and "MADE IN ENGLAND". The facts that there is "/41" at the patent and that there is no "NO. 1 SET" on the label suggest that we deal with a very early set from 1941. Also all pieces are stamped "MADE IN ENGLAND" only and omit the other stamps.

Large and medium boxes normally have a label stating: "THE ROSE CHESS" in bended way, "PROV. PAT.No 5280", "MADE IN ENGLAND" and "NO. 1 SET". Small boxes have a label stating: "THE ROSE" and "CHESS" in 2 straight lines and "PATENT NO 546516". Pieces are stamped with "ROSE", "MADE IN"+"ENGLAND" and "P/PAT.5280", although not always very well visible or consistent. It is also striking that the small pawns in a medium box have been stamped, unlike the pawns of sets in the small box.

The "NO. 1 SET" indication could have been introduced when the smaller set came out. More manufacturers numbered their sets according size. On the other hand it doesn't match with a small set in a medium box with "NO. 1 SET" on it. But they did small pieces stamped "P/PAT 5280" in a box labelled "PATENT NO 546516" as well. That isn't consistent 😉 So in the end I think it is a kind of quality indication (as is "de luxe" nowadays).

Al last: The colour of the large set in the large box tends to be a bit more orange and less shining than the red/black of the others. Sometimes you see other colours, like cream with black. Boxes can have other colours as well, like green.

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This set from 1941 is one of two I have seen.

  • England, "The Rose Chess"
  • 1941
  • Lead K 6.4; p 3.0
  • Box 11.0×9.0×3.8
  • Large "Rose" model in medium sized box with:
    "Prov. Patent 5280/41"
  • All pieces stamped at bottom with just "MADE IN"+"ENGLAND" (in 1 or 2 lines)
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This set from 1941 is the other one I have seen.

  • England, "The Rose Chess"
  • 1941
  • Lead K 6.4; p 3.0
  • Box 11.0×9.0×3.8
  • Large "Rose" model in medium sized box with:
    "Prov. Patent 5280/41"
  • All pieces stamped at bottom with just "MADE IN"+"ENGLAND" (in 1 or 2 lines)
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  • England, "The Rose Chess"
  • ca. 1942
  • Lead K 6.4; p 3.0
  • Box 17.8×11.7×3.6
  • Large "Rose" model in large sized box with:
    "PROV. PAT.No 5280" and "NO. 1 SET"
  • All pieces stamped at bottom with (parts of) "ROSE", "MADE IN"+"ENGLAND" (in 1 or 2 lines) and "P/PAT.5280"
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Note that the pieces are still originally bound to their cards!

  • England, "The Rose Chess"
  • ca. 1942
  • Lead K 6.4; p 3.0
  • Box 17.8×11.7×3.6
  • Large "Rose" model in large sized box with:
    "PROV. PAT.No 5280" and "NO. 1 SET"
  • All pieces stamped at bottom with (parts of) "ROSE", "MADE IN"+"ENGLAND" (in 1 or 2 lines) and "P/PAT.5280"
« of 3 »
  • England, "The Rose Chess"
  • ca. 1942
  • Lead K 5.1; p 2.8
  • Box 11.0×9.0×3.8
  • Small "Rose" model in medium sized box with:
    "PROV. PAT.No 5280" and "NO. 1 SET"
  • All pieces stamped at bottom with (parts of) "ROSE", "MADE IN ENGLAND" (in 1 line only) and "P/PAT.5280"
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Note that the pieces are still wrapped in original paper!

  • England, "The Rose Chess"
  • ca. 1942
  • Lead K 5.1; p 2.8
  • Box 10.8×7.1×3.4
  • Small "Rose" model in small sized box with:
    "PATENT No 546516"
  • Most major pieces (pawns not) stamped at bottom with (parts of) "ROSE", "MADE IN ENGLAND" and "P/PAT.5280" !!
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  • England, "The Rose Chess"
  • ca. 1942
  • Lead K 5.1; p 2.8
  • Box 10.8×7.1×3.4
  • Small "Rose" model in small sized box with: "PATENT No 546516"
  • Most major pieces (pawns not) stamped at bottom with (parts of) "ROSE", "MADE IN ENGLAND" and "P/PAT.5280" !!

I do not believe that the more Staunton looking variant, which is rather scarce, is made by Mildred Rose, because pieces are not stamped. Just very recently a set with box appeared, but without label or other indication. The box is like the large box of The Rose Chess, but of inferior quality. If it was from Mildred Rose you would expect a label like on the other sets. So I think the more Staunton looking variant is a cheaper copy of The Rose Chess from another source. In different pattern to avoid patent problems, maybe?

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  • England, "Staunton" (in Rose Chess manner)
  • ca. 1942
  • Lead K 6.4; p 2.9
  • Pieces not stamped
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  • England, "Staunton" (in Rose Chess manner)
  • ca. 1942
  • Lead K 6.4; p 2.9
  • Box 18.0x11.7x3.4
  • Pieces not stamped

Lead chess set by Britain from around WWII, based on the Staunton design. I do not know much of it, but these sets were sold in large presentation boxes as well as simple cardboard boxes (mostly with blue lid). Unfortunately I have only one set pieces and no boxes.

  • England, by Britain, "Staunton"
  • ca. 1940
  • Lead K 5.0; p 2.9

Plastic sets are ignored by most collectors. I think that is unjustified. BCC sets in Xylonite, or the wooden with Xylonite knight heads, are very collectable. Unfortunately I do not have it in my collection.
Bakelite disc sets, like "The Services Set", can be found in Symbols and figurines page.

Here are Galalith and Catalin sets in the "Staunton" design, which are quite old and interesting. Galalith and Catalin are old plastics which hardly, if at all, have been produced after WWII. Galalith could not be formed in moulds, so the pieces are turned and carved by hand. Catalin required every piece being individually cast and polished, which  became too expensive at the end of WWII.

The first set is of Galalith. It is interesting, because the board can be folded and put over the box in order to close it. There is a difficult to read logo at the closing flap of the board. There are, in a circle, a big combined "R" and "M", another big "M" and "URIE" as well as the word "PATENT". Below the circle it states "APP.FOR". I'm not sure what it means, but it could be RM Murie, maybe the manufacturer, but that is a name unknown to me. It is assumed that Uhlig made the pieces, because they are exactly designed as Uhlig sets like the bone "Staunton".

The second set is of Catalin and made by F.H.Ayres. We know the latter, because of equal sets in a cassette with the F.H.Ayres logo. However these pieces have characteristics of the Uhlig sets. Maybe the pieces were made by Uhlig as well.

  • England, "Staunton"
  • ca. 1920
  • Galalith K 5.7; p 2.9
  • Box 14.0×7.5×7.2
  • Board 26.7(31.7)×25.9
  • Pieces are probably made by Uhlig
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  • England, by F.H.Ayres, "Staunton"
  • ca. 1930
  • Catalin K 7.6; p 3.5
  • Box 18.2×13.3×6.8

More about this rare signed travel set by F.H.Ayres can be found at Travel page.

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  • England, by F.H.Ayres
  • ca. 1930
  • Plastic (Galalith?) 1.3 (1.9 with pin)
  • Board 16.5×16.3×0.8
  • Box 10.5×18.8×4.7

The "Grays of Cambridge Silette Chess" in Catalin is based on "Staunton".

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  • England, by Grays of Cambridge, "Silette Chess"
  • ca. 1935
  • Catalin K 6.2; p 3.4
  • Box 17.0×9.4×6.7

Even plastic sets from the 50ies are interesting, as the set with the plastic box proves. There exists a matching board, but at my set the board is of perspex (I think) and of later date (I think).