The Chess Divan in the Strand

Simpson’s divan is one of those places that chess players of a historical bent almost certainly have heard of. You can find a modern history of it at Wikipedia.

Here’s an early account when it was just ‘The Chess Divan’ and hadn’t yet become ‘Simpson’s’. It is taken from The Lady’s Newspaper, 1848-02-26, p. 166:

“Imagine a room 60 feet long, 35 feet in width, and 28 feet high, illuminated by an enormous number of lights and chandeliers, which are again reflected a hundredfold by upwards of 20 immense looking-glasses more than 14 feet in height, and throwing their brilliancy on the costly furniture and magnificent fittings-up with which this superb apartment is profusely decorated. The seats, which consist chiefly of sofas, ottomans, and lounges, are covered with the most expensive crimson Utrecht velvet; and a profusion of tables, apparently of the finest marbles, inlaid for the game of chess offer to the lovers of that noble game (surrounded as they are by every luxury) a most irresistible temptation. The twelve large windows which light the apartment by day are each ornamented by a handsome transparency. The magnificent fireplaces are of black marble, also richly inlaid, and surmounted by elegant chimney-glasses; altogether the effect is so striking that it must be seen to be appreciated. The visitors are of the highest class of respectability, and principally those who seek amusements of an intellectual and literary character; and the spirited proprietor has not only catered for the gratification of those who play chess, which is a distinguishing feature of this establishment (matches being frequently played there by some of the first players in the world), but has provided for the tastes of others a capital library of upwards of two thousand volumes, combining all the best standard works of the historian and modern novel-writers in almost every language.”

I’m not sure if I dare to believe that about the room being “28 feet high”: that’s over 8.5 meters in height! It must have been a wonderfully cool place on hot days.

Batgirl has a later (and longer) account dating from the 1930s.

Added 2020-09-01: CarolusChess blog has an illustration that shows what the place looked like. After seeing that, I can well believe that the room indeed was 28 feet high!

And here’s more (added 2023-04-14): British Chess Magazine v. 11, i. 122 (Feb., 1891), p. 46–54 present reminiscences of Simpson’s by Charles Tomlinson, some going back so far as the 1820s, and even includes some accounts of Staunton (who was not a popular visitor).

In the following issue (British Chess Magazine v. 11, i. 123 (Mar., 1891), p. 111–117 ), the “Modern Simpson’s” is described in a similar fashion by the signature “A. G.”