Simpson's Divan

More about Simpson’s Divan, this time from Huddersfield College Magazine, v.6, p. 310-314 (Aug., 1878), and the article A Chess Sketch, By An Amateur. (The text has been slightly edited for readability.)

“Simpson’s is a well known and well frequented place - in fact it is an institution, and anyone interested in Chess will always find there on any evening in the week with the exception of Sundays, on which days the establishment is, of course, closed, a comparatively large number of players of different, and I was going to say indifferent merit, but I am scarcely justified in making the latter assertion except by way of fun, having had so small an amount of experience of the players and their play.

“There is an orthodox and an unorthodox mode of visiting Simpson’s. The orthodox plan is to call in at the cigar shop on the right of the main entrance and obtain a check to admit you to the premises, and for this you pay six pence or one shilling; in the latter case you can have a cup of really good coffee, properly made, or a cigar, the quality of which I cannot enlighten you upon as I am not a smoker. Having obtained your check you proceed upstairs to the first landing, and then passing across the landing you go up a narrow winding stair and immediately in front you see folding doors, the upper spaces filled in with figured glass with the words “Chess Department” thereon; then passing into the room you hand your check to the attendant, a very pleasant and apparently a favourite attendant, by name called Alfred, and are ushered into the presence of the greater and the lesser Chess Savants.

“The unorthodox mode of which I spoke is to affect an entire disregard of the payment of sixpence or one shilling, or the check, or the cigar shop, and walk straight up the main staircase, up the narrow winding stair, and so into the room, there to be confronted by the redoubtable but kindly disposed attendant. I would advise those of my readers who may go to Simpson’s to avoid the unorthodox mode of procedure as it may save them much trouble and annoyance, the attendant not being allowed to receive money for entrance but only for articles sold to the frequenters whether in the shape of cigars, or coffee, or stimulants. Of course you can become a subscriber on payment of fifteen shillings a quarter, or two guineas a year; which renders the periodical payment of sixpence or one shilling on each visit unnecessary.

“Having said so much let us examine, as well as we may, the people in the room, and the room itself. First the room. It is a tolerably long room fronting the main thoroughfare, and is lighted by a number of large windows which let in the light by day, and by numerous gas-lights at night; it is fairly ventilated and always warm, so that you do not feel cold by long sitting. Down one side there are numerous narrow tables running endways from the wall. The tables will accommodate two sets of players but as a rule only one set is to be found at them; then there is a long table running down the centre of the room, and on this there are boards and men enough to satisfy the most hungry of players. In the right hand corner of the room furthest from the door is a single table at which are invariably to be found players pursuing the “even" or the uneven “tenour of their way" as the case may be. Then on the right hand side of the room there is a sort of alcove in which no Chess-playing goes on; but here instead the quiet reading of foreign and English journals and magazines is enjoyed by the subscribers.”

After this, the text goes on to the players the author found present on his visit, but this part has been left out here. See the web link above for the full article.