Oct 112010
The Lewis Chess Men at The British Museum
Over the weekend I was in London and had the opportunity to visit one of my favourite places – The British Museum. I’ve been hankering after a visit ever since the ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’ series started on Radio 4 at the beginning of this year.
Of course I took in all of the sites but the artifacts that always capture my imagination the most are the Lewis Chessmen. For me they are the most iconic set of chess pieces in existence (at the very least in Europe anyway!) I first saw them when I visited the museum as a child and, even though I couldn’t play the game then, those little walrus ivory pieces were so full of character that they burned themselves into my memory banks. I suspect that my romanticised notions of the medieval era and the game of chess, which played such a big part in spurring my interest in the game when I did learn to play it properly in my late teens, probably originated from that first visit to the British Museum all those years ago.

On this trip I learned something new about the Lewis Chessmen. Evidently some of the pieces used to be stained red in colour and it appears that, in the medieval period, it was common practive to have white and red pieces and a white and red checkered board. Black and white evidently only become the norm in more modern times.

Anyway, any visitor to our Hebden Bridge Chess Club website can’t help but notice that I have a passion for these particular chess men and I do urge anyone of you planning a visit to London to try and squeeze in half an hour or so to visit the display in The British Museum – it’s free! If you aren’t going to London any time soon then you can download or listen to the 15 minute episode of the ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’ about the Lewis Chessmen on the BBC website.

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