THERE have been many Marmaduke Wyvills down the generations. So many, in fact, that Wyvills appear to have stuck to the name of Marmaduke as if it were jam.

Seven Marmaduke Wyvills have represented four Yorkshire seats in Parliament over the past five centuries.

But only one Marmaduke Wyvill has two extraordinary claims to fame.

This Marmaduke Wyvill was the MP for Richmond, who was runner-up in the world’s first international chess tournament.

What is more, he proposed marriage to one of the most famous women that Britain has ever produced.

This Marmaduke was born in 1815 in Constable Burton Hall, between Bedale and Leyburn, where his greatgreat- grandson – Marmaduke, naturally – lives today.

The grounds of the hall are renowned for their spring display of tulips.

We stumbled upon Marmaduke during the General Election, when we were delighted to discover that he was one of four Marmaduke Wyvills who had represented William Hague’s seat of Richmond.

He was first elected in 1847, a Liberal, and held the seat until 1868. However, as David Walsh, in east Cleveland, points out, during his 21 years as an MP, Hansard, the Parliamentary record, says he only spoke on three occasions in the House.

Such are the things that giant expenses claims are made of.

It was not as a politician but as a chessplayer that Marmaduke made his name.

In 1851, the Richmond MP was one of Europe’s leading chessmasters, who was invited to take part in the first international chess tournament – prize fund: £500 – which was being held to coincide with the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace.

Not all of the chessmasters could make it.

Some stayed away out of petty jealousy; others because they had backed the wrong side in the Hungarian Revolution and were fleeing for their lives.

But Marmaduke won through three knockout rounds to the final, where he was beaten 4.5 to 2.5 by Adolf Anderssen, of Germany.

Unofficially, Anderssen is the world’s first chess champion, and he spent the next 20 or so years striding round Europe as a genuine chess colossus.

The runner-up, Marmaduke, appears not to have entered further competitions, although he retained his interest. Indeed, so celebrated is he in chess circles (should that be squares?) that he has a move named after him: the Wyvill Formation.

This was Marmaduke’s special attack, based on his phalanx of pawns.

Now, if all this was not exciting enough – and it does rather knock the current Richmond MP’s claim to fame as Foreign Secretary into a cocked hat – less than two months ago, the Florence Nightingale Museum in central London re-opened after a £1.4m refit.

One of the displays concerns Marmaduke, because in 1837, the Wyvills of Wensleydale were among the upper-class families staying in Nice in France over Christmas. The Nightingales of Derbyshire were also there. Seventeenyear- old Florence struck up a friendship with Henrietta Wyvill, a year or so older.

Florence also noted that Henrietta’s brothers, Marmaduke and Christopher, were “very fair in their way”.

In the summer of 1840, Marmaduke visited the Nightingale home in Derbyshire. Florence, by then, was agonising over her future. She’d received a call from God, but she didn’t yet understand in what direction. She did know, though, that she didn’t want an empty upper-class existence as a rich man’s wife.

Controversially for a female, she had started studying maths. Perhaps that is what made Marmaduke, the chess genius, think she might like the sum of his parts.

That August, he told her father, William, of “the very great love and affection that has been inspired in me for your second daughter, Miss Florence Nightingale, and which I flatter myself she equally shares”.

Turning to Florence, Marmaduke continued: “If I am not mistaken by your manner and looks, then happiest am I of all mortals, but trembling do I wait to hear that you will confide yourself to my care and allow me to become your protector and guardian.”

He was mistaken. Very mistaken.

She turned him down.

Indeed, some might say that asking for the hand of Florence – who died unmarried in 1910 aged 90 – was the definition of optimism, but as the exhibition in her museum shows, she had many male suitors.

Of Marmaduke, Florence told her sister, Parthenope (the Nightingale girls were named after their birthplaces), that she had heard “some things... which make me sorry for him, but glad for myself”.

Four years later, she entered nursing; ten years later, she was in the Crimea with her lamp and on her way to becoming a national institution.

At that time, Marmaduke may well have been feeling glad for himself.

Instead of the horrors of the Crimean battlefield, he was enjoying marriage to Laura Ibbetson who, in 1845, inherited from her father the fabulous 7,000-acre Denton Hall estate, near Ilkley, in West Yorkshire.

The runner-up in the world’s first chess championship hadn’t done so badly for himself, after all.

“IT can be confusing,”

admits the current Marmaduke Wyvill of the many Marmadukes.

“I call myself Charles. My father was Marmaduke, and he was known as Marmey.

My grandfather was Marmaduke, and he was known as Duke, and my great-grandfather was Marmaduke and he was known as D’Arcy.”

We are extremely grateful to Charles for his help with this article.

His son, Marmaduke, is also known as D’Arcy, and his son is Marmaduke Alexander, but as he’s only weeks old, they probably don’t know what name he’ll grow into.

WHAT is a marmaduke? Some sources reckon it is derived from Mael Maedoc, who was a devotee of the Seventh Century Irish saint Maedoc, who miraculously floated babies across lakes.

A follower of Maedoc is said to be renowned for his generosity.

Other sources reckon a marmaduke is a minor duke.

Marmaduke as a name is said to have caught on in Yorkshire because of Marmaduke Huby. He was the successful abbot of Fountains Abbey from 1495 to 1526. He sat in Parliament, restored the abbey to prosperity and built the powerful tower – Huby’s Tower – which dominates the wonderful ruins.

The first Marmaduke in the Wyvill family tree appears to be the one who was the first of that name to make it into Parliament. He was MP for Ripon in 1553.

CONSTABLE Burton Hall was built in 1768 by John Carr for, of course, Marmaduke Wyvill.

Carr (1723-1807) is one of North Yorkshire’s great architects, building 30 bridges – including Croft, Richmond and Greta – and mansions such as Harewood House, Aske Hall, Middleton Lodge at Middleton Tyas, and the aforementioned Denton Hall.

We’ve met him before in this column, and so we know how obsessed he was by symmetry: he even divided his lunchtime meat pies with a pair of compasses. We’ll post his full story on the Echo Memories blog on the Echo’s website.

Carr built Constable Burton Hall on the site of an earlier hall, which came through marriage into the possession of an earlier Marmaduke Wyvill in the 1570s. Marmaduke entertained Queen Elizabeth in the hall and she knighted him. In 1584, Sir Marmaduke became the very first MP for Richmond.

■ Constable Burton Hall Gardens are open from March 13 to September 26, from 9am to 6pm. Entry is £4 for adults, £3 for pensioners and 50p for children under 16. Go to constableburton NOW we’ve done with the many Marmadukes, the next obvious question is why the hall is named after a police officer.

This goes back to Richmond Castle, which was founded in 1071 for Alan Rufus to protect him from the natives, who weren’t happy with him and King William for conquering their country with their funny French ways.

This makes Richmond the oldest surviving stone-built castle in the country.

About 100 years later, a chap called Roald was given the lordship of the manor of Burton as part of his wages for being constable – or keeper – of Richmond castle.

And so it became Constable’s Burton.

So grateful was Roald for Constable Burton that in 1152, he founded Easby Abbey and dedicated it to the Rufus family.

OVER recent weeks we’ve been telling the story of the Catterick Bridge Station explosion of February 4, 1944, when 12 people died and 102 were injured.

The first report (Echo, June 9) featured a witness account from John Weller Brown. He had transported ammunition from its storage in semi-circular Nissen huts in North Yorkshire farms to the station for loading onto a train – it was the build-up to D-Day.

The soldiers unloaded roughly. The ammunition went bang in a very big way.

John’s half-sister, Mary Sanderson, of Leyburn, has pointed out that his Edward Medal is in The Green Howards Museum, in Richmond, among the town council’s silver collection.

The Edward Medal was introduced in 1907 to commemorate workers’ gallantry. It had two categories – mining and general industry – and two classes – silver and bronze.

There have been 77 silver and 318 bronze mining medals awarded, and only 25 silver and 163 bronze industry medals.

The citation with John’s medal says that he was in a hut 40 yards from the blast.

“The hut collapsed and he was blown a considerable distance,” it says.

With grenades and incendiary bombs going off all around, and with injuries to his head and legs, he and Lance Corporal John Briggs dashed back “and extricated three men from the ruins of the hut and carried them to safety”.

Reporting the award of the medal, the Darlington & Stockton Times said: “Brown then heard of women being trapped in a station building.

“As helpers eased the timbers, he crawled underneath and brought out two women clerks, Mrs Mary W Richmond and Miss Nancy G Richardson, but both were dead. He and others then pushed a railway truck full of ammunition up a siding away from the one where the explosion had occurred.”

The citation concludes: “His behaviour showed courage, initiative and determination of a high order.”

In 1971, Queen Elizabeth converted the Edward Medal into the George Cross, and granted Mr Weller £100 a year. His wife survives him.

Mary is going to commemorate his bravery in her window display as part of the Forties weekend in Wensleydale, which is on Saturday and Sunday. The Sanderson home decoration shop window, in High Street, Leyburn, will feature a picture of John’s Commer lorry, which was destroyed in the explosion.

■ See the Echo Memories blog here for more on this story.