Sir Nathaniel Creswick: A tale of two leaky roofs

(Much more information about the history of Sheffield football is available in my new book available now at http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0 )

Nathaniel Creswick co-founded the world’s first football club, Sheffield FC, in 1857 and last week I visited his grave at the Heeley Parish Church. The size and the positioning of his memorial, right next to the church’s main entrance, gives an indication of how significant he was to the church.

Heeley Parish church, at 151 Gleadless Road, was founded in 1846 from part of the St. Mary’s Parish on Bramall Lane and was originally named ‘Christ Church’. Henry Denson Jones was the first vicar and remained in place for 42 years until 1888. The church founded Heeley Christchurch FC in 1862 making it the first Association Football Club in England (and the world) to be formed from a church.

Did the idea to form a football club come from Reverend Denson Jones as the philosophy of ‘Muscular Christianity’ swept Victorian England? Or was it congregation-member Nathaniel Creswick pointing out that his club, formed five years previously, was booming and that the church should join the fast-growing Sheffield football movement?

I met Ken Law the church’s current stand-in vicar last week and he explained that the church has a thriving community, supported by a strong contingent of Anglicans from Ethiopia and Nepal. He said that the design of Nathaniel Creswick’s memorial has made it a favourite spot for church members to sit on in the fine weather. Originally the stone was protected by metal railings but they would have been collected for the war effort in 1940s and one wonders if today’s congregation realise the world-wide significance of the memorial they sit on every summer?

Ken’s main current preoccupation is with the church’s leaking roof, particularly around the tower section which is in desperate need of funds to protect the fabric of the structure. He now hopes that the church’s newly found footballing heritage will provide the publicity necessary to generate the much-needed money.

In the same week as visiting Heeley Parish Church I had an appointment with Bill Towning (Club Secretary) at Sheffield FC’s ground out at Dronfield. He explained their plans to celebrate the club’s 160th anniversary this October. He went on to say that they are still working on their long-term plans to relocate to Sheffield and are opening a club shop in Ecclesall Road soon. The pressing problem for the club on the actual day I visited was that the flat roof over the changing rooms had a leak and the club’s maintenance man was up a ladder trying to find the cause of the problem.

It seems that leaky roofs are a problem both at Nathaniel Creswick’s last resting place and the location synonymous with his present football legacy. Both of these institutions deserve support in this important anniversary year for Sheffield football.

Much more information about the history of Sheffield football  is available in my new book available now- http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0

Harry W. Chambers : Sheffield Football Club Legend

Harry W. Chambers started as a player for Sheffield FC and became the club’s Hon. Sec. and was the first ever president of the Sheffield Football Association in 1867.

In my new book ( http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0) I state that I hope that it marks the beginning of a conversation about the history of Sheffield Football and that it’s publication would generate new and interesting information about the early clubs and the people involved. The researchers at the Sheffield General Cemetery (off Ecclesall Road), have provided such an insight into Harry W. Chambers who is buried in their graveyard. I had experienced difficulties tracking down his last resting place because his accepted name in all the history books is Harry Waters Chambers, whereas in fact his name is Harry Walker Chambers.

At some point his middle name must have been misheard and it passed into folklore. In the F.A. Annuals and the Sheffield press, more often than not he was referred to as ‘H.W. Chambers’ but the wrong middle name threw my research off track until meeting with the researchers at the Sheffield General Cemetery, when it became clear that all the dates and family members fit the profile of their grave in the name of Harry Walker Chambers. You will see from this photograph that the family’s memorial is in very poor condition and the charity that now run the Sheffield General Cemetery are in great need of funds to look after their wonderful resource. Sheffield Council were guilty of tearing up many Victorian headstones in the 1970s to use for general rubble, so we should be grateful that Harry’s dilapidated grave still exists.


 

Harry Walker Chambers was born in in 1842, to John a solicitor who worked for a Brewery Association and by the 1851 census Harry was listed as a scholar at a school in Clapton, called Kingston House and his home was noted as Sheffield. When Sheffield FC was formed he was just 15 years old and according to their records it was Harry’s home, Parkfield House (near Bramall Lane), that the inaugural meetings of the fledgling football club took place. I have been unable to find an address for Harry’s family for 1857 and one wonders whether he was actually playing at such a young age? At the age of 17 he is involved in the Sheffield Volunteer Movement, where his occupation is listed as an ‘attorney’s clerk’.

As a young man in his early twenties, he was Sheffield FC’s representative at the launch of the Football Association in 1863 and he holds the honour of playing in the very first official show game for the new laws played in Battersea Park on 9 January 1864; the members of the opposing teams for this game were chosen by the President of the F.A. (Pember) and the Secretary (Morley) and included many well-known footballers of the day, who had been selected by Charles W. Alcock.

“Where all played well, individual mention hardly within reasonable scope but Messrs. Pember, Hewett, Morley, Chambers and both the Alcock’s especially distinguished themselves. Mr. Chambers the able representative of the Sheffield Football club gave a capital taste of his quality. The President’s side after some spirited play obtained two goals, the final kick in each instance provided by Mr. CW Alcock. In the evening the members dined together at the Grosvenor Hotel, Pimlico under the presidency of Mr. A Pember ‘Success to football, irrespective of class or creed’ was heartily drunk and a most agreeable evening was passed.”

He was Sheffield FC’s third Hon. Sec, a position he held for many years whilst playing for the club at the same time. When the Sheffield Football Association was founded in 1867 he was elected the first president.

In 1869, he married his cousin Betsy Ella Chambers (1848-18/8/1936) and by the time of the 1871 census he was living with his wife at 33 Kenwood Road, Nether Edge, with a cook and a housemaid and was now a qualified solicitor and attorney. By the 1891 census they had moved to 182 Psalter Lane and had five children.

Harry Walker Chambers died on the 21st December 1907, with his address listed as Sharrow Hill House and left £8,404.00 in effects  joining his father and his grandfather in the family tomb at the Sheffield General Cemetery. Before it deteriorated the Chamber’s last resting place was a grand looking monument as you can see from this photograph held by the researchers at the cemetery.

Olive Grove Football Ground, Sheffield

Olive Grove was Wednesday’s fifth ground after Highfield, Myrtle Road, Sheaf House and Bramall Lane, it opened in September 1887.

A plaque marks the ground on the wall behind the bus stop next to the Olive Grove works depot and is only a few hundred yards away from where Sheffield FC first played, a piece of land occupied by the B&Q store on Queens Road. Both pitches would have been chosen for their flatness but were essentially water meadows to the river Sheaf that runs to the west of both grounds. Olive Grove still has an operational football pitch. A few hundred yards in the opposite direction up Heeley Bank Road is the Sheffield Works Department Sports football pitch, which Sheffield FC are still considering as a new location for their Dronfield-based football club.

Wednesday FC obtained the field to build the Olive Grove ground on a seven years’ lease from the Duke of Norfolk. It had a stream running through it feeding the Sheaf together with a footpath. It cost Wednesday £5,000.00 to divert the path, cover the stream, organise the drainage and build the pitch and enclosures:

The new ground of the Wednesday Football Club which was opened yesterday, is a great addition to the grounds where the winter pastime may be indulged in under favourable circumstances, in Sheffield. The portion set apart by the rule, measuring 110 yards in length, 70 in width and is surrounded by a cinder path 6ft wide. There is a large shed capable of accommodating about 1000 persons and it is probable that a covered enclosure will before long be erected. The ground has two double entrances- one near the railway from Olive Grove road, and the other from the direction of Myrtle Grove road.”

Olive Grove hosted the first ever United v. Wednesday derby on December 15th, 1890, which Wednesday won 2-1.

This is a video of the current Council depot that now occupies the location

In 1899 Wednesday moved to Owlerton which in 1913 was renamed Hillsborough.

All the famous football pitches played on in the 1857-1889 era; East Bank, Hounsfield Park, Highfield, Cremorne Gardens, Sheaf House, Bramall Lane, and the Olive Grove, are all within the same square mile.

There is more information in my new book:

 http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0

Now in stock-“A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom”

I am pleased to announce that my books have now arrived and are available to purchase at:

http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0

The book is only available from this site at the moment but should be available in some Sheffield bookshops from next week. I will let you know when they become available.

162 years ago today: Bramall Lane Cricket ground opened

The Bramall Lane cricket ground opened on May 1st, 1855 with a match played between the first eleven and twenty-two selected from the ‘Sheffield’, ‘Wednesday’, ‘Broomhall’, ‘Milton’, ‘Caxton’, and ‘Shrewsbury’ clubs (with a 3d admission).  The first football game at Bramall Lane took place seven years after the ground opened, on December 29th, 1862, between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC to raise funds for the jobless in Lancashire. Sheffield United’s first match at Bramall Lane took place on the 28th September 1889, thirty four years after the cricket ground first opened. The photograph below was taken at Bramall Lane on the day United was officially promoted from League Division One to the Championship, in April 2017.