Have your picture taken with the F.A. Cup next month in Sheffield

We are combining the 160th anniversary of the Sheffield Rules with a  ‘Sheffield Football Treasures Day’ on Thursday October 25th at the Central Library Reading Room 10.30am – 2.30pm

Join Sheffield football historians for a special day celebrating Sheffield’s unique status as the true home of football. It’s a day to bring in your treasured Sheffield football memorabilia, or to leave an oral digital record of your best Sheffield footballing memories and moments. The library will be displaying archive material relating to Sheffield’s football past, including a copy of the hugely influential Sheffield Rules that were penned 160 years ago on 27th October 1858.

Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield FC, Hallam FC and the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Football Association have all offered to support the event by bringing in their own football treasures. 

What will you bring in?

As well as the copy of the Sheffield FC archive that has not been on public display since it was sold in  2011 for nearly £900,000, we are excited to announce that the actual F.A. Cup will be on display at the event.

More treasures are promised and we shall doing more publicity as they are confirmed. Put October 25th in your diary, fish out your memorabilia from the attic and we hope to see you there.

No tickets needed and a free admission for a lively conversation and complimentary refreshments. If you cannot attend, we shall be live tweeting using the hashtag #sheffieldhomeoffootball and posting at the Sheffield Home of Football Facebook group during the event.

Special 40% discount off my book ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889’ Order it here http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0 Use discount Coupon Code – Football

The Famous Night when a Sheffield team secured the European Cup

Peter Darling and colleagues find the stolen European Cup, May 1982

With the Champions League starting tonight I thought it was a good time to remember the time 36 years ago when the European Cup was played for on West Street. Peter Darling tells the story:

“It was gone 2am, and I was on patrol in Sheffield city centre; I was a duty sergeant with South Yorkshire police. It had been a quiet night; they generally were, midweek. The pubs threw out at 11pm and there were only one or two clubs in town back then.

The call came as my partner and I walked down West Street: “Sarge, are you free? You might want to come back to the station. A young bloke calling himself Eric Sykes has just walked in with the European Cup.”

The evening before, Aston Villa had won the trophy, beating Bayern Munich in Rotterdam. I’d watched it on television. I wondered if I was being pranked. My immediate instinct was to say, “Righto, son – and who am I? Franz Beckenbauer?” But curiosity got the better of me and I went back. And sure enough, there it was.
By all accounts, this kid “Eric” had been at a pub in Tamworth, near Birmingham, when a couple of the Villa players had turned up with the trophy; I think it was their local. They’d shown the cup to everyone, then stuck it on a table while they had a few pints.

Later on, there was a commotion. Eric’s version was that a few people in the pub, himself included, had taken exception to the players’ bad language so, while no one was looking, he walked out with the cup.

I don’t know what possessed him to do it; I don’t think he knew himself, really. But at some point he started to realise that he’d be the most wanted man in Europe. He’d been a student in Sheffield and, for whatever reason, he drove up here, with the cup in his boot, to hand it in.

By the time I got back, the trophy was in our control room. It looked incongruous sitting there on the desk, the Aston Villa ribbons still tied to it. Half the officers on the shift were crowded around the thing. They were taking it in turns to lift it up, and I had a go, too. Well, it was the European Cup – how could you resist? We all wanted a picture but, back then, no one had a camera on them all the time. We had to call in a scenes-of-crime officer and tell him to bring his. Eric was held for questioning by the desk sergeant.
In the end, detectives from CID, the criminal investigation department, ended up dealing with the situation. They phoned West Midlands police, who weren’t picking up. Someone down there eventually answered and said, “We’re busy – we’ve got a major incident.” Our lad went, “I think we can help you with that.”

They sent a car to pick up the trophy and Eric. That wasn’t his real name, although I never did find out what it was. He wasn’t charged with anything.

I went back on patrol, but the story is that a few of the lads took a break, organised an impromptu football match, and played for the cup. Even now, when I see it on the television, I get a buzz. How many people can say they’ve lifted the European Cup?


After a match in the police garage, the winning Sheffield team pose with the cup

BBC Link

Guardian Link

180 years ago today the Sheffield football pioneer James Willis Dixon Jnr. was born

James Willis Dixon jnr. is of course better known for his part in the running of the Sheffield firm -James Dixon and Sons started by his grandfather James Dixon in 1806. He had a daughter , Ann and three sons Fredrick, Henry and James Willis and it is his son,James Willis Dixon jnr. (16th September 1838 – 29th June 1917 ) that this blog concerns. His career in the family silversmiths is well documented (see ‘Made in Sheffield-the story of James Dixon and Sons by Pauline Cooper Bell’) but I want to look at his important contribution to early Sheffield football.

The first edition of my book  ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’ is available to purchase here: http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0

James Willis Dixon jnr. was born in New York but by age 11 he has returned to his fathers home town and is attending the Sheffield Collegiate School. By age 21 his address is Highfield House which was immediately west of Parkfield House and is probably slightly north of where Highfield Library is today. Nathaniel Creswick lived at Parkfield House as a boy before moving in 1844 to East Hill House. (Harry Chambers also lived at Parkfield House). This puts James Willis Dixon jnr. right in the centre of the fledgling Sheffield football scene of the 1850s.

After Collegiate School James continued his education at Neuwied in Germany. In 1864 he married Fanny Mary daughter of William S. Burton. James was President of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce 1884-87. FRGS. He married for a second time the daughter of M. T. Ellison. James Willis Dixon, junior became the leading figure in this family firm, continuing to oversee the American trade.

Henry Isaac Dixon (Junior’s uncle) lived at Stumperlowe Hall, the place where James Willis Dixon jnr. celebrated his 21st birthday with 700 James Dixon employees in September 1859.

The Hallam FC historian suggests that in November 1859 football games were arranged between Stumperlowe and Sheffield FC to be played at Stumperlowe Hall. Presumably the Stumperlowe team would have comprised many Hallam Cricket Club members. The proposed game was called off three times due to heavy rain. If these games had gone ahead they could have been the foundation of what would have become Hallam FC a year earlier than the official foundation of 1860. Certainly, James Willis Dixon jnr. would have intended to play in the game at his uncle’s house. He had been captain of both the Cricket and Football clubs at Collegiate school.

James Willis Dixon jnr. was listed as a member of Sheffield FC in 1859 and played in 1861 match for Sheffield FC against Hallam FC.

He (or possibly his father) was also involved with the Broomhall Football Club in 1863:

“Broomhall Football Club- the first general meeting of this club took place on Wednesday evening, at Mr. James Dixon’s, Crown and Anchor, Bright Street, when the following gentlemen were appointed officers for the ensuing season: President, John Tomlinson; vice-president, R. Bunting; secretary, H. Mather; treasurer, James Dixon; committee, E. Watts, S. Roffy, J. Wheatley,T. Gaunt, A. Elliott, and J. Gaunt.”

In 1899 James Willis Dixon jnr. sold the ten-acre site north of his then family home Hillsborough Hall to Wednesday FC for £5,000 plus costs and it became Hillsborough football ground. Wednesday had unexpectedly had to  depart from their Olive Grove ground, when the railway line came through. Soil was dumped at both ends of the ground to level out the ground which was initially meadowland. The 2,000-capacity stand at Olive Grove was then transported to the new site and was joined by a newly-built 3,000 capacity stand for the start of the next season. The first match played was on 2 September 1899 against Chesterfield FC.

James Willis Dixon jnr. eventually gifted Hillsborough Hall to the people of Sheffield and it took on a new role as a public library in 1906.

His first wife Fanny died in 1897 and in 1906 he married his second wife Katherine Mary Ellison the daughter of Micheal Joseph Ellison, the man instrumental in the foundation of Bramall Lane and Sheffield United’s first ever chairman.

When James Willis died in 1917, he was living at Shire House and he left £94,382 in his will. From 1920 onwards, the family firm became known for commemorative pieces, such as 16 Gold Cups for the Grand National, the Blue Riband Trophy in 1935 for the fastest Atlantic crossing by an ocean liner and the 1963 World Golf Cup, all designed in-house by Charles Holliday. In my research I have only discovered one football trophy made by James Dixon and Sons. In 1959 an order was paced on behalf of the Ghana Football Association in 9 ct.gold with the figure of a footballer on the cover. If anybody knows the location of this cup I would love to see an image of it.

James Willis Dixon jnr. had four daughters and three sons who went to Rugby School. His second son Lennox met and became lifelong friends with famous cricketer  Pelham ‘Plum’ Warner at the school. Plum was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1904 and also in 1921, making him one of only two to have received the honour twice.

Sheffield Football Treasures Day

Thursday 25th October Central Library Reading Room 10.30am – 2.30pm

Join Sheffield football historians for a special day celebrating Sheffield’s unique status as the true home of football. It’s a day to bring in your treasured Sheffield football memorabilia, or to leave an oral record of your best Sheffield footballing memories and moments. The library will be displaying archive material relating to Sheffield’s football past, including a copy of the hugely influential Sheffield Rules that were penned (and pencilled!) 160 years ago on 27th October 1858. These are the world’s third oldest Club written playing rules behind John Hope’s Foot-Ball Club (Edinburgh 1833) and Surrey FC (1849). The difference we have from those clubs is that the Sheffield Rules of 1858 would go on to be very influential in the evolution of the current Association football game. Of course, the Rules’ authors, Sheffield FC (the world’s oldest football club), are very much still with us.

No tickets needed and a free admission for a lively conversation and complimentary refreshments. If you cannot attend, we shall be live tweeting using the hashtag #sheffieldhomeoffootball and posting at the Sheffield Home of Football Facebook group during the event.

No public football played in Sheffield in the 1840s

This interesting insight came up on twitter last month from the Chatto Book of dissent

Whilst folk football was thriving north of Sheffield around Thurlstone and Penistone is seems that within the confines of Sheffield there was no where left for the working classes to kick a ball around. It would be 1857 when the upper middle class formed Sheffield FC who played in the private field adjoining Park House the home of Frederick Ward. If you download the ‘Sheffield Home of Football ‘ walking app  http://bit.ly/2ILUKLg  you  will see that area is now occupied by the large B&Q store on Queens road.

The only football being played in Sheffield in the 1840s would have been in the three private schools ; Sheffield Grammar school, Wesley College and the Collegiate school.

Read more about the early years of Sheffield football in ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’

Link to book page –  http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0

Wharncliffe Charity Cup announced 140 years ago today in 1878

The Wharncliffe Charity Cup was an invitational knockout charity competition, taking the name of its sponsor, the Earl of Wharncliffe, and was designed to raise money for local good causes. The title of world’s oldest charity football cup belongs to Glasgow but the Wharncliffe Charity Cup is England’s first.It began in 1878/79, ceasing in 1983/84 over a hundred years later; the trophy’s first winners were Wednesday FC when they beat Heeley FC three goals to two at Bramall Lane. The announcement was in the Sheffield Independent on Thursday 05 September 1878. The Earl was too busy shooting to attend (!) but sent a letter.

The image below is the March 1878 entry in the Sheffield Football Association Minute Book showing that the Earl of Wharncliffe had become Honorary President. An occasion he marked with the commencement of the eponymous cup competition.

The trophy was lifted for the very last time in 1984 by Kiveton Park FC -the cup now resides at Clegg House.

I discuss the history of the Wharncliffe Cup in more detail in my book ‘ A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’ which is available to purchase at: http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0

First ever Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA AGM : 130 years ago today

The Sheffield Football Association is England’s oldest county FA and formed in January 1867 -over 151 years ago. In 1877 a competing organisation was formed called the Sheffield New Football Association -it would change its name in 1881 to the Hallamshire Football Association and by the
1880/81 season it had more clubs than the Sheffield Football Association. This situation persisted until the end of the
1886/87 season when a merger of the two Associations was negotiated by Charles Clegg when the Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA was born. The organisation’s first A.G.M. was held 130 years ago today on the 4th September 1888. I was very lucky to be allowed into Clegg House to look at the archive and this image records the event.

I discuss the history of the two associations in my book ‘ A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’ which is available to purchase at: http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0