Charles Stokes was born in the Steel City on December 30th, 1847 and, until Kevin McCabe’s tenure at Bramall Lane, was Sheffield United’s longest serving Chairman
He was a dentist and pretty well all of the surgeries he ran were on London Road near to Bramall lane Stadium- in fact the last at number 240 is still a dentist today and it was there that he died in 1913- his son carried on the business when Charles retired.
Stokes’ first Club was the Heeley FC when he was 16, where he not only showed his talent as a player but also rose through the ranks to become its President at a time when they were regarded as one of the then town’s best teams.
He attended the meeting that confirmed the founding of the Sheffield Football Association in 1867 and, in the same year was a committee member that helped to form Sheffield Wednesday FC as well as playing for them. Charles Stokes was certainly a huge figure in the game as it began to really take shape, becoming more organised.
It seems that he also played a key part in the Wednesday Club securing their first ground proper a short kick away from Bramall Lane at Olive Grove as well as having a role of the Ground Committee, the body who ran the show at the Lane, at the time when the main concern for them was for cricket- some task
He had first begun his association with Sheffield United when he became a member of the Bramall Lane bowling Club in 1869 and the invitation to join the ground committee came in 1875- just two years later he was invited to do the same for the Yorkshire CCC and, as if that wasn’t enough responsibility, he also became the first treasurer of the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA in 1887!
Stokes became what can only be described as the father of the Blades more than any of the others involved when, as a member of the Sheffield United Cricket Club Committee, he witnessed Bramall Lane stage Sheffield’s first ever FA Cup Semi Final. Preston North End played West Bromwich Albion here on March 16th, 1889- a record gate at the time for a game of football poured through its turnstiles- it was estimated at well over 22,000- and many encroached onto the pitch as they strained to get a better view of the Invincibles taking on the Baggies as the ground committee made then then colossal profit of around £500.
For anyone who knew the struggles of making the ground pay this must have seemed a gift from the gods, and for a man who loved football, this must have surely been the proof needed for so long to finally convince those colleagues who had been against having their own resident Club for so long that he time, and need for the money, was right
They clearly listened as, a few days later, the famous notice that appeared in the local press and changed the face of Sheffield Football forever appeared:
“Sheffield United Cricket Club- the committee have decided to form a football club for next season for the Bramall Lane grounds- Professionals may send testimonials on or before March 30th to: Mr JB Wostinholme- 10 Norfolk Row”
The famous meeting took place on the 2nd floor of that building on March 22nd that saw, by a majority of 1, the motion to form that very Club. Sheffield United FFC was born there and then- there is a plaque on the wall to this day marking that historic event. J B Wostinholm is also buried in the General Cemetery – see information for grave HH 106.
Not only had Stokes played a vital part in the formation of the Owls, but also in the birth of the Blades, and it would be the red and white half that became the closest to his heart as well as his home.
He was the first Chairman of the Football Committee although Michael Ellison, the man for who Bramall Lane had been a dream, remained as Club Chairman until his death in 1898 when that role was taken by football’s first knight, the legendary Charles Clegg. Stokes and Ellison together ensured that he football team wasn’t killed off in its first couple of years and was also the man who made the decision in 1891 to bring players such as Billy Hendry in from Preston to add a more professional attitude to Sheffield United FC- a huge and brave move that really paid off
It is fitting that his tenure saw United win the League Championship, two FA Cups (and a runner up) and saw some legendary names such as Foulkes, Needham, Thickett and Johnson write their names in Blades history- what an incredible journey and life
He died in October 1913 at what would be now regarded as the young age of 66- his sons Percy and Harry both went on to serve the Board of Directors which meant that there was a Stokes in a position of power at United from our birth until 1954. Charles is buried in the General Cemetery in grave R 145 on the nonconformist side. The family grave gives no mention of the sporting heritage but he is considered a founding father of Sheffield football, particularly of Sheffield United.
|In loving memory of Mary Jane Stokes, born 16th August, 1850, died 29th April, 1904. Also Charles Stokes, beloved husband of the above, born 30 December 1847, died 8th October, 1913.
In loving memory of Amy Lilian, the beloved daughter of Charles and Mary Jane Stokes, born March 16th, 1876, died August 14th, 1876.
Also Elsie Lily, their daughter, born March 26th, 1881, died August 1(hole punched through second number) 1884.
Also Charles Verdon, their son, born August 28th, 1886, died December 27th, 1890.