There are many football connections in Sheffield General Cemetery. Sheffield itself is often said to be the city with the most connections to the origins of the modern game. This has recently been proved again as Sheffield United ground was one of only a few in the country that wanted to host the Women’s European Cup.  And the city certainly got behind the Lionesses on their way to glory.

Football was played in the public schools and they made their own rules. In Sheffield, which can claim to have the oldest football club in the country, the two big clubs emerged out of cricket clubs. There were also works teams and local area teams. Sheffield Football Club, which is generally acknowledged to be the oldest football club in the world began in 1857.  Obviously, as the only football club in existence, they were starved of opposition so they played against themselves in teams such as ‘married or single’. William Prest, buried here, was one of those who founded the Club and who helped to design the Sheffield Rules which were widely adopted and were incorporated into the official rules of the Football Association when there published them in 1867.

Another of our football greats is Thomas Youdan, an energetic man with lots of ideas which he hoped would make him money.  He introduced the first ever Football trophy, the Youdon Cup, which has recently been revived.  He was a theatre owner and an entrepreneur. A man of many schemes!

The gravestone of J B Wostinholm was recently uncovered in a much over-grown part of the Cemetery by two enthusiasts from Sheffield United.  He was one of the founder members of Sheffield United.  Another United star is Charles Stokes, a dentist who was Chairman of the Blades for many years.  In the interest of balance, we have to talk about George Senior, an ex Lord Mayor and an ex Master Cutler who was a Chairman of Sheffield Wednesday and who presided over the club during is most successful period.  We also have player Fred Thompson (U1 156 noncon) and William Stacey, a headmaster who became a player for Wednesday by chance as he was watching a match and on of the players missed the train and so a cry went out, asking for help!  He then played regularly for the Owls.

Charles Stokes  Sheffield United Chairman

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.

R 145 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.

Thomas Youdan

In Cemetery we have Thomas Youdan, who was responsible for the first football cup, recently re-established, which preceded the FA cup by 4 years.  He born in Doncaster but came to Sheffield to work when he was 18 where he was a silver stamper.  He ran a public house and then built the Surrey theatre which included a concert hall and a menagerie.  He served on the Council for 6 years.  The theatre burnt down in 1865 and Youdan lost £30,000.  He was a philanthropist, giving generously to charity.  He was a man full of schemes.  He organised a tea party for ladies over 60, held in the cattle market on 600 yards of tables.  The ladies could attend free both others were charged and the money raised was donated to those who suffered after the Indian Mutiny.  He also asked the confectioner, George Bassett (also buried here) to bake a cake to celebrate the end of the Crimean War.  The cake was to be sold in portions and there was to be a raffle where some of the portions of cake would entitle the owner to a cash prize. However, Youdon was warned that the scheme might be considered an illegal lottery so the scheme was abandoned. The cake, baked by Bassett was 8 feet by 10 feet high and 9 feel high and weighed about 9860 pounds.  Quite a stunt!

He left his considerable estate to Harriet, the daughter of his brother John.  The tomb calls Harriet the ‘adopted daughter’ of Thomas and this obviously caused considerable upset in the Youdan family and the word were removed by John Youdan with a hammer and chisel.  He was charged with defacing the monument and ordered to pay a fine of £10.  If you look at the tomb now, it is possible to see the strip of granite that was put over the damage caused by the chisel.

William Prest

We also have William Prest. William Prest was born in 1831 and was a wine merchant by trade. He was born in York and lived most of his life in Sheffield.  He was involved in the formation of the volunteer regiment, the Hallamshire Rifles and his obituary describes him as a ‘fine type of volunteer officer.  Firm in discipline and genial in temper and taking interest in everything that interested his men.  He was held by them in the highest esteem and affection.’  He got involved in a newspaper argument when it was recorded that some of the volunteers had been seen smoking in the street on a trip to Skegness.  He defended his men vigorously!

He was a good cricketer, captaining Yorkshire for several seasons,  and was one of the founders of the Sheffield Football Club for whom he played.  It is suggested that he wanted to provide something for young men to do during the winter when cricket was impossible.  He and another Sheffield man, Nathanial Creswick,  helped to codify the Sheffield Rules which were soon adopted by most of the northern football clubs.  They were first published in 1859.  The London based Football Association published its own rules in 1863 and the two sets of rules co-existed until the two were unified in 1877.  The Sheffield Rules had a major influence on how the modern game developed.  In 1867 the world’s first competitive football tournament took place under Sheffield Rules. The Youdan Cup.

The Rules were important.  The oldest recorded football match in Sheffield occurred in 1794 when a game of ‘mob football’ was played between Sheffield and Norton, then a Derbyshire village, which took place at Bents Green.  The game lasted three days, which was not unusual for the time, and it was noted that although there were some injuries no one was killed during the match.

Prest rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Hallamshire Rifles and was buried with full military honours when he died suddenly at the age of 52.  The details of his funeral were announced in the newspaper before it took place, to give people the opportunity to attend and it is said that over 1000 people attended and that thousands more lined the streets and that barricades had to be erected for the safety of the public.

Considering how important football is to some people and that Sheffield considers itself a football city, it is surprising that Prest is not more well known.  He is buried in plot I1 159 and this is the Memorial Inscription:

I1 159 In memory of Lt.Col William Prest, Major 1st Hallamshire Volunteer Battalion of the Yorks and Lancaster Regiment who died 10th Feb 1885 aged 52 years.

This monument has been erected to Lt.Col William Prest by his brother officers of the 1st West York, Yeomanry Cavalry, the 4th West York Volunteers, having completed upwards of 25 years service in Her Majesty’s auxillary forces for the 1stW Y Engineer Volunteers and his own Regiment as a token of respect for his sterling services rendered by him for a long series of years in the volunteer movement.

He never married but was obviously held in great esteem by his colleagues.

J B Wostinholm (Sheffield United founder)

Joseph Beckett Wostinholm was born in Sheffield in 1836 and was a relative of the Becketts associated with the file and saw manufacturers, Alfred Beckett and sons of Brooklyn Works fame, Green Lane on Kelham Island. The famous factory opened in the mid 1850’s as a file and saw producer of some repute with the “Matchless” name as one of their famous brands- the firm closed in the 1960’s after surviving x 2 World Wars and the Sheffield flood for which Beckett put an insurance claim in for damages of £127.

JB was a very bright man indeed and, in adult life, became a chartered accountant, stockbroker and estate agent with premises on Bramall Lane and, most importantly, at 10 Norfolk Row in the heart of Sheffield. He was also a cricket fanatic (and no mean player himself) and he played a key role in the securing of the land belonging to the Duke of Norfolk on its 100 year lease that would become the famous home of Sheffield United to this very day. Joseph Wostinholm presided over the erection of the boundary walls that would mark the land as separate to the area around it, along with the building of the Cricket Pavilion, the expansion of the site and all of the stands and other structures built at Bramall Lane over the period of his tenure. He would also make Yorkshire County Cricket Club the power it was and make sure that Sheffield itself was the home of the game for 40 years. The 28 year old Wostinhold was recruited to Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s as the first secretary George Padley in 1864 following the official formation and the County at the Adelphi Hotel in Sheffield on January 8th, 1863.

The two of them were undisputed rulers of the County and its home for years- as a result of his role of Secretary for the Cricket he also took the same role on the Bramall Lane Ground committee and was responsible for turning the enclosure into a profitable concern by looking at how crowds could be increased and also at bringing a wide variety of other sports in to pay the bills, the main one being, of course, Football and ultimately the formation of Sheffield United FC.

JB was known as being a no- nonsense character who didn’t suffer fools gladly but had a reputation for getting the job done and well. It’s incredible to think that, for the first 20 years of its life, all committee members and paid officials of Yorkshire were provided from Sheffield as well, we were that powerful and that was down to the two men discussed here!

Following the FA Cup Semi-Final at Bramall Lane in 1889 between West Brom and Preston that brought record gate receipts for a game of football at that time of in excess of 500 quid that was attended by a then record crowd for the tie of over 22,000, an incredible number back then and a reflection of the quality of the facilities that Wostinholm had played such a huge part in creating as a result, a decision was taken to hold a meeting at JB’s Offices on Norfolk Row (which were also the offices of the Club) on March 22nd 1889 where the decision was made to form a football club to play at the ground that resulted in the following advertisement appearing in Newspapers the following day:

“Sheffield United Cricket Club

The Committee have decided to form a Football Club for next season for Bramall Lane Ground

Professionals may send testimonials and particulars on or before March 30th to Mr. JB Wostinholm. 10 Norfolk Row”

To all intents and purposes, the Blades were born, and Wostinholm had played a huge part in its entry to the world. He took the role of first Club secretary, and he has been described as our first Manager. There were others involved in coaching and the selection of players, but the signing of players and dealings with the FA were all undertaken by him, and he performed that role until resigning in 1892, only to take the reigns back in 1893, holding the roles with the Blades and Yorkshire until 1902.

He died at his home on Sharrow View in April 1909, and interestingly none of the obituaries mentioned the football club, preferring to concentrate on his cricketing achievements. He left an incredible sum of in excess of £54,000 back then, seemingly most of which went to the Masons with

who he had a long-standing association. He was also a staunch Unitarian and was laid to rest, not in City Road as has been written, but in the General Cemetery, a short hearse ride away from his Sharrow home.”

He was buried in plot HH 106 which was recently uncovered by some enthusiasts from Sheffield United.The memorial inscription reads;

‘HH 106 In affectionate memory of Eliza daughter of Wilfred and Eliza Wostinholme who departed this life Aug 21 1876 aged 36 years. Also of the above named Wilfred Wostinholme who departed this life Sept 19 1851 aged 44 years, and was interred in the grounds adjoining the Upper Chapel. Also the above named Eliza Wostinholme who departed this life Jan 9 1884 aged 74 years. Also of Joseph Beckett Wostinholme son of the above Wilfred and Eliza Wostinholme who departed this life Apr 23 1909 aged 73 years.’