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.’