John Charles Shaw 1830 – 1918. The Origins Debate and His Untold Story By Kevin Neill

This article has been written to commemorate the centenary of the death of John Charles Shaw in November 2018.   There have been numerous papers and books published containing details of his involvement in the development of the modern game of football within Sheffield and details of matches he played in have been well documented.  However, apart from John Steele’s biographical account in The Countrymenwhich gives some detail, very little is known about the man himself.   This article will utilise new material that will give more insight and, it is hoped, facilitate further the debate on the origins of football in Sheffield.  The work is an attempt to seek clarification on the existing perspective of the origins of the game and John Charles Shaw’s specific impact on it, as well as to celebrate the overall achievements of the man himself.

In May of 1865, the Barnsley Chronicle ran a story on ‘The Sheffield Football Club Athletic Sports held on the Brammall [sic] Lane Cricket Ground’.  One of the events reported was a three mile flat race, open to the Rotherham Athletics Club and all the other football clubs in Sheffield.  The favourite was John Charles Shaw representing Sheffield FC.  The article recalls, ‘his springy, easy, and steady style of running was much admired’. 

During the race, Robert Mason of Rotherham had established a commanding lead, but Shaw gradually started to haul him in.  The outcome, however, was that Shaw had left his attempt on Mason too late and came in a close second. 

‘From the splendid style in which Shaw ran at the finish, and the rapid gain he made, there can be very little doubt that, had there been another 100 yards to run, he would have won the race’. 

The winning time was recorded at sixteen and a half minutes.  This would rank amongst elite times by today’s standards. Shaw then went on to win the Mile Race and finally The Stone Picking Race. 

‘A really difficult task,requiring considerable strength and agility…..  Fifty large white marbles being placed in a line 100 yards long, the marbles being placed two yards apart….. The competitors had to pick up each marble separately and deposit it in a bowl placed at the starting point.  The running to pick up these little toys involved the getting over three miles of ground, and in addition to the exertion that had no insignificant task involved, there were fifty stoopings to pick up the marbles.  The task was got through by Shaw in 21 minutes and he received a hearty cheer from the spectators’. 

John Charles Shaw was 35 years of age and his athletic and footballing abilities were beyond doubt.  What has not been so well recorded is his life outside of the sports field. 

John Charles Shaw was born on the 23rd January 1830.  He was the eldest son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Shaw. The family were residents of Penistone and had been natives of this area for generations.  Benjamin Shaw, by trade, was a bespoke cordwainer or bootmaker. He does not appear on the electoral role at this time, or any other time.  One can assume from this that he was not a man of property or wealth. Benjamin and Elizabeth went on to have four more children after John (Ann,George, William and Herbert).  Further evidence revealing hard times for the couple is shown in the 1861 census.  Benjamin was living with son William in Wortley, a village ten miles south east of Penistone.  Elizabeth was living as a housekeeper to a relation in the village of Hoylandswaine, together with son Herbert, two miles from Penistone, in the opposite direction to that of her husband.  Elizabeth Shaw was the daughter of Giles Shaw and she had been born in Denby, in the parish of Penistone, in 1806.  Her grandfather was also named John Shaw and her mother was Bridget Stanley.  Stanley was used as a middle name for two of John Charles’ children.  Giles and Bridget had four other children,which included another John, who was to become a surgeon in the Attercliffe-cum-Darnall area of Sheffield.

John Charles was born John Shaw.  He was baptised John Shaw, at Penistone church, on 21st February 1830, by the Reverend Samuel Sunderland.  The latter was to go on to become the Headmaster of the free Grammar School at Penistone.  The middle name of Charles does not appear in any of John’s signatures until the 1850s. The 1841 census shows Benjamin and Elizabeth in Penistone, with son John.  The 1851 census shows John Shaw -attorney’s clerk – a visitor at Pye-Bank[sic], Sheffield, to Mrs Jane Rennie.  When John Shaw marries Mary Ann Garnett in 1853 at St Mary’s in Barnsley, he signs his name John Shaw, occupation,Clerk.  In 1857, he is shown in The Post Office Directory of Yorkshire as John Charles Shaw, law stationer, 19 Norfolk Row, Sheffield.  It is not difficult to assume that, shortly after his marriage, he adopted the middle name of Charles.  There was a relation called Charles on his mother’s side.  There are many similarities between John Charles Shaw and Charles William Alcock (of Football Association and F.A. Cup fame).  The addition of a middle name to suit circumstances is one of them.  It is hardly surprising that, with the plethora of John Shaw’s engaged in business in Sheffield at this time, this simple adjustment instantly raised him, in recognition, above the field and perhaps indicates something of an ambitious character. 

John ‘Charles’ Shaw was raised in Penistone.  He was educated at the Penistone Grammar School under the Headmastership of Samuel Sunderland.  He did not attend Collegiate College in Sheffield, contrary to some sources.  In 1906, John Charles Shaw writes a letter of application to join the Middle Temple in London, as a student of the bar. He is asked to give his educational background, as evidence for his acceptance and in his reply, John Charles clearly states that he was educated at Penistone.  There is no mention of Collegiate College.  This is significant to the claims that Collegiate College was a central tenet to the emergence of the modern game of soccer in Sheffield.  If Collegiate College did not directly influence the footballing development of Shaw, which it clearly did not, it is essential, in this respect, to give consideration to Samuel Sunderland and Penistone Grammar School.  John Goulstone, in his book Football’s Secret History talks of tracing soccer’s main ancestral line to an earlier time of 1840 around Penistone and surrounding area.  This is well within Sunderland’s time and also builds on the work of Kevin Neill, Graham Curry and Eric Dunning in their recent article ‘Three men and two villages: the influence of footballers from rural South Yorkshire on the early development of the game in Sheffield’ (Soccer and Society 19, 1, 2018).  The three men were John Charles Shaw, John Ness Dransfield and John Marsh.

 The Reverend Sunderland is an interesting character.  He was clearly well liked and loved by his parishioners, particularly John Ness Dransfield, who was in awe of him.  Sunderland was born in Wakefield, in 1806,and educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, where he attended from the age of ten.  The school was situated on Brook Street, in the middle of town, close to the cathedral.  There were no boarders.  Outside space belonging to the school was limited.  The Headmaster, at this time,was Martin Joseph Naylor.  He had been born in nearby Batley Carr, but it is unclear where he went to school. He was however, admitted into Queen’s Cambridge in 1782, where he achieved third Wrangler (third highest score in the Mathematics Tripos) in 1784, became a Fellow in 1789 and graduated from B.A. in 1787 to Doctor of Divinity in 1829.  He was appointed Headmaster at Wakefield in 1814 until 1837.  Naylor was also Rector of Penistone and held the Living of the parish until his death in 1843.  The Queen Elizabeth School was endowed to offer several scholarships and exhibitions to pupils.  One, in particular, was the Cave Scholarship,offered to two poor boys of the school and parish to attend Clare Hall,Cambridge.  Sunderland was the recipient of one of them.  He obtained additional support through the Storie Exhibition, also offered by the school.  Sunderland matriculated at Clare in 1825 and obtained Junior Optime (third class in mathematics) in 1829.  His tutor was a John Evans, who had been to Shrewsbury School.  Whilst there were other students at Clare from Shrewsbury, it was an eclectic mix of people from all over the country and from all educational backgrounds.  Charterhouse school featured strongly, as did Rugby.  Football was a part of boy culture within schools at this time.

Sunderland’s experience of sport,whilst at school, is worthy of exploration, as this could well have had impact during his tenure at Penistone.  Through Matthew Peacock’s work, History of the Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth Wakefield, we know that one activity enjoyed in schools by boys and, indeed, the masters, was cockfighting.  The cock-penny was money paid to the master and usher to allow the sport to happen, and was used as a means to supplement income.  In some schools, it was written into the statutes.  Peacock is at pains to point out that he knew of no such practice at Wakefield.  At Penistone during Sunderland’s time, there was a cock-pit at the back of the school wall on the Fairfields, approached down Cockpit Lane.  Consideration also needs to be given to any football that Sunderland may have experienced, eitherat school or Cambridge.  Peacock gives nothing away regarding this, but merely alludes to common practices nationally.  Naylor’s usher, Reverend Joseph Lawson Sisson, attended Leeds Grammar School, as did Thomas Rogers, the previous Headmaster to Naylor.  Further research may give some indication here as to the type and style of game played at Leeds.  However, what remained a problem at Wakefield was the lack of space outside, together with the fact that the school catered for day boys and did not accommodate boarders.  Any football ever played by Sunderland could have been limited, whilst at school. Cambridge, however, may well have been a different experience.  A place where young men gathered, from across the country, grouped together in a single place with a varied experience of playing football.  A melting pot of ideas wants and needs, particularly a desire to continue playing their game. Graham Curry in his thesis of Football: A Study in Diffusion suggests evidence that eight years after Sunderland left Cambridge, in or around 1837, an attempt was made to codify the various school rules, so that they could play football together.   This is not to say that football of some sort was not played, in Sunderland’s time, and that he himself had been a participant.  What is important is that Sunderland clearly encouraged his pupils to play sport, whilst he was at Penistone, which included football.  Two of his former pupils, (John Charles Shaw and John Marsh) had a massive impact on the early Sheffield football scene, whilst a third (John Ness Dransfield),was described by Neill, Curry and Dunning as the ‘unsung catalyst’ of the footballing trio.  Twelve years separated them regarding their birth, yet all three developed their footballing skillsunder Sunderland’s tenure as Headmaster at Penistone.  The aforementioned Cave Scholarship allowed for seven years at Clare Hall. Sunderland was appointed as Curate to Penistone in 1829 after four years at Clare.  Naylor was having difficulties with Penistone parishioners, who were unsettled with his continued absences.  The fact that he reputedly had a wooden leg would not have facilitated travel easily.  Securing Sunderland at Penistone to calm the storm clearly worked as he was popular and Naylor benefitted for the next fourteen years.  

 A contemporary of Sunderland’s at Cambridge was Thomas William Meller of Trinity Hall (1826-1830), a former pupil of Oakham, who was to become the first appointed Principal of Collegiate College Sheffield in 1836.  They could well have been acquainted to one another,but this cannot be proved.  Whether they had the same principles regarding student welfare, again, is unknown.  Certainly from the writings of John Ness Dransfield, Sunderland had no objection to sport.  Dransfield played football at Penistone as wel las cricket.  It could be argued that these activities were village related and nothing to do with the school or Sunderland.  The evidence, however,points towards the time of Sunderland’s arrival. There was a fundamental difference between Sheffield Collegiate College and Penistone Grammar School,namely the environment.  Collegiate College was urban and enclosed; Penistone was rural, with a walled school yard and open fields beyond.  These fields could be accessed by day boys of the school and local youths.  Both schools had boarders, though Penistone was on a much smaller scale than Collegiate. Meller could entrust his charges were safe behind the walls of the establishment, while Sunderland, on the other hand, had to ensure that his boarders were within easy reach of his care, namely the school house and the fields that lay just outside.  The school was built on what was called the Kirk Flatt and the surrounding land was known as the Fair Fields.  It was in the Fair Fields,before the advent of the railway, where football had been played.  It was rough ground cut with a scythe, ratherthan machine and towards the north side was sloping ground, dropping steeply down to the River Don.  To the south were buildings, cottages with outhouses containing materials easily damaged by misguided footballs.  To the east was the school and to the west gently sloping ground. Football, in its various forms, can be said to have been shaped by the interaction of players with the local environment.  Charterhouse and the Cloisters, Rugby and the flat extensive fields and Harrow with the cloying clay soil making for a very heavy ball.  The type of football played in Penistone was primarily a dribbling game and it involved minimal handling.  But the handling it contained was a causal effect of the land.  Rough ground for instance could dramatically alter the dribble and cause the ball to bobble and bounce.   A document outlining land owned by the school and trustees mentions the ‘roughe field and rough field inge in Penistone in the schoolmasters occupation’.

By knocking the ball on with the hand, when a bounce happened, the dribble was allowed to continue in best fashion.  Similarly, when the ball was kicked, a fair catch enabled the dribble to continue again and stopped the ball from running away into the River Don, being lost or from breaking windows or damaging property both to the south and west. The game also determined that the ball was kicked below a certain height to offset similar problems, namely in scoring a goal.  There were no written rules to determine the order, nor was there an established club, as neither of these was necessary to facilitate play.  If it had been introduced by Sunderland based on his experiences at Cambridge, then it was a perfect fit.  It would have reinforced what was a long standing tradition of that type of football in the area.

John Charles resided in Penistone until just shy of his fifteenth birthday, when he was articled to his uncle,John Shaw the surgeon of Attercliffe, Sheffield.  It was no coincidence that the rail link between Penistone and Sheffield had been completed by this time.  By his own admission, John Charles stated that he did not enjoy this profession and gave it up, spending four years in the office of Mr John Dixon, a solicitor in Sheffield.  There is no evidence that he was articled here, nor is there any evidence that he passed law exams or even lived in Sheffield.  John Charles Shaw never became a practising solicitor.  Indeed,it would have barred him from his application to the Middle Temple in 1906.  He also engaged a private tutor during this period, possibly the Mrs Jane Rennie, governess, who he was visiting in 1851.  Martin Westby, in his book, A History of Sheffield Football1857-1889, talks of a letter that was within the archive material of the Sheffield Football Club sold at Sotheby’s in 2011.  The auction catalogue transcripts say the letter was written by a John N Deansfield to Harry Walker Chambers regarding the early days of Sheffield Foot Ball Club. The person named Deansfield was, actually, John Ness Dransfield.  Both he and Chambers were well qualified for such a discussion, both being members of the club in the early days and both known to each other as pupils of George Rider’s school in Grenoside, a village close to Sheffield.  Dransfield points out to Chambers that he recalls John Charles Shaw playing football in the fields opposite his father’s offices in Penistone.  In the 1851 census, John Charles Shaw is recorded as an Attorney’s Clerk. Dransfield Senior is shown as a Solicitor and Attorney at Law, employing two Clerks. In 1853, John Charles is a Clerk, more than likely in the Dransfield solicitors’office, where he would have been well known and living in Penistone, or as it states on his marriage certificate, Barnsley. Little wonder, that twelve year old Dransfield, who loved his football,remembered this occasion, when reminiscing as an eighty eight year old in 1928.

It is very possible that when articled to his uncle John, the surgeon, John Charles came across a young man by the name of Henry Joseph Garnett who was training to be a surgeon dentist,like his father Henry William Garnett. Probably during this time, he met a young girl, the sister of Henry Joseph, who was to become his wife, Mary Ann Garnett.  They were married in 1853 John aged 23 and his wife 19.  Possibly, Mary’s father set John Charles up in business.  It is no coincidence that Henry Joseph was in practice at number 12 Norfolk Row and John Charles was now at number 19.  Norfolk Row is only a short distance from East Bank Park in Sheffield, which is the parkland area where it is reputed that football was initially played in the town.  As a young man, John Charles would have still have wanted to engage himself in the exercise of his choice, namely football and athletics.  Others, such as Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest preferred cricket and athletics.  Whilst these were summer sports, the gymnasium was their preferred winter occupation.

There have been many questions asked, in various writings, as to why Sheffield Foot Ball Club was formed in 1857.  The major issue regarding the playing of football in Sheffield asked by Richard Sanders in his book Beastly Fury was, ‘So where had they learned the game?’ 

If this question is taken into account, then the importation of the Penistone game via John Charles Shaw is not too implausible.  Consideration must be given to the knock on and fair catch, which were features of the environment around Penistone.  In 1871 at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Sheffield Football Association, an address was given by Mr Houseman of the South Derbyshire Football Association, who was looking at his association joining ranks with that of Sheffield.  Houseman stated that the eleven clubs of his association as well as the Nottingham Forest Club would join the Sheffield association,if they abolished catching.  The report,in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph (10 October 1871) noted the following:

‘[an] animated discussion ensued,the supporters of catching urging that the grounds in Sheffield and neighbourhood were unfit for the non-catching rule, on account of their hilly nature’. 

This implies that football in Sheffield had been played throughout the town and surrounding area before 1857.  This is not necessarily the case.  It is more likely that the rules of knocking on and a fair catch were other importations via John Charles Shaw from Penistone in the early 1850s.  Consider the former question of why 1857.  Debate has continued on and off as to whether the Sheffield club was formed earlier than this.  That football was played in Sheffield earlier is undoubted, but on an adhoc, voluntary nature that suited the participants.  Tony Mason, in Association Football & English Society makes a vital contribution, stating, ‘the formation of clubs is not necessary in order to play football’.

He also makes the point that, in order for a club to begin, there has to be a base from which it can start.  Informal kick-abouts had been part of the East Bank scene for some time, as young men from surrounding businesses and industry got together to enjoy a game. This could also lend itself to the notion that there was a semblance ofa n organised group in 1855, as discussed by Graham Curry in Early Sheffield Football. A Source Book.  Westby refers to another letter in the Sotheby’s sale. This letter was written by John Charles Shaw to J. C. Bingham(President of the Sheffield Club) in 1907, and part of it says, ‘for many years we had to arrange alphabetical sides to make the games interesting’ 

There is an argument that this statement relates to the actual date of the founding of the Hallam Club, in order to facilitate competition with the Sheffield Club.  ‘For many years’, however, could imply the ad hoc, informal, pre-club games from the early 1850s and suggests a semi-organised group before 1857.  

A number of events happened leading up to 1857 that could have influenced the decision to create the football club at this particular time and not before.  Armed conflicts involving the country were taking place abroad and the threat of a possible invasion triggered the volunteer movement in Sheffield.  Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest were very keen on the military aspect, preparation for war and the leadership of men were their priorities.  A possible source of recruits could be drawn from a cricket/football club giving year round access to potential volunteers.  Creswick and Prest were cricket and athletics people.  Conditioning for war and leadership was done through the gymnasium and both were members of two of the leading gymnasiums in the area. At this time they probably considered football uncouth and unfit for military leaders to participate in.  An interesting report given in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph on May 19th 1904, which was written to celebrate the Amateur Cup triumph, possibly lends support to this.  It reads:

‘About 1852, however, a Mr Percy had rented a room in Orchard Lane as a teacher of fencing and, attracting many Sheffield gentlemen to his room, a gymnasium was eventually formed at the foot of College Street under Percy’s management, and one of which was without doubt the finest in England.  Messrs Burberry, Prest and Creswick were amongst the members, and when, after four or five years the gymnasium had to be given up, there came the Sheffield Football Club in 1856 or 1857, absolutely the first such club in the country.’

Westby alludes to winter conditioning in the gymnasium as a preferred option for Creswick and Prest in his book, whilst six months prior to the founding of the club, the novel, Tom Brown’s Schooldays. By an Old Boy had been published.  This was a bestseller and was undoubtedly read by the elite of Sheffield.  It promoted the development of moral standards and courage through the playing of games by the nation’s elite.  Football was prominent in this notion of muscular Christianity and, as a result, football developed credence, almost approval, and, more to the point provided a winter outlet for conditioning that had been previously provided by the gymnasium. Both Creswick and Prest, through their experience of organised cricket,knew that a football club would probably guarantee regular games in a structured manner.  The Sheffield Foot Ball club was formed in October 1857, the same month that recruitment for the volunteers took place.  If Creswick also wished to give the game further credibility in the eyes of the social elite,then the introduction of the rouge in the 1860s, possibly borrowed from the Eton Field game, may well have been an attempt to do just that.  Dransfield gives an indication that TomBrown’s Schooldays had an impact on the Sheffield club members.  The ‘Barby Hill’ hare and hounds run which was described in the book, was a distance of six and a half miles.  The prestigious ‘Crick Run’ however, for the older pupils covered thirteen miles. Dransfield records that on April 6th 1861, he and several members of the club took part in a paper chase (fox and hounds) which started at Eastbank [sic] and went via Ranmoor, Worall, Oughtibridge through Wharncliffe to Wortley.  He goes on to write  ‘Creswick and Baker were the foxes, David Sellars, Sanderson, Sorby, Chambers and myself the hounds.  Chambers gave up soon after starting,Sanderson was done up at Oughtibridge and put to bed there.  David Sellars passed Baker at WharncliffeLodge and got in sight of Creswick. Foxes started at 2.45, hounds 3.15. Foxes got to Wortley about 6.15, Sellars soon after.  Sorby and I about 6.45.  Distance about 15 miles.  We had dinner at Wortley and a party from Sheffield met us.  There was a coach inwhich we drove home’.  An interesting point meriting consideration of the early stages of the club and that Creswick and Prest were novices to the game is raised by John Ness Dransfield and on two separate occasions.  The first time is in his book History of Penistone written in 1906. Here he contributes a section on the Sheffield Football Club.  Dransfield had been a member of the club in the 1860-61 season.  He states,

‘If not the first, Mr John C. Shaw, a native of Penistone and who when a boy was a clerk in my father’s office, and for many years past has been one of the oldest and best-known Conservative agents in the Kingdom, was one of the first captains of the Sheffield Football Club; and just previous to my joining Mr John Marsh, a native of Thurlstone, had been captain.  Mr Nathaniel Creswick was captain when I was at the club’. 

The second time Dransfield alludes to this is in another piece of writing (unpublished) in 1912 entitled ‘Sheffield Football Club Penistone Players’.  In this work he again states,

‘John C. Shaw (whom I am pleased to say is still living and a J.P. at Birmingham) a native of Penistone and when a youth was a clerk in my father’s office he afterwards became a law stationer in Sheffield and was I believe the first captain of the Sheffield Club.  He was a very active player and a noted runner.  Then Mr C.B. Stuart Wortley the first conservative member for the old undivided Borough of Sheffield was elected Mr J. Shaw acted as his agent and has now for many years past become one of the oldest and most successful, best known conservative agents in the kingdom.  John Marsh a native of Thurlstone near Penistone who carried on business in Sheffield succeeded Mr Shaw-on the latter becoming captain of the Hallam Club in whose district he resided, as captain of the Sheffield club’. 

The use of the word ‘afterwards’indicates almost certainly that John Charles was employed by Dransfield Senior prior to him marrying and then moving to Sheffield, where he had been set up in business.  There is no evidence to disbelieve these statements.  The club captain would have been drawn from the best of the players.  If Creswick had taken no part in the football prior to the club being formed, then his skills would need developing before taking on this role.  It is interesting that John Marsh was also involved in this. An excellent player, Marsh was employed as an engraver in the factory where Creswick was a director.  Both were known to each other.  Possibly, Shaw may have been involved in introducing Marsh to Creswick. Shaw certainly knew Marsh and his family, as seen from the 1861 census,where he is employing Thurza Moorhouse, who was John Marsh’s aunt.  Dransfield mentions, in the same document,that he first came across the large footballs, now in use, at the Liverpool Institute in the early 1850s.  This means that he was used to playing football with a smaller ball, whilst at Penistone.  Curry alludes to the notion that this lent itself towards a dribbling style of game on which Shaw, Marsh and Dransfield were brought up.  Another issue worth consideration is the notion that, because seventeen members of the Sheffield Club were old boys of Collegiate College, the school must have been the hub of football in Sheffield.  This figure could have included John Charles Shaw who prior to this article had been considered as a Collegiate old boy.  The figure is therefore sixteen.  There were fifty seven members in 1859.  Sixteen is approximately twenty eight percent of the membership cohort.  The obvious question which historians seem to have avoided is the unrecorded educational backgrounds of the remaining forty three players representing seventy two percent. Additional research into this would be most revealing.  Adrian Harvey in Football: The First Hundred Years The Untold Story is more succinct in his findings saying, ‘there is no reason for linking the code of the Sheffield FC with any game they might have experienced while pupils at the Collegiate’. 

John Charles and Mary Ann may well have lived above the business in Norfolk Row initially.  However, their first son George, is shown in the 1861 census as having been born in the Banner Cross area of Sheffield in 1855.  Their second son, John Stanley,was born in 1858 in Sheffield.  This census also shows the family living in the Nether Green area of Upper Hallam.  John Charles is recorded as widower, because in 1859 Mary Ann had died, after just six years of marriage.  The Sheffield Independent of 13th August reports her death:

‘On the 5th inst., at Springwood terrace, Heeley, after a lingering illness, Mary Ann, wife of J. C.Shaw, Law stationer and daughter of Mr H. W. Garnett, surgeon dentist aged 24’

The servant in the house, at this time, is Thurza Moorhouse, the aunt of John Marsh.  She was, no doubt, someone who was known and who could be more than trusted in looking after the household.  The loss of his wife must have been a devastating blow, compounded by the fact that he was left fending for two very young children aged four and not quite two. A still very young John Charles would have looked for somewhere a little nearer to home for his football.  Who the driving force was behind the notion of a Foot Ball Club at Hallam in 1860 between Captain Thomas Vickers and John Charles Shaw is an unknown.  Power struggles between Vickers and Creswick are a possibility.   Vickers, living at Tapton Hall, had the financial clout and the need to draw men to the Volunteer cause.  What is known is that John Charles Shaw becomes the Secretary and Captain of the newly formed club.  What better arrangement for a man who loves his football than to play only a few minutes away from his young family in Upper Hallam.  In July 1861, John Charles Shaw married Annie Waterfall, the 21 year old daughter of James Waterfall, a Sheffield file manager/manufacturer.  The Waterfall family, prior to the marriage, had been living on Ranmoor Cliffe Road, within walking distance of Hallam Foot Ball Club.  In 1862, Annie gave birth to their first child, Jane.  Whether the two boys, from the first marriage lived with them is unknown. Certainly by 1871, John Stanley was living with his uncle and grandfather in Wortley.  He died shortly after, aged 15.  What becomes of Bernard isunknown.  The 1871 census shows the new family living in Watery Lane Ranmoor, with John Charles as a Law Stationer aged 38.  This is the first of many occasions when he becomes untruthful about his age. The census shows a growing family with the addition of another Bernard,John Charles and Alice Maud. Interestingly, Bernard was given the middle name of Lefevre.  There was a Leeds based family of Shaw and a Charles Shaw born in 1759, the son of the Reverend Shaw, Rector of Womersley near Doncaster.  He married Helena Lefevre and assumed the additional surname by Royal Licence in 1789.  They had two sons.  Charles Shaw-Lefevre became 1stViscount Eversley, Speaker of the House of Commons and John Shaw-Lefevre who served under Lord Grey. Both of them went to Trinity College, Cambridge and became prominent Liberal politicians.  Both were well known in the 1860s.   John Charles could have traced his lineage to this side of the family and then utilised the connection, to advance his position in Sheffield.  Either way, the 1860s was a very good decade for developing his career.  The Sheffield flood was a case in point.  Shortly after the flood in March 1864, John Charles Shaw was appointed by John Newbould, the solicitor to the flood commissioners, to head a team of thirty clerks dealing with flood claims.  Whether this was the same John Newbould who, along with brother, Samuel Newbould were members of Sheffield Foot Ball Club is not clear. However, it was the same John Newbould who had offices at 12 Norfolk Row.  It is also clear that John Charles Shaw’s ability to lead and, more importantly, organise was emerging.  This experience may have helped shape his political allegiance to the Conservative Party. Certainly, he would have been part of the Dransfield Penistone solicitor’s connection with local Conservative politics, when working as a Clerk in their offices.  He would have come across the local landowners, such as the Wharncliffe’s of Wortley Hall,Spencer Stanhopes of Cawthorne and the Milnes family of Fryston Hall, who owned land in Thurlstone.  John Dransfield Senior acted on behalf of these landowners. He was a Returning Officer for the Penistone district and both he, along with John Ness, were agents for the Conservative candidates too. The Sheffield flood caused untold human suffering through loss of life and destruction of property, but success in compensation claims varied.  It appeared that those on the Electoral Roll were well looked after, whilst others were almost treated with contempt.  The final snub came in July 1864, when the Liberal Government sided with the water company by placing a twenty five percent increase on water charges, to cover the cost of the compensation.  This must have had a deep impact on local politics.  Not too long after, a by-election occurred, causing John Charles Shaw to assist the Conservative candidate, but the Liberals were elected by a narrow margin.  John Charles Shaw was to commit the rest of his life to promoting the Conservative cause as a political agent.

In November 1865, Henry Joseph Garnett, brother of his first wife, proposed John Charles Shaw for initiation into the Britannia Lodge of Freemasons in Sheffield.  His ballot in December 1865 was successful and he was initiated on the 11th January 1866.  The Worshipful Master who initiated him was Henry Joseph Garnett, who would also ‘Pass and Raise’ him to the sublime degree of a Master Mason by March that year. John Charles also joined the Lodge Chapter, The Royal Arch Chapter of Paradise.  Thus followed a forty year association with freemasonry in Sheffield, and, later in Birmingham, for John Charles, and a long association with the Earl of Wharncliffe, who himself had joined the Britannia Lodge in 1861. Wharncliffe may have encouraged John Charles to join.  It would have given him a greater social network and schooled him in the art of conducting business meetings.  According to John Steele, 1866 saw John Charles invited to become the Secretary of the Midland Union of Conservative Associations based in Birmingham.  This date is surely incorrect, as his time as political agent was in very early stages and, as yet, he had not organised the great demonstrations held at Nostell Priory, which catapulted him into the political limelight.  His time as political agent was taking shape.  1866 was also the year that saw the first representative soccer match between London and Sheffield and John Charles Shaw was selected to play in this first encounter.  1867 saw the Youdan Cup competition take place, with twelve Sheffield clubs taking part in this, the world’s first knock-out tournament, which was eventually won by Hallam.  The Sheffield Football Association was formed shortly after the Youdan Cup.  The clubs that participated in this competition were the founding members.  They were desirous of a set of rules to determine play, as well as a keen interest in setting up an injured player’s insurance fund, the very first of its kind. Harry Walker Chambers was elected President and John Charles was on the players committee.  By 1868, he was elected Vice-President with John Marsh on the Committee of members, and in 1869,President.  He was to hold this office for the next fourteen years.  What is highly significant is that John Charles Shaw is a major contributor in almost all of the initial stages of football development in Sheffield.  He is connected not only with the establishment of the Sheffield Football Club, Hallam Club, and Youdan Cup, but also the founding of the Sheffield Football Association with its Players Insurance Fund, and the historic links with London and Birmingham.

John Charles Shaw’s association with freemasonry undoubtedly provided him with contacts regarding his political affiliations.  Interestingly, it may have had an influence on the two year waiting rule for Sheffield clubs, which said that newly formed clubs could not become full members of the association until a two year probationary period had passed.  In May 1867, the Britannia Lodge passed a resolution to exclude members who were twelve months in arrears with their subscriptions after a written warning had been given.  This was to ensure that the lodge accounts were kept in order.  One of the priorities of the fledgling association was good accounting.  The two year waiting rule before membership was clearly to ensure that clubs could be self-financing and viable.  This led to the establishment of the Cromwell Cup for ‘waiting’ teams that fell into this category, which was played under the Sheffield association rules.  The cup was first won by The Wednesday Club under the captaincy of John Marsh.  After two years, these clubs could become members of the association, but would have to pay subscriptions backdated.  At the 1870 AGM, a proposal was submitted, seconded by John Marsh, that the association had the power to deduct monies due to clubs, if in arrears.  This proposal was carried.  In 1871 the Dronfield club was struck from membership ‘for the breach of an important pecuniary rule’.  It could have been that lodge financial lessons had been applied.  Certainly by 1881, four out of the six officers of the association were members of Sheffield lodges and the Earl of Wharncliffe was Honorary President.  A point of interest here, also, is the absence of the Sheffield Club competing against other Sheffield teams for many years.  Westby points out that this was due to the Sheffield club taking their game to other areas, almost in missionary fashion.  John Charles, in the 1870 AGM, states that Sheffield refused to play the town clubs because the opposition consisted of the same players time and time again.  A more realistic reason was that this refusal started after the infamous clash of players in the game against Hallam in 1862.  Creswick of Sheffield, exchanging blows with Waterfall of Hallam, which was reported in the local press.  A man of Creswick’s position, as a military leader in the town, where he had a reputation to maintain, could not be undermined by mere fighting on the field of play.  Better to go out of town, which of course is what the Sheffield club did.

1867 saw the introduction of the Reform Act, which increased the voting franchise and almost doubled it.  Political organisation became essential and John Charles was eminently suited to this. The census of 1871 shows his occupation still as law stationer.  But, by 1881, he has become a political agent.  His association with Wharncliffe was crucial to his political rise and also to the Wharncliffe family.  It is not surprising that Wharncliffe gave his patronage, possibly advised by John Charles, to the Wharncliffe Charity Cup competition in Sheffield, first played for in 1879.  His name now associated with a prestigious charitable cause, enabled his cousin to be elected Member of Parliament for Sheffield in 1880.  Another advantageous association for John Charles was with the Winn family of Nostell Priory, near Wakefield.  In 1874, Rowland Winn inherited the house.  He had already been the MP for Pontefract for six years and, eventually, became the Chief Whip of the Conservative Party.  John Charles had acted as his agent in the election campaign. In 1876, under the stewardship of John Charles, the first great political demonstration on behalf of the Conservatives was held at Nostell, a place where John Charles was to organise numerous party rallies.  His leadership and organisational abilities in respect of this did not go unnoticed by Party officials.  The last of the rallies was held in August 1884.  Over 120,000 tickets had been sold for this event and the actual crowd was estimated at just shy of 100,000.  In February 1885, John Charles was given an illuminated address for his services in Wakefield.  The Sheffield Daily Telegraph gave the following report: 

‘Presentation to Mr J. C. Shaw.  Speeches by The Earl Of Wharncliffe And Mr Winn M.P.  Yesterday afternoon a gathering of a very interesting character took place at the Bull Hotel,Wakefield when Mr J. C. Shaw of Sheffield received a handsome testimonial in recognition of his valuable services to the Conservative cause.  The proposal to express in a tangible way the regard felt by the party towards Mr Shaw, originated after a great demonstration at Nostell last summer, the success  of which was mainly due to the indefatigable efforts of Mr Shaw’.

The presentation took the form of a silver salver, an illuminated address and a purse of gold worth £200.  The Earl of Wharncliffe gave an interesting insight into the qualities of a political agent, saying, 

‘There was no doubt that an office like that held by Mr Shaw required many personal qualifications.  In the first place, a Parliamentary agent must have very complete knowledge of the law. He must have it at his fingers’ ends, so that he might not be caught like a rat in a trap.  Then he ought to have an intuitive knowledge of men, by which he was able to make out not merely what they pretended to be but what they really were.  Another great requisite was the power to hold his tongue, the faculty of secrecy; and again a Parliamentary agent ought to be a gentleman on whose word and integrity the most implicit reliance should be placed’.

In his reply, John Charles stated that he had been involved in the political cause for the last twenty years,which means he did indeed engage himself after the Great Flood.  Whilst the census of 1871 shows him still a sa law stationer, in 1875, a letter to the Dransfield solicitor’s practice in Penistone is evidence that he had become a political Registration Agent based in Bank Street, Sheffield.  The Wakefield presentation was testament, not only to his very able administrative capabilities, but also to the fact that he clearly mixed very comfortably with the social elite.  Chief among those who were subscribers to his presentation was the Duke of Norfolk, James Lowther 1st Viscount Ullswater, the Hon. Payan Dawney, the Hon. A. E. Gathorne Hardy and Lieut.-Col. Sir Henry Edwards.  The list also included George Jobson Marples, who was one of his sponsors for membershipt o the Middle Temple, W. C. Leng of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph and also Nathaniel Creswick. 

The 1881 census shows John Charles as a political agent.  He had five children, two boys and three girls and the family resided at 442 Manchester Road, Upper Hallam, Sheffield.  The house was called Lydgate.  It is no coincidence that when he moved to Moseley in Birmingham, to 104 Church Street, he named the house Lydgate.  Why this happened is unknown.  Certainly, his first wife had come from an area in Hallam called Lydgate. There was a Presbyterian Chapel in New Mill, close to Penistone, called Lydgate and Penistone itself was a hot-bed of Non-Conformism.  John Charles’ son Bernard, attended Wesley College in Sheffield, as did John Ness Dransfield’s two eldest boys.  If the name Lydgate was used regarding the memory of his first wife, it might not have gone down well with his other two.  The 1891 census shows Annie his second wife living at Scarborough with all the girls and a new son Stuart, aged nine.  Why the family were in Scarborough is an unknown, as is the whereabouts of John Charles. However, in 1893, Annie dies suddenly in Scarborough.  

 John Charles’ appetite for work is prestigious.  The reasons for absence from lodge meetings by members are given because of illness.  Not so, John Charles.  The reasons for his absences are always because he is out of town on business.  In giving the address at his retirement in 1912, the Duke of Norfolk claimed that John Charles in the course of his political duties ‘spread himself out and turned up in every corner of England and Wales’. He is eventually rewarded by becoming the Honorary Secretary of the Midland Union of Conservative Associations, covering ten counties.  The office was based in Salisbury Chambers,Union Street, Birmingham.  It appears, at first, that John Charles commutes to Birmingham to conduct business.  He is a very busy man and would be regularly visiting his political bosses in London. This could possibly explain why he is not with his family in Scarborough,at the time of the census.

In July of 1896, John Charles marries for the third time, on this occasion to Louise Glover, aged 36, at Manningham in Bradford.  Louise was the daughter of Thomas Glover, a farmer, and she was born at Knowle near Birmingham.  The marriage certificate describes John Shaw, widower, as a Gentleman of Park View, Birmingham.  He is described as 56 years of age.  Steele quotes a press statement in his book,which described John Charles Shaw as ‘the gentleman who would not grow old’.  This was based on his performance in a veteran’s side against the Sheffield Club in 1885, Shaw being 55 at the time of this game. Whether Louise was aware of his true age is, of course, not known, but what is certain, is his facility of masking the truth in respect of ‘not growing old’.  In October 1899, he became a joining member of the Lodge of Charity, in Birmingham.  The records show that he joined from the Britannia Lodge Number 139, his address is Church Road, Moseley and his age is recorded as 45.  His athletic prowess must have been carrying him very well. He was proposed into the Lodge of Charity by Sir James Sawyer and seconded by James Rowbotham, who came originally, from a Sheffield family.  Sir James was head of the Conservative Association in Birmingham.  He was also a magistrate for Warwickshire and Birmingham, a position John Charles would soon occupy.  In June 1906, John Charles applies for membership of the Middle Temple. By now, he has been Secretary of the Midland Union for many years and must have been spending considerable time in London.  He is proposed by George Jobson Marples, a barrister at Law of the Inner Temple and Justice of the Peace for the County of Derby and seconded by Joseph William Hume Williams, who was introduced to John Charles at the Junior Carlton Club.  John Charles writes several letters in support of his application, which included his educational background.  He wanted to be exempt from the preliminary examination and claimed his magisterial experience would suffice.  He writes,

‘I have been in the Commission of the Peace for the County of Worcester for 8 years, a Magistrate for the City of Birmingham for 5 years and engaged in political work for more than 20 years’. 

He was granted exemption from the examination.  His address was Lydgate House, Moseley, eldest son of Benjamin Shaw, political organiser, aged 66.  He remained a member until his death in 1918.

Louise had a son called Gerald Stanley and their home remained 104 Church Road, Moseley.  It was a large residence, needing also to accommodate two of John Charles’ daughters Jane and Alice, from his previous marriage.  At the time of John Charles’death, his brother, George, was also living at the house.  John Charles retired from office in 1912.  In March of that year, the Birmingham Gazette and Express reported under the headlines of ‘Honour for a Birmingham Gentleman’ that the Earl Marshal, His Grace the Duke of Norfolk had presented John Charles to King George V on the occasion of His Majesty’s Midlands Levee.  In December, John Charles was given another address in Birmingham, in recognition of his achievements and services.  This time, it was presided over by His Grace,the Duke of Norfolk and he was presented with a cheque for the sum of £1,120, there being over three hundred subscribers to this award.  If the address at Wakefield was prestigious,the one at Birmingham held at the Imperial Hotel surpassed it.  Apart from the Duke of Norfolk, also present were the Viscount Windsor and Col. Sir John Bingham Bart.  Many letters of apology were presented: Duke of Rutland, Duke of Newcastle, Earl of Dartmouth, Earl of Plymouth, Earl of Coventry and Earl Manvers to name but a few. Perhaps the most poignant of these was one written by Sir Nathaniel Creswick, who had been knighted in 1909 for services to the Volunteer Movement.  He remained the military man to the end,saying,

‘I am very sorry that old age and infirmity prevent me from being present on the 19th inst. Not only on account of your unique services to the Conservative cause, but also as I think as one of the oldest of your personal friends. I am especially glad that the Duke of Norfolk who for many years has been a great helper of the old Volunteers who were under my command, will make the presentation’.

John Charles was eighty two when he reluctantly retired.  He died on the 23rd November 1918 aged eighty eight.  His wife Louise had purchased the burial plot at Brandwood End Cemetery, Kings Heath Birmingham.  The grave is now designated as number 1326,in section B2CE and both Jane and Alice are buried with him.  Full obituaries appeared in the Birmingham and Sheffield press, but as Steele points out, it is doubtful that anyone else he was associated with, particularly in sport, was aware of his death. His wife and Thomas Rowbotham were executors of the will and his effects amounted to£4,373.9s.7d. The burial plot has no delineation nor has it a headstone and there is nothing to say who is there or anything of their achievements.  Perhaps Wharncliffe’s secrecy quality of apolitical agent was rigorously applied.


John Charles Shaw came from a modest background.  He possessed,however, qualities and skills that enabled him to manoeuvre and navigate his way around quite a rigid social hierarchy. He was a leader and thrived in positions of responsibility.  The modern epithet of ‘mover and shaker’would not go amiss and, as such, he was a prodigious workaholic.  Respected by all he came into contact with,regardless of social standing, his achievements remain the true testament tot his outstanding individual.  If all the aspects of the early development of football in Sheffield are taken into account, then, it is his name that emerges, directly or indirectly, as the most prominent.  His name occurs most regularly concerning athletics within the town, with the taking part and even winning, across numerous events, over a significant period of time.  Regarding professional duties, John Charles helped turn Sheffield into a Conservative powerhouse, which bucked the northern trend of Liberal support.  He helped to create a national platform for the Conservative Party, was rewarded, in respect of his organisational abilities, and won the admiration of leading politicians.  There are numerous letters and documents written by John Charles held at the Conservative Party Archives,at the Bodleian Library, and also in the Cadbury Research Library, held at Birmingham University.  Scrutiny of these would probably reveal the true extent of his ascendency.  One has to trawl very hard to find the name of John Charles Shaw, which is a sad irony when his achievements are taken into consideration.  Hopefully, this article can in some way redress the balance.  As for his native village of Penistone and Penistone Grammar School producing outstanding footballers since the Reverend Samuel Sunderland’s time in the 1840s,it would be well over a hundred years later that any names of note emerge in the professional era.  Stephen Gardner,Chris Morgan, Nicky Wroe, Mark Beevers, Marc Roberts and culminating in that of John Stones.  These people are now, or have been, professional players, all of whom have benefited from a platform possibly created in part by one of their own, John Charles Shaw.  

Special thanks and acknowledgements must be given to the following:-

Julie-Ann Neill, Graham Curry and Richard Boddie


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Booth K. The Father of Modern Sport:  The Life and Times of Charles W. Alcock. Manchester: Parrs Wood Press. 2002

Curry G. Early Sheffield Football: A Source Book. Nottingham:  Soccerdata. 2013

Curry G. ‘Football: A Study in Diffusion’.  Unpublished PhD thesis.  University of Leicester. 2001

Dransfield J. N. History of Penistone. Penistone:  The Don Press. 1906

Dransfield J. N. Unpublished papers.  Penistone Archives

Goulstone J. Football’s Secret History. Upminster:  3-2 Books. 2001

Harvey A. Football: The First Hundred Years The Untold Story. Abingdon: Routledge. 2005

Liversidge M. and Eyre C. Football in Sheffield. Sheffield: Liversidge. 2016

Mason T. Association Football and English Society 1863-1915. Brighton: The Harvester Press. 1981

Neill K. Curry G. Dunning E. ‘Three Men and Two Villages: the influence of footballers from rural south Yorkshire on the early development of the game in Sheffield’. Soccer and Society, 19, 1, 2018

Peacock M.H. History of the Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth Wakefield, founded A.D. 1591 written in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of its foundation. Wakefield: W.H. Milnes, 1892

Sanders R. Beastly Fury.  The Strange Birth of British Football. London: Bantam Press. 2009

Steele J. A. The Countrymen The History of Hallam Football Club. Sheffield: JB Printing. 2010

Westby M. A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889 ‘…speed, science and bottom’ England’s Oldest Football Clubs 2017


Barnsley Chronicle May 13th 1865

Birmingham Gazette and Express March 5th 1912

Sheffield Daily Telegraph May 19th 1904

Sheffield Daily Telegraph December 20th 1912

Sheffield Daily Telegraph November 27th 1918

Sheffield Independent August 13th 1859

The Huddersfield Chronicle August 30th 1884


The author is extremely grateful for the help given by the following:-

 Ian Pitts, Samantha Sharpe and Hayley Bruffell of Wakefield Archives, Karen Wilkes, Chris Eyre, Matthew Love, Keith Watson, Barnaby Ryan archivist of Middle Temple, Shirley Levon, John Goodchild (obit), Jane Beale, Fiona Adams, Alexandra Brown archivist of Clare College, Janet Berry, Staff at Penistone Library, Volunteers of Penistone Archives, Staff at Barnsley Archives, Staff of Brandwood End Cemetery.