On this day 165 years ago M.J. Ellison announced the building of Bramall Lane Cricket ground

Exercise and sport were considered to be a solution to the poor living standards of Sheffield and one of the major steps that would have a long-term impact on sport (for both cricket and football) in Sheffield was the building of Bramall Lane Cricket ground on January 30th 1854:
“A public meeting was held at the Adelphi Hotel, Arundel Street, on Monday Evening, to consider the offer made by his Grace the Duke of Norfolk, of the appropriation of a piece of ground to the purpose of a public cricket ground. Amongst those present were Messrs. T. R. Barker, M. J. Ellison, R. F. Skelton, J. P. Burbeary, J. P. Prest, W. Prest, &c. Mr. Ellison was called to the chair.”

More information about this topic and much more can be found in my newly revised book ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’ Link to book page –  http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0

M.J. Ellison became an integral part of Sheffield football, as five years later he is listed as a playing member in the 1859 Sheffield FC handbook. It is also fascinating to see at this meeting, the presence of ‘W. Prest’ because three years later he would be instrumental in the next stage of the evolution of the rules of football with Sheffield FC. M.J. Ellison became Sheffield United FC’s first chairman in 1889, a position he held until 1896 when he died and was replaced by Charles Stokes, who would serve as chairman for eighteen years.

Michael Joseph Ellison  was born 01 June 1817, Worksop, Nottingham, England.  He died at his home Beech Hill, Sheffield on 12 July 1898.  He is buried at St Bedes Catholic Cemetery, Masbrough, Rotherham.  In 1854, M J Joseph Ellison asked the Duke of Norfolk if he would let cricketers (who were then playing on Royd’s Mill grounds), have a piece of land to make a cricket ground. The Duke agreed, and Ellison personally selected approx. nine acres in Bramall Lane, which he considered advantageous as it was “free from smoke”.  Ellison paid for the rent of the grounds out of his own pocket until his death in 1898.

Sadly there is very little information about this crucial figure to early Sheffield sport in the Sheffield Archives. My time spent in the archive on Shoreham street yielded nothing new about his involvement with Bramall Lane but does have great detail on his personal life. I did find the following certificate confirming his commission in the army in 1853:

In 1955 R.A. Sparling wrote the following article to commemorate the centenary of Bramall Lane:


On a winter’s night in early 1854 certain Sheffield cricketers met a Harry Sampson’s hotel, the Adelphi, Arundel Street, a popular port of call for the town’s sportsmen, and reached a momentous decision.  That decision was to make a cricket ground “that would be a credit to the town.”

For many years Sheffield had been a cricket stronghold; cricket of two grades, that of the “professors” who played for stakes and that of the “gentlemen.”

Bramall Lane was to be a ground owned and controlled by the “gentlemen.”

They had seen the rise and decline of the Darnall cricket ground three miles away; also that of Hyde Park, only a mile and a half from the town centre.  Those grounds had been in individual hands.

The names of all those who attended the meeting in the Adelphi Hotel I have been unable to trace, but that doesn’t matter a great deal, because the project was mainly due to one man-Mr. Michael J. Ellison, agent to the Duke of Norfolk’s estates in Sheffield.

And to Mr. Michael J. Ellison I suggest that the Yorkshire County and Sheffield United Cricket and Football Clubs drink a toast next year!

Indeed, do more than that.  I hope that they will arrange a Bramall Lane centenary match to celebrate the opening of the ground in 1855. 

Problem to Decide

I doubt if there is one per cent of the cricketing population of Yorkshire aware of the fact that the centenary year of the famous ground is at hand and it will be something of a problem to decide on the character of a celebration match.

Perhaps it would be possible for an England team to meet a Commonwealth XL.  After all, Bramall Lane is not merely a Sheffield Institution; it is one of the rich heritages of the game.  It’s name has echoed are re-echoed round the British Commonwealth of Nations for many a generation.

I think we can trust Yorkshire, Sheffield United and the M.C.C. to get their imaginations to work and set the wheels rolling.  They must not procrastinate, however.  It’s later than they think!

But to go back to the meeting of 1854.  Michael Ellison, who presided, said that he had asked the Duke of Norfolk if he would let cricketers, who had been playing on the Royd’s Mill ground, which was not very accessible, have a piece of land to make a cricket ground.


The Duke of Norfolk had favourably replied, and he (Mr. Ellison) had selected a nine acre site situated in Bramall Lane.  The locality had “the advantage of being free from smoke.”

The Duke had told him :  “I am willing to give you a 99 years’ lease for as much land as is required and also for the erection of a pavilion.  Cricketers will be at liberty to enjoy playing on it so long as I live, so long as matches are conducted in a respectable manner.”

Mr. Ellison estimated the cost for the pavilion, outhouses and boundary wall would be about £1,700 or £2,000, which he suggested be raised in £5 shares among the various clubs in the district. 

By the time the ground was opened in April, 1855, the cost had reached nearly £3,000.

Mr. Ellison was a most generous sportsman.  He held himself responsible for the rent of £70 until his death in 1898, when the Sheffield United Cricket and Football Club became a limited company and bought the freehold for £10,000, on condition that it was not to be sold or used for any other purpose than that of recreation for at least 21 years.

President 35 Years

Until 1898 the Bramall Lane authorities appear to have been known  as the “Bramall Lane management committee,”  though the Sheffield United cricket club was formed in 1856 and the football section in 1889.

The Yorkshire County Cricket Club was founded in 1863 at a meeting in the Adelphi Hotel, and Mr. Ellison was president until he died-35 years.

The extent of the financial support he gave Yorkshire and Sheffield Cricket was never known, because he insisted on secrecy.

With thanks for additional information to Bev Ellison who lives in Canada. M.J. Ellison was her great, great grandfather.

More information about this topic and much more can be found in my newly revised book ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’

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

A History of Sheffield Football - Second Edition - by Martin Westby
A History of Sheffield Football – Second Edition – by Martin Westby