Park House, Sheffield 1857: Where Association Football started – Important New Images

It is only with the launch of the ‘Sheffield Home of Football’ walking app  that we have been able to set the exact modern day location of Park House which is where the first Sheffield FC footballers got changed before a football match (in October 1857) and where they first wrote the club’s rules of governance.Looking at a high-resolution version of the map from 1855 shows Park House was on the junction of Olive Grove Road and East Bank Road. To the east of where they join, which places it in the approximate space now occupied by the Sheffield College (Olive Grove Campus, 2 Olive Grove Rd) and M.F. Hire Ltd.

The picture above shows the modern day site as pictured during the launch of the walking app.

Picture Sheffield have just uploaded two new images of what Park House looked like in Victorian times, which they sourced from ‘Peeps into the Past’ the diary of Thomas Asline Ward 1909, the first one is from an ‘old pencil sketch in the possession of Mrs Leach’ shows the rural location it then occupied.

The second one is a later photograph (below) taken from the same book, Peeps into the Past’ diary of Thomas Asline Ward.

As you can see from this 1855 map Thomas Asline Ward’s house was located to the east of a large river meadow and it was here that Sheffield FC first played, calling their ground ‘East Bank’, as it was on the east bank of the river Sheaf.To the right of Park House is Easthill House the family home of Nathaniel Creswick, the co-founder of Sheffield FC. His father was a silversmith and would have been friends with Thomas Asline Ward, who had been Master Cutler in 1806 and for some years editor of the Sheffield Independent newspaper. He had a son called Frederick who would become Sheffield FC’s first president. The proof for all comes from the when Sheffield FC sold their archive at Sotheby’s in 2011 and the contents were transcribed for the catalogue; it included a letter from Nathaniel Creswick:

‘I remember the first game in Mr. Thomas Turner’s field at East Bank and played in it in 57.’

In the same archive is recorded that the club had sixty-two members by the end of the first season and in the accounts, is a record of the club paying £2. 6s. for six footballs.As you will see the 1855 map does not name Mr Turner’s field, so we end up with the approximate area occupied today by the large B&Q store on Queens Road.

More evidence for the location of the East Bank ground comes from the newspaper reminiscences of Harry W. Chambers, the club’s third Hon. Sec. (after Nathaniel Creswick and William Chesterman) at the time of his death in 1907:

‘The club’s first dressing room was a little potting shed at Mr. Thomas Asline Ward’s, Park House, and here the balloting for members used to take place in very primitive fashion, sometimes by the use of potatoes, at other times by matches, whichever were more convenient. The annual subscription was half a crown, which included beer and tobacco for the year. Later on rooms were secured in Strawberry Hall Lane until the club’s ground was lost to it, this, of course, being long before the railway was cut through.’

In 1857 Thomas Asline Ward was 76 years old and in retirement; Frederick was born on the 5th of November 1825 and died on the 16th June 1908 and was to become Chairman of Sheffield Forge and Rolling Mills Limited.

Present day history books state that Sheffield FC’s inaugural meeting took place in Parkfield House in Highfields, a fact for which I have been unable to find the primary source. This author thinks it more likely that the meeting took place at Fred Ward’s house and at some point, in the past ‘Park House’ was accidentally mistaken for ‘Parkfield House’. This change of location is now accepted by the historians at Sheffield FC.

After a few months of playing football in 1858 the players gathered in Park House and wrote their first Rules of Governance.

1. That this Club be called the Sheffield Football Club.

2. That the Club be managed by a Committee of five members (three to form a quorum) of which the officers of the Club shall be ex-officio members, to be elected at the annual general meetings.

3. That the annual general meeting of the Club shall be held on the second Monday in October in each year for the purpose of electing officers for the ensuing year and for other purposes.

4. That the Committee shall be empowered to call a special general meeting of the Club on giving seven days notice by circular to each member, specifying the objects for which such meeting is called, and the discussion at such special meeting shall be confined to that object alone. The Committee shall also call a special meeting of the Club on the written request of six members.

5. That each member on his admission to the Club shall pay 2s. 6d. subscription for the current year and that the annual subscription shall be due on the first day of November in each year.

6. That it shall be necessary for members wishing to retire from the Club to give notice in writing to the Hon. Secretary on or before the first day in October.

7. That the Committee shall have power to make a further call in addition to the annual subscription if they shall deem it necessary for the purpose of the Club, such further call not in any case to exceed 2s. 6d. per year.

8. That the Committee shall (during the season) meet once in every fortnight for the dispatch of business.

9. That the season shall commence on the first day in November and end on Easter Eve in each year.

10. That the play day of the Club be Saturday from two o’clock until dark.

11. That every candidate for admission to the Club shall be proposed by one member and seconded by another, his name and usual place of residency having been given to the Secretary, the Proposer and Seconder each subscribing his own name. The candidate will be balloted for by the Committee according to the priority of their nominations.

12. No ballot shall be valid unless three Committeemen vote, and two black balls shall exclude.

13. That all disputes during play shall be referred to the members of the Committee present at the ground, their decision to be final.

14. That the officers for the season be: – President: Frederick Ward; Vice-Presidents: J.A. Sorby and I. Ellison; Committee: Messrs. W. Prest, I. Pierson, W. Baker, J.K. Turner and J.E. Vickers; Honorary Secretary and Treasurer: N. Creswick.

15. That each member shall have the privilege of introducing one or more friends in company with himself during each season if within six miles of Sheffield; such friends shall be introduced once only.

16. That the Committee shall take immediate cognizance of any infringement of these Rules, and it shall be their special duty in case any circumstances shall occur likely to endanger the stability or to interrupt the harmony and good order of the Club to call a general meeting in the mode above described. In the event of two thirds of the members present at such meetings deciding by ballot on the expulsion of any member such member shall cease to belong to the Club.

17. That the Rules, together with the Laws relating to the playing of the game, shall be forthwith printed and afterwards, as often as the Committee shall think fit, and one copy shall be delivered to any member on application to the Secretary. Any member may obtain additional copies at the rate of sixpence each copy on a like application.

Sheffield is the Home of Football.
More history can be found in A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom -Link to book page –