Thomas Youdan: The man behind the world’s oldest football trophy

Thomas Youdan appeared in the Sheffield press as early as 1857 as the proprietor of the Surrey Music Hall, organising a free ‘Monster Tea Party’ for 2,000 women over 60 years of age, held in the cattle market on 600 yards of tables. A charge for admission was made for all, except the old ladies, and the net proceeds went to aid the sufferers of the mutiny in India. His new idea in 1867 for publicity was to exploit the fast-growing popularity of Sheffield football. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Hallam FC winning the Youdan Cup on the 5th March 1867.

(See my blog for more information about the actual tournament and there is a lot more information about the Youdan Cup in my new book )

Thomas Youdan was born in 1816 and died on the 28th November 1876; his last address was listed as Flotmanby House in Filey. He died a rich man with ‘effects under £25,000’ and left a controversial legacy behind him Sheffield. His niece Harriette Youdan erected an expensive monument to her uncle in the Sheffield General Cemetery in the Autumn of 1878, but this was defaced year later with a hammer and chisel by Thomas’s brother John. You can see below that the Aberdeen granite has been repaired with the addition of a new strip of stone:

Some background family history is required to try to understand the actions of John Youdan in 1879, when he defaced his brother’s monument. I am very grateful to Paul Youdan (Samuel Youdan’s great grandchild x4) who sent me additional information on his family’s history.

Thomas Youdan was born in Streetthorpe, near Doncaster and was first employed as an agricultural labourer. He moved to Sheffield aged 18 and eventually learned the trade of silver stamping. He became keeper of a beer house in the park and then left if for a house in West Bar, which he opened as ‘Spink’s Nest’ This property was gradually extended and became the Surrey Theatre. On completion it was a ballroom, a concert hall, theatre, museum and a menagerie! However, on the 25th March 1865 it was burnt to the ground with a loss of £30,000.

He used an existing lease he owned on Blonk Street and opened the Alexandra Opera House and turned this into another success, using amongst other marketing ideas, the launch of the Youdan Cup. After retiring in 1874 with his £30,000 fortune restored, he moved to Filey to raise and breed stock and became a member of the Town Council.

Thomas Youdan had five brothers;

George (b. 1802)
Charles (b. 1803)
Samuel (b. 1808)
Robert (b. 1812)
John (b. 1818)

and four sisters:

Anna (b. 22/11/1804)
Sarah (b. 1806)
Anne (b. 01/04/1810)
Jane (b. 1814)

For unknown reasons George Youdan’s daughter Harriet was living with his brother Thomas Youdan from 1849 ‘practically as his daughter’. Harriet Youdan was born in York in 1843. In the 1851 census Thomas was married to Mary aged 23, and living with them are two nieces Emily and Harriette at 66 West Bar, Sheffield. (During the course of this story Harriet’s name is spelt in two different ways)

By the 1861 census Thomas is listed as a ‘proprietor of a music hall’ aged 43 and Harriette is the only named family member living with him with no job or relationship listed; just her age of eighteen. They were living in Ecclesfield at Lane Head House and employed a cook and a housemaid.

It is interesting to see how time has added a historical perspective to the life of Thomas Youdan, His obituaries from 141 years ago make no mention of his involvement with football and his eponymous cup, but it is football that has made his name famous in this the 150th anniversary year of the Youdan Cup.

Thomas Youdan left his extensive estate to Harriet and the will was finally proved at York on the 6th of September 1877, ten months after his death. The reason for the delay was because the will was contested by Samuel Youdan  claiming that Thomas was not of sound mind when he made his will leaving everything to Harriet. At the hearing, it was repeated that Harriet had lived with Thomas and was to him as a daughter. He had sent her to Paris to be educated and ‘spent money lavishly on her and obviously loved her as a daughter’. However, in 1870 Harriet became engaged to Frederick Stanton and this caused an ‘estrangement that lasted from June 1870 to April 1871. At that time, the engagement was broken off and the parties (Thomas and Harriet) once again became friends’.

The hearing decided that Thomas was of sound mind when he made his will and Harriette inherited the money and not long after married Frederick Stanton, six years after their original break up. They married on the 5th April 1877, five months after Thomas’s death and three months before finally inheriting his fortune.

Newly married and newly wealthy Harriette decided to erect the £200 monument to her uncle and benefactor in Sheffield General Cemetery in 1878. The original inscription included the line: ‘erected by his adopted daughter, Harriette Youdan’ and it was this line that led her Uncle John (not her natural father George) to chisel out the words ‘adopted daughter’. A witness to the event was William Lomas who saw John Youdan ‘busily engaged in cutting out the letters with hammer and chisel and he asked him what he was doing and John replied that ‘the words were not true and had been inserted without any right’. It was decided that a repair to the monument would cost ‘£75 and John Youdan admitted causing the damage’.

‘The Defendant; I am his (Thomas Youdan’s) eldest surviving brother. I dispute that she was his adopted daughter. He never adopted her. She was his niece and the word ‘niece’ should not have appeared’

‘Mr Roberts: If the words are put in again, will you take them out?’

‘The Defendant; Until I am convinced that she was his adopted daughter. He never did adopt her’.

He was found guilty and fined £10 and costs, or two months imprisonment.

What is the truth behind the scandal? Was it a family arguing over money? Or was it Thomas’s relationship with his niece that caused such bad feelings?

As you see from the above video of the monument Harriette did not feel strongly enough to repeat her claim on the replacement granite after the repair and perhaps that reflected her desire to let the matter rest.


Paul Youdan

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Wednesday 01 August 1877

Derbyshire Courier – Saturday 28 July 1877

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 27th September 1879