Today is Sheffield United’s 130th birthday and it’s all thanks to Sheffield’s first dentist

The meeting to form Sheffield United took place the offices of J.B. Wostinholme on the 22nd March 1889 and a
small classified press advert announced the event:
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 on or before, March 30th to Mr. J.B. Wostinholme, 10 Norfolk Row.”

The man behind the club’s formation was Charles Stokes who had long thought that a permanent football club should be based at Bramall Lane. Stokes was born on the 30th December 1847 and died 8th October 1913 and is buried in Sheffield General Cemetery, off Ecclesall Road. He was Sheffield’s first dentist in 1864 and lived and ran dental surgeries on London Road for most of his life. He had various dental establishments throughout his career, working at number 192 in 1881 and number 78 in 1901 and bought number 240 London Road when it was built. His son Percy picked up the drill after his father’s death and 240 London Road is still a dental practice today. He was also a high mover in the Freemasonry world, becoming a Grand Deacon of England.He joined Heeley FC aged 16 and eventually became the club’s President. He was also Hon. Sec. of Milton FC and a prominent member of Broomhall FC. At the age of 20 he attended the foundation of the Sheffield Football Association in 1867 and was also on the committee that helped form Wednesday Football Club in September 1867.

But it was at age 42 that his most famous moment came when he was the prime force behind the creation of Sheffield United. As a member of the Bramall Lane Ground Committee, he called upon Charles Clegg (President of the Sheffield Football Association) to solicit his opinion as to the formation of a new football club. Remember that the Bramall Lane rental arrangements had nearly caused the demise of the Wednesday in 1877, so there would have been careful
consideration to make sure that this time a club could operate profitably. Wednesday FC had proved that the professional model worked and the Sheffield press response was not at all anti-professional, describing it as:

“…an entirely new departure, but no pains will be spared to secure the services of first-class players, and it is hoped to be able to get together a combination equal to anything in the country.”

United’s first practice match took place on the Hallam FC ground:

SHEFFIELD UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB The first practice of the Sheffield United Football Club took place at Sandygate Cricket Ground last evening. There was a good muster of members, the following taking part:- P. Stupart (Glasgow), W. F. Beardshaw, E. Stringer, W. Hobson, R. Crichton, H. B. Willey, G. H Aizlewood, W. Mosforth, W. J. Wright, C. C. Pilling,
N. Ross (Glasgow), R. Gordon (Glasgow), J. Hudson, B. L. Shaw, C. H. Howlett (Gainsbro’), D. Galbraith (Dundee), J. Duncan, (Dundee), W. Robertson (Dundee), and F. A. Tasker.”

The first ever first match at Bramall Lane on the 28th September against Birmingham St. George FC, ended badly with a 4-0 defeat, watched by 4,000 spectators. Having battled through four qualifying rounds of the F.A. Cup in its first season United beat Burnley 2-1 in the first round proper but was drawn against another powerful Lancashire club,
Bolton Wanderers FC, who won by thirteen clear goals; this remains United’s heaviest ever defeat. Some compensation was gained from being the losing finalist in the replayed final of the Sheffield Association Challenge Cup with Rotherham Town winning by a goal to nil, a game played at the ground of the Rotherham Swifts.

Let us hope for Sheffield that the dentistry link can help United ‘extract’ themselves from the Championship this season.

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 –

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