William Chesterman: Sheffield FC’s first Hon. Sec. and the saviour of the F.A. was born 180 years ago today

William Chesterman (22/12/1837 – 6/1/1930) was an incredibly influential man in early Sheffield football and in the national game. He was a partner at the James Chesterman & Co Ltd a company that made measuring instruments on Pomona Street

and later in life he was also a Justice of the Peace. He died a wealthy man leaving over £76,000 and Belmayne House at 99 Clarkehouse Road and is buried in the graveyard at Ecclesall All Saints Church.




There is much more information about the early history of Sheffield football in my book which is available here.

But it would be football where he left his legacy, aged 19 he was the first Honorary Secretary of Sheffield FC in 1857. In the following year with Creswick and Prest he would have been involved with the drawing up of the 1858 Sheffield Rules. William Chesterman kept the club records at his works, which were demolished in the Great Flood of 1864, when two hundred and fifty lives were lost in Sheffield; almost impossibly these documents survived and were recovered later. It was this archive that was sold to raise funds for Sheffield FC in 2011 at Sothebys for £881,000 so his immortality is already assured and there is much more to the story.

He attended the decisive 5th meeting of the fledgling Football Association on the 1st December 1863. He enclosed a subscription for enrolment but also put forward the Sheffield point of view that: ‘the Association’s proposed rules permitting running with the ball and hacking were directly opposed to football and were more suggestive of wrestling.’ This was a decisive intervention and ensured that the FA went the ball dribbling route rather than the ball handling code being promoted by Blackheath FC.
Four years later only six people attended the 12th February 1867 F.A. Annual General Meeting and the Association discussed whether it should dissolve itself. However, one of those attending, was Sheffield FC’s indefatigable William Chesterman; who by now was also the President of the newly formed Sheffield FA. He brought with him a letter of support and encouragement for the F.A., which represented all the fourteen clubs that played regularly under the Sheffield rules, representing in excess of 1000 members. (My research in fact suggests there were sixteen clubs in 1867). It was good that there was other business to be discussed at the 1867 F.A. Annual General Meeting because it reads as if the downbeat Mr. Morley may have asked for a vote from the six clubs for a dissolution; instead of the recent 150-year birthday celebration, the F.A. might have only existed for four years, cutting the party short by some 146 years, if it had not been for the intervention of Sheffield’s William Chesterman.
He was still on the Sheffield FC’s committee in 1889 when they had to decide whether to merge the club with ‘ a professional organisation’ which would have been the end of the club but they decided to continue and maintain their amateur standing.

The image below is taken from his newspaper obituary in 1930 when he died aged 92.