William Prest, co founder of Sheffield FC, died yesterday 134 years ago

Of the two acknowledged founders of the world’s oldest football club in 1857 , William Prest remains in the shadows of Nathaniel Creswick, due to much less information being available for Prest.

His early death at just 54 years of age with no wife and no children, with his gravestone removed from Sheffield General Cemetery, all combine to cement the mystery.

William Prest died suddenly on the 10th February, aged just 54, of a burst blood vessel, whilst walking down Market street to his wine merchants in the High Street, Sheffield. His time with the Volunteer Movement ensured his loss would be felt throughout Sheffield, not just in the confines of Sheffield FC and the Sheffield Football Association. According to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Lieutenant Colonel Prest was buried with full military honours on the 13th February. The funeral procession left from his home at Dam Cottage to the town cemetery and was lined with thousands of onlookers. His coffin was laid on a gun carriage drawn by six horses, led by a 200-strong firing party and four military bands, followed by full contingents of the Hallamshire Rifles, Yeomanry Cavalry, Artillery Volunteers, Sheffield Engineers and private carriages.

From press reports we know that as a young man he and his father John P. Prest attended the meeting when it was decided to build the Bramall Lane Cricket ground in 1854. We also know he was one of Sheffield’s outstanding athletes and cricketers and from my research he was not educated at the local Collegiate School, which many of the early of the early members of Sheffield FC attended. In the 1859 Sheffield FC hand book , three Prests were listed:

Prest W, The Dam Cottage, Hallam Gate

Prest C.H. Gray’s Inn , London

Prest Percival,Grays Inn , London

Which suggests William’s brothers Percival and Charles Henry were legal men working out of London. According to my research William had 7 sisters and 4 brothers. The 2 brothers who were not listed as early members of Sheffield FC are

Edward Prest (1824-1882)

John Beevor Prest (1826- 1871)

When Sheffield FC sold their archive at Sothebys in July 2011 , the background catalogue notes written by Richard Timms said that Edward Prest was at St Johns College , Cambridge at the same time as Charles Thring, the architect of the Cambridge Rules. So it is possible to conjecture that when Sheffield FC were compiling their first rules in 1858, William Prest may have had knowledge of the Cambridge Rules (through discussion with his brother) and they were part of that decision making process.

A bust of William Prest is exhibited at the Cutlers Hotel, just a few hundred yards from where he died.

If any one can shed more light on to the life and times of the entire Prest family I would be very grateful to hear from you.

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’

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