Blue plaques!

The first in a new series of blue plaques was unveiled in Sheffield on Friday May 17th by the charity working to establish a footballing heritage museum and raise awareness of Sheffield’s unique football history. The plaque commemorates Cemetery Road Church FC, as the first football club in the world to originate from a church. It has been approved for erection on the spot where the club was founded in 1861, which is now the Nuffield Health Sheffield Fitness and Wellbeing Gym on Napier Street.

“The members of this world’s first club came from the Cemetery Road Congregational Church which was in the Porter Brook area of Sheffield close to Sheffield General Cemetery” says SHOF trustee, Steve Wood who is leading for the charity on the project. The church unfortunately no longer exists, but its location was in the south-west corner of what is now the Nuffield Health gymnasium car park, on the corner of Cemetery Road and Summerfield Street,” adds Steve. “The very earliest known organised football clubs first originated from already organised sporting outfits, mainly cricket clubs.

Sheffield FC, Hallam FC, Norton FC, Norfolk FC and Pitsmoor FC all had links to pre-existing cricket clubs. It didn’t take long for other football clubs to start forming from other organised social groups.  In the early 1860’s football clubs started to form from workplaces, schools, hotels, pubs, gymnasiums, the volunteer movement, the military and of course from churches. Many well-known clubs today can trace their origins back to starting as a church team. A few of these clubs you might have heard of such as Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool, Birmingham City, Fulham, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Celtic, Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers to name just a few” explains Steve.

The earliest records we have of the club are from a club meeting on the 5th of November 1861. We also have reports of the club organising matches at Hunters Bar around the same period. It’s no surprise that during the early years of association football development, many churches across the country started to create their own football clubs. The mid to late 1800s was a period when the philosophical movement ‘Muscular Christianity’, was at its peak. Muscular Christianity would have driven the desire of many young Victorian Christian men to form organised clubs from their own church communities. Sheffield can also boast the world’s oldest surviving church to have formed a football club, this being Heeley Christ Church FC a year after Cemetery Road Church in 1862. Jack Hunter, England’s first working class captain came from this club.

Next time you are in the Cemetery Road area of Sheffield, going past the Nuffield Health Gym car park, contemplate that this was the spot that many of the world‘s now famous football clubs, first gained their inspirational origins from. At Nuffield Health we are all thrilled to learn about the world class historic sporting links we have to the history of association football, says Nicki Cox, Operations Manager for Nuffield Health in Sheffield. “We never realised so many world famous football clubs can link their origins back to our gym”, adds Nicki. “There will be more blue plaques going up around the city in the next few months as part of our guided football walks around the city celebrating the people and the places which made Sheffield the first city of football”, enthuses Steve.

The official unveiling of the blue plaque is on Friday 17th May at 11.00am at the Nuffield Health & Wellbeing Gym on Napier St, Sheffield S11 8HA

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