Cemetery Road Church Football Club (1861) – The oldest and first football club in the world to originate from a church. 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 clubs to start forming from other organised social groups. In the early 1860’s 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. Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool, Birmingham City, Fulham, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Celtic, St Johnson, Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers to name just a few.
So where did the very first football club in the world to originate from the church come from? Well, we do know & they were called Cemetery Road Church Football Club who formed in Sheffield in 1861.
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. 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.
The earliest records we have of the club are of 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.
We’re not certain just how long the club survived but we do have a match report dated the 17th of November 1862 which records them playing nearby Mackenzie FC so the club did exist for at least just over a year.
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. You can find out more about Jack Hunter elsewhere in our virtual museum.
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. A world’s first sporting location.
Do you have more information about this that we could add? Are any of the facts wrong? Please get in touch if so.