The most important Sheffielder you have never heard of!
Have you ever been sat in a dentist surgery and the receptionist says unfortunately they are running 30 minutes late? That happened to me. The dentist surgery was 240-242 London road, a very old building. To pass the time I thought I’d find out what I could about the building.
The building was owned by a Mr Charles Stokes who was not only Sheffield’s first dentist but the first, in the city, to use an anaesthetic. I also found out he was a Freemason who as well as going around with one trouser turned up and a dodgy handshake, were, along with the guilds, the catch all for the poor and infirm.
The masons were instrumental in setting up organisations that gave the poorer in society exercise and formed clubs. This is why Manchester city play in light blue (the Masons colour) and why the Football Association was founded in 1863 in the Freemason’s Arms, London. It was purely selfish as they had realised it took time and money to train people up with apprenticeships and they saw them dying of ill health by the age of 32. Armed with this information I searched to see if my hunch was right and I hit the jackpot.
This dentist around the corner from Bramall lane, was on the committee of the Sheffield Wednesday Cricket club who in 1867 met at the Adelphi hotel and founded Sheffield Wednesday Football club. He was also in the Wednesday team that won the Cromwell cup in February 1868, the second oldest football trophy in the world. His big moment came however when he went to Bramall lane on March 16th 1889 to see a FA cup semi-final between Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion which had a paying crowd of 22688, creating a record for the highest amount of cash taken for a football match.
This gave Charles an idea to create a club of professional players that could take on the world and reap the financial rewards. As he was the treasurer of the local football association, he proposed that a new club be Founded called Sheffield United Cricket and Football Club. It was passed by just one vote and he then advertised for players around the country in the regional papers.
He became Sheffield United FC Chairman in the 1896/97 season when the clubs first chairman, M.J. Ellison, died. He remained chairman for a total of 18 seasons until his death in 1913 and he was the longest standing chairman of the club. Some would question this stating that Kevin McCabe has been with them for 19 years but 7 of those years he was Honorary Chairman so he wasn’t employed in the full role.
I also found out that the place I had parked my car to go to the dentist was just up from the Sheaf pub outside a builder’s merchants. The builders were part of a property that had been used as a meeting room to draft up the Sheffield rules of football that were presented at the Adelphi Hotel and were then universally used.
Sadly, this being Sheffield, there is not a blue plaque in site.
Do you have more information about this that we could add? Are any of the facts wrong? Please get in touch if so.