Samuel Sunderland was born in Wakefield in 1806. He was the son of a greengrocer in Kirkgate and was Educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School based in that town. The school offered two scholarships to two poor boys of the school to attend Clare Hall Cambridge, later to become Clare College. Sunderland was the recipient of one of these scholarships and went to study at Cambridge in 1825.
Sunderland’s Headmaster whilst he was at school was the Reverend Martin Naylor who was also the Rector of Penistone. It was difficult to do the two jobs effectively and Naylor was absent from Penistone for lengthy periods. Eventually, the parishioners of Penistone grew weary of Naylor’s lack of commitment, and so Naylor called upon Sunderland to help him.
Samuel had completed 4 years at Cambridge and just obtained his degree. He was ordained by Van Mildert at Durham and arrived in Penistone as a Curate in 1829. He was an instant success and became very popular among his parishioners. In 1851, the organisers of the Great Exhibition wrote to places throughout the country asking them to nominate local worthies to attend. The first name on the list of Penistone worthies was Samuel Sunderland.
This instant success can be attributed to the fact that Sunderland was a sport loving minister. He became Headmaster of Penistone Grammar School in 1836 and had responsibility in looking after the school boarders. These boys would be kept close to the school, particularly early evening, and Sunderland would introduce them to football that he had experienced whilst at Cambridge. The area that lay behind the school was known as the ‘Fairfields’, a flat piece of land, ideal for the playing of this game. The school had no boundary wall and so the day boys would come and join in. Football in Penistone flourished, and Sunderland was very popular.
Two sport historians, John Goulstone (Football’s Secret History), and Adrian Harvey (Football: The First Hundred Years: The Untold Story) wrote about games of football played in the 1840s and 50s that were advertised in newspapers of the day, Bells Life in particular. Harvey claims that Yorkshire was the most active county in the country regarding football related activities, whilst Goulstone mentions the specific area that these challenge matches were issued ‘around Penistone and Holmfirth’.
The boarders of Penistone Grammar School had gone back to their villages, the surrounding area around Penistone, taking Sunderland’s football with them. The locals then issuing challenge matches to other villages often involving sums of money as a stake. This monetarisation of the game suggests a more refined approach with an agreed set of rules; time limits and specific numbers of players, so that outcomes could be determined as fair. Sunderland’s Penistone football, it appears, had become embedded, making Yorkshire a hotbed of the game in the 1840s and 50s.
In 1845 Ben Swift Chambers was born at nearby Stocksmoor and raised in a neighbouring village of Shepley. This was in the centre of Sunderland’s footballing culture and Chambers would certainly have grown up with this. In 1867, he went to Ranmoor in Sheffield, to attend a training College for methodist ministers. This was at the height of the Youdan and Cromwell cups with Sheffield at the forefront of the development of club football. Chambers spent two years at Ranmoor before taking up his first ministerial position at St Domingo’s in Liverpool. Whilst there, Ben Swift Chambers founded both the Everton and Liverpool football clubs. Chambers is buried in Shepley and his grave is looked after by the fans of both those clubs.
Sunderland’s Penistone football may or may not have influenced Chambers, but two of his day boys of the school most certainly were. One of these boys was John Charles Shaw who was born in 1830. The other boy was John Marsh who was born in 1842. The 12 years difference between the two means that the football influence of Sunderland remained constant within Penistone during his time and beyond.
Both Shaw and Marsh had major parts to play in the shaping of early club football within Sheffield which in turn helped to make the modern form of the game to progress. To quote Graham Curry who has written extensively on the early development of the game in Sheffield (The Making of Association Football. Two Decades Which Created the Modern Game. Pg 21) – ‘To those who ask the question, ‘Why did modern club football begin in Sheffield?’, a large part of the answer should include reference to events in and around the villages of Penistone and Thurlstone’
The events, almost certainly, centre on a footballing legacy gained with the arrival of Samuel Sunderland as a young Curate in 1829, becoming Headmaster of the free grammar school of Penistone in 1836 and Vicar in 1841.
Samuel Sunderland died In July 1855 aged 48 from injuries sustained when he fell from the top of a carriage transporting himself and other Penistone parishioners from a Sunday School visit to Chatsworth. The carriage was taking the occupants to the
station at Rowsley and overturned just outside the Peacock Inn. Sunderland died shortly after the incident from head injuries he had received from the fall.
Such was the esteem held for their minister that his parishioners raised a subscription for a lasting memorial tablet, which was placed in the chancel of the church at Penistone.
Do you have more information about this that we could add? Are any of the facts wrong? Please get in touch if so.