Penistone and the Development of Football

As mentioned in an earlier post, our John Ness Dransfield’s archive reveals that he was a member of Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest existing football club.

What they don’t reveal is that three Penistone men were actually central figures in this early history.

Kevin Neill, a retired teacher from Penistone Grammar School (who may have taught some of you!) has been studying the development of the modern game and his research confirms the importance of these men, Dransfield being one of them.

John Charles Shaw (Penistone), John Marsh (Thurlstone) and John Ness Dransfield (Penistone) were all members of Sheffield Football Club, the world’s oldest club formed in 1857. John Charles Shaw was their first captain and founding member of Hallam FC (1860); John Marsh went on to become one of the founding members of Sheffield Wednesday (1867).

A fourth man had a part to play: Reverend Samuel Sunderland, who baptised all three men, went on to become head at Penistone Grammar School during the time the 3 men were in attendance. He encouraged his pupils to play sport including football and he not only influenced the three boys but was instrumental in bringing the game that ended up at Sheffield via his pupil John Charles Shaw.  Sunderland is most important in this respect and his days at Cambridge University (detailed in Kevin’s article) possibly kick-started it all!

Kevin’s research is ongoing but he’s kindly provided the brief biographies of the 3 men below.  He’s also published a detailed account of the life of John Charles Shaw which can be seen here. It provides an insight into the life of a man who has largely been forgotten despite his achievements and also casts light on aspects of life in Penistone at the time.

John Charles Shaw

Born 1830, Penistone; died 1918, Birmingham.
Educated at PGS – Sam Sunderland, headmaster.
Based on evidence, took football played at Penistone to Sheffield in 1853.
First Captain of Sheffield Foot Ball Club 1857 (according to Dransfield).
Founder of Hallam Foot Ball Club in 1860.
Member of first representative side – London v Sheffield 1866.
Captain of winning Hallam Club for Youdan Trophy 1867 – world’s first organised knockout challenge cup.
President of Sheffield Football Association – first provincial association in the country-1869.
Oversaw the amalgamation with the FA in 1877.

John Marsh

Born 1842,Thurlstone; died 1880, Thurlstone.
Educated at PGS – Sam Sunderland, headmaster.
Second captain of the Sheffield Foot Ball Club (according to Dransfield).
Founder of the Wednesday Club (Sheffield Wednesday), 1867; Captain & Secretary for many years.
Winner of the Cromwell Cup-the world’s second organised knockout trophy 1868.
Captain of the Sheffield representative side v London & Glasgow for many year
Landlord of the Thurlstone Crystal Palace Inn, 1874.

John Ness Dransfield

Born Penistone 1839; died Penistone 1930.
Educated at PGS – Sam Sunderland, headmaster.
Member of Sheffield Foot Ball Club 1860-61. (He became a member whilst completing his articles for qualification in law.)
Clerk to the governors at PGS for many years and was a partner in the law firm. (Initially Dransfield & Son, then Dransfield & Sons and finally Dransfield & Hodgkinson.)
Captain of his school football team Windermere 1859.
Left much of the materials used in the research.

During his research Kevin also came across the world’s oldest existing correspondence relating to organised football clubs, written to John Ness Dransfield and signed by two of the biggest names:  Nathaniel Creswick, founder of the world’s oldest existing club – Sheffield Football Club 1857 and John Charles Shaw, founder of the world’s second oldest existing club – Hallam Football Club 1860. Originally in Penistone for around 150 years they are currently held in the Barnsley archives.

Click here to read John Charles Shaw (1830 – 1918) – his Untold Story at  It’s a detailed piece and its Penistone- related history make it well worth reading even if you have no interest in football!

Kevin has also written an piece about the Youdan Trophy (pictured below), the world’s first knock-out challenge cup competition in 1867. In it he discusses “…why the tournament was held in the first place and what was its purpose… Throughout the course of my research, what became evident was that the competition was indeed created through a complex set of circumstances involving the footballing men of London and their Sheffield counterparts.
You can read the article here (on