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Walk your way round Sheffield’s football history

17 April 2018

Sheffield is well and truly the home of Association Football and we have the pictures to prove it.

Photographs from Sheffield Libraries, Archives and Information that show the beginnings of football in the city from 1857 onwards have been incorporated into a new smart phone app that maps the key places involved in the creation of the world’s number one sport.

The archives team has worked with local historians Martin Westby and John Wilson and Sheffield tech company Llama Digital to create an app which takes people on a walking tour of the historic places in our city that played their part in making football the game that it is today.

The Sheffield: The Home of Football’ app introduces users to the places and people that made Sheffield the home of football. It’s a walking guide to the heritage of Sheffield football covering the rich history of the city’s four remaining clubs (out of the 95 that existed between 1857 and 1889) and the Sheffield & Hallamshire County F.A. (England’s first County Football Association).

The walk is just over 4-and-a-half miles long and has 10 stops en-route with an audio guide throughout read by local actor Roger Bingham.

The walk can be done at any time and should take around 90 minutes. People should allow another 30 minutes of ‘extra time’ if they want to stay longer at the various points of interest.

The app uses historic images and so-called maps mash-ups showing Sheffield in the 1850s and today, meaning walkers will be transported back to the Victorian era when the world’s first football club started in Sheffield.

The journey covers the second half of the 19th century telling the stories of the first ever football derby, the world’s oldest football cup, the first floodlit game at Bramall Lane and the ancient football grounds where the games were played, many of which are now long gone.

The walk begins at the tomb of Nathaniel Creswick at Heeley Parish Church, the co-founder of the world’s oldest football club, Sheffield FC, then winds its way into the city centre past sites of the early grounds and significant events which shaped the game that was to become the most popular sport in the world. It finishes at Highfield Library, the site of Sheffield Wednesday’s first ground.

For those who are not keen on walking, or are unable to, they can still view these historic sites from their armchair or anywhere in the world just by using the free app. The app has been downloaded over a hundred times in its first week and the number of users is growing.

To celebrate the launch of ‘Sheffield: The Home of Football’ app there are two guided walks on Sunday 22nd April where people are invited to do the walk accompanied by our home football club historians.

The vicar of Heeley Parish Church and Geoffrey Norton, who is a descendent of Nathaniel Creswick, will say a few words before the walk starts.

Also attending are the authors of ‘Flying over an Olive Grove: The Remarkable Story of Fred Spiksley’; Mark Metcalf and Clive Nicholson. As many will know, Fred, who was born in 1870, played as a forward for Sheffield Wednesday and England.

The first walk starts 12.15pm at Heeley Parish Church and will break at the Town Hall when the Lord Mayor will be distributing half time oranges. It finishes at Highfield Library where there will be free tea and cakes and a question and answer session with the historians. Martin Westby will be signing his book ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857 – 1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’ at the end of the walks.

Nick Partridge, Libraries, Archives and Information Manager said: “We’re delighted that we’ve been able to celebrate Sheffield’s unique position in footballing history by combining old photos from our archives library with new technology to bring our historic football sites to life.”

“When we launched our event information for the walk, which starts at 12.15pm, there was a lot of interest so we’ve put on another walk that starts at 12.30pm. We’re looking forward to the guided walks and as many people as possible following the trail and discovering Sheffield’s unique football history and in the future”.

To help manage the event and to make sure that it runs smoothly, Sheffield Libraries, Archives and Information are asking people to register their intention to participate in the ‘Sheffield: The Home of Football’ walk at:

https://bit.ly/2JuJsfq

Those doing the walk are invited to wear their favourite club colours on the day.

The app is downloadable at https://situate.io/homeoffootball  and there is a group on Facebook set up to support those using the app. Just search ‘Sheffield Home of Football’.