The History of Penistone Church Football Club

A tale that begins in the 17th Century...

That Sheffield Football Club is the oldest existing independent football club in the world, established in 1857, is not in doubt. There are of course many contributing factors to the establishment of this club and to that of Hallam Football Club and the first officially recognised match between these two teams at the Sandygate Ground, Sheffield in 1860. During the early years of the 2020s, a book was published which has led us to believe that Penistone, the town, the people and its church, St Johns, had a considerable impact on the development of the game. So much so that we ask you to consider our story and ask, ‘Is St John’s Church, Penistone, indeed the cradle of the modern game?’

The book ‘Penistone Church Football Club 1906 – the inspirational story of a grassroots football club’, published in 2022, introduces the reader to several people from Penistone and its surrounds, who had a significant effect on the development of the game in Sheffield and locally in Penistone, Thurlstone and nearby communities.

An incredible discovery

We have discovered that of those mentioned in the early part of the book, no fewer than eight are either buried in St John’s Burial Ground or have links to a family member who is laid to rest there.

It is these connections that have led us to believe that St John’s Church Penistone is truly ‘the cradle of the modern game of Association Football’.

We hope that through this webpage, you enjoy meeting these characters and their families as we take you on a tour of the burial ground and learn about their contribution to football.

Scroll to see the story of the 8 people who helped create the modern association game

1 Captain Adam Eyre

(21 Eyres buried here but no grave found)

Born in 1614 at Hazlehead Hall in Thurlstone, he is the author of a diary which he commenced shortly after the Civil War broke out. Eyre was responsible for highlighting Penistone’s rich footballing heritage through one of his diary entries in 1648 when he states that he and his friend William Rich went to Bordhill to watch a game of foot-ball between Penistone and Thurlstone. Captain Eyre died in 1661 and is buried in Penistone church yard. Whilst we are unable to locate his gravestone there are at least 21 Eyres in our burial ground going back to the 1760s.

2 Captain William Rich

(Sons grave at location 2 on map)

Born in 1599 at Bullhouse in Thurlstone, he was a friend of Captain Adam Eyre in whose diary he frequently occurs. Rich went with Eyre to view the foot-ball match in 1648 as recorded in Eyre’s diary. Rich was also Master of the Penistone Hunt.

He died in 1650 and is buried in the church yard in Penistone. We are unable to locate William’s grave however his son Sylvanus (1624-1683) is also buried there, and his grave is located inside the church along the north aisle.

33a Reverend Samuel Sunderland

(Grave at location 3 and plaque at 3a on map)

Born in Wakefield in 1806 he was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School Wakefield. Sunderland was Curate at St John’s from 1829 – 1841; became the Vicar in 1841 – 1855 and became Headmaster of Penistone Grammar School in 1836-1855. It is likely that he brought a Cambridge style of football to Penistone and would have introduced the game to both boarders and day boys.

Two of his pupils would be pivotal to the making of football in Sheffield in the 1850s and 1860s, John Charles Shaw and John Marsh. Sunderland has a memorial tablet in the church. He is buried in the church yard at Penistone in the northern part of the burial ground.

4 John Charles Shaw

(Parents' grave located at 4 on map)

Born Penistone 1830 and educated at Penistone Grammar School under the Reverend Sunderland becoming a very accomplished footballer.

Shaw took the Penistone form of football to Sheffield when he moved there in 1853. The world’s oldest existing football club – Sheffield Football Club – was founded in 1857 and our John Charles Shaw was, according to Dransfield, their first club captain.

He founded his own club, Hallam FC, at Sandygate, Sheffield in 1860. In 1867 Hallam won the Youdan Cup – the world’s oldest, adult, knockout football competition preceding the FA Cup by 4 years. He became President of the Sheffield Football Association from 1869-1883 and helped to develop the Sheffield Rules for football. He oversaw the amalgamation of the rules of football between Sheffield and London creating a universal football code for England in 1877. He died in Birmingham in 1918 and is buried at Brandwood End Cemetery. His parents however are buried at St. John’s burial ground in the southern section of the churchyard.

5 John Ness Dransfield

(Parents' grave at location 5 on map)

Born Penistone 1839 and educated at Penistone Grammar School under the Reverend Sunderland he was to become a skilled footballer. Whilst qualifying as a solicitor, he spent his final year in Sheffield where he joined the Sheffield Football Club in the 1860-61 season.

Dransfield wrote ‘The History of Penistone’ in 1906 and kept numerous scrapbooks which provided the evidence we have regarding the development of football. He died in 1930 in Penistone. John Ness Dransfield is buried at Penistone’s Stottercliffe cemetery (about 1km away from St John’s) but his parents and other family members are buried at St John’s in the northern section of the burial ground.

6 John Marsh

(Grave at location 6 on map)

(Grave located at 6) Born in Thurlstone 1842. He was educated at Penistone Grammar School under the Reverend Sunderland becoming an accomplished footballer. John Marsh founded the Wednesday Club in 1867, was the first club captain and secretary and went on to win the Cromwell Cup in 1868. He was a member of the Sheffield Football Association Committee helping to develop the Sheffield Rules alongside John Shaw.

He was Captain of the Sheffield Association representative side 1871-1874 playing against London and Glasgow. He returned to Thurlstone in 1874 and formed the Thurlstone Crystal Palace Football Club which paved the way for association football to establish itself in the area leading to the formation of Penistone Church Football Club in 1906.

John Marsh died at the age of 37 in 1880 following complications after an accident playing football. He is buried in Penistone church yard in the north-eastern section of the burial ground under a huge tree along with his father, mother, and sister.

77a Canon William Stephenson Turnbull

(Grave at location 7 and plaque at 7a on map)

Born In Huddersfield in 1828. He was educated at Collegiate College Huddersfield and Peterhouse Cambridge, graduating in 1850. Turnbull succeeded Sunderland as Vicar of Penistone in 1855. He celebrated his Jubilee in 1905. Celebrations created the Penistone Church Cricket Club in 1905 and the Penistone Church Football Club in 1906 with Turnbull as President of both.

Turnbull died in office in 1913 and is buried in the east of the church yard. There is a plaque to commemorate his 50 years’ service located in the Lych gate.

8 Thomas William Stainrod

(Great grandparents grave at 8 on map)

Thomas was born in Penistone in 1881 and educated at Penistone’s St John’s school. By 1899 he was scoring goals for the adult team named St John’s and playing cricket for the Penistone Cricket Club. In 1906, aged only 25, he became the guiding hand of the newly formed Penistone Church Football Club as Secretary and Treasurer. Thomas was also the club representative to the Sheffield Association.

He was actively involved in the new Penistone and District League established for those clubs running a second team. Thomas moved to Rotherham and died there in 1951. Whilst Thomas is not buried here at the burial ground, we have discovered a link to his family - John and Hannah Mitchell (Thomas’s great grandparents) are buried in St John’s burial ground.

Early League Performance

In 1906-07 Penistone Church were runners-up in the Sheffield Junior League. Winners of the Sheffield Amateur League in 1908-09. Winners of the Sheffield Junior Challenge Cup 1909-10 and winners of the Sheffield Amateur League 1910-11. Penistone Church won the Sheffield Junior Cup again in the 1936-37 season. 1936 was the year that the team was strengthened with the amalgamation of Penistone Church Football Club with the Penistone United Club thus creating the long association with Arthur 'Spinner' Lee who became the club secretary and treasurer.


In 1948 Penistone Church FC were the first ever opponents of Sheffield Wednesday's youth team in a Hatchard League fixture. When the Hatchard League merged with the Sheffield Association League, Penistone Church FC were founder members of the new Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League. The club move to the DSM Memorial ground when it was gifted to the town to ensure a sports facility for the community following the two world wars. The Ground is just under 230 metres above sea level - it is always colder here than you’d expect.

Penistone Church FC first reached the Premier Division in 1995 and were something of a yo-yo club during the 1990s, flitting between the Premier Division and Division One on numerous occasions.

The Millenium

Penistone Church FC finished as, Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League Premier Division, runners-up in 2003, but would later spend yet another year in Division One after relegation in 2007. Penistone Church FC finally became established as one of the top sides in that league during the early 2010s.

Recent History

In 2014 Penistone Church FC were promoted to the Northern Counties East League Division One, having made their FA Vase debut in 2013.

In 2016 Penistone Church FC qualified for the inaugural Division One play-offs, but missed out on promotion to the Premier Division after losing the semi-final against AFC Emley.

In 2017 Penistone Church FC beat AFC Emley in a semi-final before going on to beat Grimsby Borough in the final to win promotion to the Premier Division. In the same 2017 season we also won the NCEL League Cup Final against Premier Division Side Bridlington winning 4-1 in front of a 300-strong crowd at Bramall Lane.

Having finished 7th in 2017-18 (our inaugural season in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division) we appeared a Bramall Lane in May 2018 losing 4-3 to Shaw Lane in the Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior Cup in front of a crowd of 671.

In 2018-19 Penistone Church FC finished second in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division, our highest ever league position. Worksop went up as worthy champions and hosted Penistone Church in March 2018 in front of a record crowd (1,628).