Thu, 13. Mar. 2014

Thursday Legends - William Prest

This week’s Thursday Legend is none other than one of our founding fathers – William Prest – who along with Nathaniel Creswick met to create the first set of Sheffield Rules in a potting shed way back in 1857. 

The story of our Club’s birth has been detailed down the years, passed from generation to generation, with the name Prest bandied around with abandon as a key player in our early history. 

Prest though was not a Sheffielder by birth; he was in fact born in York in 1832, son of a very wealthy couple - John and Arabella Prest – and moved to Sheffield when his family bought a wine business in the city. 

William was a keen an active athlete, his main sport was of course cricket, and he showed great prowess in the bat and ball game earning 16 appearances for the mighty Yorkshire side between 1852 and 1862. He did however hold the ignominious honour of being the first person ever to be bowled out for a duck at the Bramall Lane cricket ground, falling to a Mr J Rowbotham in the first game to be staged at the future test ground. 

Obviously Prest’s main contribution in his life – although he wouldn’t appreciate it at the time – was to form the World’s First Football Club with Creswick. He’d played foot-ball several times for Sheffield Cricket Club during the winter off months, and had discussed with his friend the several rules that were being played by public schools such as Eton, Harrow, Winchester and Rugby amongst others.

The rest as they say is history…

Prest’s athletic ability often came to the fore in the annual end of season Athletics Meetings Sheffield Football Club held, and won 12 events in the inaugural staging of the meet, and went on to win many more in the years to follow. 

As well as his involvement in sport, William was a well-respected figure in both the military and politics, having been instrumental in the formation of the Hallamshire Rifles Volunteers in 1859. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and in later years he (along with Creswick) served as a Conservative politician, serving in the military until his death. 

He died in 1885 aged just 52, from a burst blood vessel in his heart, which caused a seizure. Prest’s funeral procession saw the roads lined with several thousand mourners, with the ceremony held at Sheffield General Cemetery on Cemetery Road, and the great man given full military honours. 

The legacy of Prest lives on today, and a commemorative bust adorns the window at Sheffield FC’s new Hotel Partner, the Best Western Cutlers on George Street, just yards round the corner from where he plied his trade at 46 High Street as a Wine Merchant.

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