It's a period of milestones for United, with today (Thursday) proving to be the latest. Following on from the 125th anniversary celebrations and the centenary of the Khaki Cup Final, Bramall Lane stadium is celebrating its own birthday. Club Historian John Garrett takes a look back over the years to 30th April 1855 and considers some of the major events.
How many venues or businesses in the city of Sheffield have been open and trading for 160 years? Not very many I would imagine. There will be buildings that have stood as long if not longer, but their occupants will have now long gone or even folded and faded.
160 ago Sheffield was a town, the names of places and streets tell us much. Barkers Pool, where the City Hall stands, was just as its name suggests.
Organised sport was on the increase and the game of cricket was arguably the most popular. There had been two major cricket grounds in Sheffield already at that point, one at Darnall, it wasn't good enough so another one was opened in the Hyde Park area. That was no good either. So an influential figure called Michael Ellison decided to try again.
Ellison was the son of the local agent for one of the area's biggest land owners, the Duke of Norfolk. He wanted an area of Sheffield to become a permanent cricket ground, pitches where the sport had been played were already being swallowed by industry. Flat areas were becoming hard to find and expensive to lease.
His idea was to lease an area of land from the Duke less than a mile from the centre of town on the southern edge which was 'to be free from smoke', a good indication of the pollution spread from the growing heavy industry.
He announced his ideas at a public meeting at The Adelphi Hotel, on Monday 30th January 1854. The Adelphi stood on the site of what we now know as the Crucible Theatre. His dreams would come to reality. Shares were made available at a fiver a throw. On 9th September, the Sheffield Independent newspaper ran the following advertisement:
Sheffield United Cricket Club:
The subscribers to the Sheffield United Cricket Club are requested to meet at the Adelphi Hotel, Arundel Street, on Thursday the 14th of September instant at 7.30pm to receive the report of the Provisional Committee, to elect a committee for the future Management of the Society, and any other business
M.J. Ellison, Chairman of Provisional Committee
477 people subscribed.
The ground was prepared. Ten foot high perimeter walls were erected. The side nearest to the town centre had refreshment booths with a covered area above. The south side had a raised area. It opened on 30th April 1855 for a cricket game between 'the 11' and 'the 22'. Bramall Lane was born.
It is a venue of firsts, a venue of innovation. It should have a blue plaque the size of Park Square roundabout attached, in my opinion. Sports played there are numerous but include lacrosse, hockey, basketball, athletics, roller skating, rugby, the list goes on.
One of the early groundsmen was Jack Ullyett - the older brother of the legendary Yorkshire cricketer George. He took over in 1892 from Henry Wright, a position he would hold until 1905, although he would stay with the ground staff until 1915. He worked with Tom Parkin, who joined in 1911 and clocked up 51 years, retiring well into his 70s. Between them they prepared the famous ground for some milestone events, imagine what stories they could tell.
Ullyett lies in Burngreave Cemetery, forgotten under a tree alongside his brother who, incidentally, died after contracting pneumonia watching a cricket game at the enclosure tended by his sibling!
Bramall Lane is important to Sheffield, to history.
It sits on one of the busiest arterial routes in and out of the fourth biggest city in the country yet, even if you stand in the middle of the pitch during rush hour you can hear a pin drop. That is until you close your eyes and listen to the soundtrack of 160 years. The voices, the highs and lows, the hopes and fears - the good times and the bad. All have left their imprint on the grand old lady of sport.
Bramall Lane is a special place and the city in which it sits should be proud. It is time to start remembering what the great place has given to the world and to shout it from the rooftops.