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A Fitting Memorial to Jack Whitley

Weʼre raising £5,500 to recognise former Chelsea FC player, Jack Whitley, with a memorial on his grave in Brompton Cemetery

Go to our Just Giving page to donate.  Read below to find out more about the background to the project or a short piece endorsing the project on the official Chelsea FC web site.

In summer 2015 a chance rereading of the Albert Sewell book ‘Chelsea Champions!’ led official Chelsea historian Rick Glanvill to discover that Whitley had specifically requested to be buried at Brompton Cemetery and, with the help of the Friends of Brompton Cemetery, Jack’s grave was ‘unearthed’.

Sadly, at the moment it is a common grave with no stone to acknowledge Jack’s presence and his long association with the club just across the railway line.

As he is the only occupant of the grave, we aim to obtain the relevant permissions and place a ledger (or flat slab) with a suitable inscription on, repaying the commitment Jack showed to Stamford Bridge and Chelsea Football Club.

To do this we need to raise around £5,500, and that is where the great Chelsea family comes in.

The aim of this crowdfunding project is to raise enough money to erect a memorial marking the final resting place of one of Chelsea Football Club’s most loyal servants, Jack Whitley. He is the only Chelsea footballer we know to have been buried in the cemetery next door to Stamford Bridge.

Jack served the club loyally and with distinction from the age of 29 to 61, as first-choice goalkeeper (1907-1914), then as first team trainer (1914-1939).

He had died at Tring in Hertfordshire on 5 July 1955, a few months after the club won the league title for the first time in 1955, aged 77.

As well as chipping in what you can afford yourself, please help make every Chelsea supporter you know aware of the crowdfunding exercise. 

Thank you very much,

Chelsea Supporters’ Trust

Go to our Just Giving page here to donate.

 

Jack Whitley – Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Jack’s grave located, and what is there to see at the moment?

Jack’s grave is just off the main path, east of the new Brompton Cemetery visitor centre, close to the north wall. We believe it could become a place of pilgrimage for match-going fans and the perfect place for supporters to begin the tour of the many Chelsea FC-related graves in this beautiful and historic cemetery. The grave is currently marked by nothing except grass, carefully tended by the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust Cemetery Clean-Up Group.

Are you actually entitled to erect a headstone on his grave?

The grave is a common one – not privately owned and paid for. Luckily Jack is the only occupant of this particular plot, so with the correct permissions obtained and an appropriate memorial selected we can go ahead and set a stone on Jack’s grave.

Why did the family not erect a headstone?

Footballers were nothing like as well paid in 1955 as they are now. It is unknown whether Jack’s widow Winifred was unable to afford the expense of a private burial plot and a marker for the burial, or Jack preferred a simple interment in a common grave.

We have attempted to research his family history and find close living relatives, but none has been confirmed to date. We would love to track down next of kin. We know that Jack married twice: firstly to Ellen ‘Nellie’ Edwards in 1897; secondly, in 1942, to Winifred Jessica Farrington. He had at least three children from the first marriage:

Nellie (1902-1983), Ruby (1915-2002) and another child who died young. Nellie married twice (first to tennis star Donald Butcher, then Chelsea footballer Albert Thain) but does not appear to have had children.

Ruby also married twice, to Sidney Upton, then Leslie Keeble, and likewise appears not to have had children. Perhaps someone reading this knew the Whitley family, or their descendants, and can shed more light? If so, we would love to hear from you: rick.glanvill@chelseafc.com.

How would marking Jack’s grave benefit supporters?

Happily, marking Jack’s grave will add a significant, easily accessible new reference point to the self-guided Chelsea FC Brompton Cemetery tour, which already includes many founding directors as well as former manager Bobby Campbell. Chelsea and Royal Parks co-produced a booklet ‘Final Whistle: The Chelsea Football Club Trail at Brompton Cemetery’ (http://www.chelseafc.com/the-club/history/style/brompton-cemetery-trail.html) in 2009, which will need updating.   

Why does Jack deserve a memorial?

Primarily because Jack Whitley is unique – the ONLY Chelsea footballer we know of buried at Brompton Cemetery. He also played a major role throughout the club’s early years.

Firstly, he played 138 times for the Pensioners between his debut on 23 September 1907 and his last match on 4 April 1914, keeping 39 clean sheets, including our first ever in the top flight, on his debut. He was the first goalkeeper to establish himself for longer than one season, and helped Chelsea win promotion to the First Division in 1912.

When his time between the posts came to an end in 1914 he became our first team trainer. Apart from responsibility for the players’ training regime and fitness, he attended to their injuries on match days. Generations of supporters fondly recalled the sight of Jack galloping onto the pitch to attend the fallen with a wet sponge, the tails of his tweed jacket flapping as he ran.

As a well-respected figure throughout the game he also played a part in negotiating some of the great transfers signings of the day, and was part sergeant-major, part father figure to the squad. He served Chelsea for 32 years, from 1907 to May 1939, when incoming manager Billy Birrell let all the coaching staff go.   

It is a rare and wonderful sign of his undimmed affection for the club that when he died in Hertfordshire, just a few months after the Pensioners’ longed-for first league championship win in 1955, he left specific instructions to his wife Winifred that he should be buried next to his beloved Stamford Bridge.

We believe an unmarked grave does not do justice to a man who had Chelsea in his heart for so many decades.

What kind of grave marker are you proposing?

There are regulations and conventions that must be adhered to. We have consulted various monumental masons who work closely with Brompton Cemetery and the most suitable memorial will be a subtle, ledger (flat slab) memorial.

We propose an inscription along the following lines:

 In affectionate memory of

JOHN ‘JACK’ WHITLEY
11 Apr 1908 – 5 Jul 1955

Loyal servant of Chelsea FC for 32 years
Goalkeeper and first team trainer
Who asked to be buried
next to his beloved Stamford Bridge.

Funded by Chelsea FC supporters 2017

How much do you need to raise?

There are three main expenses:

  • Administration fee to place 5’ by 2’ ledger on plot (Royal Parks).
  • 5’ by 2’ ledger, plus inscription and setting (local monumental mason).
  • 50-year lease on plot (Brompton Cemetery).

The total comes to £5,500.

Any donations above this will be given go towards the Cemetery Clean-Up Group, who tend all the Chelsea FC-related graves at Brompton and many elsewhere, and a new edition of the ‘Final Whistle’ cemetery tour booklet. 

Why doesn’t Chelsea FC just pay for it?

We have not asked them to. With support from the club, Chelsea Supporters’ Trust has led the way in keeping the Chelsea FC-related graves free of overgrowth and in good condition.

We feel it would be nice to make this another fan-led project, and that this should be noted in the inscription. We know of no next of kin to Jack, so it falls to us, the great Chelsea family, to do right by him. Of course we welcome donations from anyone.

Go to our Just Giving page here to donate.

Football – 1936 / 1937 seasom – Chelsea Team Group
Back (left to right): George Mills, John O’Hare, Vic Woodley, Jack Whitley (trainer), George Barber, Jimmy Argue.
Front: Dickie Spence, Eric Oakton, Allan Craig (Captain), Mr. Joe Mears (Director/Chairman), Harold Miller, Sam Weaver, Harry Burgess.

 

The Jack Whitley timeline 1878-1955

–  11 Apr 1878 • John Whitley, known as Jack, is born at Seacombe, Cheshire, England

–  Aug 1907 • Signs for Chelsea from Leeds City aged 29, having played for the Pensioners’ secretary-manager David Calderhead at Lincoln City.

–  23 Sep 1907 • As goalkeeper, helps Chelsea to the club’s first ever top flight victory at home to Newcastle – and keeps a clean sheet on his debut.

–  1907-1914 • First-choice goalie and almost ever-present for first three seasons until the arrival of Jim Molyneux in 1910. Makes a total of 138 appearances for the Pensioners: 39 of them without conceding a goal.

–  1912 • Plays 26 of 38 games as the Londoners are promoted back to Division One.

–  1914 • Joins backroom staff as first team trainer aged 36, attending to the injured, assisting in transfer negotiations, and becoming father figure to generations of Stamford Bridge players.

–  1929 • Travels with rest of Chelsea team on the ground-breaking tour of Argentina, Brazil and Ururguay as trainer and emergency goalkeeper.

–  May 1939 • New manager Billy Birrell dispenses with his services as trainer, ending 32-year association with Chelsea FC.

–  5 Jul 1955 • Jack dies at Tring, Hertfordshire, aged 77, but has specifically requested to be interred next to his beloved Stamford Bridge.

–  11 Jul 1955 • Buried at the north end of Brompton Cemetery in a common, unmarked grave.

Tribute to Frank Lampard

On the retirement of, for many, Chelsea’s greatest player, David Johnstone, Chelsea Supporters Trust board member and cfcuk fanzine impresario, has penned the following heart felt words that reflect the thoughts of many:

During my years supporting Chelsea, I’ve had many favourite players but, with no disrespect intended to any other who has worn the shirt for my club, Frank Lampard is my all-time favourite and, in my opinion at least, the greatest player the club has ever had.

I’ve known Frank Lampard since 2001 when he joined Chelsea FC from West Ham Utd. He’s always struck me a really nice guy with no illusions of grandeur although he had every right to hold some. Through Frank, I also met his father Frank and mother Pat and there is no doubt that ‘young’ Frank kept his sense of reality and his feet on the ground because of their influence.

His generosity toward the Chelsea supporters has known no bounds and, despite his always busy schedule, whilst at the club, he always tried to find time for those who wanted an autograph, a photo with him or just a few words.

His contribution to Chelsea has been immense. He won every honour that the domestic English game could offer and, of course, was team captain on what some describe as Chelsea’s greatest night when, due to the fact that John Terry was suspended, he lifted the European Cup in Munich.

That night, I was fortunate enough to have been invited to the celebratory party at the team’s hotel by Frank, one of the best moments I’ve experienced in all the years I’ve supported the club. I told him that and his reply was, “I wish I could take every Chelsea supporter for a drink!” He spoke from the heart and it was something I know he meant.

He also captained Chelsea to victory in the Europa League final (this time because john Terry was injured), the winners medals going in his trophy cabinet along with the 3 Premiership/Premier League, 4 FA Cup and 2 League Cup he’d already accumulated. As well as the 106 senior caps he won during his international career during which he scored 29 goals for England, in 2005 he was voted FWA Footballer of the Year and was runner-up in both the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or. As well as many other individual honours he was awarded during his time at Stamford Bridge, in 2010 he received the FWA Tribute Award.

However, as far as the Chelsea supporters are concerned, it was the club honours and the 211 goals he scored whilst playing for the Blues that really count. He played a record 164 times consecutively in top flight matches for Chelsea, a run that came to an end due to a bout of flu with, coincidentally, the first game he missed being the Blues’ visit to the Etihad to play Manchester City. It was little wonder that he was voted Chelsea’s Player of the Year on no less than three occasions.
Lampard was a player that always gave 100% when playing for Chelsea and his rapport with those following the club made him a firm favourite. His parents once told me how proud they were when, after one of his first few Chelsea matches at Stamford Bridge, they walked away from the ground and down the Fulham Rd alongside supporters who were singing “Super Frank Lampard”.

Although he once said he didn’t want to play for another English side, the circumstances changed. Up until his retirement, Lampard was a professional footballer. It’s what he did for a living. Professionals don’t have a ‘one-club only’ clause like supporters. He’d told me plenty of times that he wanted to end his playing career at Stamford Bridge and, when it became clear that he and the club were poles apart as far as his Stamford Bridge future was concerned and his contract wasn’t renewed, he was broken hearted.

It was a great pity for Frank and the Chelsea supporters that both José Mourinho and the club allowed him to leave. Even though he left in 2014, I feel he still could have done a job for the team now although, in truth, if he was still with Chelsea, he would probably be a bit part player.

Nevertheless, his influence and experience would have been priceless and assets that current manager Antonio Conte would have used to their fullest extent. He was a role model for many of the young and up-and-coming players at Chelsea, his attitude and work ethic both on the pitch and at the training ground an example to all.

Although he’s often spoken about his desire to one day manage Chelsea, in a way, I hope he never realises that ambition. Although a part of me would like to see him become the ‘gaffer’, I’d always fear that any spell in charge would end in the ignominy of him being sacked. It’s a fear that I have expressed to him personally and something I have also said to two other of my Chelsea heroes in John Terry and Joe Cole.
However, in losing Lampard, the club let slip a player who was not only a credit to Chelsea Football Club, the England national team but also to football in general.

If it were down to me, I’d offer him a job for life at Chelsea, either as a coach or in an ambassadorial role, something he was made for and something in which he’d be simply fantastic. Anyway and to my mind, even leaving the football aside, Frank Lampard is simply just a fantastic human being.

Super Frank Lampard – Chelsea’s greatest!

Here is a link to Henry Winter’s piece in the Times with excerpts from DJ’s excellent tribute. A paywall applies.

The continued search for Chelsea FC’s heritage

Our firmly established Brompton clean up group reconvened on 8 October 2016 during another international break.  The intrepid gardeners gathered at the Fulham Road gates of Brompton Cemetery and did the rounds of the final resting places of Messrs Janes, Kirby, Maltby and Mears, tidying up around the plots and leaving them clear and accessible for visitors and fans of Chelsea FC interested in learning about our heritage.

But before leaving Brompton Cemetery we headed to an area near to the main entrance where we found the unmarked common grave of former Chelsea player Jack Whitley, Here we worked on marking the plot for further work to be carried out at a future date.
Jack was very loyal to the club, he first played as a goalkeeper in 1907 then worked as a trainer, dedicating over 30 years to Chelsea FC. Jack specifically requested to be buried near his beloved Stamford Bridge when he died in 1955.

Satisfied our work was done at Brompton, three of us headed off to a small village church in Hampshire, invited to tend to the grave of Chelsea ‘godfather’ Frederick Parker, the man who came up with the initial idea to create Chelsea Football Club.

A satisfactory days work, an ongoing project to keep our heritage alive so that fans present and future can learn about our club’s roots.

Our grateful thanks to gardening stalwarts Steve, Adrian and Debs, Cliff for his dedication to the project and Rick Glanvill for the research and the inspiration.

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Jack Whitley – in search of a loyal past Chelsea player

As part of our ongoing Brompton Cemetery clear up sessions and club heritage work, Rick Glanvill, Chelsea FC’s historian, has been finding out more about one particular past Chelsea player:

  • 11 April 1878 • Born Seacombe, Cheshire, England
  • Joined Chelsea aged 29 in 1907, having previously played for secretary-manager David Calderhead at Lincoln City.
  • Goalkeeper who kept a clean sheet in our first ever top flight victory. (Home to Newcastle 23 Sep 1907.)
  • Near omni-present for three seasons until the arrival of Jim Molyneux.
  • 138 appearances; 39 of them clean sheets.
  • Joined backroom staff as first team trainer in 1914, aged 36.
  • Travels with rest of team on ground-breaking South America tour as trainer and emergency goalkeeper.
  • Father-figure to generations of players over 25 years. When an injury occurred, his was the familiar figure running onto the pitch to treat them, his suit jacket tails flapping.
  • New manager Billy Birrell finally dispensed with Whitley’s services in May 1939 (along with fellow veteran trainers Jack Harrow and Charlie Harris).
  • Whitley served the club loyally from the age of 29 to 61.
  • In summer 2015 a chance rereading of the Albert Sewell book ‘Chelsea Champions!’ led official club historian Rick Glanvill to discover that Whitley was buried at Brompton Cemetery, a few months after the club won the league title for the first time in 1955.
  • Whitley had died in Hertfordshire aged 77, but had specifically requested to be interred next to his beloved Stamford Bridge. He was buried at the north end of Brompton Cemetery in an unmarked grave on 11 July 1955.

jack-whitley

We would love to track down next of kin. We know that Jack married twice: firstly to Ellen ‘Nellie’ Edwards in 1897; secondly, in 1942, to Winifred Jessica Farrington. He had at least three children from the first marriage: Nellie (1902-1983), Ruby (1915-2002) and another child who died young. Nellie married twice (first to tennis star Donald Butcher, then Chelsea footballer Albert Thain) but does not appear to have had children. Ruby also married twice, to Sidney Upton, then Leslie Keeble, and likewise appears not to have given birth.

Perhaps someone out there knew the Whitley family, or descendants, and has information to the contrary? We would love to hear it. Please contact us at enquiries@chelseasupporterstrust.com if you can add to the story.

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whitley-caricature-mar-1908

whitley

Return to Brompton Cemetery – 6 August 2016

On a blisteringly hot and sunny Saturday in August, we returned for our third visit to Brompton Cemetery to continue the great clear up work from previous visits.

Unfortunately, weeds and bramble have a nasty habit of growing back, so our first job was to remove the regrowth from the grave of Alfred Frederick Janes, landlord of the Rising Sun pub (now the Butcher’s Hook) where the decisive meeting to form Chelsea Football Club took place.

Our next stop was the final resting place of John Henry Maltby, a founding director of the club, present at that famous meeting in the Rising Sun. This was the first time the group have worked on this grave so there was plenty to do.  As with the Janes grave, a pathway has been created to the location so that visitors can access it quite easily.

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Our third port of call was the monument dedicated to the Mears family, very much a part of Chelsea’s history.  Here we cleared away alayer of red (don’t ask!) stones from inside a kerbed area, which allowed us to replace them with the first batch of blue shaded stone chippings. We plan to return to extend this decorative feature.

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Finally we dropped by at the final resting place of William Claude Kirby, who was Chelsea’s first Chairman, a position he held for 30 years. His headstone contains the fabulous inscription “The game is greater than the player”, wise words indeed!

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With grateful thanks to all who came along to help out; Lucy, Dan, Steve, Francis, Adrian, Debs, a special mention to Tim who provided home made sausage rolls and banana bread and to Cliff who has worked tirelessly to make the project the success it is, working with the Friends of Brompton Cemetery and club historian Rick Glanvill.

Don’t worry if you missed out this time, we will be returning on Saturday 3 September 2016, meeting at the Fulham Road gates at 11am.

You can download Rick’s informative guide to the Chelsea graves here:  Final Whistle: The Chelsea Football Club Trail at Brompton Cemetery

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Brompton Cemetery Clear Up Project – 26 March 2016

A neighbour of Stamford Bridge, Brompton Cemetery is the final resting place of many significant people who have a lasting connection with Chelsea Football Club, most notably the Mears family, Henry Augustus (Gus) Mears having founded our club on 10 March 1905. The meeting where the decision to set up the club was made took place in an upstairs room at the Rising Sun pub (currently the Butcher’s Hook) located opposite The Bridge. The wealthy landlord of the Rising Sun was Alfred Frederick Janes who, along with other members of his family, is also buried at Brompton Cemetery. It was this grave that the clear up team paid particular attention to, the site having been neglected for many years and obscured by a mass of overgrowth.

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The clear up event was organised by Trust board member Cliff Auger along with club historian and Trust member Rick Glanvill and The Friends of Brompton Cemetery, with Chelsea FC providing the gardening tools. Rick was instrumental in seeking the required family permissions to allow the group to work on the grave, and he has also produced a leaflet charting the Chelsea related history of the cemetery, called Final Whistle: The Chelsea Football Club Trail at Brompton Cemetery.

A healthy turnout of 11 willing volunteers helped out on a grey Easter Saturday, including David Beauchamp of the Friends of Brompton Cemetery and Chris Mears, a descendent of the club’s founders.

After paying our respects at the Mears family plot, we moved on to the site of the Janes’s family grave and set about hacking our way through the thick overgrowth of ivy and bramble to the point where the surrounding area was sufficiently cleared to allow the splendid looking grave to be accessed and seen clearly once again. Sustained part way through with hot cross buns baked by Trust Chairman Tim Rolls and a few amusing stories from Chris Mears, the whole team felt they had made great progress before calling it a day, retiring to, where else, the Butcher’s Hook for some much needed refreshment following our thirsty work! But not before paying our respects at the grave of former Chelsea manager Bobby Campbell who sadly passed away last November.

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It was a great start to the project and we plan to make it a regular event, the next visit due to take place after the end of this season.  If you would like to get involved please contact us at enquiries@chelseasupporterstrust.com.

With grateful thanks to our members and friends who came along and helped out; Cliff Auger, David Beauchamp, Debs Coady, Diane Edwards, Steve Hadlow, Paula Harding, Neil Jones (joining us all the way from the West Midlands), Chris Mears, Celia Mindelsohn, Tim Rolls, and Dan Usher.

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