William Lewis

1906 - 1907

The first manager to achieve great success at Chelsea is often overlooked, although William Lewis set a very high standard for the many ‘caretaker’ bosses who would follow over more than a century.

A start-up administration specialist, Lewis was the Pensioners’ club secretary from spring 1905 to summer 1907. The final nine months, during which he took charge of the team too, deserve a higher profile than perhaps he sought.

Brentford-born, he was the son (and employee) of a successful high street linen draper and Local Board Member, Joseph B Lewis, whose name is inscribed on the dedication stone at Brentford Sewage Pumping Station. William had been a founding director and early club secretary for the Bees and lived close to Griffin Park even while performing similar duties at the newly unveiled Stamford Bridge.

There was no fanfare when he replaced Robertson around 28 November 1906 with the promotion-chasing Londoners placed third in Division Two. It is difficult to discern the influence the secretary-manager had on the team. It is recorded the board liked to intervene in team selection as late as the 1930s, but the only reference to Lewis’s part in the promotion campaign refers to ‘Mr secretary Lewis’ being against a match postponement – all part of his regular duties.

Evidently an amusing and erudite public speaker, Lewis was not mentioned when the club was promoted in April 1907, yet it was still a surprise when he left the club the following August to be replaced by David Calderhead, five years his junior. In the 1911 Census of the UK population, Lewis was listed as a cab office clerk.

More from chelsea