It is Chelsea Football Club’s Founders’ Day today – the club was formed on the evening of 10 March 1905 at a meeting of shareholders and directors at the Rising Sun pub, now the Butcher’s Hook.
Several of the key men among that crucial congregation are now at rest just a stone’s throw away in Brompton Cemetery, and a new initiative aiming to ensure their graves remain accessible and in good condition starts later this month.
Following liaison between the Friends of Brompton Cemetery and Royal Parks, our club historian Rick Glanvill, club officials and the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, a clean-up of the Blues-related graves in the cemetery has been arranged for 11am on Saturday 26 March (during the international break).
‘We are looking for volunteers willing to spend a couple of hours to make the graves more accessible and improve their condition,’ says Cliff Auger of the Supporters’ Trust. ‘Some, especially director Alfred Janes’s – the man who owned the pub in which the club was founded – are very overgrown and in real need of some care and attention.’
The work will mainly involve cutting back, digging and raking and the club will provide appropriate equipment and gloves for volunteers.
The graves are a crucial link to Chelsea’s roots, and include those of founding fathers Henry Augustus ‘Gus’ Mears (pictured top to the left of the tree), chairman Claude Kirby (pictured right) and fellow board members John Maltby and Janes.
In 2009 club historian Glanvill devised a self-guided cemetery tour booklet called ‘The Final Whistle.’ More recently, he was excited to discover that another great Chelsea man, Jack Whitley, specifically asked to be buried next door to the stadium when he died in 1955.
Whitley spent three decades at Stamford Bridge (1907-1939) as goalkeeper then trainer, and is the only known Blues player interred at Brompton. The grave is currently unmarked but there are plans for a fitting memorial.
Brompton Cemetery lies just across the railway line from the stadium and recently, our former manager Bobby Campbell was interred there, as were well-known father and son supporters Tony and Kyle Broadbent.
Thousands of matchgoers pass through the cemetery every year, and rendering the club-related graves more accessible and better maintained will make it easier for those passing by to pay their respects to these key figures in our history.
Any supporters wishing to help with this project to preserve Chelsea’s heritage should contact firstname.lastname@example.org so organisers have an idea of likely numbers. It is hoped there will be regular clean-ups, so do not worry if you cannot make the first one.