It was a Monday evening, October 14th, 1878 and football was in its infancy. Sheffield FC kicked it all off in 1857 and Hallam FC in 1860, but something special was planned this evening. A FOOTBALL MATCH KICKING OFF AT 7.30pm UNDER LIGHTS !!
Bramall Lane at Sheffield United is the oldest continuously used professional football stadium in the world, and was used at times for Sheffield FC, Sheffield Wednesday and for cricket in 1855, its original use. It's named after the Bramall family who owned The Olde White House and later The Sheaf House, a pub that still serves the locals.
The Lane has hosted 5 English international matches, an English cricket Test Match v Australia in 1902, and the 1912 F.A. Cup Final replay, Barnsley 1 v West Bromwich Albion 0. The only other stadium to do such a thing is The Oval in Surrey.
Remember, in 1878 there were no city electric lights and in fact L'Avenue de L'Opera in Paris was one of the first. The invention of the dynamo electric machine was very important, and Messrs. Tasker & Sons and Co. were responsible for making sure that the big match was possible. Two portable Seimens engines were moved into position behind each goal. At each corner, a 30 foot high platform was placed in each corner with a large lamp and reflector. The lighting was equal to 8,000 candle power. The electric cost of each light was 3 1/2 pence per hour.
The streets were thronged in all directions and a crowd of 20,000 showed up, the biggest ever, many just to see the light show. Sixpence was the price of admission and the two teams were chosen by The Sheffield Football Association. The Red team and the Blue team, captained by Mr.J.C. Clegg for The Reds and Mr. W.E. Clegg for The Blues. Each team had a goalkeeper, four backs and six forwards,
'FOOTBALL BY THE ELECTRIC LIGHT' proclaimed the posters around the city. The umpires were W. Skinner and R.W. Dickenson with W. Pierce Dix the referee.
Ladies brought in umbrellas and parasals which they used because of the harsh lights from the low towers. The players found it difficult to see each other in the glare, until the operators reduced the intensity.
The Sheffield Telegraph reported the match the next day. Not very exciting or Shakesperean. "The play was of the fastest description. After half an hour a goal was registered. The successful performer was Tomlinson. The Blues profited from far superior crossing, making sorties into the Reds territory. However, Mosforth of the Reds especially distinguished himself. Both sides exhibited wonderful form, although the Blues as a body played better together."
There was difficulty with such a huge crowd leaving the ground, but they were in "great good temper" and no major problems in the calm weather.
Despite the excitement and success of the match, in the next 10 years there were very few other matches, due to unreliability and the fact that the few matches organized by small clubs used only two or even one light, and with winter winds and rain, rarely lasted the full 90 minutes. In 1886 The Wells Lamp was a big improvement.
John Tasker opened the first telephone exchange in Sheffield, with just 12 subscribers, but his main business was boot and shoe manufacturing. His company also made armer plates for The Royal Navy ships.
Incidentally, last Tuesday Sheffield FC beat Hallam FC 3-2 in what is the world's oldest local derby in this season's Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup. take a look at www.sheffieldfc.com and their newly designed web page. It may WOW you!