Felbridge churchyard commemoration


A thanksgiving service and wreath laying at St John's churchyard in Felbridge on Friday  March 21will commemorate the life and achievements of Charles Samuel Craven, a sporting visionary buried there in 1940.

Craven is credited with founding the Northern Football League , the worlds second oldest , in 1889.

Though just 19 at the time , he was also the driving force behind the formation of Darlington FC six years earlier.

The service has been organised as part of the Northern League's 125th anniversary celebrations. which culminate on March 25th. It will be attended by Craven's grandson Bob Rogers, who lives in Hong Kong , and granddaughter Liz Husbands , who lives in Berkshire .

Senior representatives of the Football Association , Surrey FA and the Northern League will be joined by Felbridge villagers and councillors for the 15 minute commemoration service. Starting at 1.30pm , it will be led by Northern League chaplain Rev Leo Osborn, a former president of the Methodist Conference .

"Charles Craven was a pioneer, a man ahead of his time who seems to have been almost forgotten" said Mr Osborn. " We'd very much welcome Felbridge residents to the service "

For well over a century , the league had been able to discover very little about its founder - and hadn't even a photograph. As part of an extensive 125 th anniversary they determined to find out more.

Internet research by Co Durham based amateur genealogist Judith Turner discovered that Charles Craven was buried in Felbridge.

Many months of further research by Felbridge resident John Sisley finally tracked down his grandchildren, including a a second granddaughter in Somerset. "It would never have been possible with John . He has been absolutely brilliant , " said Northern league chairman Mike Amos

John's wife Mary and fellow members of the village Horticultural Society have tided and beautified the grave ahead of  the ceremony.

Charles Crave was born in Derbyshire, moving to serve an engineering apprenticeship inh Darlington when he was 16. In 1890 he was appointed secretary of the Leeds Cricket and Rugby Club- chiefly responsible for the development of Headingly ground - and later worked for cricket and football clubs in Maidstone.

He joined the Colonial Office and was chief waterworks engineer in the Gold Coast before retiring in 1915, aged 52. Mary, his first wife, died in 1810. He married his second wife, Ella , in 1917. Their daughter Margaret was born the following year .

The family lived on the Isle of Wight but moved to Felbridge around 1927, apparently for the benefit of Margaret's  education/ Charles, a church official on the I O W , bought communion wafers from nuns in the convent in East Grinstead. The sisters also ran a school. Ella Craven left Felbridge soon after her husband's death.