The men and boys who founded Stockport County
ONE hundred and thirty four years ago a group of teenagers sat down in a cafe and decided to form a football club – today we know that club as Stockport County.
Thanks to the efforts of local historian and author Simon Myers and family history expert Elaine Johnson, the details of the lives of 10 of those founding members can now be revealed for the first time.
In August this year the Express published a letter from Simon appealing for descendents of the founding members to get in touch. While none came forward, Elaine did contact him and together the pair have unearthed the stories behind those who kicked off more than 100 years of rich footballing history.
The club was formed in 1883 at McLaughlins Cafe on the corner of Heaton Lane and Wellington Road South by a group of young men aged between 14 and 19-years-old who were pupils at Stockport Sunday School and also attended Wycliffe Sunday School.
It was originally named Heaton Norris Rovers, playing at Heaton Norris Recreation Ground, where the bowling greens are now. The name was changed to Stockport County seven years later in 1890 to reflect the town gaining county borough status.
County gained admittance to the Football League in 1900 after winning the Lancashire League and the players drew their first match 2-2 away to Leicester Fosse – now Leicester City.
Having outgrown its ground behind the Nursery Inn on Green Lane, Heaton Norris, the club moved to Edgeley Park in 1902 and has played there ever since.
It also gained the nickname ‘The Hatters’ as Stockport was known in the early 1900s for its hat-making trade. The name stuck and is synonymous with the club to this day.
County played continuously in the Football League from 1905 to 2011, reaching the first division for five seasons in the 1990s.
Today it plays in the National League North division and is managed by former player Jim Gannon in his third stint as manager.
Here, a potted biography of each of the founders is published for the first time:
Tom Richards. Born in 1864 and, at 19, the oldest member of the team. He married Eliza Kelly in Brebury in 1886 and worked as a self-employed butcher and furniture remover. Eliza died in 1898 and the following year Tom married Ethel McLaughlin, daughter of William McLaughlin, the owner of the cafe on Heaton Lane where the first meeting to form Stockport County took place in 1883. Tom died in 1927.
Jack Hewitt. Born in 1865, a cotton weaver who lived on Brunswick Street in Heaton Norris. He married Julia Molloy in 1891 and they had nine children, living on Alpine Road off St Mary’s Way. He died in 1945 while living with his son Wilfred on Hunstman’s Brow.
Samuel Riley. Born in 1869, he was the youngest founder at only 14 years old. He worked as a clerk to a railway inspector and married Fanny Cheshire in 1904. They had one son and Samuel died in 1932.
William Riley. Brother of Samuel, born in 1867. He suffered from epilepsy, but excelled as a young man at cricket and football. He was one of the original members of the Christ Church (Heaton Norris) cricket and football clubs and Heaton Norris Rovers. He was granted life membership of Stockport County and died in 1933 while living in Heaton Norris.
Tom Machin. Born in 1867. He married Edith Cookson at St Georges in 1899 and started in business as a cycle dealer on Wellington Road South – one of the first in Stockport. He was also one of the earliest members of Stockport Golf Club and built Shaw Heath Laundry in 1902. He died in 1950 aged 83.
Stan Hockenhull. Born in 1868, he worked as a felt hat planker and married Clara Markland in 1897. He was the first founder to die, aged just 44, in 1912.
Ted Whittle. Born in 1866, he started his working life as a hatter ar Royle’s in Adswood and married Elizabeth Robinson in 1893. Once his playing days were over he became a league linesman and spent 20 years in charge of the gate at Edgeley Park. Ted proposed that Stockport County become a limited company and became a director. He died in 1950.
William Ridgway. Born in 1866, he worked in a cotton mill and married Martha Ellam in 1891. He left the club to help form the Stockport & District League. He was the last remaining founder to die in 1961 at the age of 95.
Ted Simpson. Born in 1897, he lived in Heaton Norris with his wife Harriet and their four children. Sadly in 1911 he was admitted to the County Lunatic Asylum in Macclesfield, where he died in 1913.
Ben Kelly. Born in 1868 and worked for 47 years at Stockport rope and twine makers Hanson & Scott. In 1937 he was made a life member of Stockport County and he died in 1950 while living with his youngest daughter Edna in Nottingham.
●●Stockport County FC pictured in October 1914