Plaque to be unveiled honouring Spireites player of the Victorian era

A Chesterfield Town player from the Victorian era who went on to win the FA Cup and League title twice with Sheffield Wednesday is to be honoured with a plaque unveiling on April 17 in Blackwell Colliery, where he played for the local Colliery Welfare FC before playing for the Spireites in 1894/95.

Full-back Willie Layton, the great grandfather of former Manchester United director Michael Knighton, represented Chesterfield in the Sheffield and District League. Chesterfield only just lost out in the title race to Sheffield Wednesday reserves, against whom he played at Olive Grove on September 17, 1894 in the following team: Ballance, Todd, Layton, Holmes, Ross, Swain, Mundy, Cutts, Ross, Nicholls, Taylor.

It was reported: ‘Chesterfield again attacked with spirit and Layton with a long shot from midfield sent the ball just over the bar’. Goalless at the interval, Ballance, who made many good saves, was beaten with a fine long shot for the only goal on 72 minutes by Regan. Towards the end of the game, Taylor forced a fine save from Jimmy Massey.

Layton went on to share full-back responsibilities throughout the season with Todd and Short. Amongst the highlights for the player were a fine performance against Buxton, won 4-0, in the FA Cup third qualifying round and at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United reserves, whose XI included Arthur Wharton, the first man to run 100 yards in ten seconds and the first black professional player.

Good runs by the home right wing were cleverly stopped by Layton before Ross opened the scoring in a fine 4-2 winning performance in which Harry Munday scored one of his 100 plus goals for the club including Chesterfield’s opening Football League effort on September 2, 1899 in the first ever game at Hillsborough.

Layton’s performances during the season were enough to persuade Wednesday to sign him as a reserve-team player for the start of the 1895/96 season. His wages were poor and so he continued working as a miner at Blackwell Colliery. However, on November 11, 1895, he took time off work in order to be fresh to play against Sheffield United reserves the following lunch time. It proved a very fortunate decision as a gas explosion rocked the pit, killing seven of his mates. Now, in order to honour those brave men, a standing plaque to them will also be unveiled on April 17 as will a plaque to Billy ‘Fatty’ Foulke, who worked at the mine and played in the same Blackwell Colliery Welfare FC as Layton.

The ceremony starts at the Blackwell Colliery pit wheel at 1pm on April 17.