Willy’s love of sport, Crawley, history.. and writing about it - Stagni Ollam et Superbus: Part 2

Steve Leake has already written two books about Crawley Town FC - Noli Cedere and Noli Semper Cedere - looking at the history of the club and how it ties in with his family.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 3:47 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 3:48 pm
Some other familiar Crawley names who not only played their part in our club, but also in the building of our town
Some other familiar Crawley names who not only played their part in our club, but also in the building of our town

By the age of 14, William, Bill ,Willy Denman was the secretary of Crawley FC and just two years later he added the position of Cricket club secretary to his areas of responsibility, whilst also playing for both clubs.

This wasn’t the extent of his sporting prowess however, as he was also an active member of Crawley Harriers Athletic Club and Crawley Cycling Club. Having completed his formal education at the ripe old age of 12, he earned his keep by delivering milk for the neighboring farmer, Mr. Tyler and when he reached 16, he worked as a postman, working long hours delivering and receiving mail from the London to Brighton horse drawn night coaches at their stopping points, The Black Swan, Pease Pottage and Chequers at Horley.

This obviously did not seem enough for the young man, as just one year later he started writing for local papers and magazines under the pseudonym “Wayfarer”. I think this is what captured my imagination as I could see so many similarities in our lives, the love of sport, the love of Crawley and the love of history and writing about it.

A vintage look at one of the earliest Crawley Town teams

By 1902, he was still Club Secretary at the age of 25.

You will also, no doubt, notice (in the picture right) some other familiar Crawley names who not only played their part in our club, but also in the building of our town, through the first new town, brought about by the railways, right through to the New Town, brought about by Hitler’s bombing of the capital during the Second World War.

Back to 1903, Bill married Helen Fielder of West Street on the 15th April. The ceremony took place on a Wednesday as Bill was involved three days later in playing left wing for Crawley FC in the final of the Mid-Sussex Football League Challenge Shield, which they won for the first time in their relatively short history.

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The club pitch was Mr. Stone’s field on Malthouse farm, between the Brighton Road and Malthouse Road, whilst the headquarters were at the nearby Railway Inn, by the old Crawley station and level crossing.

Obviously, a well-respected and loved man, as shown in this extract from the write up of Bill’s and Helen’s wedding.

“Mr. Denman is the secretary of the Crawley Football and Cricket Clubs, and there is probably not another person in the town, who has worked so hard in this direction than he.

“His abilities on the field – no matter whether cricket or football – have gained him a good deal of popularity, which has been increased by his ably discharged secretarial duties.”

The ceremony was conducted by Rector Herbert Barrett-Lennard, the son of the Rector who had introduced Bill to football in 1889.

Herbert taking over from his father, who sadly died in 1898 at the relatively young age of 59.

Next week: Family tragedies, unity and war.