The Life of William Farewell Wardley (1849 - 1941) 



Never again to hear the football commentaries and sporting reminiscences of Alderman "Billy" Wardley. A sad thought. The Aldermen loved sport - particularly football - and found delight in talking about it. Sheffield Wednesday's boardroom will be very quiet without him.

His death will be regretted not only by Sheffield sportsmen but by sportsmen in other parts of the country. He made friends wherever he traveled, his personality attracted attention in the boardroom of every club he visited with the Wednesday team.

The late Alderman Wardley was the oldest club director in British football and had been a director of Wednesday for many years.

A football enthusiast all his life the Alderman played the game regularly in its early days when individualism was its key-note, and when only one or two positions were defined; such as goalkeeper "kicker-in" and "pusher-through"


Alderman Wardley used to be a "kicker-in". His job was to keep near the opposing goalkeeper, and by hook or by crook, get the ball between the posts - the goalkeeper too, if necessary.!

The scrimmages that occurred were very fierce and My Wardley often remarked that as a "kicker-in" the goals he scored and the bruises he received broke all records.

Before joining Wednesday as a player he was associated with the Pitsmoor club and on one occasion he left Wednesday because he did not approve of "foreigners" being introduced into the team. Conditions altered however, and the Alderman realised that a territorial policy was scarcely practical though he continued to his preference for "Sheffield players for Sheffield clubs"

He was very popular with the Wednesday players at all times and almost to the last was remarkably agile. One of his jokes used to be an offer to turn out in place of Mark Hooper.


On the occasion of big Wednesday games away he invariably accompanied the team and in the spring of 1935 - the year Wednesday last won the Cup - he stayed a short time with the players at Cleveleys when special training was arranged. In spite of his then 87 years he actually joined in the kicking in practices

He went to Wembley and saw Wednesday win the Cup - an event that awarded him great satisfaction as he had seen Wednesday achieve the feat in 1907 and 1896

Apart from football Alderman Wardley was widely known in sporting circles. His long connection with the Parks Committee brought him into close contact with bowls and municipal lawn tennis and he did much to help in the growth of those games. He took a keen interest in the various competitions for parks players which were promoted by the Sheffield newspapers

Swimming also appealed to him and at one period he gave cycling his attention. It will be recalled that he amazed his friends when at the age of 76 he bought a motor-cycle and became a capable rider.



ALDERMAN W. F. WARDLEY who completed 50 years unbroken service on Sheffield City Council on November 1st and whose record is believed to be unique in the Council's history died at the age of 92 at the home of one of his daughters Mrs T H Beardsell, 21 Redcar Road Sheffield

The last of many tributes paid to him during his lifetime were features of the City Council meeting of November 1st from which the G.O.M. of the Council was absent through illness. A resolution of congratulation on his completion of half a century's unbroken service was carried.

A real "Sheffield blade" Alderman Wardley was born in Solly Street and lived there until he was nearly 50 when he went to Crookesmoor.

He had little schooling as he left Red Hills schools before he was ten and a little later joined his father in the cutlery forging trade.

It is more than probable that this early beginning as a worker was responsible for  the determination, the fearlessness and the courage with which Alderman Wardley faced the remainder of his life, with its varied and exacting activities.


An instance of his fearlessness relates to the labour situation which existed during his year as Lord Mayor in 1920. The story may now be told: At his own request it was not made public during his lifetime. It is a story of how he dramatically invaded a meeting and nipped a projected riot in the bud.

While extremist agitation was at its height a leader came from London to Sheffield to organise a plan of campaign to this end. He addressed a meeting of the unemployed and hearing of the meeting, the then Lord Mayor went to the meeting place without telling anyone, and quietly walked in as the plan of campaign was being explained.

Several of those present knew him but he waved them back and perched himself on the edge of a form. No-one cared to interrupt and the leaser quite ignorant of the newcomers identity proceeded to detail the "battle orders".

A false attack was to be made at Walkley in order to draw the police to that quarter and then the main body was to advance from Attercliffe and other districts and to open proceedings in the city centre.


When the scheme had been laid bare the Alderman struck in, and in the brusque biting manner which he adopted when in for a stiff fight, he told the company what he thought about them, and the scheme. A hot scene followed but the Alderman won. The stranger returned to London the same night , and the plans went with him.

In 1890 Alderman Wardley was unanimously elected secretary of the Sheffield Table Blade Forgers and Strikers Union.

In 1912 his 22 years service was recognised by the presentation of an illuminated address, a roll-top desk and a purse of gold.

His organising ability was shown by the fact that 95 per cent of the men working in the trade were members. His sound and economical management brought the society to a financial position it had never known before.


In 1915 when the Cutlery Union was formed by the amalgamation of various sections of the industry Mr Wardley although 66 years old became its secretary a position he would hold until 1924. He was for many years a regular delegate to the Trades Union Congress.

He was a very old member of the then Sheffield Trades Council the forerunner of the present body. From 1891 he acted as Treasurer and from 1885 to 1887 he was President of the Council.

Entering the City Council in 1890 he became interested in many aspects of municipal work, but he made specially his own all questions relating to parks in the city, and lost no opportunity to enhance the pleasures and attractions of the peoples playgrounds. For many years he was chairman of the Parks Committee and was also a prominent member of the Education Committee. He was raised to the Aldermanic bench in 1909.

On several occasions he refused to allow his name to go forward as a Parliamentary candidate.


In 1920 he became the city's first Labour Lord Mayor. He filled the office at a time when industrial conditions were extremely difficult.

The most distinguished of visitors who he had to receive as Lord Mayor was the present King, then Duke of York, who came to Sheffield to open the new Corporation Electric Power Station.

The impression that the Labour Lord mayor made on the Royal visitor at the time was shown in April 1924 when the Duke was again a visitor to Sheffield.

Hearing that the Alderman was lying seriously ill in the Royal Hospital he immediately added an unprepared item to the programme and drove up to the institution to see the Alderman and give him a sympathetic greeting. They met again as recently as October 1936 when King George V1 visited Sheffield and Alderman Wardley was amongst those presented.

2nd February 1922


In 1924 the freedom of his native city was conferred on him. he was described by the then Lord Mayor Alderman A. J. Blanchard as a "bonny fighter"

Alderman Wardley was elected to the Council as a Liberal but joined the Labour Party after the last war, when the Liberal and Conservative members were united in a non-political group.

He found it difficult always to attune himself to party discipline, and it came as no surprise when about eight years ago, he refused to obey the Labour Whip on the City Council.

The Labour Party refused to nominate his continuance in office - his period of office as an Alderman was shortly to expire - but the Progressives ensured his re-election as Alderman and from that time he sat on the Council as an Independent member.

In July 1938 he was entertained to a 90th birthday party at Queen Street Congregational Church of which he was one of the oldest members.


The children's clinic at Bapaume, France opened in July 1929 during the Sheffield Pilgrimage to the battlefields, cost 1,000, half of which was contributed by the late Mr. G H Lawrence of Sheffield and Hathersage in recognition of Alderman Wardley's services to his native city, and to the town of Bapaume and the hamlet of Serre - for Alderman Wardley was Lord Mayor when Sheffield adopted Bapaume and Serre.

Alderman Wardley rendered splendid service to the religious world and the evening school movement in Sheffield. Several time he visited the "Telegraph" and "Independent" Children's Seaside Holiday Fund home in Skegness, the work of which made great appeal to him.

Until comparatively late in life he was a keen cyclist and an ardent angler as well as a familiar figure on the city's bowling greens.

He was the oldest club director in football. A reference to his sporting activities will be found under "Looker On" Alderman Wardley was a widower his wife having died in 1925. He leaves a family of two sons and three daughters. His sister Mrs. Louisa Walker died in 1936 at the age of 90.

The Wardley Grave in Sheffield's Burngreave Cemetery

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This page was last updated on 30/11/16 17:07