Chelsea goalkeeper Jack Whitley: Appeal for gravestone launched

Jack Whitley Image copyright Chelsea Football Club
Image caption Jack Whitley was at the football club for 32 years

A Chelsea footballer who is buried in a cemetery next to the Premier League club's Stamford Bridge stadium does not have a marked grave, it has emerged.

Jack Whitley was The Blues' goalkeeper during their first season in the top flight, playing for Chelsea between 1907 and 1914.

Before he died, he asked to be buried in Brompton Cemetery even though he no longer lived in London.

Chelsea Supporters' Trust is now crowdfunding to pay for a gravestone.

It is believed that Whitley's widow could not afford a marked grave.

Chelsea's official historian Rick Glanvill said to have a headstone for Whitley would "mean a huge amount".

"I'd been exploring connections between the club and the cemetery, as it's unique to have one next to a football ground.

"The club's first owner and first director are buried there but what was missing was a player, so the significance of finding Whitley was huge."

Image copyright Chelsea Supporters’ Trust
Image caption Supporters want to hold a special celebration on 23 September - 110 years after Whitley made his debut

Mr Glanvill said he found out about Whitley when a neighbour - a keen Manchester United fan - bought him Albert Sewell's book Chelsea Champions! at a flea market for 50p.

With the help of Friends of Brompton Cemetery, he discovered where the grave was and although it was unmarked, the goalkeeper was the only person buried there and so the plot can be acquired and a headstone erected.

Image caption Chelsea founder Gus Mears is also buried at Brompton

The supporters want to raise £5,500 from fans and have not asked the club for money.

"He'd served the club for 32 years as a trainer and player. As he specifically asked to be buried near the club, we feel that loyalty should be supported and we should return the loyalty," said Mr Glanvill.

He wants to track down a descendant of Whitley to invite to a special ceremony on the 110th anniversary of the goalkeeper's debut for Chelsea, 23 September.

Who was Jack Whitley?

  • Played for the club 138 times, between September 1907 and April 1914
  • Kept 39 clean sheets - the first was on his debut, in Chelsea's opening top-flight fixture
  • Helped Chelsea win promotion to the First Division in 1911-12 (they had been relegated two seasons earlier)
  • After his playing career finished, he became the club's first-team trainer
  • He left in 1939 when incoming manager Billy Birrell let all the coaching staff go
  • Born in 1880, Whitley died on 5 July 1955 - months after Chelsea won their first league championship

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