Charles Samuel Craven

Craven wasn’t from this area as he was born near Chesterfield in 1863, however, at the age of 16 he moved to Darlington to become an apprentice engineer.  That was 1879 the same year as the formation of the Durham and Northumberland Football Association. 

The young Craven showed a great interest in the game and as a result he linked up with Haughton-le-Skerne which may well have been the first team in Darlington.

In 1881 the North East Football Association ran its first cup competition.  Haughton beat Bishop Middleham 7-0 in the first round, Ferryhill 2-1 in the second round but unfortunately lost 1-0 to Newcastle Rangers in the final having got a BYE in the semi-final.  “The fight was so well and fairly contested that failure bought no disgrace” concluded a Northern Echo report.

Charles didn’t play in the final but may have featured in goal in Haughton’s next cup match in late 1881 which ended in a 4-2 defeat to Darlington Grammar School.

It later became apparent there was “No club urban or rural sufficiently powerful to worthily represent Darlington” in the competition so a crisis meeting was called for on 20th July 1883 in the Grammar School located in the Leadyard.

More than 30 people attended many representing small clubs, including Charles Craven the honorary secretary of Haughton.

It was unanimously agreed to form a town club and the 20 year old Craven, of Garden Street, was elected secretary and it would appear that he was subsequently ensconced in goal.  The highlight of his playing career was probably in the 1884-85 season when Darlington beat Sunderland in the final of the Durham Challenge Cup.

Charles later became more involved in administrative matters and on 25th March 1889, a meeting was held in Brown’s Hotel in Durham City to discuss the possibility of forming a Northern League.  He pursued the idea and eventually a 10 team league commenced later that year.  His stay in the North East, however, came to an end just before the end of that first season when he accepted the post of Secretary to the Leeds Cricket and Rugby Club. 

Together with his new wife Mary he set up home in the Pavilion at Headingley Cricket Ground and so began working his magic on making it the home of Yorkshire Cricket.  Following Mary’s death in 1910, Charles made an unlikely career move heading off to Ghana to engineer the water supply there.  In 1916 he retired to the Isle of Wight and the following year married for the second time.  He died in 1940 and is buried in Felbridge Churchyard, Surrey.

So our ‘intrepid hero’ had not only firmly established the Northern Football League and helped form Darlington Football Club but had also qualified as a football league referee – a task described as ‘arduous’.  Some things just never change!