Joseph Lievesley: the keeper for the first season at Highbury

By Tony Attwood

Joe Lievesley was born Staveley, (although which Staveley I am not sure) on 25 July 1883 and died on 18 October 1941.   He played in goal for Poolsbrook United, Sheffield United, and Woolwich Arsenal

One of the first records we have of him playing was in an FA Cup first round replay on Thursday 16th January 1908 in which Swindon Town beat Sheffield United after extra time.  What has kept the memory of this match alive is not that Swindon won, but that they were in the Southern League at the time, and apparently hadn’t won a game in the FA Cup proper for 20 years.   The first match was drawn in Swindon and the replay was heralded as one of the David and Goliath matches.

He next crops up in history on the FA’s 1910 tour of South Africa.  Here’s the list of players…

Manager: Charles Hughes

  • Bob Benson (Sheffield United)
  • Arthur Berry (Everton)
  • Joe Bulcock (Crystal Palace)
  • Dick Duckworth (Manchester United)
  • Harold Fleming (Swindon Town)
  • Vince Hayes (Manchester United)
  • Billy Hibbert (Bury)
  • George Holley (Sunderland)
  • Joe Leeming (Brighton and Hove Albion)
  • Joe Lievesley (Sheffield United)
  • James Raine (Glossop)
  • George Richards (Derby County)
  • Ivan Sharpe (Glossop)
  • Billy Silto (Swindon Town)
  • Albert Sturgess (Sheffield United)
  • George Wall (Manchester United)
  • Billy Wedlock (Bristol City)
  • Vivian Woodward (Chelsea)
  • Gordon Wright (Hull City)

Although the list of games takes us away from Lievesley as such it is interesting in its own right, because of the regularity of the matches, and the fact that there must have been some transport problems at the time.

England played 23 and won 23

26/5/10  Cape Town            Colonial born of Cape Town  1-7  England
28/5/10  Cape Town                      Western Province  0-13 England
 1/6/10  Kimberley                       Griqualand West  0-2  England
 4/6/10  Kimberley                       Griqualand West  1-7  England
 8/6/10  Bloemfontein                       Bloemfontein  0-4  England
11/6/10  Johannesburg              Johannesburg District  1-6  England  (also reported vs The Reef)
13/6/10  Krugersdorp                           West Rand  1-3  England
15/6/10  Pretoria                      Pretoria District  1-4  England
18/6/10  Johannesburg                          Transvaal  0-1  England  (also reported vs Johannesburg District)
20/6/10  Ladysmith                   Klip River District  3-13 England
22/6/10  Pietermaritzburg               Pietermaritzburg  0-6  England
25/6/10  Durban                                    Natal  2-6  England
29/6/10  Durban                             South Africa  0-3  England
 2/7/10  East London                            Frontier  0-7  England
 4/7/10  King William's Town                    Frontier  0-6  England
 6/7/10  Port Elizabeth          Port Elizabeth District  0-8  England
 9/7/10  Port Elizabeth                 Eastern Province  0-10 England
12/7/10  Grahamstown                Grahamstown District  0-9  England
16/7/10  Johannesburg                        Rand League  1-2  England  (also reported at Bloemfontein, vs Orange River Colony)
20/7/10  Vogelfontein                          East Rand  0-5  England  (also reported at Johannesburg)
23/7/10  Johannesburg                       South Africa  2-6  England
27/7/10  Cape Town                      Western Province  0-9  England
30/7/10  Cape Town                          South Africa  3-6  England

At Woolwich Arsenal and The Arsenal his career spanned just two seasons, cut off (as so many careers were) by the first world war.

He had come into the team as a replacement for McDonald (who finally left in November 1913) and made 75 appearances in goal.

And that’s about it.  Obviously a man of repute and ability, but I regret I have nothing more on him.


18 Replies to “Joseph Lievesley: the keeper for the first season at Highbury”

  1. The Staveley that he was born in was the one near Chesterfield.

    I think he only played in 3 games on the tour of South Africa:
    29 June
    23 July
    30 July

    He also played for the Football League v The Southern League on 11 April 1910 score: 2-2.

  2. He retired from playing in 1916 due to an arm injury. His last game for Arsenal was the last game of the 1914-15 season.

    Here’s a picture of him from the 1914/15 handbook.

    Two of his sons played league football.

    Leslie played 277 league games for Doncaster, Man Utd, Chesterfield, Torquay and Crystal Palace before his career was cut short by the second world war.

    Harold managed just 1 league appearance for Doncaster in 1934/35.

  3. OK Andy you are clearly on fire at the moment. Here’s another one.

    I have been corresponding with one or two people at Arsenal about the celebrations of 125 years next season and the re-introduction of “Forward Arsenal” as a slogan. When was the first time this was used?

  4. You’ve got me there Tony. The only time I’ve come across the two words together is Bernard Joy’s book of the same name.

  5. joe lievesley was my grandad my father horace was also a very good footballer as was dennis lievesley for aldershot.harold lievesley died from tb at the age of 22.i have alot of memrobelia about their careers including things from grandads tour .

  6. I can confirm that he was born in Staveley in Derbyshire though after he stopped playing he moved to Rossington near Doncaster. As well as footballing sons, Joe also had two footballing brothers, Wilf (my father) who played for Manchester United and Exeter and Ernest Frederick (Fred) who played for Manchester City and Rotherham.

  7. Gillian Garnett,

    Concerning the 1910 tour to South Africa,I am trying to find information concerning scorers and attendances for all 23 matches.
    I would appreciate your help if you can assist me.
    Also – if you have any match programmes/teamsheets you are prepared to part with then please get in touch.

  8. Lewis/Gillian
    I am the programme editor for Rossington Main and we have your relatives down as players that progressed. If you have any information that you could share with us that would be great. We have Joe, Dennis and Leslie all down as playing for Rossington Main but we have no dates or stats for any



  9. Lewis and Gillian
    I’am looking into my family tree, my grandfather was Douglas Lievesley (worksop/Creswell)he once spoke of Joe Lievesley as a family member.Any information on Joes parents would be appreciated.



  10. Details already on this site at

    He has been celebrated here as he played in the last ever Woolwich Arsenal game. Do read the comments after the article, as there is more information there as well.

    What’s more we also have on this site an “Ancestors” section so if you could write up a piece for that we would be very grateful.

    You might also be interested in our book on the club Joe played for – “Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football” which is available through us at


  11. Hi Gillian,I have just found this post! I’m writing a book on Charles Bell who was on Arsenals books 1913/14. He only played once with Joe ( away to Leic Fosse) the rest of the season spent in the reserves. I wondered if he was mentioned in your memorabilia? Or a photo? I’ve never seen a squad photo for this season. Also if you are interested I have some nice stuff on Les from the Benfica game in 1949.

  12. I have just read that Joe Lievesley, the former Sheffield United goalkeeper died on 20th May 1922 at Staveley. Has the article got the wrong man as most publications say he died in 1941.
    Ian Rigby PNE Historian

  13. Ian it is always possible I’ve got the wrong one; it has been known, especially as for some of these players the information is quite sketchy. But in this case I think we’re right, and what we have got does coincide with Wikipedia – which I have found to be wrong on some occasions.
    Perhaps more to the point is that in the correspondence on this player Andy Kelly added more details but didn’t say that anything was amiss with the report, and Andy is known for his detailed examination of everything concerning Arsenal players so I suspect we are on the right track.

  14. Hi just seen this if you want info email me might have what youre looking for realise by now you might already have it.

  15. Hi just seen this will have a look to see if i have photos unless youve already found one email me then i can forward to you

  16. A very interesting article on the BBC sports news website today detailing the Torino Football Club’s tragic air crash in 1949. Joe Lievesley’s son was the trainer to the Italian champions and was killed along with the entire team. His son, Joe’s grandson, is now 80 years old and interviewed by Patrick Jennings and in the aftermath of the disaster as a young boy had to come back to England to live. He went back for the first time only ten years ago to pay his respects at the site of the tragedy and it is a truly touching piece.

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