Football fans discover resting place of Manchester United founder

MUFC fans Fred Attock
The four Stretford Enders, including Steve Donoghue (far right), at the grave of Frederick Attock at Rayrigg Road Cemetery, Windermere
8 September 2016

A group of fans have uncovered a previously unknown link between South Lakeland and the foundations of one of the world’s biggest football clubs.

The Stretford Enders Worldwide, four ardent Manchester United supporters, have researched the very earliest days of the club and have discovered that the man who first formed Newton Heath LYR Football Club in 1878 – the forerunner of the modern Manchester United - is buried in Windermere.

It was already known that Frederick Attock, who at the time was superintendent engineer at the Newton Heath branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, first registered Newton Heath as a football club in 1878, after bringing together a group of like-minded football fans to help run and finance the team.

He became Newton Heath LYR FC’s first president and although widely acknowledged as being the ‘founding father’ of Manchester United, little was known about Attock’s later life and, crucially, where he was eventually laid to rest.

But now, thanks to the investigations of the Stretford Enders Worldwide, who have painstakingly traced Attock’s life story, it has been found that Attock spent the final years of his life living in Bowness and is buried in Rayrigg Road Cemetery in Windermere.

They have been assisted in their research by South Lakeland District Council’s (SLDC’s) Bereavement Services Officer, who checked documents and records and found Attock’s grave at plot 142 in the cemetery.

Frederick Attock was born in Liverpool on 10 February 1846. His father, George Attock, was a senior engineer from Doncaster who went to work in Essex designing and inventing shock absorbers for trains.

George Attock later moved to Liverpool and it was while living there he had a son, Frederick. The family moved to Didsbury in Manchester when Frederick was two and he grew up and went to college in Manchester, later following in his father’s footsteps as a railway engineer.

Frederick Attock became the senior superintendent engineer at the L&Y railway company at Newton Heath in 1874 and was petitioned by some of the employees there to help set up a football team.

Frederick managed to gather some influential characters together to help his ambition to start a team and in July 1878 registered the Newton Heath L&Y Cricket and Football Club as a limited company and football club with 8000 shares priced at £1 each.

Attock became the club’s first president and the men that supported him, and who became the club’s vice-presidents, included James Balfour (who went on to become Prime Minister in 1902), and Charles Prestwich Scott, then editor of the Manchester Guardian.

Attock had to retire from work due to ill health in 1892 and handed control of the football club to Newton Heath’s first ever full-time manager, Alf Albut.

It was after his retirement that Attock moved to South Lakeland, where he is now known to have lived at Storrs Park in Bowness. He died on 21 May 1902 and was buried in Rayrigg Road Cemetery.

Over the years the Stretford Enders Worldwide have taken it upon themselves to find and then, if necessary, look after and maintain any neglected graves of former Manchester United players, managers and directors, to create what they describe as a ‘heritage trail’ of their beloved club’s past.

But until recently the final resting place of Frederick Attock had always proved elusive, with not even the curators of the Manchester United museum at Old Trafford being sure where the club’s founder member was buried.

Member of the Stretford Enders Worldwide, Steve Donoghue, explained: “We did some digging and looked through minutes from L&Y Railway Union and searched cemetery records from London, Liverpool, Doncaster and Windermere.

“Eventually we found that when he became too ill to work, Fred Attock moved to the Lake District for the fresh air and died in 1902 in Windermere.’’

This led to the contact with SLDC, which operates a number of cemeteries in South Lakeland, and by checking records officers were able to confirm that Frederick Attock was indeed buried in Rayrigg Road Cemetery.

The inscription on the grave stone reads:

In loving memory

Frederick Attock

Son of George Attock, of Stratford, Essex

Born February 10th 1846

Died May 21st 1902 at Windermere

Thy Will Be Done

SLDC officers were also able to confirm that the grave was purchased by Frederick Attock’s son, George, who then lived at Cunsey, Windermere.

In late August the Stretford Enders Worldwide made a pilgrimage to visit the grave of their club’s founding father and to lay flowers and scarves in the colours of Manchester United and Newton Heath.

Steve Donoghue continued: “It is important that every Manchester United fan on this planet should know about this man.He is someone I think we should revere.

“In my opinion we should shout ‘Attock, Attock, Attock’ on the first game of every season in respect and remembrance of what he did.

“I think Manchester United FC should induct him into their museum, just as it has with the Munich Babes, Billy Meredith, Matt Busby, Duncan Edwards, Georgie Best and our local Salford boy Eddie Colman. I think it’s the very least they could do.’’

Mark Wylie, Curator of the Manchester United Museum at Old Trafford, confirmed that the details about where Frederick Attock is buried was new information and would be added to the official archives.

Mr Wylie said: “We knew that Frederick Attock had moved up to Cumbria and that he had been an important early member of the Newton Heath club that became Manchester United.

“We didn’t know where he was buried so that is a very useful extra piece of information for us to add to our archive of information on some of the people associated with the early years of the club.’’

Simon Rowley, SLDC’s Assistant Director of Neighbourhood Services, said: “We’re delighted to have helped find the final resting place of Frederick Attock.

“It is a fascinating story and the fans’ group put in a significant amount of time and effort to discover this information.  I’m very happy we’ve been able to play our part in finding this missing piece of the jigsaw in Manchester United’s history.’’


For more information, please contact the SLDC Communications Team on 01539 793300.