Shropshire Star

Descendants of England's first international goal scorer celebrate its 150th anniversary

Descendants of the man who scored the first goal in international football - for the England men's team - were present at a very special church service.

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Kenyon-Slaneys, descendants of the first England football goalscorer, Shifnal. Pictured left, mayor Roger Cox,Bertie,Rupert and Caspian Kenyon-Slaney and Rev Chris Thorpe..

Shifnal landowner William Kenyon-Slaney bagged the first goal in England’s 4-2 trouncing of Scotland at Kensington Oval cricket ground in London on March 8, 1873. A previous encounter had ended in a draw.

He only played for his country once, and went on to a career in the military and to proudly represent the Newport constituency in Parliament during a distinguished and military career, but his goal provided the reason for Sunday evening's service at Shifnal's St Andrew's parish church.

William Kenyon-Slaney

Rupert Kenyon-Slaney, his 58-year-old great-great grandson, said: "We are immensely proud to have him as a forbear and and ancestor and we try to follow his example. We hope he would be smiling down and enjoying the 150th anniversary of his goal."

His family proudly owns an England shirt bearing the number 19, the Football Association's legacy number as the nineteenth man to pull on his country's shirt.

Rupert readily admits that his forebear's genetic disposition for athleticism has not reached him but his three young sons are very sporty.

Watch the service here:

Bertie, aged nine, a Manchester City supporter played in his ancestor's centre-forward spot for the association game before his loyalties switched to rugby. Bertie's twin, Orlando, is a Chelsea fan and keen fencer while Caspian, aged seven, is a playmaking centre midfielder.

The Kenyon-Slaneys, including mum Christina, a Scot from Edinburgh, had specially reserved seats in the parish church on Sunday. The ancient building is steeped in their family's history over several hundred years as landlowners and farmers at Hatton.

Mr Kenyon-Slaney added: "William is pictured in the same football team as Sir Hubert Parry, the composer of Jerusalem and Lord Arthur Kinnaird, a tough tackling Scotsman who played in the same international game.

"In his career he was known as someone who encouraged people. He realised the importance of physical and mental health of his men. As an MP for 25 years he always encouraged people to have a go. He was consistent with his encouragement."

He added: "He was born in India and came to Shropshire when he was 15. His family had lived here for several hundred years. He was a Shropshire man through and always did his very best for Shropshire folk."

A love for Shifnal is something that has been carried on from generation to generation. Mr Kenyon-Slaney said: "There is something wonderful about Shifnal, there is such a strong community."

When William married Lady Mabel in February 1887 the whole town stopped, with a huge procession, a free lunch for the gentlemen, and a free tea for the ladies.

It has been suggested that Lady Mabel was the "first WAG" but Rupert said she would not have welcomed that title.

Lady Mabel Bridgeman by Charles Lutyens (father of the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens). Copyright Trustees of the Weston Park Foundation

"Lady Mabel was remarkable woman," said Rupert. "William died in 1908 but she lived until 1936 and during the First World War she turned her home over to a Red Cross auxiliary hospital."

Sunday's special church service at St Andrew's was lead by The Rev Prebendary Chris Thorpe, of the parishes of Shifnal, Sheriffhales and Tong. It was celebration of sport and volunteering in Shifnal, and included a version of the Lord's Prayer which began with the lines: "Our team, Which art eleven, Hallowed be thy game" and went on in that vein.

Church organist and director of music Sue Blake wrote a choir anthem called Celebrating 1873, and sung by the choir in their football shirts to the tune of Match of the Day.

The service also recognised the achievements of prominent locals, including 16-year-old Lucia Rooney (no relation), from Sheriffhales, who has signed for Shrewsbury Town Ladies.

Kathy Insall, of the town's Methodist church, said how she'd played for England in 1970 as part of a Royal Navy wives team in Singapore against a Malay 11. They were beaten 15-0, but Kathy revealed that she is in fact... Irish.

Mick Tranter, the managing director of successful company Acoustafoam, described why he came in to run Shifnal Town FC and its plans for the future. It is now a thriving club with many youth teams.