England Football Online
Goalkeepers Index Page Last Updated
30 January 2024

Willie Foulke

Sheffield United FC

1 appearance, 0 goals against
one clean sheet

P 1 W 1 D 0 L 0 F 4: A 0
100% successful


captain: none
minutes played:


"The above portrait of the late William Foulke (kindly lent by Mr. John Nicholson, of the United F.C.) shows Foulke in his prime and wearing the United colours. It will be seen that the photograph is signed 'Foulke' not 'Foulkes'." - The Green 'un, Saturday, 6 May 1916. William Henry Foulke
Many variations will appear of his name, born a Foulke, and died a Foulkes

Using the 1871 census, we can establish William's lineage. His mother, Mary A. is a seventeen year old unmarried mother of nine month old Thomas living with her parents,  James and Jane 'FOULKE' (nee Fox), and they all lived in Stony Fold in Dawley Bank Village. Her father, is a miner, as is her older brother, James, and younger brother, Noah. Her older sister, Elizabeth, is a pit-girl, and another younger brother, Alfred, is a scholar.
His father, William Powell, is a puddler, living three homes away.

Birth Sunday, 12 April 1874 in Stony Fold, Dawley Bank, Shropshire
Grew up in Blackwell, Mansfield.
registered as Foulk in Madeley April-June 1874.

According to the 1881 census, William H. 'FAULKS' is now the youngest of two grandsons living with their grandparents, James and Jane, and three uncles. The other being his older brother, eleven year-old Thomas, and they live at 122 Primrose Hill in the Blackwell area of Mansfield.

According to the 1891 census, William 'FOULKS' is a coal miner living with his grandmother, Jane, who has since remarried to Joseph Fern. And with four boarders, they all still live at 122 Primrose Hill.

Marriage: to Beatrice Ellena Duff, in the 1896 Spring in Sheffield.
registered as Foulke in Sheffield April-June 1896.
Children Willie and Beatie Foulke had five children together. John Robert (b.1897), William Redvers (b.8 March 1900), Selina (b.1903), James (b&d 1904) and James Rigby (b.1908).

According to the 1901 census, William 'FOULKES' is now a professional footballer for Sheffield United, married to Beatrice with two sons, Robert and Redvers. They live at 8 Belgrave Square in Ecclesall Bierlow.

Foulkes snapped at Bramall Lane in 1913In 1910, Foulke had been questioned by the Sheffield magistrates for holding stolen property, a horse and cart, at the stables at Duke Inn. The perpetrator was sentenced to fourteen days in prison.
On 29 September, the police raided The Duke Inn, Foulke was searched and forty-five betting slips were found on his person. He replied to questions from the police that he had "no idea how they got there".

"At Sheffield Police Court on Wednesday William Henry Foulkes, formerly goalkeeper Bill Foulkes cartoonfor Sheffield United, was fined £25 for allowing his licensed premises, the Duke Inn, to be used for gaming. Frank Greaves, bookmaker, of Ecclesfield, was fined £50, and Harry Clayton, hawker, of Sheffield, £5 for betting on the premises." - The Derby Daily Telegraph, Thursday, 20 October 1910.
"The Sheffield magistrates yesterday had before them an application for the transfer of the licence of the Duke Inn, Matilda-street, from William Henry Foulkes to Fred Holt, carrying on business and holding a beer-off licence at Hoyland, Barnsley. The police objected to the transfer on the ground that on October 19th Foulkes was fined £25 for permitting betting on the premises. The unused declined to make a decision on the matter, leaving the case for decision by the Licensing Justices in December." -
The Nottingham Evening News, Wednesday, 9 November 1910.
"Very strong views were expressed by the Sheffield Licensing Justices, yesterday, in regard to the supervision which had been exercised over the management of the Duke Inn, Matilda Street. At the Sheffield Brewser Sessions, that conviction [Foulke's guilt and fine] was made the ground for opposing the renewal of the licence.
"Mr. A.B. Chambers applied for the renewal of the licence, and asked that it should be made out in the name of Harry Davis. Davis, he said, had recently entered into possession in the place of Foulkes. He was a man thoroughly experienced in the licensed trade, and had an unblemished record." -
Sheffield Daily Telepgraph, Thursday, 2 February 1911.

According to the 1911 census, William FOULKES, an unemployed labourer, is still married and with two more children, Selina and James. They live at 25 Campbell Road in Sheffield..
The census is completed and returned with a signature bu B.E.Foulkes.

"The story of how Billy Foulkes who for many years was Sheffield United's goalkeeper, was attacked by a Sheffield hooligan was told in the Police-court on Saturday morning.
"Foulkes is a man of no mean proportions and weight, but Samuel Garvin, of Alfred-road, Sheffield, walked up to him in Exchange-street on Friday night and without the slightest justification attacked him with a pocket-knife. He then took to his heels, and a policeman chased and caught him.
"On this charge Garvin received two months' hard labour...It was stated that Garvin was associated with "Tearaway Jack's" gang, the leader of which was committed to gaol last week. On this charge also Garvin was given two months' hard labour." - The Leeds Mercury, Monday, 1 July 1912.
Death Monday afternoon, 1 May 1916 at Sister Tate's Nursing Home, Glossop Road, Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, of cirrhosis.
"...heart failure being given as a cause of his death. His illness only extended over a few weeks, and he was admitted to a private nursing home on Saturday last, and passed away there on Monday afternoon." - The Green 'un, Saturday, 6 May 1916.
aged 42 years 21 days registered as Foulkes in Ecclesall Bierlow April-June 1916.


"No player had a greater share in the splendid success of the Sheffield United football club during the most glorious period in their history than William Foulke, the greatest goalkeeper the Bramall Lane brigade ever had, who died in a nursing home in Sheffield on Monday. Foulke was great in stature and great in ability. Fancy six feet two inches of agility and about twenty stones of bulk to stop the gap! United's famous custodian loomed large in view of the boldest of forwards, and woe unto the man who ventured to charge him. For a man of his gigantic stature his activity was wonderful. He could stop a football with one hand as a fielder in the slips stops a ball at cricket. He could throw it as far as some men can kick, and he could kick it from goal to halfway line. And United enthusiasts called him 'Little Willie.'
"The following interesting impression of Foulke in his prime was written by C. B. Fry, some time ago:—"Foulke is no small part of a mountain; you cannot bundle him through ball and all; you cannot surprise or humbug him. He has a touch of genius, and in spite of a suspicion of eagerness makes a last defence that is almost impregnable.'
"Another interesting sketch of Foulke is found in 'Association Football—the Men Who Made It,' by Alfred Gibson and William Pickford. Describing Foulke when he was captain of Chelsea, it says:—'A football wonder is Willie. Perhaps the most talked of player in the world. A leviathan (22½ stone) with the agility of a bantam. Abnormal yet normal. The cheerest of companions; brims over with good humour; at repartee is as difficult to score against as when between the posts. His ponderous girth gives no inconvenience, and the manner in which he gets down to low shots explodes any idea that a superfluity of flesh is a handicap. At Chelsea has amused the crowd by punching the ball from his goal to well over the halfway line! Scorns to pick the ball up with both hands. By simply spreading out one hand over the ball Foulke does all that is necessary."
- The Sheffield Independent, Wednesday, 3 May 1916..
Thursday, 4 May 1916
 Burngreave Cemetery, Attercliffe
"The funeral of the late William Foulke, formerly goalkeeper for the Sheffield United Football Club, and one of the greatest players in that position, took place yesterday afternoon at the Burngreave Cemetery, and despite unfavourable weather many sympathisers attended.
In addition to the family mourners the following, among others, were present: Messrs J. Tomlinson, J. Nicholson (representing the Sheffield United F.C.) I. Swallow, E. Needham, G. Waller, T. Morren (old United players), J. Simmons (of the present United team), J. Davies, C. F. Lamb, W. Hall, and J. Ensor." - The Sheffielld Daily Independent, Friday, 5 May 1916.
  Beatrice Foulke died on 3 February 1933 in Sheffield and is buried with Willie in Burngreave, both have 'Foulkes' on their gravestone
Source Douglas Lammings' An English Football Internationalist Who's Who [1990] &
Biographies Colossus: The True Story of William Foulke - Graham Phythian (Tempus Publishing, 2005)

Playing Career

Began his career at Alfreton FC before joining Blackwell Colliery FC. From there he joined Sheffield United FC in 1894 for a £3 transfer fee and a £5pw wage, after he had refused to sign a professional contract with Derby County FC. Nottingham Forest FC attempted to sign Foulke' in the pit', but he had to decline the 'excellent terms' as he had already signed with United. Following eleven years at the club, Foulke decided to 'sever connection' after they refused to retain him at the 'maximum wage', so Foulke joined the newly formed Chelsea FC on 14 May 1905 for a £50 transfer fee and the 'maximum wage'. He joined Bradford City FC on 22 April 1906, retiring in November 1907.

League honours
355 appearances
Sheffield United FC 1894-1905 299 appearances
debut: 1 September 1894 Sheffield United FC 2 West Bromwich Albion FC 1.
Chelsea FC 1905-06 34 appearances
debut (division two): 2 September 1905 Stockport County AFC 1 Chelsea FC 1
Bradford City FC 1906-07 22 appearances:
debut (division two): 28 April 1906 Bradford City FC 0 Barnsley FC 0
last (division two): 9 February 1907 Gainsborough Trinity FC 4 Bradford City FC 1.
Club honours Football League runners-up 1896-97 (3ᵃ), 1899-1900 (33ᵃ), Champions 1897-98 (29ᵃ);
Division Two third place 1905-06 (34ᵃ)

FA Cup winners 1898-99 (9ᵃ), 1901-02 (9ᵃ), runners-up 1900-01 (7ᵃ);
Individual honours Football League (two appearances, 1898-1900)
Distinctions Also played cricket for Derbyshire CCC (four appearances, 1900)

6' 2", 15st. 0lbs [1892], 6' 2", 19st. 7½lbs [1899], 6' 2½", 21st. 0lbs [1901], 6' 3", 22st. 3lbs [1906].
"When Foulke joined Sheffield United he stood 6ft. 2½in., and weighed 12st 10lb. He soon pulled the beam at 15st. 10lb., then rose to 19st., next to 22st., and simply staggered humanity when he played the game with 25st, to move about. Yet he was always agile." - The Mansfield Reporter and Sutton Times, Friday, 12 May 1916.


Douglas Lammings' An English Football Internationalist Who's Who [1990].

England Career

Player number One of two who became 234th players (234) to appear for England.
Position(s) Goalkeeper; 28th goalkeeper to appear.
Only match No. 60, 29 March 1897, England 4 Wales 0, a British Championship match at Bramall Lane, Highfield, Sheffield, aged 22 years 351 days.
Major tournaments British Championship 1896-97;
Team honours None
Individual honours The Professionals (one appearance 1ᵍᵃ March 1897)
Distinctions Possibly the heaviest player to ever play for England

Beyond England

Later ran a Penny-a-Penalty sideshow on Blackpool beach, where he paid the successful marksman 3d. - An English Football Internationalists' Who's Who. Douglas Lamming (1990). Hatton Press, p.100.

The Numbers
parties Apps Comp
minutes Goals
GA Av.
Comp GA Clean
Sht Av
1 1 1 90 0 0 min 0 1 100% none
The minutes here given can only ever be a guideline and cannot therefore be accurate, only an approximation.
1 1 0 0 4 0 +4 0 1 4 0 100 +1
His only match was played in the British Championship and at a home venue

Tournament Record

British Championship Competition
Type P W D L F A GD FTS CS FAv AAv Pts% W/L
BC 1896-97 1 1 0 0 4 0 +4 0 1 4.00 0.00 100.0 +1
BC All 1 1 0 0 4 0 +4 0 1 4.00 0.00 100.0 +1

All Competition
Type P W D L F A GD FTS CS FAv AAv Pts% W/L
BC 1 1 0 0 4 0 +4 0 1 4.00 0.00 100.0 +1
1 1 0 0 4 0 +4 0 1 4 0 100 +1

Match History

 Club: Sheffield United F.C. - one full appearance (90 min) 0ᵍᵃ F.A. International Select Committee - one full appearance (90 min) 0ᵍᵃx

Age 22 trial  
one appearance - The Professionals vs. The Amateurs, 15 March 1897;

apps match match details comp res. rundown pos

1 60 29 March 1897 - England 4 Wales 0
Bramall Lane, Sheffield (home ground)
BC HW 0ᵍᵃ
cs: 90min

one of two who became the 234th players (234) to appear for England
the fifth player from Sheffield United FC to represent England
The 28th goalkeeper to play for England - thirteenth competitive