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Denston Gibson 

Denston Gibson was born on Christmas Eve 1853 at 22 Wellington Road, Edgbaston, which was the home of his parents William, an auctioneer and surveyor, and Emma; he was their first child. The family was Unitarian, Denston’s parents having been married at the New Meeting House in Moor Street, Birmingham (now St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church). 

The family continued to live in Wellington Road until around 1857 when they moved to the Wake Green area of Moseley which was then in the Worcestershire parish of Yardley. The exact location of their house is not known but in 1861 they lived in Stoney Lane in comfortable circumstances, having the following live-in servants, a cook, a groom/gardener, a housemaid and a nurse. 

By 1871, when he was 17, Denston was working as a commercial clerk and at around this time he became a leading light at the Havelock Cricket Club, which played at Trafalgar Road, Moseley. Gibson was one of the group of young cricketers, all aged around 19, who in October 1873, decided to take up football in order to play a winter sport as well as cricket during the summer months. They therefore founded the Havelock Football Club which, in the following year, was renamed Moseley Football Club. 

As mentioned above Denston Gibson’s family were Unitarians and religious nonconformity seems to have played an important part in the new football club as the first captain, S.H. Deakin, was from a family of Congregationalists and the club’s first president, well-known local philanthropist, Amos Roe, was a life-long member of the Ebenezer Congregational Church in Birmingham. It may well be that the Victorian idea of muscular Christianity, that is a healthy body leading to a healthy mind, influenced these young men to continue playing sport throughout the year and not just during the summer. 

During the 1875/76 season Denston Gibson was a member of the Moseley side, which played the Wednesbury Old Athletic club according to the rules of the Sheffield Association, a variant of soccer. The reason for the match was that Moseley were finding it difficult to find sufficient rugby fixtures locally and were therefore prepared to play clubs that played a different code of football. At all events the Moseley side did not disgrace itself as they held Wednesbury to a scoreless draw. 

In 1877/78 Gibson succeeded S.H. Deakin as Moseley captain, which was the last season that the club played in Balsall Heath at the ground adjoining Camp Hill station, on the corner of Highgate and Moseley roads. Following his period of captaincy Denston Gibson continued to play for Moseley and on 23rd October 1880 he played a central role in a controversial match with Leicester. The game was the Leicester club’s first ever fixture and took place on the Belgrave Road Cricket Ground. The match ended in controversy when Gibson, scored a disputed try [1] immediately before no side was called. Both the Birmingham Daily Post and the Leicester Daily Mercury reported the disputed try but gave the result of the game as a draw. On the following day the Post published a correction and quoted the Moseley secretary who stated that ‘the try was obtained two minutes before “no side,” by Mr. D. Gibson, and was undoubtedly a fair one.’ Two days after this a letter from the Leicester captain, A.E. Brice, appeared in the Post in which he maintained that Gibson was offside while acknowledging that the two umpires were divided in their opinions. He stated also that in the unanimous opinion of the old footballers and ‘men of high standing’ watching the match the try was ‘an unfair one.’ This was not surprising, perhaps, as the vast majority of spectators would have been supporting the Leicester team. This seems to have been the end of the dispute; it was, however, the first of several controversial incidents during early Moseley v. Leicester games. Denston Gibson did not sever his connection with Moseley after his playing days serving as an honorary auditor, vice president and president in 1893/94 when the club won 16 of the 25 matches played.

By the 1880s Denston Gibson had followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1882 he became a partner in the firm of Chesshire, Gibson, Son and Fowler (later Chesshire, Gibson, Fowler & Wharton and Chesshire, Gibson & Fowler) in New Street while living at The Leasowes in Wake Green Road, Moseley. Also in 1882 he married Elizabeth Helen Grundy, the daughter of a woollen manufacturer, at Pendleton Unitarian Free Church in Salford and the newly-weds settled in York Road, Edgbaston. 

During the 1880s Denston Gibson began to resemble P.G. Wodehouse’s character the Earl of Emsworth when he developed an interest in the breeding of pigs. In 1889-90 his pigs won first prizes at the Staffordshire Agricultural Society Show (twice) and at the Nottinghamshire Agricultural Show. By 1890 Gibson and his wife had moved to Rotten Park Road where he apparently kept his livestock, which were known as the Rotten Park Herd and numbered over 40 pigs. This may not have been as bad as it sounds, however, because the herd seems to have been kept in a separate farm and not at the house. Even so a pig farm in Edgbaston was probably not too popular with the neighbours and in September 1890 Gibson sold 40 of his herd at an auction in Bingley Hall. Sometime in 1891 the family moved to the Metchley area of Edgbaston/Harborne. Despite selling some of his herd (a further sale was held in April 1891) Denston Gibson won first prizes at the Birmingham Cattle and Poultry Show (1890 & 1891), the Herefordshire Agricultural Show (1891) and the Staffordshire Agricultural Society Show (1891). In April 1892 another sale of pigs took place and in June of the same year Gibson won a first prize at the Royal Agricultural Show at Warwick in the presence of the Prince of Wales. There then followed further first prizes at the Lincolnshire Agricultural Show, the Leicestershire Agricultural Society Show, the Staffordshire Agricultural Society Show and the Birmingham Cattle and Poultry Show. Denston Gibson’s prize winning pigs continued to ‘bring home the bacon’ in 1893 taking no less than five first places at the Nottinghamshire Agricultural Show which were followed by another five wins at the Royal Agricultural Show, at Chester, once more in the presence of the Prince of Wales, another first place at the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society Show, four first places at the Leicestershire Agricultural Show and a further win at the Birmingham Cattle and Poultry Show. At the close of the Birmingham show Gibson presented a challenge cup to be competed for annually in the class to find the best pen of breeding pigs. Gibson continued to enter his pigs at the various agricultural shows but his remarkable period of success was now over and in future he merely picked up an occasional second or third prize rather than consistently finishing first. In 1896 he offered a prize of ten guineas at the forthcoming Birmingham show for the best pen of two fat pigs. 

By 1896 Denston Gibson had retired from the property business although he remained a partner in the firm of Chesshire, Gibson and Fowler until December 1900 and was farming at Harbury Fields Farm, Harbury, near Leamington Spa where he also raised sheep and horses. As well as his pigs he now also competed with his sheep and horses at the various agricultural shows and was placed in classes on a number of occasions. Gibson soon got into financial problems after resigning from his business partnership and in 1902 he was declared insolvent. He then seems to have disappeared from public notice and at this point in time not even his date of death has been established.

[1] There were no referees in those days and games were 'controlled' by an umpire from each side, who could, and frequently did, disagree.