A professional footballer in the family…
Following my 2x Great-Uncle Charles Redfearn Freeman forwards in the census returns I was surprised to find him in 1911, lodging with the Skinner family in Fulham & his occupation noted as footballer. In fact, Charles was one of five footballers lodging with the Skinners at this time, all playing for Chelsea FC. It piqued my curiosity so I decided to spend some time looking a bit more closely at Charles.
Charles Redfe(a)rn Freeman was born in August 1882 in Overseal, Derbyshire to George Frederick Freeman and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Redfe(a)rn. He had three older siblings; Annie, William and Lucy; a younger brother, Fred, was born in 1896.
Charles was three years old on the date of the 1891 census, his father George worked as a blacksmith and his older brother, William, was already working as an apprentice to his father.
The family were living in Burton Road, Overseal in 1901, Charles was aged thirteen and was working as a labourer in a pipe yard.
Charles began his football career with local team Overseal Swifts, then moved to Burton Swifts for whom he made thirty-one appearances and scored three goals. He played for Fulham in the 1907-1908 season and then moved to Chelsea, which is where we find him in the 1911 census.
He must’ve been considered an all-round sportsman because in July 1911 he made his debut in first class cricket, playing for Derbyshire against Northamptonshire, scoring seven runs.
The football league suspended its programmes from 1915 for the duration of the First World War and many professional footballers joined the military effort. Charles was no exception, joining the Royal Flying Corps, later the Royal Air Force, on the 12th January 1916 as a fitter, No. 17935. He achieved the rank of Corporal before leaving the service in April 1920.
Following this Charles resumed his career at Chelsea, where he remained until 1921, when he transferred to Gillingham FC and later to Maidstone United.
I caught up with Charles in the 1939 register where he was living in Fulham with his wife Helena S and William H Childs. Charles is employed as a football groundsman, so he kept his links with the game even after he’d retired from playing professionally.
It took quite a bit of digging to find a marriage for Charles and Helena, but I found a possible one in Maidstone in 1922 where a Charles Freeman married a Helena S Applebee. This may fit in with Charles’s time at Maidstone United but I’d need to order the certificate to check Charles’s father’s name to be certain.
( Update: I’ve received a copy of marriage cert mentioned above & it is the correct marriage. )
There are no children mentioned on the 1939 register and I haven’t been able to identify any with any certainty.
Charles Redfearn Freeman died on the 17th March 1956 in Fulham.
Charles is front row, fourth from the right.