Occasionally in our search for information about our forgotten heroes we’ve come across a story by accident. One Sunday afternoon a gentleman in search of his family history came to the church in Christleton to look for a family grave. In this instance we were able to locate the grave and a new story of a WWI Hero emerged. The gravestone in an older part of the churchyard records the life of Shoeing Smith William Mathews of the Royal Field Artillery. He died of injuries connected with his war service on 29th April 1921 age 39yrs. Further contact with his family has given us so much new information. William Mathews who lived in the village with his family was really well known in the Chester area as “Billy” Mathews, a star footballer for both Chester and Wales, who is recorded and photographed many times in the History of Chester Football Club.
William “Billy” Mathews was born at Rhyl in 1882 and was living there with his parents and younger brother Joseph in 1891. He was a labourer when he lived in Rhyl, and moved to Chester around 1905, as his son William was born there in 1906. He was employed as an electric engine driver in Chester, but soon became famous in the city as an excellent footballer. On the 1911 Census William is living with his wife Annie and children William b.1906 and Ivy b.1909, in Southsea Terrace Whitchurch Road, Christleton. He was Welsh speaking and when his brother Joe visited Chester they would converse in Welsh all the time, which infuriated his wife. He was a good looking, but very shy man, and had four children. The superb family picture that we have was taken in 1917. His family story is an intriguing one and dates back to Roderick the Great who lived in AD820, with estates or land in Llangollen, Llanarmon, Llangwm and Ysptty Ivan. William’s father also William came from Trefnant, and grandfather Joseph was a blacksmith there.
“Billy” Mathews joined Chester Football Club from Rhyl in the 1903-4 Season. He formed an excellent partnership with Tommy Lipsham. Chester lost Billy Mathews for the Cheshire Cup Final in 1905 as he was selected to play for Wales against Ireland. He was injured in 1906 and missed most of the season. Billy Mathews returned to Rhyl at the end of the 1905/6 season. He re-signed for Chester in 1907 and moved to half back early in the season. He was selected to play for Wales against England, and won the Cheshire and Welsh Cups with Chester. In 1912 he was awarded a benefit of £82-10s for his long service to Chester Football Club. He was on the retained list for the 1913-14 season, only one of three professionals in the team. The last medal the family have was won in 1918/19 season so he did play after his war service.
He enlisted in 1915 with the 5th Batt. Royal Welsh Fusiliers, but served in Belgium as a shoeing smith with the Royal Horse Artillery. He died of a disease of the heart on April 29th 1921, aged 39yrs probably from an illness contracted whilst on the front line. It was believed that the physical effort of looking after the horses contributed to his early death, and that “his heart broke