Art Stone Memorials has completed a unique commission to restore the memorial to local and international footballer Benjamin Warren.

Colin Smith, local fundraiser and a distant relative of the footballer, raised money for the work to restore the memorial to its former glory which was recently re-dedicated at a graveside service at St John’s in Newhall.

Members of the Art Stone Memorials team who had painstakingly completed the restoration work were amongst the 40 people who attended the service.

They joined representatives from Chelsea FC, Derby County FC, South Derbyshire District Council and members of the Warren family.  Local football historian Stuart Haywood paid a moving tribute to Ben Warren and talked about his football career.

Ben Warren (1879 to 1917) was born in The Thorntree Inn in Newhall and lived locally all his life.

He played local football for Swadlincote, Newhall Town and Newhall Swifts until Derby County signed Ben in May 1898. He made 242 appearances and scored 19 goals at Derby County.

In July 1908 Chelsea paid £1,000 for Ben Warren – beating Leicester Fosse & Manchester City bids. Chelsea allowed Ben to live in Newhall.

He used to run five miles every day round Bretby Park and had his own gym at home. He was compared to the likes of a homing pigeon, as he always came back to Newhall after his football matches.

Ben also made 22 appearances for England including the 1908 first overseas tour playing Austria twice, Hungary and Bohemia all in one week.

He is often compared with Steven Gerard for his style of play and team ethic in the modern era.

Ben married Minnie Staley on October 21st, 1902, at Emmanuel Church Swadlincote and had four children – Harry, Lillian, Maurice and Grenville. Harry went on to be Manager at Coventry and Southend.

In October 1911, Ben injured his knee and sadly never played football again. His health deteriorated until his passing at Derby Pastures Hospital aged just 37.

Ben’s youngest son, Grenville passed away in 1929 and is interred together in St John’s, Newhall, with his father. Minnie’s ashes are also with Ben and Grenville.

Art Stone Memorials head stonemason Oleksandr Burlaka explained: “This has been a fascinating project to be involved in and we are delighted to have used our expertise to ensure Ben Warren’s memorial has been restored to its former glory.

“The grave headstone and kerbs were broken and in a very poor condition and it is testament to the love and respect that people have for this notable sportsman that the money to carry out the work was raised so quickly.

“We were delighted to provide the materials and services to create all the inscriptions free of charge as our contribution to this project.”

Colin Smith concluded: “A huge thank you to the Art Stone Memorials team in everything they have done from the first day I approached them.

“The team have worked endlessly on this project to provide this for Warren and his family as a lasting memorial.”