Herbert Kilpin: How the Nottingham-born founder of AC Milan is finally getting credit

Watch: How Herbert Kilpin, Nottingham butcher’s son, set up AC Milan

His former home is an empty terraced house on Mansfield Road, his body was missing for decades and his name is virtually nowhere in Nottingham – until now.

Herbert Kilpin, the city lacemaker who went on to found one of football’s super clubs, is starting to come out of the shadows of history.

As creator of Italian side AC Milan, Kilpin is one of the city’s most successful sporting sons – but his legacy is rarely championed in his home town.

Born in 1870 He grew up with brothers and sisters and was the son of a butcher who loved football – playing at the Forest Rec for several local sides.

Google streetview: 191 Mansfield Road, (left of Best Choice) where Kilpin grew up

His work in lace factories took him to the continent and Italy – where he played first in Turin, then, after a few beers with workmates one day, he decided to set up a football club in Milan in December 1899.

He also played for the ‘Rossoneri’ or red and blacks, for nine seasons, later retiring and dying in 1916 aged just 46. The club went on to win seven European Cups and has 18 league titles to its name.

Now a novel based on his life, the Lord of Milan, is being published in October.


AC Milan went on to win seven European Cups

“He’s not at all celebrated in Nottingham – he’s a legend we’ve not even known, let alone forgotten about. I don’t know why that is,” says the book’s author, Robert Nieri.

“His grave was untraced for nearly 100 years until it was found in time for the centenary celebrations of 1999. He was then given a proper burial in the grand cemetery in Milan.

“Since then he’s become a folk hero to the Milan fanbase but he’s still relatively unknown here.”


The San Siro, AC Milan’s modern home

And if you fancy celebrating Kilpin’s name with a pale ale rather than a page turner, you can do that too.

The Herbert Kilpin pub has just opened on Bridlesmith Gate to honour the city’s forgotten hero.

Co-owner Nigel Garlick said: “For someone from Nottingham to do something as huge as that, just by doing something simple – forming a football team with your friends, and for it to go on and become one of the biggest football clubs in the world, loved an adored by millions – it’s a bit special.”



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