11pm on a Thursday is an odd time to be looking up what sports were being played in the town 150 years ago – however thanks to discussions on twitter by @ffwtbol we took a look.
Debate has raged this week online and in the local press about the formation date of the football club we now call Wrexham FC, which is currently 1873 1872 depending who you ask. There was due to be a vote in a few days time with the supporters to decide which would be ‘official’ however with new information coming to light it seems it could be much earlier, the vote has been cancelled awaiting further digging.
Twitter user @chris_hazy pointed us to the britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk site, an excellent resource that has archives of old newspapers – including recent addition of the Wrexham Advertiser – that people can search and after paying a fee can view.
The first mention of a formal football club fixture is noted in September 1866, with the notice of ‘Wrexham Football and Athletic Club’ playing at the Turf at 3pm. The details include a mention of the club being 100 people strong, with a ‘games’ organised for a forthcoming festival.
In 1867 there is a reference to “Wrexham Football Club” partaking in a ‘challenge cup’ being run. The interesting bit is the expectation of a ‘larger number of competitors this year’, the inference from that is it was run at least the year before.
So what is the earliest date that we can say (at the time of writing, as it seems there is more to be discovered!) is likely a date that Wrexham FC were playing ? We are going to say 1865 – for now :) (edit this changes – check the update down the page!)
Saturday 29th September 1866 the Wrexham Advertiser said under “Entertainments and Meetings” as the leading item:
CLOSING OF THE CRICKET AND OPENING OF THE FOOTBALL SEASON
The annual dinner in commemoration of the above events will take place at the Turf Hotel on Friday October 12th at 6.30pm Tickets 3s 6d each.
It is accepted that the cricket club played football in the off season, and this advert would indicate:
– In 1866 there was a dinner being arranged.
– This dinner was an annual event.
– The dinner was held to indicate the opening of the football season.
Therefore we would say this indicates that its happened before (they were certainly playing cricket the year before and based in the Turf) , but no indication how many times before, therefore 1865 would be a year that they were playing football…
Its worth a read of the articles from that time, as the sporting club had tremendous ‘spreads’ put on by them by Mrs Whittaker at the Turf pub!
We have further discovered that Wrexham Cricket Club played their first game ‘at the ground by the turf tavern‘ on Friday 25 April 1863. The cricketers are important as they are the ones who got bored in the off season , and turned to football. The dates of the end of the cricket season are given around September/October time. It could therefore be said the ‘window’ for the start of the cricketers playing football is between 1863-1865 – therefore that is the window of the start of the football club.
There is a gap in knowledge around 1870-71, however we have uncovered that the military conducted works on the Racecourse (removing hedges and fences, that split the cricket ground and fields) to turn it into a drill yard. At the same time 450+ men were billeted in Wrexham. It is possible that this was a reason for no sport (if that was indeed the case) being played around that time. There is evidence that the military being there did affect the ground, as one person did put a claim into the council for £25 due to damage by ‘training of the militia’.
Could the last, this season, or next be the 150th anniversary of Wrexham Football Club?
If we had to guess based on what we read, we would say after the first season of playing cricket would ‘fit’ for them to start playing football , with the start date of 1863, therefore 2013/14 season could be the town’s 150th year!
Any thoughts on this research? Have you found any further information? Leave a comment below…