Fifty Years' History
Started in September, 1873, the Gloucester F.C. has had a remarkable history, and few clubs can point to a more consistent record. The first balance sheet of the Club showed a total income of £11. Fifty years later the Club membership was 2,504; gate receipts totalled £3,296 7s 6d; £926 was paid in amusement tax; and a balance in hand was shown as £2,188! In addition the Club held 2,099 shares in the Football Ground Co. That is a wonderful record of progress, and a testimony to the hold the Rugby Club has on the sport-loving public of Gloucester.
For 18 years the Club had its headquarters at the Spa, where, under the captaincy in turn of Messrs. F. Hartley, J. F. Brown, (seven seasons), H. J. Boughton, T. G. Smith, C. E. Brown, and T. Bagwell, the team met with a large measure of success and popularity. In 1882-3 the team went through the season undefeated, and in the last year at the Spa, under the leadership of T. Bagwell, only two matches were lost as against 21 victories and three drawn games.
Space will not permit of a lengthy review of the early days of the Club, but those who remember the matches of the eighties and nineties will recall the names of a number of brilliant players who were idols of the crowd as Tom Voyce is to-day. J. F. Brown was the most capable and inspiring leader the Club ever possessed, and it was mainly through his efforts Gloucester rose to such pre-eminence in the football world. To Gloucester, under Mr. Brown’s regime, belongs the distinction of introducing the passing game; and they gave Cardiff an object lesson on one occasion, winning by 1 goal, 6 tries to nil.
Many interesting incidents during the Club’s tenure of the Spa must be passed over, but mention must be made of the danger which threatened the Club in 1878. A match was arranged with Rocklease (Bristol) to be played by electric light. There were four lights – at least there should have been four – but one failed entirely, and one of the others was uncertain. The result was that the crowd of spectators got out of hand and did a great deal of damage to the shrubs and walks. The Club received notice to quit, and ordered that no more matches should be played at the Spa. But a petition was got up and signed by 3,000 citizens, and presented to the Corporation. The Council relented and unanimously voted in favour of allowing the Club to again enter into possession.
Thirteen years later there was another up-set. In order to bring off an important match with Swansea, the frost-bound ground was given a too liberal application of salt, which ruined the grass. The Cricket Club, who were the tenants, gave the Football Club notice to leave, and it was this action that led to the acquisition of the Kingsholm Ground, now one of the best-appointed Rugby Union enclosures in the country. The choosing of this site for the new “home” was a happy one, for it was here Gloucester played their first match against the College School.
During their 33 years’ occupancy of the Kingsholm enclosure Gloucester have experienced varying fortunes, but the Club has always maintained a first-class list of fixtures, and all the leading clubs in England and Wales have visited the ground. Some notable victories have been achieved during this long period, especially against the principal Welsh teams. Llanelly, Swansea, and Newport all having lost unbeaten records at Kingsholm. Gloucester have established the reputation of being one of the hardest sides to beat at home, and though this has been belied somewhat this season, one recognises the City Club is only passing through a temporary lapse, and will in the near future fully regain their former prowess.
The table of records at the head of this article shows at a glance that Gloucester have always held a high position amongst the leading clubs, and there will be no laxity on the part of the present officials and Executive to maintain that proud distinction. A more complete review of the history of the Club (written by “W.B.”), with eighteen pages of photographs, is contained in the Jubilee Souvenir issued under the auspices of the Committee of the Gloucester Club.