CHAPTER ELEVEN – BANDS OF LITTLE KICKERS
Page 1 – Luton Town v Dulwich
Page 2 – Luton Town v Watford Rovers and the stoning legend
Page 4 – Luton Town v Hanover United
Page 5 – Luton Town v St. Albans benefit match
Page 6 – Easter 1886
Page 7 – Luton Town Annual General Meeting
Page 8 – Analysis of the AGM
Page 9 – Analysis of the season
Page 10 – Luton Wanderers AGM
Page 11 – Bands of little kickers
If you want to follow the Luton Town reports only, these are marked with the pink and dark blue kit. Reports are taken from the Luton Reporter newspaper unless otherwise stated.
The first weekend in March saw a 15 a side rugby game which was played
“in the Town Field, Dallow Lane (kindly lent for the occasion by the Town Club) in the presence of about 500 people”.
H.H. Kemp’s XV beat Bedford Swifts “by one goal and one minor point to one goal”. Again we see that the Town Club lend the field of play.
The snow was still causing problems across the country and there are reports of thousands of sheep and other livestock being frozen to death. There is no record of the results of the fixtures for Luton Town at Wellingborough Grammar School away and at home to Civil Service Wanderers.
13 March saw a return of football and Luton Town’s return game with Dulwich.
“A match was played between these two clubs in the Town Meadows on Saturday afternoon before a numerous company of spectators, and resulted in a victory for the Dulwich by two goals to one. Notwithstanding that they lost, the home team had decidedly the best of the play, and often pressed their opponents very closely, but they had very hard luck, the visitors on the other hand getting their goals very easily”.
No mention of the fixture away to Dunstable.
The East Midlands Counties played Lincolnshire at Grantham,. They won 3 2 but there were no Luton players in the side.
In local football, Luton Rovers drew one all with Victoria Rangers on People’s Park. Luton Albany also had a game:
“Luton Albany v Bedford Town. – This match was played on the ground of the former in Dallow Lane, on Saturday afternoon. The visitors were by far the superior in strength, but the whole of the home team played in their best form, and the game ended in a victory for the Albany by two goals to one. Had it not been for the smart play of the Bedford goal keeper, the victory would have been much greater. Albany team:- Goal, G. Folks; backs, A. Sanders, S. Barnard; half-backs, J. Moody, E. Buckley and A. Neil; forwards, Benavides and Furlong (right), A.J. Deamer (centre), W. Miller and P. Benden (left).”
The next weekend sees no football reported at all. On Wednesday the 17th March, St. Martins were supposed to play at Dallow Lane against Luton Town.
On 20th March the fixtures were St Neots away and Watford Rovers at home.
The report on the game is as follows from the Luton Reporter;
“Luton Town v Watford Rovers.- This match was played in the Dallow Lane on Saturday, and resulted in a win for the visitors by three goals and one disputed to nil. It was evident that the Watford team were by far the stronger, as may be imagined from the result. From start to finish the game was very fast, the splendid play of the Rovers’ centre forward (F. Sargent) being specially noticeable. The Luton team was as follows: T. Read goal; A. Martin, E.H. Lomax (capt.) backs; T. Lawrence, W. Barrett, J. Wright, half-backs; G. Deacon, A. Deacon, R. Ellingham, W. Wheeler and G. Smith, forwards.”
Our friends down the road allege that at one game our aggrieved supporters chased and stoned the Watford Rovers players to the station. The “evidence” is that the story was repeated many times and they suggest that it may have occurred at this game. I am not clear why they concern themselves with this 1886 game as Watford F.C. were not formed until 1898. However, they have put into print that this incident “certainly did happen” so I must deal with it.
This alleged incident would have been the biggest act of criminality in the town since the bread riot of 1854. If the stoning had happened there would have been many injuries and there would have been collateral damage in the town. It would certainly have made the headlines in the local newspapers who often stooped to cover such mundane incidents as someone falling over in the snow and bruising their elbow. I have looked at every edition of the Luton Reporter up to the Summer of 1894 and there is no mention whatsoever of such an incident. The national newspapers would also have covered it. There is nothing that I can find.
Watford Rovers would have reported such a serious incident to the Football Association who would have censured the club. There is no record of the F.A. becoming involved and no mention at the club’s Annual General Meeting. If the incident had occurred then, as word spread, most clubs would have avoided playing at Luton until stringent measures were put into place to prevent a reoccurrence. It could well have been the end of the club as without the cash generated from home games the club could not survive. If Watford Rovers had been stoned then why did they agree to play two games the following season, home and away?
We have seen in previous chapters that teams enjoyed their trip to Luton. Besides paying the visitors travel expenses, the club did their very best to make teams welcome to the town. Opposing teams were met at the station by a committee member and shown the way to the dressing room. They were provided with towels and water and after the game there were free refreshments at the Club’s headquarters at the Midland Hotel. We have reports of both teams enjoying a sing song and reciting stories until the visitors caught an evening train. One London team were taken on a tour of Dallow Farm.
There may be some truth in the tale. Was one stone thrown by a small boy and the story embellished and exaggerated in true football fashion? Was it yet another anti-Luton slur? John Cotchin, the Chairman of the first Annual General Meeting, remarked on the good behaviour of “all those present” at matches. He would certainly have commented on a near riot in the town. The report by the Club Secretary at the first AGM mentions a “vile prejudice” against the club. Was this stoning story spread by biased factions and over time became an urban myth? As the story does not appear to have made any newspapers and without a shred of other evidence to support it, I am as certain as I can be that the incident did not happen.
Sadly the dreadful dearth of reports continues into the final weekend of March when Luton Town were due to play Forest Rangers at home and Kettering away. Wanderers lost 4 1 away to Luton Rovers in the last weekend of March.
Bedfordshire played Huntingdonshire on the last Wednesday of March.
“A match between teams representing these counties was played under the auspices of the East Midlands Counties Association in the Town Club meadow, Dallow Lane, on Wednesday afternoon. There was a fair attendance of spectators. Three of the players selected to represent the home county were unable to fulfil their engagement, and the team was thus considerable weakened. A boisterous wind was blowing, but despite this a capital game was witnessed. After a hard fought struggle the visitors were left victors by three goals to two. Another goal scored by the home team was disallowed on the grounds of off-side”. Bedfordshire lined up; Goal A.J. Smith , Bedford. Backs – A. Martin of Luton Town and E.G. Capon, Bedford. Half backs – A.H. Taylor, Bedford, W. Barrett, Luton Town, and G. Haywood, Bedford. Forwards – E.H. Lomax and G. Deacon of Luton Town (right), H.W. Oclee of Bedford (centre), J.R. Jones and G.H. Taylor both of Bedford (left).”
The Luton Times version.
“A good number assembled in Dallow-lane to witness this match. The day was slippery and the wind high. The game opened with lively play, the wind slightly in favour of Beds. A good number of shots were fruitlessly made for the goal for about twenty minutes, when a goal was obtained for Beds, the ball being well put through by E. Lomax. Play continued in the visitor’s quarters and Beds scored another goal. This, however, was disputed and yielded. In a few minutes the ball was again put through by Hockley, making two allowed. Half-time was called, and the wind now being in their favour the Hunts team soon scored their first goal, quickly followed by a second, making the game 2 goals to 2. The next goal was well contested, and at last obtained by the visitors, the game standing Hunts 3 Beds 2. The latter tried to obtain another goal, but had not scored when time was called.”
Interlude – Luton Cricket Club has their Annual General Meeting in March. The finances showed a depressing scene. Income was £179 5s 8d and expenditure £214 11s 4d leaving a deficit and £35 5s 8d. The Chairman, Mr F.S. Scargill, the owner of Bramingham Shot (now Wardown House),
“thought it unfortunate that a town of 30,000 inhabitants should allow a cricket club to languish for want of patronage; such a result seemed to show that the sport was not congenial to the soil”.
The committee, Messrs Pakes, Kershaw, Brown, Deacon Long and Ford were all prominent citizens and involved in football too. Mr Scargill refused the offer to be President in light of the poor finances.
“He really thought for such a noble game as cricket more money might have been collected, and it was very discouraging to find it so little appreciated. Large sums of money could be obtained for nearly every form of religious eccentricity, and he had hoped more interest would have been manifested in the club and cricket generally by gentlemen in the town.”
The committee pressed him reconsider being President, and he eventually agreed. Cricket was fast waning as the national sport and was being overtaken by football.
Luton Town Cricket Club 1886
Legend – back row from left – T. Brown, H. Wilkinson, J. Long, S. Pakes, Goodyear, Ford, W.E. Gilder, G.H. Small and C. Brown.
Front row from left – G. Brown, W. Shackleton, W. Bowler, G. Deacon, W. Hayward.
Thomas Brown, John Long, Gilbert Small and George Deacon all played football for the Luton Town. Long, Deacon, Charles Brown, Sid Pakes and possibly Wilkinson served on the Luton Town committee. W.E. Gilder was a member of the football club.
On 3rd April Luton Town were due to play Upton Excelsior in Dallow Lane but there is no record of the fixture.
Rangers drew 0 0 with St. Matthews.
Rovers appear to have dropped “Park” and Luton” from their name. The beat Victoria Rangers 3 0 on People’s Park.
Bedfordshire drew 0 0 with Hertfordshire at St. Albans
The gap in the committee minute book and the fixtures thankfully ends here. The Committee
“resolved that all members of the committee holding subscription books to be requested to bring the same with their respective amounts by next meeting”.
That does sound ominous and perhaps there was a crisis at the club over this blank period. The blank fixtures for Luton Town ended with a home game against Hanover United on 10th April.
“This match was played in the town meadow on Saturday afternoon, and was witnessed by a large number of spectators. The home club, which was well represented, had the best of the play, and after a very interesting and exciting game won by two goals to one. J.C. Lomax, G. Deacon and A. Taylor showed some excellent play, the former putting in some really capital shots”.
Hanover United gave football the term “United.” They came from the Polytechnic, a Young Men’s Institution situated at 309 Regent Street, London. It appears that they had a number of sports clubs all with separate committees and accounts all run with differing efficiency. In order to rationalise and improve they united all the clubs into one. The term “United” was attached and thus was born the first football club to use that term in their name.
It was announced in the Luton Reporter that teams representing Luton and St. Albans would play on 17th April
“for the benefit of Charles Lichfield, of Bedford Town Club, who had one of his legs broken in the recent match between Luton and Bedford”.
All three Lomax brothers would turn out. Also announced as playing for Luton were A.W. Platt, J.B. Challen and A.G. Henfrey of Wellingborough Grammar School. For St. Albans, two of the Sargent brothers, Alec and Fred of Watford Rovers would play. Also the Bower brothers from St. Neots.
The match was played the following weekend in the mud of Dallow Lane, the two team played a 2 2 draw in front of a large crowd and raised £5 for Charles Lichfield. The fixture against Wellingborough Revellers must have been cancelled due to the Charles Lichfield game.
The report from the Luton Reporter is as follows;
“Luton Town v St. Albans. On Saturday afternoon a match arranged by the committee of the Town Club for the benefit of Charles Lichfield, of the Bedford Town Club, who had one of his legs broken whilst playing in a match a short time since between Luton and Bedford, was played in the Dallow-lane meadow between teams representing the above clubs. In order to make the match more interesting several prominent players from the district, who were non-members of the clubs, were included in both the teams. Despite the very unfavourable weather, rain falling almost throughout the entire game, there was a large number of spectators present, and we understand there will be a balance upwards of £5 to hand over to Lichfield. The rain rendered the ground in a very heavy and slippery condition, but this did not appear to greatly interfere with the play, the game proving one of the fastest and best that have been played in the town this season. The choice of position fell to St. Albans , and shortly after 3.30 D. Lomax started the ball. Before two minutes had elapsed Whitby lowered the St. Albans colours, Challen putting in a splendid shot, the ball hitting the cross-bar and rebounding into play, and before the goal keeper could get at it Whitby put it through. For the next ten minutes the home team continued to press their opponents, and Challen finished up a good run by scoring a goal. During the remainder of the first half play was pretty even. Several attacks were made on both strongholds, but for some time neither side could accomplish any advantage, owing to the fine play of the goal keepers, Boxford’s defence being particularly brilliant. When ends were changed the home team continued to have the best of the play, but although they worked most assiduously they were unable to score. Shortly after the resumption, Sargent scored for the visitors. On several occasions the ball was taken dangerously near the St. Albans territory, but Challen and J.C. Lomax and D. Lomax experienced very hard luck, and could not get the ball through the goal although they made some very smart shots. Had not Whitby missed some easy chances he had, the game would undoubtedly have ended in a win for Luton. As it was just before time was called the visitors, who had been playing better, made a combined rush, and after one or two sharp shots which Boxford stopped, one of the half-backs succeeded in putting the ball between the posts, thus equalising matters. After this both sides made strenuous efforts to become the victors, but nothing further was scored, and the game ended in a draw – two goals each. For the home team Challen, Platt, and Taylor were the most useful men, the brothers Lomax and Deacon also showing excellent form; while for the visitors the brothers Bower and Sargent and Haydock were most prominent. The following were the teams:- Luton: H. Boxford, goal; A.W. Platt and A. Martin, backs; E.H. Lomax, A. Taylor, W, Barrett, half-backs; J.C. Lomax, G. Deacon, left, D.A.N. Lomax, centre, J.H. Challen and F. Whitby, right, forwards. St. Albans: M.G. Maul, goal; W.N. Roe and C.H. Aylen, backs; A.K. Bower, Rev. F.C. Marshall and A. Sargent, half-backs; P.H. Bower, centre, F. Sargent and P.H. Morton, right, A.T.B. Dunn and T. Haydock, left, forwards.”
So we come to the last set of matches in this first season. The Committee chose the teams to play Vulcans and United London Scottish at their meeting on 20th April. Luton Albany had written asking to play Luton Town first or second team but this was rejected.
The first match over Easter was on 23 April, Good Friday when Luton Town played Vulcans.
“On Good Friday a match was played in the Town meadow, Dallow Lane, between teams representing these clubs, and was witnessed by about 2,000 persons. The home team proved the strongest, and although the visitors played brilliantly at times they were only once able to score, while Luton succeeded in obtaining seven goals. Despite this the game was very interesting. some splendid play being shown on both sides. Boxford defended his charge exceedingly well, and kept out several very sharp shots. The teams were composed as follows:- Luton Town; Goal – H. Boxford. Backs – J. Williams and Martin. half backs – A. Taylor, W. Barrett and T. Lawrence. Forwards – T. Small and D.A.N. Lomax (right), J.C. Lomax and G. Deacon (left) and Leslie Dacre (centre forward)”.
The Luton Times attributes the 7 1 victory
“chiefly by the smart combination play of Lomax and Deacon”.
The paper continues with the next match on following day when Luton Town entertained United London Scottish.
“The attendance at this match, which was played in the same meadow on Saturday, was not so large as on the previous day, although there were a goodly number present. For the first quarter of an hour the play was rather slow, but after this Luton pressed their opponents very closely and it was with the greatest difficulty that the goal keeper prevented the ball from going through. Just before half-time P.H. Bower put in a very sharp shot which Moore was unable to stop. During the second half the Luton forwards made repeated attacks on the visitors’ stronghold but were unable to again score until about ten minutes before the call of time, when P.H. Bower finished up a brilliant run by shooting the ball through the goal. After this no other point was obtained, and the game ended in a win for Luton by two goals to nil. Barrett, Martin, and the brothers Lomax, Bower and Deacon played well for Luton”.
The Luton Town team was;
Goal – J. Long. Backs – D.A.N. Lomax and Martin. Half backs – A.K. Bower, W. Barrett and T. Lawrence. Forwards – E. Wright and A. Deacon (right), J.C. Lomax and G. Deacon (left), P.H. Bower (centre).
The final game of the season was played on Easter Monday against Olympians. The Olympians had written to say that they would not be able to fulfil the fixture but had a change of heart at the last.
“The Town club played their last match of the season on Easter Monday their opponents being the Olympians. The attendance was as large as at the match on Good Friday, but the game was not nearly so interesting, the play throughout being one sided. The town team had the game all their own way and in the end won by seven goals to one”. Luton Town lined up; Goal – T. Read. Backs – A. Sanders and Martin. Half backs – T. Lawrence, Brookes and W. Barrett. Forwards – R. Ellingham, A. Deacon (right), J.C. Lomax, G. Deacon (left) and G. Smith (centre).
Such was the pull of Luton that every year they were able to attract clubs to the town to play over the Easter holidays. Much needed revenue was made which was especially vital after a terrible winter cancelled 20 games. The Easter series of games would ensure that the club made a profit rather than a loss this first season. The importance of having Easter games was not therefore lost on a prudent Club Secretary whose task it was to arrange games. Easter would become an annual festival of football and a great attraction for the working people of the town eager to get outdoors and enjoy the long weekend.
Luton Wanderers played two games over Easter, both on Good Friday. In the morning they drew one all with Champion Hill at Dallow Lane. Their team was; Goal – W. Garrett. Backs – W. Bird and G. Humphrey. Half backs – A. Worboys, W. Widdocks and C. Holdstock. Forwards – T. Brooks, W.F. Miller, H.H. Kemp, W. Hills and J. Bushwell.
In the afternoon they played Vale of Aylesbury.
“Played on Good Friday afternoon also on Wanderers’ meadow resulted in a draw, three goals each. The Wanderers playing well together scored their goals in the first half, but in the latter part of the game they slackened considerably, several of them having played in the earlier part of the day. For Luton Taylor, Barrett, Lowe and G. Smith played best, while the brothers Madder and Lamb with Cobb and North showed up well for the visitors”. The Wanderers’ team was;
Goal – A. Worboys. Backs – G. Humphrey and W. Bird. Half backs – W. Barrett, A.H. Taylor and G. Bennett. Forwards – W. Garrett, R. Ellingham, H. Lowe, G. Smith and McFie.
There was a McFie who played for United London Scottish against the Wanderers in January. Maybe he travelled up with his team that played Luton Town although he did not play in that game. It is interesting to see Arthur Taylor turning out for Wanderers when he had already played that day for Luton Town against Vulcans.
The Albany concluded their season against St. Matthews Bible Class on Easter Monday on People’s Park with a single goal from Furlong winning it for them.
There was another broken leg over Easter as set out in the Luton Reporter.
“ACCIDENT IN THE FOOTBALL FIELD. – While a match was being played at St. Albans on Saturday between Luton Victoria and the St. Albans Clubs, one of the former team, a lad named Ernest Buckley, residing in High Town, was kicked on the leg and fell. It was found that both bones of the limb were broken, and one of them when he was picked up was sticking through the skin. The unfortunate lad was taken to St. Albans Infirmary.”
The Luton Town Annual General Meeting was arranged for the Town Hall Chamber on 8th May but was was postponed for a week as the team went to Bedford to play for the benefit of Ernest Buckley who broke his leg. The Committee approved a proposed amalgamation between the EMCFA and the Northants and District Association and agreed to send delegates to the meeting.
The Luton Reporter of 22nd May 1886 reported on the Luton Town Annual General Meeting.
Luton Town Hall, above – pre 1919.
Luton Town Hall Council Chamber, above – pre 1919. The scene of the 11th April 1885 meeting and the 1886 AGM.
“The annual meeting of this club was held in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, on Saturday evening – Mr John Cotchin presiding. There was a large turn out of members and supporters of the game. Mr. F. Pitkin, the secretary, being indisposed, Mr I. Smith performed the necessary clerical duties.
The Chairman, in making a few observations, said he thought the past year’s play had been of interest to him as well as to other people who took an interest in the game. He was afraid that some of them might have thought he was getting almost childish again by his frequent attendance at the matches -(laughter)- but in his youth he had a great liking for football and he still had a deep interest in it (applause). He was very pleased to see the manner in which their games were carried on generally. He had marked the good behaviour of all present, which was commendable to all (applause). When there had been the slightest sign of anything which was not decorous or not in perfect order, that he had been immediately suppressed, but he was happy to say it had not been very frequent. He thought the football games on the whole would bear comparison with anything seen in the surrounding counties (applause). He said this for the encouragement of the young men of the town, who were he believed, actuated with the very best motive in conducting these matches in the most gentlemanly way possible. Mr Cotchin heartily congratulated the members of the Town Club on the very considerable manner in which they had acquitted themselves during the season (applause).
The Secretary’s report was then read by Mr Smith as follows- “Gentlemen, This meeting, as you are of course aware is called for the purposes of receiving my report for the past season, and to appoint officers and committee for the coming season. Being the first year of its formation it is scarcely expected to rank with tip-top clubs of years’ standing, although there is, I feel sure, with good and proper management, something better to be looked forward to in the future. Football is considered by a great many to be in its infancy in Luton, and I think this is the case; at the same time I cannot close my eyes to the fact that at this present moment there is a vile prejudice existing in certain circles against this new Club, and I am somewhat afraid that until such prejudice ceases to exist football in Luton will never come to the perfection it should attain. The season opened with a trial match on the 26th September, and things went very well until our match with Great Marlow, in the first round of the English Cup Tie, we met with a defeat – 3 to 0. It must be admitted that we had in this match anything but our representative team, otherwise the result, I daresay, would have been very different. It is scarcely necessary to detail every match we have played, as the following will give the essence of the season’s play:- Matches played, 30; won 17; lost 9; drawn 4. Goals scored: for 64; against 37. There have also been no less than 20 matches not played during the season owing to the prevalence of frost and other unavoidable causes. For the success so far of the Club credit is due to those gentlemen on the committee who have taken great interest in its welfare. This, I am sorry to say, cannot be said truthfully of all of them, as the greater part of the work has devolved upon, and been done by, a few of its members. In the election of the committee to-night for the ensuing season it must be borne in mind that there are wanted gentlemen who have the interest of the Club at heart, and will work, and work with a will: not gentlemen who may get on the committee, and then take little or no interest in it. To give an idea by whom the greater part of the work of the Club has been done I append an analysis of the attendances: – Meetings held 46; G. Deacon 44; Brook-Knowles 40; J.Long 37; G. Abbott 31; S. Pakes 27; G. Furlong; G.H. Small 17; T.C. Brown 15. The following gentlemen were elected on the 24th October 1885, and out of a possible number of 32 meetings held the following stand:- J.H. Bennett 32; I. Smith 31; C. Brown 27; J. Squires 11; H. Boxford 7 – Your obedient servant, Frank Pitkin, hon sec”.
Mr Brown proposed the adoption of the report. Mr Jas Bennett seconded. Mr John Long said he would like to make a few remarks. In reference to the mention in the report about the appointment of the committee, he urged that those gentlemen who took office on the committee must forget themselves and go in for football (hear hear). There must not be any questioning as to the motives, and they must do anything they could to get a good match (applause). He had been almost disgusted sometimes with some of the players, through their not turning up. In proposing men for matches the members of the committee should give each other credit for good intentions. Their Club, he thought, had reason to be proud of its position for its first year; and he believed there were in it elements to make the best one within 30 miles round (applause). He mentioned that there had been some rumour that Mr C. Lomax was not to play any longer for Luton. He (Mr. Long) had made it his business to enquire at Mr Lomax as to this, and that gentlemen told him that it was not the case; Luton had the first claim upon his services and he would not go to St. Albans so long as he was wanted at Luton (hear hear and applause). Mr. Long added that he believed a great deal of the success of football in Luton and of this Club must be accredited to the Lomaxes (hear hear). He had always found them perfect gentlemen (hear hear). They had always treated the working members of the Club as though they were their equals, and not above them in any way (applause). Mr Long before sitting down suggested that a letter should be sent or that they appoint a delegate to meet the Wanderers, in order to try to bring about an amalgamation of the two clubs, so that they might have a thoroughly good Town Club.
The Chairman remarked that this might be brought up afterwards.
The report was unanimously adopted.
The balance sheet was next submitted. It showed the receipts to have consisted of a donation from Mr John Lomax of £2 12s 6d, members subscriptions £36 2s 0d, takings at the gate £54 15s 2d, total £93 9s 8d. On the expenditure side £5 5s 0d had been paid for hire of the meadow; railway fares etc, had required £25 9s 10d, which with a number of other small items made a total of £85 5s 10d, leaving a balance in hand of £8 5s 10d (applause). The books were placed at the inspection of the members.
On the motion of Mr E. Ellingham, seconded by Mr H. Boxford, the accounts were adopted, and the balance sheet was ordered to be printed and circulated. The next business was the appointment of officers.
Mr G. Deacon proposed the Mr J. Lomax senior, be again elected President. He thought Mr Lomax had treated them very well last year (applause). Mr G. Abbot seconded, and this was agreed to with acclamation.
Mr J. Bennett proposed that the Mayor be Vice-President for the year. Mr Brook Knowles seconded, and this nomination was unanimously approved of, as was another proposition that Mr Cotchin, their present chairman, should be adopted Vice-President.
Mr Knowles proposed that Mr J.G. Hunt be re-elected Treasurer. Mr Abbott seconded, and this appointment was also filled to the evident satisfaction of the meeting.
It was states that the secretary, Mr F. Pitkin, declined to accept that offer for another year; he wanted some rest. Mr H. Boxford suggested that the gentleman who was doing the duties pro tem, Mr I. Smith, was one who would work well with the committee (applause). This was seconded by Mr Deacon. Mr Smith was at first disposed to decline the honour, but after some persuasion by Mr Long, Mr Bennett and the Chairman, he consented to act, and Mr Cotchin thought that in Mr Smith they had got the right man.
Some conversation took place as to whether the number of the committee should be 13 as during the past year, or whether it should be reduced to 9, which some thought would be more workable. Complaint was made that some of the members during the past season had not attended. It was resolved that the committee should consist of 13. The following were nominated:- Messrs J. Bennett, H. Wilkins, C. Brown, G. Deacon, H. Spratley, F. Scott, E. Ellingham, F. Pitkin, J. Long and F. Hill. There were several others proposed, but they declined, and it was ultimately resolved to appoint the above named and leave it to them to fill up the number from the other members.
On the motion of Mr Bennett, a hearty vote of thanks was passed to the Brothers Lomax for their kindness in coming to play so often for the Club.
The Chairman mentioned the subject of members subscriptions and season tickets, but no suggestion was made to alter these.
The question of the headquarters of the Club was next considered, and it was decided to leave this in the hands of the committee. The Chairman having expressed a hope that the Club might be successful next season as in the past, he was thanked for presiding, and the meeting ended”.
The Luton Times has a very short report which adds nothing.
The club minute book reads as follows:
“The meeting was called for 7.30, but it was impossible to commence business before 8 and even then the attendance was very discouraging, not more than 50 members being present at any time and to an outsider it would have seemed that the concern was on its last legs, so little interest being taken that even the committee men were conspicuous by their absence.
The first business was reading the report and being satisfactory it was resolved that it be accepted. After which it was resolved that the balance sheet be accepted as read.
The meeting then proceeded to elect its officers for the ensuing year.
Mr Lomax senior President
His Worship the Mayor Vice President
Mr J.G. Hunt Treasurer
Mr I. Smith Honorary Secretary
Mr Wheeler Assistant Secretary
Messrs J. Bennett, Hy Wilkins, Chas Brown, Geo Deacon, Herbt Spratley, Fr Scott, Ed Ellingham, Fk Pitkin, Jno Long and Fr Hill were the only gentlemen that could be prevailed upon to serve on the committee. it was resolved that they be elected with power to add three gentlemen to the committee and this being the full strength up.
Resolved that the thanks of this meeting be tendered the Bros. Lomax for their generous support to this club.
After discussion it was resolved that the Committee Room and also the Head Quarters of the club be left for discussion to the committee.
This being the whole of the business a Hearty vote of thanks was given to the Chairman for his kindness in presiding”
[A space was left for the full committee to be listed. Inserted later is the following;]
“Names of Officers and Committee
Mr John Lomax President
His Worship the Mayor Vice President
George Deacon 25 Wenlock Street
James H Bennett 40 Stanley Street
Frederick Scott 29 Collingdon Street
Edward Ellingham 56 John Street
F.W. Hill 28 Wellington Street
Hy Wilkins 43 Old Bedford Road
Chas Brown 18 Liverpool Road
H.G. Spratley 12 Court Road
Fr Pitkin 37 New Bedford Road
John Long Wenlock Street
A. Almond 12 Alma Street
F. Saunders Cardiff Road
G Hinson 48 Wellington Street
Isaac Smith Hon Sec 77 Adelaide Street
W.G. Wheeler Asst Sec 30 Duke Street”
Almond, Saunders and Hinson were elected at the next committee meeting on 21st May.”
Analysis of the AGM
John Cotchin, the Chairman of the meeting, confirms that he played football in his youth which would have been the 1820’2 and 1830’s. Confirmation that football, in one form or another, was played in Luton, as in every other town in the country. He also confirms the good behaviour of all present at matches. He does not mention a near riot when Watford Rovers visited.
The minute book entry has been the subject of conjecture over the years;
“The meeting was called for 7.30, but it was impossible to commence business before 8 and even then the attendance was very discouraging, not more than 50 members being present at any time and to an outsider it would have seemed that the concern was on its last legs, so little interest being taken that even the committee men were conspicuous by their absence.“
Some have taken this to mean that the club was near to collapse due to lack of interest. I read it that people were fashionably late and/or took the starting time to mean 7.30 for an 8pm start. The newspaper report makes nothing of the late start and indeed says there was a large turnout.
Isaac Smith, who had stepped in to become temporary club Secretary, acknowledged that the club could not have expected to become a top club within it’s first year. Certainly the team was nowhere near competing with the likes of Welllngborough Grammar School. But Smith goes on to mention a “vile prejudice existing in certain circles against the club.” I believe this refers to certain committee members, the newspapers and the Wanderers. The antics of Herbert Spratley, who remained a committee member through the season, were reprehensible. His re-election to the committee is an eye opener not least because of his absence from so many committee meetings. There were other committee members who did not pull their weight or take their duties seriously. The committee felt obliged to recruit 5 new committee member at the 24th October 1885 meeting so that all duties could be covered.
We must remember that early in the season the club committee passed a motion about ensuring match reports were provided to the newspapers. Perhaps the club got off to a bad start with the newspapers and the relationship did not recover. With football in its infancy in Luton, the newspapers did not feel obliged to cover every game. Football, did not at this time sell newspapers. The Wanderers prejudice against Luton Town was to be expected.
There was an interesting proposal – “Mr Long before sitting down suggested that a letter should be sent or that they appoint a delegate to meet the Wanderers, in order to try to bring about an amalgamation of the two clubs, so that they might have a thoroughly good Town Club.” Yet another confirmation that there had been no amalgamation on 11th April 1885 between Wanderers and Excelsior in order to form Luton Town F.C.
John Long also quashed a rumour that J.C. Lomax was going to leave the club for St. Albans. J.C.’s haphazard appearances in the team must have caused some worries amongst the supporters and committee and a rumour clearly spread. The fact was that he was attending Peterhouse (College), Cambridge and playing football and rugby for them. There were representative games for Bedfordshire and no doubt other sporting distractions. He would leave Peterhouse without any qualifications so it is likely he went there just to play sport and socialise. His father lived in London so J.C. had to commute to Luton from the capital or Cambridge for each game. I get the impression that he found it difficult to refuse an invitation to play any sort of sport. He also played cricket in the Summer for Peterhouse, Luton Town C.C. and other clubs.
In the previous chapter we discovered that Arthur Taylor was paid 5/- expenses for the game at Dulwich. This is an important precedent as Taylor continued to live in Bedford for his entire career with Luton Town. Having received 5/- for the Dulwich game he would have expected no less for other away games. Interestingly there is no mention of this payment as a separate item in expenditure announced at the 1885/86 season Annual General Meeting. We only have the newspaper reports of the AGM which covers the financial statement read out by the Secretary. We do not have the full printed income and expenditure sheet. The payment to Taylor is not reported as a separate item by the newspaper. The committee were not that stupid. They should not have mentioned the 5/- payment in the club minute book as it was evidence of a breach of F.A. rules. It did not happen again. The committee were not going to advertise a breach of the rules at the AGM – a public meeting with the press and probably some enemies present. So they hid the 5/- and any other such payments under a woolly description which was not questioned in the back-slapping atmosphere of the AGM. Each season the committee appointed two of its own members to audit it’s own books each season. Any secrets would remain secret.
Let us turn to the income and expenditure. With members (season) tickets at 2/6 each, the figures show that the club had a total of 288 holders. The income from the gate stood at £54 15s 2d. If we divide this amount by the normal charge for home games of 2d then we have 6,570 paying supporters for home games. Unfortunately we do not know how many home games were played due to the factors already discussed, so we cannot produce any meaningful averages. We can add to the uncertainty the fact that small boys were let in for free at this time to promote the game.
If 2,000 watched the Notts County match then we have an excellent gauge of the club’s potential pulling power. All football lovers would have wanted to watch that match – it was not advertised as their reserve team. With the town having a population of around 25,000, then 2,000 is an excellent figure. When you take into account the number of migrant workers (see interlude 1) with little loyalty to the town, it is a remarkable figure. Notts County was at the top of the scale and other games would not have been so attractive especially considering the bad weather.
On the expenditure side we can see how easily the committee hid the Arthur Taylor payments. £5 5s was spent on hire of the meadow, £25 9s 10d on train fares and the remainder was spent on small items. Those two items came to a total of £34 15s 2d which means that the “small” items came to £50 10s 8d. This infers that there were so many small items that had to be paid for during the season that were too numerous to list. Communication with clubs by letter and telegram would have amounted to a fair amount when we consider the appalling weather and that 20 matches were cancelled.
Analysis of the season
The team did not set the region alight. It was a solid first season and some good middling sides were beaten such as Grove House, Vulcans, Olympians and Notts County reserves. The low was the dreadful defeat at home to Wellingborough Grammar School. Certainly without J.C. Lomax the team was much weakened. His wing play with George Deacon had become legendary and his mere presence in the team seemed to inspire the players. E.H. Lomax had stepped in as secretary when Frank Pitkin did not want to arrange the fixtures. All the Lomax brothers were given special praise at the AGM for helping the Club and behaving as equals not superior in any way. At this stage the club were grateful to the brothers for turning up to the games they did. It did not, however, help team cohesion if the brothers did not appear. We also saw against Wellingborough Grammar school that the team somewhat fell apart when they lost their talisman, J.C. Lomax, to injury. There was much for the club to be proud of and trialling so many young players from around the town must have been very satisfying.
The following players played for Luton Town F.C. in the first season, from October 1885 to April 1886.
Barrett, H. Half back
Barrett, W. Forward
Deacon, A. Forward
Deacon, G. Forward
Ellingham, E. Forward
Ellingham, R. Forward
Humphrey, G. Goalkeeper
Knowles, T.B. Half back
Lomax, D.A.N. Utility player, back, half back and forward
Lomax, E.H. Half back
Lomax, J.C. Forward
Long, G. Goalkeeper
Long, J. Goalkeeper
Martin, A. Back
Read, T. Half back and goalkeeper
Scott, F. Half back
Smith, G. Forward
Wheeler, W. Forward
Widdocks. Half Back
Wright, E. Forward
Boxford. Forward and goalkeeper
Brown, T.C. Goalkeeper
Ealing, W. Forward
Eling, W Forward
Fisher, W. Half back
Hunt, J.G. Back
Inwards, H. Half back
Lawrence, T. Half back
Small, G.H. Forward
Spivey, F.W. Forward
Walsh, H. Forward
From Luton Albany
Fullerton, H. Forward
Miller, W.F. Forward
Sanders. A. Back
From Bedford Town
Taylor, A.H. Half back
From Park and Luton Rovers
Small, T. Forward
Whitby, F. Forward
From Luton Rovers
Bird, J. Back
From Christ Church Institute and Victoria Rangers
Cawdell, A.E. Back
From Christ Church Institute
Hills, W. Forward and goalkeeper – also turned out for Wanderers in 1886
Davis, A. half back
From St. John’s College
Benavides, J.R. Forward
Beldam, C.A Forward
Fryer, H. Goalkeeper
From Wellingborough Grammar School
Platt, A.W. Back
From St. Neots
Bower, A.K. Half back
Bower, P.H. Centre Forward
The W. Smith category
Smith, W Wanderers, Excelsior and Park Rovers forward and goalkeeper. Walter Smith was a well known footballer in Luton and many newspaper entries must be him but we cannot say for certain which ones. It has been impossible to identify all the “W. Smith’s – during my research of the census I came across 6 William Smith’s alone that were of the right age.
From unknown teams
Dacre, Leslie Centre Forward
Ellingham, H. Forward
Kershaw, A. Half back
Williams, J. Back
Wright, J. Half back
1. H Ellingham is probably a one off mis-spelling of R. Ellingham. Mentioned twice in 1880 to 1884 playing for Wanderers and St John’s Mission. So counted once.
2. A. Kershaw is probably H. Kershaw who played for St. John’s College.
3. Eling and Ealing are probably the same player so counted once.
A total of 54 players played for Luton Town FC in their first season. They came from at least 12 different clubs.
The club record was; Played 30, won 17, drew 4, Lost 9, Goals for 64, against 37. 20 matches were cancelled.
Of those 30 matches we have a record of 25. Won 14, drew 4, lost 7, for 53, against 31. We are therefore missing five games, 3 wins and two defeats, 11 goals for and six against.
I have not counted Bedford away when Charles Lichfield broke his leg after ten minutes. Nor have I counted Lichfield’s Luton v St. Albans benefit match which was a 2 2 draw.
We are missing many goal scorers and team line ups so a detailed statistical breakdown is impossible. We do know that George Deacon scored 5 goals, J.C. Lomax, D.A.N. Lomax and Ellingham each scored 3, Frank Whitby, Bower and Benavides all scored 2. Knowles, Miller, Ealing, Beldam, Barrett, Lawrence and Albert Deacon all got one each.
On the 24th May 1886 the Wanderers Football Club held their get together.
“The annual supper of the above club was held at the Crown and Anchor Hotel on Monday evening. About 30 members and friends sat down to an excellent repast prepared by Mr and Mrs Stackhouse. After the supper a social evening was spent. Mr F. Pitkin was chosen as as Chairman, and Mr T. Brown occupied the vice-chair. The Chairman proposed the toast of the “Luton Wanderers Football Club” in appropriate terms, and Mr G. Smith seconded. The toast was drunk with great enthusiasm. Mr Bailey’s string band was in attendance, and songs were given by Messrs G. Smith, T. Brown, G. Humphrey, H.H. Kemp, W. Garrett, E. Fensome and G. Presland. During an interval letters were read from Mr C. Flowers M.P. and Councillor Spratley, accepting the vice-presidencies, but Mr. Furlong was obliged to decline. The “Host and Hostess” was proposed by Mr H.H. Kemp and Mr Humphrey seconded, and the toast was drunk with musical honours. About eleven o’clock the company separated after spending a very enjoyable evening”.
How did Luton Wanderers survive after the defections to Luton Town. Their players came from;
Abrahams, L. Wanderers half back
Bennett, G. Wanderers half back
Bennett, J. Wanderers half back
Barrett, W. Wanderers and Luton Town half back
Benavides. St. John’s College Forward and also Luton Town
Bird, W. Luton Rovers back
Boyce. Unknown team, back
Brooks, T. Wanderers half back and also Luton Town
Bushwell, J. Wanderers forward
Buckley, H. Wanderers forward
Clark, J. Wanderers back & half back
Davis. Unknown team, back
Davis, W. Wanderers Forward
Davis, G. Unknown team, goalkeeper
Deamer, A.J. Albany forward
Ellingham, R. Wanderers forward
Firman. Engineers and Wanderers back
Garrett, W. Wanderers forward, half back and goalkeeper
Golby, J. Unknown team, Forward
Hills, F. Christ Church Institute forward and Wanderers goalkeeper & Forward
Hills, W. Unknown team, Forward
Holdstock. Unknown team, goalkeeper
Holdstock, C. Unknown team, half back
Holdstock, W. Wanderers forward
Hucklesby, H. Luton Rovers, Park Rovers, Wanderers and Luton Town back
Hughes, T.R. Christ Church Institute back and half back & Wanderers half back
Humphrey, G. Wanderers back
Humphry, W. Wanderers back
Kemp, H. Wanderers forward
Miller, W.F. Albany and Luton Town forward
Smith, A. Unknown team, forward
Smith, G. Wanderers forward
Smith, J. Unknown team back
Smith, W. Excelsior, Luton Rovers, Wanderers & Luton Town forward
Spratley, H.G. Christ Church Institute forward & Wanderers half back
Widdocks. Wanderers half back and also Luton Town
Worboys, A. Possibly Park Rover back and Wanderers forward
Warboys, G. Possibly Unknown or Park Rovers back forward
Wright. Possibly Wanderers and St. John’s College Forward
Veale, T. Wanderers goalkeeper
Note – Holdstock is almost certainly one person but to be consistent I have listed all the variants.
It is interesting to note that Luton Town held their AGM at the Town Hall and their committee meetings in a Coffee Tavern. Wanderers, formed in a pub in High Town, held their AGM at a Public House. Perhaps another indication of the differences between the two clubs.
If we return to the Luton Reporter of 22nd May 1886 we find a summary of the season published under the title;
“The late football season in Luton and District.
“Football has now come to an end, and the leather and goal-posts are packed away until the opening of another season. The game may be said to be in its infancy in Luton. Within the last year or two numerous clubs have been formed; they have sprung up like mushrooms, but in many cases only to enjoy as brief an existence. Of late, however, the youth of the town, aye and not a few of the older stagers, have developed an amazing interest in this manly and bracing, if a trifle dangerous sport; and with the importation of greater solidarity and weight something has been done to place the pastime as it is played among us on a firmer and more permanent basis. Among the clubs which have been established the Town, the Wanderers, and the Albany are the most important; flourishing combinations are also to be found among the pupils at the different educational institutions in the town; while among the younger generation, who seem to have caught the infection most severely of all, the number of bands of little “kickers” is simply legion. During the season just ended, most of the local clubs have played several matches on their own ground, and some have occasionally ventured abroad and tried conclusions with competitors elsewhere. The results of these contests have been such that the football players of Luton have no reason to feel ashamed of themselves. They have not always carried the colours, it is true: the individual clubs have received some sound “drubbings.” But this must be the fate of all young and ambitious aspirants in whatever sphere, and without some such wholesome check now and again the spirits of emulation is apt to fade. Notwithstanding that the Luton clubs are comparatively young, the two leading ones this year took part in the competition for the English Association Challenge Cup, and not altogether without success. The Town met Great Marlow on the ground of the latter, but had to succumb to a thrashing of 3 goals to 0. The Wanderers were more fortunate, at least at the outset. They first played Chesham at Luton, and beat them. Having thus secured an entry into the second round they were next drawn against the Old Wykehamists, whom they encountered at Kennington Oval. Winchester training, however, proved too much for the local heroes, and they had to return home with the score standing 10 to 0 against them. During the season several prominent London clubs have appeared in Luton, and several important matches have been played under the auspices of the East Midland Counties Association to which both the Town Club and Wanderers are affiliated.
The following are some particulars of the principal Clubs in the town and neighbourhood.
The Town.- This club, which we are informed reckons as many as 250 members on its roll, held their annual meeting on Saturday evening, and we need not do more here than refer our readers to the report of that event given below. The report of the year’s play will there be found, by which it will be seen that the Club, although in its first year, has been remarkably successful. With such a creditable record to begin with, the Club confidently looks forward to still greater success next season.
The Wanderers. – This Club held its annual general meeting on Monday evening, Mr Knifton presiding. The secretary (Mr H.H. Kemp) read the report and the balance sheet which was unanimously adopted. It appeared that during the season 25 matches had been played. Of these 10 were won, 11 lost and 4 drawn. Considering the difficulties which the Club has encountered the result may be considered very satisfactory. The accounts showed the income to have amounted to £27 0s 1d, of which £14 3s 7d had been taken at the gate. The year closed with a balance in hand of £1 7s 3d. The following officers were elected for 1886/87 :- President, Mr R. Ford: Vice-Presidents, Mr Cyril Flower M.P., Councillor Spratley and Mr J. Furlong. Treasurer, Mr G. Bennett; Secretaries, Messrs H.H. Kemp and E. Hughes; Committee, Messrs W. Bird, E. Knifton, J. Wright, W. Widdocks, H. Lowe, W. Day and J. Clarke. The thanks of the meeting were given to the retiring officers for the work they have done during what has been a somewhat critical period. Balance sheets and tickets for the supper to be held next Monday evening may be obtained by application to any member of the committee.
Albany – This Club has since last season greatly increased and become of more importance than it was in former years. As regards the play it has been very successful, for out of 29 matches played, 19 were won, 6 lost and 1 drawn. The club scored 60 goals, whilst they lost 32. 12 of those goals were lost against Bedford Town 1st eleven. The club sent an eleven to Bedford on Boxing Day expecting to meet a second eleven, but a very good first eleven turned out and the Albany received a terrible drubbing. On February 21st, however, the Albany played the Bedford first eleven, and beat them by two goals to one. Amongst the clubs played were:- Bedford, Dunstable, St. Albans, Luton Town Club, Wanderers, St. John’s College, Norton College, Park Rovers, Rangers, Victoria Rangers and St. Matthews Bible Class. At the annual meeting of the club held recently the following committee was elected for next year: Messrs S. Burgess, A.J. Deamer, G. Folks, S. Barnard, Geo Squires, F. Hill and A. Davis. Mr G.W. Gilder was elected President; Mr W.F. Miller, captain: Mr A.E. Sanders, vice-captain; Mr J. Moody, treasurer; Mr John B. Furlong, secretary.
Luton Rangers.- this is the first season of this Club, and those who belong to it consider they have had a good one. And judging by the score they have furnished us with they are certainly entitled to that credit. Out of 25 matches they have lost only 2, drawing 7, and winning all the rest – 16. The Club consists of 36 members.
Norton College. – The season’s play of this club has on the whole been satisfactory, considering that some of their defeats were owing to the strong teams whose challenges the club accepted. The following matches were played:- Dunstable, won by 4 goals to 2; Rovers, lost by 7 goals to 1; Ramblers, won by 7 goals to nil; Rangers lost by 3 goals to 2; Victoria Rangers, won by one goal to nil; Ramblers, lost by one goal to nil; Albany lost by 7 goals to nil. Of the 7 matches played the Club then won 3 and lost 4.
Luton Rovers.- The annual general meeting of the above club was held on Saturday last in the St Matthews school room, when the report for the season was read as follows:- The Club has played 20 matches, out of which they have only lost 1, drawn 5, and won 14. They have scored 43 goals while only 17 have been scored against them. As regards the finances, they have a balance in hand of 3s 7d. This has been a very successful season for the Rovers”.
The numbers of bands of little kickers sums up nicely the impact Luton Town F.C. had on the youth of the town. We can imagine the lads in the streets and parks pretending to be J.C. Lomax and George Deacon with the stout lads acting as Thomas Read in goal. Football lovers must have been very encouraged for the future of the sport in the town. In five to ten years time the bands of little kickers would become men available to the Town Club. Men who would have years of experience behind them. We have already seen that from the start the Town Club gave a chance to players to show what they could do. 54 players had turned out for them during the season. We must now remind ourselves of the words of J.C. Lomax on 11th April 1885.
“Mr J.C. Lomax was called upon to give his opinion upon the proposed formation of a Town Club, said he was most emphatically in favour of a proposed Luton Town Football Club, not, however, for the breaking up of any other club. The reasons he advanced were that the proposed club would give more scope to find out who were really the best players to play in the town matches: it would give them more opportunity of showing what they were as football players; and it would form a good club for the training of young players, who could thus work up to play in the town matches.”
George Deacon had the vision of a Town Club. J.C. Lomax eloquently guided it to fruition. We owe a great debt to these two men for their immense contribution to Luton Town Football Club and football in Luton.
Thanks to Wardown Park Museum, part of Luton Culture.