CHAPTER ONE – FOOTBALL, BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT
Page 1 – Early football
Page 2 -1863 F.A. Rules
Page 3 – Football and rugby split
Page 4 – Football tactics
Page 5 – Luton F.C.
Page 5 – The first reported games
Page 8 – Luton F.C. 2nd season
Page 10 – Football in the region
Page 11 – Cricket
Page 12 – Ale
Most of us have seen black and white film of traditional games of football showing huge numbers of men in civilian clothes in a melee and we are told they are playing football. These games were often played between two villages across fields and streams with a vague method of scoring usually involving a pub. These appear to have been one off affairs taking place on holidays with few rules resulting in very brutal affairs. I do not doubt that football was played in the fields around the Luton whenever a ball could be found. John Cotchin, a native of Luton, Councillor and Mayor, born in 1829 said in 1886 that he had an interest in football in his youth. This would therefore have been in the 1830’s and 1840’s. There is a record in the Luton Times of the 13th November 1858 of a game between the Collegiate School and the Villa School but no details. What form those football games took is a mystery. By this I mean what rules were used is a mystery. Today we have a dedicated set of rules devoted to Association Football. When we join our story in 1876 there were many sets of brief rules.
Football and rugby were very similar and in some matches it seems difficult to decide which code is being played. The two codes did not separate when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball at Rugby School and ran with it. It was a long and complicated history. There is an excellent book “The Code War” by Graham Williams (the bibliography is a formidable one) which I recommend as it sets out the entire affair in wonderful detail.
With most of the working class toiling for six days a week there was little time for games at any other time. Various Acts of Parliament, from the 1840’s onwards, led to the working class having Saturday afternoon off. Sunday was a day of rest for many and certainly many families would not have indulged in ball games on the Sabbath. What should they do with this afternoon off? Getting out in the fresh air for a game was a terrific release from most men’s work environment. Getting the opportunity to put one over your rivals was also the aim.
Lads had Saturday afternoon off, they had a field and a ball. It appears that one thing that was lacking in some towns was leadership. This accounts for the wide variation in the dates of formation of clubs in the country. Some towns were fortunate in getting the right person to lead at the right time. Sheffield were early pioneers of the game with Sheffield F.C. of course but they had opponents in the shape of Hallam and The Wednesday. Other clubs, such as Preston North End who led the way with professionalism, were also fortunate in that respect. Many other towns, Luton included, lacked the leadership in the early years required to organise a club, raise money through subscriptions and join the Football Association.
In the South of England, three groups were way ahead as far as organisation was concerned, Gentlemen (the wealthy), Public Schools and the Military. Gentlemen could make the time to practice football and do all the work that is involved in running a team. Schools latched onto a game that promoted team spirit, working together, giving 100%, learning how to win and lose – all life lessons. Schools therefore devised rules and their healthy pupils could practice regularly. Schools had the additional benefit of having Masters’ available to play for them alongside the competitive pupils. I include Universities in the schools category as the public schoolboys clearly took their ideas with them. The military were also in a unique position similar to the schools and we know from the first F.A. Cup Final that the Royal Engineers had a good team. Luton Town would meet all three categories in the early years.
Public Schools such as Eton, Harrow, Westminster and Winchester had their own rules as did Cambridge and Oxford Universities. John Charles Thring [we will come across his son, Lionel Charles Reginald Thring, as a Luton Town player and the first headmaster of Ashton Grammar School, Dunstable] had written a pamphlet entitled “The Simplest Game” whilst working at Uppingham School. Thring had hoped that his rules would be adopted in their entirety. He was wrong but it seems his rules did develop debate.
When the Football Association was formed they pondered the rules they should adopt and considered all those available. An example of the mess they were faced with is highlighted by a letter the Lincoln F.C. sent to the third meeting of the F.A. The Lincoln secretary admitted his clubs rules were an amalgamation of the Marlborough, Eton and Rugby games. The rules used in Luton could have been of a similar construction. However, the F.A. had the Cambridge Rules at the forefront of their minds. The rules produced in 1863 were as follows:-
“The maximum length of the ground shall be 200 yards , the maximum breadth shall be 100 yards , the length and breadth shall be marked off with flags; and the goal shall be defined by two upright posts, eight yards apart, without any tape or bar across them.
A toss for goals shall take place, and the game shall be commenced by a place kick from the centre of the ground by the side losing the toss for goals; the other side shall not approach within 10 yards of the ball until it is kicked off.
After a goal is won, the losing side shall be entitled to kick off, and the two sides shall change goals after each goal is won.
A goal shall be won when the ball passes between the goal-posts or over the space between the goal-posts (at whatever height), not being thrown, knocked on, or carried.
When the ball is in touch, the first player who touches it shall throw it from the point on the boundary line where it left the ground in a direction at right angles with the boundary line, and the ball shall not be in play until it has touched the ground.
When a player has kicked the ball, any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponent’s goal line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so, until he is in play; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked off from behind the goal line.
In case the ball goes behind the goal line, if a player on the side to whom the goal belongs first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick from the goal line at the point opposite the place where the ball shall be touched. If a player of the opposite side first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick at the goal only from a point 15 yards outside the goal line, opposite the place where the ball is touched, the opposing side standing within their goal line until he has had his kick.
If a player makes a fair catch, he shall be entitled to a free kick, providing he claims it by making a mark with his heel at once; and in order to take such kick he may go back as far as he pleases, and no player on the opposite side shall advance beyond his mark until he has kicked.
No player shall run with the ball.
Neither tripping nor hacking shall be allowed, and no player shall use his hands to hold or push his adversary.
A player shall not be allowed to throw the ball or pass it to another with his hands.
No player shall be allowed to take the ball from the ground with his hands under any pretence whatever while it is in play.
No player shall be allowed to wear projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta-percha on the soles or heels of his boots.”
The rules in relation to running with the ball and hacking were the point at which football and rugby went their separate ways with Blackheath leading the way. In January 1864, after Blackheath and other rugby types left, the F.A. only consisted of 9 clubs.
The split with rugby had happened, the Football Association had been formed and a set of rules decided upon but there were still many hurdles before there was a united game of football. The F.A. was comprised only of clubs from London and the South. The Sheffield Football Association had produced their own set of rules and even as late as 1874, 55 clubs supported the Football Association and 16 the Sheffield Association. The tale is a long one and better described elsewhere but Sheffield would gradually yield to the F.A. rules.
With the separation of football and rugby, throughout the 1870’s and the early 1880’s, decisions about which code to play was being taken by clubs all over the country. There is an example of one team travelling to play a game which consisted of one half of football and one half of rugby. On the train home they discussed the merits of each game and voted to become a rugby team before they reached home. Another club decided to play football and rugby on alternate weekends. However, with relatively few teams around clubs often had to change between codes in order to get a game. They also had to change rules in order to get a game. While one set of rules might exist in your town, the town up the road might play a slightly or totally different game. Travelling in the winter to play a game was quite an undertaking if you consider organising the players to turn up at the right place at the right time with their kit and train tickets. When you arrive you have to discuss the finer points of the rules and make sure your team understands them.
Let us now turn our attention to the game of Association Football in the mid 1870’s. It is worth at this stage taking a look at the advice published about playing Association Football. “Goal-Post Victorian Football vol 2” edited by Paul Brown –
“An old football annual by Alfred Davis, 1892. Alfred Davis was the long serving secretary of Marlow F.C. who now play at the Alfred Davis memorial ground. He coached the England national amateur football team that represented Great Britain and won gold at the 1908 Olympic Games.
He looks back at a 1874 football annual when he says that dribbling was “the distinguishing feature of the play, and hence the need for only one back, for a player, once in possession of the ball, generally kept it until deprived by one of the opposing side.”
The Football Calendar of 1876-77 gives the following advice to teams which many would take with them into the 1880’s.
“Best arrangement for a team is two backs, two half backs, six forwards (two left wing, two centre and two right wing).
The goalkeeper shall be tall, active with a good eye and plenty of pluck. The backs should be fairly heavy and should never mince matters with opposing forwards. Half measures will not be successful. “either a charge, or a kick, or both” should be the motto of the backs.
Half backs should either get the ball themselves, or make it an absolute certainty for their backs to get it.
The forwards should work in couples, and should always worry, and stick to their opponents until they get the ball themselves or enable their half backs to play it”.
That sets out the basics of Association game at this time. However, we must remember that some clubs still played their own game according to their own rules.
The Reporter and Beds and Herts News of 18th November 1876 announced
“A Football Club for Luton.” A meeting for the purpose of establishing a Football Club in Luton was held on Wednesday [15th] evening and succeeded in its object. The club was formed and the officers and committee appointed as follows:- Captain: Mr A. Knight: Sub-captain: Mr Mower; Treasurer, Mr A. Knight; Hon. sec, Mr J.B. Marriott; Committee, Mr F.W. Ewen, Mr F.W. Wardill, Mr J. Knight, Mr S. Mayles, Mr Greatorex and Mr W. Cotchin. At the close of the cricketing season such a society as this should be very successful. Intending members can obtain information from the above-mentioned officers, and it should be observed that a field of Mr. E. Taylor’s in the London-road, at the back of the Widows’ Cottages, having been engaged, play commences to-morrow (Saturday) and will be continued each succeeding Saturday at 3.15p.m. punctually.”
The following week it was reported that;
“the members of the Luton Football Club, the formation of which was announced in our last, met for the first time on Saturday in a field near the London-road kindly lent by Mr. E,. Taylor. A very exciting game was played, and it is expected that the numbers of the club will be largely recruited.”
Fixtures were arranged for:
3rd February 1877 at Primrose Hill, North West London against Queen’s.
17th February 1877 at Luton against Institute
24th March 1877 at Luton against Queen’s.
The fixture list also listed Hertfordshire Rangers games. Their home games were at Watford and included some prestigious games against Old Harrovians, Upton Park, Cambridge University and Barnes.
Another fixture was arranged as the Reporter of 20th January 1877 gave the following report:-
“Luton v Institute. The above match was played at Primrose Hill, London on Saturday. It was a very pleasant game resulting in favour of the home team, but was the occasion of a more determined contest than might have been expected considering that this was the first match played by the Lutonians. The Institute kicked off, but the ball was sharply returned by the Luton “backs,” and a hard fight between the “forwards” ensued, which eventually resulted in Luton being compelled to touch down in self-defence. The goal of the Institute was more than once in danger ; but the superior passing on their side (only to be gained by constant playing in concert) was the cause of the Luton discomfiture. When time was called the game stood – Institute 1 try, 1 touch in goal, 4 touch downs to nil: neither side having obtained a goal a result considering the circumstances eminently satisfactory.”
The report in the 17th February paper against Queen’s read as follows;
“A match between the Luton and Queen’s Football Clubs was played at Primrose-hill, London, on Saturday February 3. The result of a pleasant game was in favour of the home team, but it appeared to be rather in favour of Luton until “half-time” was called, when their opponents seemed to have the bets of the contest. At the finish the score stood as follows; Queen’s, 1 try, 1 touch-down; Luton 2 touch-downs. The players were Queens T. Thompson (goal) J. Hicks and F. Gunn (half-backs) W. Standish (captain) F. Dark, P. de Witt, W. Bromley, R. Smart, T. Whitta, H. Drew, A. Hickman, R. Brutton and E. Pavit (forwards). Luton, F. Healey (goal), T. Collis and A. Negus (half-backs) J. Knight and F.W. Ewen (quarter-backs) Geo. Mower, W. Greaterex, E. Greaterex, D. Carruthers, H.T. Collis, G. Plummer, W. Boutwood, E.A. Hicks and J.B. Marriott (forwards). The return match with the “Institute” Club is to be played today (Saturday), commencing at 3.45 p.m. This will be the first match played by the Luton team on their own ground.”
The first reported football match in Luton took place on Saturday 17th February 1877 between Luton Football Club and Institute. Note the spelling of “goal.” The report begins,
“the above match was played at Luton on Saturday last (February 17th). The visitors were a very strong team, and proved too much for their less experienced opponents, who, however, made a good fight for it. Up to half-time only a try was made by the Institute, and throughout the game was well-contested. After half-time the Luton team fared worse as a gaol was scored against them, and they had to touch down more then once in self-defence. At the close of the game the score stood:- Institute, one gaol, one try and three touchdowns to nil. The result was to a great extent owing to the splendid back play of Mr W. Soppitt for the Institute, who kicked the gaol made by them from the field of play after a fine run. What would have been otherwise a very pleasant game was marred by an accident to Mr George Carruthers (one of the Luton forwards) who was badly hurt in a scrimmage just before half-time, but who, we are glad to say, is now doing well. Sides:- Institute: W. Soppitt (gaol), Lindsay and R. Burden (half-backs) Miller and Lambden (quarter-backs), E.A. Turpin (captain), W. Burden W. Bromley, J. Evan, C.G. Green, F. Lovitt, H. Ridgley, W. Petty, T.E. Smith and Willment (forwards). Luton: – F. Healey (gaol), A. Knight (captain, three quarter-back), F. Hollis and A. Negus (half-backs), Geo. Mower, G. Carruthers, W. Greatorex, E. Greatorex, D. Carruthers, O. Booth, H. Cumberland, H. Hollis and J.B Marriott (forwards).”
Carruthers injury made the news column –
“Serious Accident at a Luton Football Match.- The first match on the ground of the Luton Football Club on Saturday was marked by a sad event, Mr G. Carruthers, 25 son of Mr Carruthers, King-street, was playing for the home team against a London club, and had succeeded in taking up the ball and was running off with it, when he was charged by several of the opposite players, and he fell with great violence to the ground. It was at first thought that his neck had been broken, but it was found happily that this was not the case, although the injury was serious. He was at once removed to Mr. Hewitt’s, 78 London-road, near the field, where he was attended by Dr. Grover and a Dr. Tomson, being removed on Sunday evening. During the day he was visited by Dr. Jackson, of London, who is well-known in connection with cases of spinal injury. It is reported that the sufferer is in as favourable a condition as could be expected.” His injury also meant that Luton played one man short for the second half.
The following week the paper reported that;
“we have great pleasure in stating that Mr. G. Carruthers, of King-street, Luton, who sustained such a severe accident in a football match on Saturday week, is progressing very favourably, and it is anticipated that he will be restored to his accustomed health.”
The Reporter covered the last game of the season in their 31st March 1877 edition.
“the return match between the Primrose Hill and Luton Football Clubs was played on the Luton ground on the 24th inst. The game throughout was well contested, and ended in favour of the home team by one goal, one try, and one touchdown to nil on the part of the visitors. Players:- Queen’s, _ Captain De Witt Thompson, Dark, Bromley, Steel, Hartley, Metcalf (forwards); Rakes and Cline (quarter backs); Butt (three quarter back); Gardener and Heifman (half-backs); Kelly (goal). Luton,- Mower, Marriott, Hodgkinson, Hollis, Greatores, E. Greators, Shackleton, Plumber and Cumberland (forwards), H. Hollis and F. Ewen (half-backs), A. Knight (three quarter back); Captain and Heeley (goal).”
What sort of game was played in these games? The use of “try,” “touchdown” and “three quarter back” indicates rugby. However, this was a period when football used the Sheffield Rules, the Cambridge Rules, the Football Association rules plus universities and schools had their own versions. It is very difficult to pinpoint exactly what game was being played. Only football had a player in goal. Also scrimmage is a football term not rugby. The use of the word “touchdown” comes from the 1863 Football Association rules which gave a team a “try” at a goal if the attacking team touched the ball down behind their opponents goal. Goals were the point scoring mechanism but the number of touchdowns was used as a back-up in the case of no goals. However, this was abandoned by the Football Association in 1867. On the other hand a “touch in goal” (as in the Institute game) is solely a rugby term as set out in the Rugby School rules of 1862.
As for the number of players on the pitch, Rugby had 20 players a side until later in 1877. However, clubs agreed how many players should play and 25 down to 11 a side games can be found. The rules that Luton Football Club used are therefore something of a mystery. It may be that the clubs agreed in advance on exactly what rules they would use. The result was a hybrid game which players enjoyed. Just because the Sheffield, Cambridge, Rugby School rules receive all the attention does not mean there were not other sets of rules in existence. As already mentioned, Lincoln F.C. used an amalgam of three different sets of rules. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where a hybrid set of rules were adopted in Luton.
It is an topic which we could discuss in depth for ages but still not come to a conclusion as the hard evidence is just not available without the club minute book or further documentary evidence. What we do know is that we have the first recorded football team and match in Luton. However, we must remember that football has been played in Luton in all its forms since the year dot. This is merely a record of matches. For all we know, there had been organised games in Luton for years but the clubs did not bother to inform the newspapers. Or the newspapers did not think a report was of interest to the readers or they did not have room for football in their columns.
This “Luton Football Club” is not the birth of Luton Town Football Club. Luton Town Football Club came into being on 11th April 1885. That date will never change. To change it would be a transparently cynical attempt to re-write history. Others can do what they like with the date of their formation and it is for them to justify it, if they can.
It was announced that the Annual General meeting of the Luton Football Club would be held at the Town Hall on Thursday 27th September 1877 starting at 8 o’clock. The Reporter did not carry a report until the 13th October 1877 when it published the following in which they appear to get the dates muddled.
“Luton Football Club. – Fine weather favoured the first meet of the season of this club, which was held on Saturday; sides were chosen by Mr F.W. Ewen and Mr A. Knight, and some rather spirited play was shown. The annual meeting was held afterwards at the Queen’s Hotel, where a hearty vote of thanks was accorded to Mr E. Taylor for his generosity in allowing the club the use of the ground. Officers for the ensuing season were elected as follows: Mr T. Hollis, captain, Mr Mower, sub-captain, Mr Healey, Secretary, – Committee, Mr F.W Ewen, Mr E. Greatorex, Mr H. Hollis, and Mr G. Hunt.”
Interlude – There was already a Luton Bicycle Club in the town and its last match for the season took place in October – two mile and ten mile handicap races.
The fixtures for the Luton Football Club were published on 27th October 1877.
“October 20 at Bedford v Bedford County School
October 27 at Luton v St. John’s Wood Football Club
November 3 at Stony Stratford v Stony Stratford
November 10 at Luton v Institute
December 8 at Luton v Bedford County School (return)
January 12 at Luton v Stony Stratford (return)
February 2 at Primrose Hill v St. John’s Wood (return)
February 23 at Primrose Hill v Institute (return)”
All the following games appear to be rugby.
A report on the game against Bedford County School was published on 27th October.
“This match was played on the ground of the latter at Bedford on Saturday. Both sides were well represented, and an exciting game was played. It was well contested throughout, no goal being obtained by either side, and when time was called, the score stood as follows: – School 4 tries; Luton 1 try and 1 touchdown; thus leaving the School with victory to their credit. For the home team Mr Lunnon played in good style, the playing of Messrs Harrison, Hart and Moore was also very serviceable. On behalf of Luton the playing of Messrs J. Hollis and Brown was very noticeable, as was that of Messrs J. Hollis and Mower. The following were the sides:- The School,- Back, Lee; half-backs, Green and Hart; quarter-backs, Lunnon (Captain), Harrison, and Kepthorne; forwards, Messrs Dickenson, Andrews, Burbidge and Saberton; East, Moore, Stubbs, Gardner and Walker. Luton:- Back, Barker; three back, H. Hollis; half-backs, Ewen and J. Hollis (captain); quarter backs, J. Knight and Brown: forwards, Mower J. Hollis, Marriott, Booth, Healy, Plummer, Shackleton, Hodgkinson and Cumberland. The next match will be played to-day (Saturday) at Luton, against St. John’s Wood Football Club.”
The Luton Reporter of 3rd November 1877
“Luton v St. John’s Wood. This match was played at Luton on Saturday, and resulted in an easy victory for the home team. The visitors were playing with only ten men against the full number on the opposite side, so that the game was one-sided throughout, and when half-time was called they credited the Luton Club with the victory; the latter having scored two goals, four ties [tries], and 3 touch-downs to nothing. The play of Ewen and T. Hollis on behalf of Luton was noticeable; for St. John’s Wood Gardner and Dickson did good service. The following were the teams:- Luton, Back, Ewen; half-back, T. Hollis (captain), H. Hollis; quarter-back, Knight, Hunt; forwards, Mower, W. Cotchin, Long, Hodgkinson, Cumberland, Barker, Shackleton, Plummer, E. Greatorex, and Healy. St. John’s Wood, – Back, Pavitt, half-back, Gardner (Captain), Dickson; quarter-back, Cline, Hicks; forwards, Drew, Standish, Meyer, Carswell and Corcoran. The next match will be played at Stony Stratford to-day (Saturday).”
The 10th November 1877 Luton Reporter.
“Luton v Stony Stratford. – This match was played on Saturday last at Stony Stratford, and resulted in favour of the home team, having scored 1 goal and 2 tries. They played a fast forward game throughout. Unluckily for the visitors they were rather deficient in this part of the field, as they were playing a weak team and one man short, having been disappointed of the services of some of the best players. Messrs. Long, Ewen, Marriott and Hicks worked well on their behalf. For the home team all the forwards worked hard, as also did Messrs. Downing and G. Lister. Luton, back, H. Hollis; half-back, T. Hollis, F. Ewen; quarter-back, Knight Schofield. Forwards, Marriott, Plummer, Hicks, G. Long, E. Greatorex, Barcliffe, Matthews, Whitehead, Healey. Stony Stratford, backs, Power, Benson; three-quarter back, Hassall; half-back, G. Lister; quarter-backs, J. Lister, Clewitt; forwards, G. Downing (Captain), Allen, Gardner, E. Downing, Curtis, Clark, Smith, Becket, and Pattison. The next match will be played at Luton, on Saturday the 10th inst., with the “Institute” Football Club, Haverstock Hill.”
Two new fixtures were added in the same edition. On November 17th Luton would play Kettering at home. The return game would be played on the 19th January at Kettering.
From the Luton Reporter of 24th November 1877.
“Luton v Kettering. This match was played at Luton on Saturday, and resulted in a victory for the home team by one goal to one try and two touches down on the part of Kettering. The visitors kicked off, their forwards following up well, and kept the ball in their opponents’ territory for some time where several scrimmages ensued, and the ball coming out to one of their backs he made a run-in, and thus obtained a try, from which they failed to secure a goal; after this the Luton forwards played well together and forced their ball into mid-play, until their captain (T. Hollis) by a very brilliant run traversing nearly the entire length of the ground, passing the opposing backs, ran in behind the posts, and by a well-directed place-kick by Hodgkinson secured them the victorious point. No further advantage was gained before half-time; after which the home team were compelled to touch-down twice in self-defence, no other point being obtained by either side. For Luton T. Hollis and Brown played in fine form throughout and tackled well, Ewen and Knight did good service for them also. On behalf of Kettering Clark and Newman played well and worked hard; the forwards on both sides played well together. The following were the sides:- Luton, – Back, Healy; half-backs, T. Hollis (captain), Ewen; quarter-backs, Brown, Knight; forwards, H. Hollis, Long, Greatorex, Hodgkinson, Booth, Plummer, Cumberland, Mower, Shackleton and Barker. Kettering, – Back, H. Mobbs; half-backs, D. Clark; quarter-backs, Newman, Parker; forwards, C. Bayes (captain), East, Henson, Bell, H. Bayes, Bailey, Smith, S. Mobbs, Fowls, and G. Mobbs.”
The paper also announced another new fixture for March 9th against “Bedford Town Football Club” at Bedford.
The Luton Reporter of 15th December 1877.
“Luton v Bedford County School. The return match between these team was played at Luton on Saturday, and resulted in victory for the home team by one goal to nil on the part of the School. The ground being in good condition, combined with the fine weather, attracted a good number of spectators. A fast game was played throughout, and both sides being in good form it was well contested. Lunnon won the toss and elected to take the goal nearest the London Road. Hodgkinson kicked off for Luton; the opposing backs returned the ball quickly and kept it for some time in their opponents’ ground where some good dropping on the part of the Elstonian backs sent it twice over the Luton goal-line, but a few brilliant runs by their Captain and Ewen brought it into mid-play, where several scrimmages took place. Lunnon and Harrison were up to the mark, and by some good passing among the backs and some long drops by Lee the ball was again brought into Luton quarters, but no advantage was scored by either side before half-time. Lunnon started the ball for the School, but the Luton forwards worked well together forced it to the opposite side of the ground where it was kept for some time, and a series of scrimmages was the result – most of them within the 25 yard flags. A few smart runs by Harrison, Hart and Lunnon brought the ball into the centre of the ground where the Elstonian backs made vigorous efforts to get away with it, but the good tackling of Brown and H. Hollis stayed their progress. several scrimmages were fought out, and a good kick by Brown, with some sharp play on behalf of the forwards, took the ball behind the visitors’ goal-line, where a “try” was obtained by J. Hollis, from which Hodgkinson kicked a goal. After this the visitors played up pluckily, and compelled the home team to touch-down in self-defence. The Luton forwards forced the ball into School quarters where they kept their ground until the call of “no sides.” Harrison, Hart and Lunnon played well and did capital service for their side; the dropping on the part of the Elstonian backs was good throughout, especially that of Lee; their forwards played well; Moore’s playing was particularly noticeable. The forward play of the Lutonians was excellent. Among the backs J. Hollis,
Ewen, and Brown did good service, and worked hard; their tackling was also noticeable. The following were the sides:- Luton – Back, Healy; three-quarter back, H. Hollis; half-backs, Ewen, T. Hollis (captain); quarter-backs, Brown, Knight; forwards, Mower, J. Hollis, Marriott, Shackleton, Long,, Hodgkinson, Cumberland, Plummer, Barker. Elstonians – Back, Lee; half-backs, Green, Hart; quarter-back Harrison, Kempthorpe, Lunnon (captain); forwards, Bonnett, East, Moore, Watkin, Gardner, Stubbs, Upton, Simpson, Combes.”
This is the last reported game of the Luton Football Club. Why, and when, the club died out is not known. Clearly there was leadership but from someone who preferred rugby, not football. If Luton F.C. had chosen football then there was no shortage of opposition in the area. “The Football Calendar 1876-77” lists the following teams as being registered with the F.A. – Hertfordshire Rangers (who played in Watford), High Wycombe, Great Marlow, Hitchin, Biggleswade and Bishops Stortford. Britannia of Bedford were members from 1874 until 1879 and St. Albans Pilgrims from 1873 to 1875. Local schools would have had teams too. Football was taking off in many towns whose clubs were not registered with the F.A. Wellingborough had three clubs by 1876. Wellingborough Town had been formed in 1867 followed by Wellingborough Britannia. Wellingborough Britons were formed in 1876 who later changed their name to Wellingborough Revellers. This part of the world was becoming a football stronghold as we will see later with teams from Kettering, Finedon, Higham Ferrers, Rushden and Newport Pagnell together with Wellingborough Grammar School all fielding strong teams.
To the west, the Berks and Bucks Cup began in 1878 with clubs such as Reading, Chesham, High Wycombe, Maidenhead, Great Marlow and Amersham taking part. In London there were 34 clubs in 1878 registered with the F.A.
Football in Luton was lagging behind and it would take some remarkable men to inspire the sportsmen of the town into action. The Lomax brothers arrived at St. John’s College, Luton in about 1878 and their influence will be key for football in the town.
There was a strong connection between the Luton Town Cricket Club and football in the town which we will explore later. Cricket was the national game with many local teams meeting during the summer months. The local newspapers would take a long time to accept that the national game of cricket was being ousted by the rough game of football. Football would be attacked at every opportunity until the editors realised that football sold newspapers, cricket did not. The Town Cricket club was plagued with financial problems and was always looking to raise money. The money raising event, below, is typical.
From the Luton Reporter 13th April 1878. Note that the advert contains a time that people’s carriages should turn up to collect them after the concert.
From the 20th April 1878 Luton Reporter.
We cannot let the first chapter go by without mentioning Ale. Besides which J.W. Green, the brewer, did become a Luton Town supporter. From the Luton Reporter of 29th March 1879.
Thanks to the following;
Goal Post, Victorian football volumes 1 and 2 edited by Paul Brown.
The Football Association 1863-1883: A Source Book. by Tony Brown
The Code War by Graham Williams.
The Victorian Football Miscellany by Paul Brown.
The History of the Football Association 1863 – 1953 by Naldrett Press
Strawopolis, Luton transformed 1840 – 1876 by Stephen Bunker.