Crystal Palace: 1861 history
Until recently Crystal Palace Football Club had the legend, largely handed down by word of mouth, that there was a team of casual workers who played at the old Crystal Palace; that team disbanded and all trace of it was lost until our present team was founded in 1905.
With the coming of the internet and, more recently, the digitisation of the British Library’s vast collection of Victorian and Edwardian newspapers, that has all changed. A chance find of an old tankard at an auction led me to start digging into the newspaper archives to try to find out more about its background.
Four years of research and travel, from the National Football Museum’s archives in Preston to Oxford University and reading thousands of pages of old newspapers in between, revealed that the ‘word of mouth’ history had been wide of the mark and a completely different history of the club emerged - a rich and varied one completely unique in world football.
Below, you will see that the club wasn’t formed by casual workers at the Palace, it didn’t disband as had been previously thought, and that its history can be traced from 1861 through to the origins of the club today.
Let me take you back to the earliest history of the Crystal Palace. The story is worth telling because it is the small acorn from which our club today eventually grew; it has a unique history which we should be proud of.
Most people will have heard of the Great Exhibition of 1851, nicknamed ‘The Crystal Palace’, and for good reason. It was the brainchild of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, and was erected in Hyde Park to showcase British industry and inventiveness and to promote world peace and trade. Britain was then the industrial powerhouse of the world, similar to the United States today, and the Crystal Palace was the first World’s Fair.
The exhibition was a resounding success, drawing 6.2 million visitors in under six months. To put this in context, remember that in 1851 the population of Britain was just over 27 million, the car hadn’t been invented and the roads were poor, so most of the visitors arrived by another ground-breaking British invention, the railway.
But there was a problem. When the Crystal Palace was built in Hyde Park there was considerable opposition from local residents who feared the damage it would cause, so Parliament decided the building would be demolished and removed by 1st June, 1852.
The exhibition had been a great success, and no one wanted to see it disappear, so what to do with it?
Ultimately the Brighton Railway Company bought the building, dismantled it and moved it to a new site at Sydenham - then part of the Surrey countryside - and formed a new company to run it, the Crystal Palace Company Ltd. It is important to keep the Crystal Palace Company in mind because they are the constant link throughout this story that traces our history back to 1861.
When the new Crystal Palace opened in June 1854 it was much larger than the original and was set in 200 acres of parkland (now Crystal Palace Park). The Crystal Palace Company controlled everything that happened within the building and the surrounding parkland. Like Disney today, visitors were charged an entry fee which allowed them to use or view all of the Palace’s facilities, making this the world’s first major theme park.
The Victorians were heavily interested in what’s been called ‘muscular Christianity’ (good, clean, healthy outdoor sport) so the Company decided to use parts of the parkland to this end.
The first sports introduced at the Palace were archery and cricket, and the Crystal Palace Company laid its own cricket pitch in June 1857 for use by visiting clubs and companies.
In August 1857, the pitch was first used for football when the brewery Truman Hanbury & Buxton staged two cricket matches for their employees’ day out, with the rest of the staff playing football on the edge of the ground.
Always on the lookout for ways of drawing new visitors to the Palace, the Crystal Palace Company decided to dip their toes into the world of football, then a completely disorganised minor sport.
An advertisement appeared in the Morning News on 23rd January, 1858, saying: ‘Experienced Players will be in attendance on Monday next to superintend the GAME of FOOTBALL to be played on the cricket ground.’ We’ll never know just who those ‘experienced players’ were as there were no organised teams in London then, but this shows the Company’s interest in football at a very early stage.
In summer, 1859, the Company took a further step and set up its own cricket club, the Crystal Palace Club. They made Thomas Farquhar, the Chairman of the Crystal Palace Company, its first President and its first members were the sons of the local gentry.
Victorian sportsmen took their cricket seriously and dedicated cricketers kept themselves fit over the winter by rowing, organising athletics and playing football among themselves as there were no organised football teams. But, sometime during 1861, the Crystal Palace cricketers set up their own team: a far cry from the casual workers who, we were always told, founded the club.
During the 1870s one of the many famous players who played for the Crystal Palace football team was Charles Alcock. Alcock was the great driver and innovator of Association Football of his day and was known as ‘the King of Football’. He was Secretary of the FA for 25 years, creator of the FA Cup and came up with the idea of international matches, initially against Scotland.
A journalist by profession, he also edited The Football Annual from 1868 until his death in 1907. In the Football Annual he included a directory of clubs which provided detailed information, including their formation dates. He lists Crystal Palace among those clubs and gives our foundation date as 1861.
Football historians rely heavily on Alcock’s Football Annuals for information about the earliest clubs and, given the fact he also played for Crystal Palace, we can rely on Charles Alcock as being a reliable and accurate source for our founding date.
Yes. Club colours were another piece of information that was provided in the Football Annual and Palace’s were given as “blue and white jerseys, blue serge knickerbockers and stockings.” What we don’t know, however, is exactly which shade of blue this was and how the shirts were designed because to date no photograph of our early Victorian team is known to exist. That said, by deduction, we can make a pretty good guess.
What we do know is the external ironwork of the Crystal Palace itself was painted blue and white to give the impression that the entire building was made of glass, and surviving colour prints of the time suggest the blue was a shade of sky blue. So, it seems pretty likely that the football team chose that same shade of blue and white, which visitors to the Palace would have been familiar with, for their own club colours.
For the possible design of the shirt, we can again look to the Football Annual. Charles Alcock is silent on the design of the Crystal Palace shirts, but that is helpful. Where clubs’ shirt colours were made up of hoops, stripes or bars Alcock invariably said so. But for Palace he said nothing. That leads us to conclude that the shirt was a simple bicolour, with one half white and the other half blue - a common design in Victorian football and very similar to Blackburn Rovers’ traditional kit today.
It’s reasonable to rely on Alcock’s information because he actually played for Palace and was therefore familiar with our colours and shirts.
Crystal Palace’s first reported match was on 15th March, 1862, and is a highly significant one in football history. We played a club called Forest, who played in east London, and it was the first recorded game between two clubs who would go on to found the Football Association.
Remember there were no organised football teams around London at that time other than the public schools and universities, but we know that serious club cricketers used to play football among themselves to keep fit during the winter, making up their own internal teams. We find reports of games between Married v Single, A-L v The Rest and even Handsome v Ugly playing football against each other!
But, in March, 1862, we find the first report of a match between two organised teams in London: Forest v Crystal Palace. Forest were a club formed by several Old Harrovians of Harrow School, including the Alcock brothers, John Forster and Charles, and others who were old boys of the nearby Forest School, still in existence today. Forest played their football at Snaresbrook in Essex.
This match proved to be doubly important because it was the first reported game between two teams that later formed the core of the clubs that founded the Football Association and developed the game some know as ‘soccer’.
We don’t know the precise reason but the most likely one is because both clubs had links through old boys of the Forest School. The most likely link seems to be the Cutbill family, some of whom went to Forest School and whose family moved close to Crystal Palace while retaining links with their old school friends.
The father of the family, Thomas Cutbill, was a civil engineer and the London agent for Brassey & Wythes. Thomas Brassey was one of the principal builders of Britain’s railways and one of the first directors of the Crystal Palace Company, so here was his Crystal Palace link.
Thomas Cutbill had moved his family to Lawrie Park in Sydenham some time before 1861. He had four sons, and at least three, Walter, Arthur and Reginald, attended Forest School before the family moved to Sydenham and all played cricket and football for Crystal Palace. We also know that Arthur played for Forest as he’s shown in their earliest known photograph, taken in October, 1863.
The first match was 15-a-side (there were no formal football rules at this stage). Apart from two of the Cutbill brothers, the Palace team included Club Secretary, Francis (‘Frank’) Day, a master brewer whose family were part of the company, Day, Noakes and Co Ltd. which owned the Black Eagle Brewery in Bermondsey; James Turner – a wine merchant like our own Stephen Browett - whose father was the first President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and three brothers named Lloyd.
The inclusion of the Lloyd brothers adds another twist to Palace’s history. Palace fans will no doubt remember the demonstration outside Lloyds Bank’s Head Office in the dark days of administration in 2010 that helped force the sale of the club to our present owners. Little did Lloyds know that the earliest Crystal Palace club was almost a Lloyd family club as the three brothers, Theodore, Harry and Alfred, were the great-great-grandsons of Sampson Lloyd, who founded Lloyds Bank. Furthermore, James Turner was their brother-in-law, having married their sister Rachel.
As you can see, those earliest members of the club were far from the casual workers we have always held to be our history.
The match on 15th March lasted a marathon two and a half hours. A brief newspaper report says it was a tight affair with Forest managing the only goal after 90 minutes. It was obviously considered a success however as a return match was organised straight away at the Palace on 5th April, just three weeks later.
Football was a disorganised game in 1862. It tended to be played by the public schools and by cricketers who wanted to keep fit in the winter and even then, this was only among themselves. There were no organised clubs that played each other until Forest and Crystal Palace’s first game in 1862.
Crystal Palace counted among their numbers the Cutbill brothers, and at least one of the brothers, Arthur Lockett Cutbill, had also played for Forest as he is shown in the oldest known photograph of a football club, one of Forest taken in October 1863.
In 1863 Crystal Palace played a third, newly organised team, the N.N’s (or No Names) team of Kilburn. Among their players was Alex Morten, who also played cricket for Crystal Palace. Also playing for the N.N’s in that match were Arthur Pember and Ebenezer Morley who respectively became the first President and Secretary of the newly formed Football Association. In those first two Crystal Palace matches we find five of the eight Founding Fathers of the FA – Pember, Morley, the two Alcock brothers of Forest, and Crystal Palace’s own James Turner, playing against each other and no doubt talking about the future of football over post-match drinks.
These three clubs, together with the Barnes club, which Morley went on to found, comprised the core sides who formed the Football Association. This was no easy task, as the founders had a head-to-head battle with other clubs whose game was based on the Rugby code and who wanted their brand of football to become the accepted version. After six acrimonious meetings the ‘soccer’ code won the battle and gave us our football of today.
The Football Association was a very fragile body in its early years and Crystal Palace, as one of the four core soccer clubs, played their part in keeping it going.
In an effort to widen football’s appeal Charles Alcock launched the FA Cup in 1871, which was open to all clubs affiliated to the FA, with the winner being effectively crowned the country’s top club.
Again, Crystal Palace were heavily involved, with club captain, Douglas Allport, being one of the three FA Committee members who chose and bought the first FA Cup trophy. Palace entered the very first FA Cup competition in 1871 but were unfortunately knocked out in the semi-final by the Royal Engineers.
Having gone from strength to strength, suddenly Crystal Palace stopped playing football in 1876.
In 1892, the FA Cup final was expelled from Surrey’s cricket ground, the Kennington Oval, because of the damage it caused to the cricket pitch. With two exceptions, the final had been played there since its inauguration in 1872.
The Crystal Palace Company’s Entertainments Manager, Henry Gillman, seeing an opportunity to bring even larger crowds into the Crystal Palace, had the brainwave of filling in the Palace’s two neglected fountains and building England’s first national football stadium at Sydenham to host the final.
The stadium’s first FA Cup final, between Aston Villa and West Brom, was held in April 1895 and was a roaring success. It was the first of 20 finals that would be played there until 1915. The final would become an event of such national importance that it was considered an unofficial bank holiday.
Naturally, the Crystal Palace Company wanted to squeeze more revenue out of its new stadium, so the amateur Crystal Palace football team took to the field again and played friendlies against the top teams in the country. But they didn’t attract the crowds the Crystal Palace Company wanted.
The company glanced enviously across south London at its Football League neighbours, Woolwich Arsenal, and saw them drawing crowds of 25,000; so decided the way forward was to turn the amateur Crystal Palace football club into a professional outfit. They did so in 1905, with the help of cricketing legend Dr W.G. Grace, the company’s Sporting Director.
It’s probably natural to imagine a picture of middle aged or old men gathering in the Freemasons’ Tavern in Covent Garden to form the Football Association and thrash out the rules of football in October 1863, but nothing could be further from the truth. Those earliest members were young players, mainly men in their 20s, and some were even schoolboys as young as 16.
The Crystal Palace Club was represented by its 25-year-old secretary and master brewer, Frank Day.
Arthur Pember, who was in the N.N. team Palace played in April 1863, took the chair and opened the meeting by saying it was “felt desirable to form some sort of rules which the metropolitan clubs should adopt among themselves as there were so many different ways of playing,” so that “the existing difficulty of ‘getting a goal’ would be more easily overcome.”
Ebenezer Morley, another player who had been in the N.N. team that played Crystal Palace, followed Pember’s opening speech by suggesting: “It is advisable that a football association should be formed for the purpose of setting a code of rules for the regulation of the game of football.”
The proposal was put to the 11 clubs and carried, thus the Football Association was born.
The teams at those first meetings divided starkly into two camps: the Rugby teams who supported ‘hacking’ were led by Blackheath, and the ‘non-hackers’, who were built around the core clubs of Forest, The N.N, Barnes and Crystal Palace.
At the second meeting, James Turner, a wine merchant from Croydon, replaced Day (who was more of a cricketer at heart) as Palace’s representative. The initial nine association rules were agreed and then there was wide-ranging discussion on many aspects of the game, from trying to settle the dimensions of the pitch to how the goal should be marked out, how the game should be started and what constituted a goal.
After two agreeing nine laws, the attendees realised another meeting would be required and so a third was called a week later. At this point, clubs were allowed two representatives at each meeting and Turner was joined by his brother-in-law, Harry Lloyd, a shipping insurance clerk from Thornton Heath and member of the great Lloyd banking family, to represent Crystal Palace.
After further discussion the second meeting’s nine laws had been expanded to 23, which tried to accommodate the views of all delegates, including those who supported the contentious issues of hacking, tripping and holding.
The third meeting concluded with Secretary Morley being tasked to refine the 23 draft laws into a set of rules for final approval by the association at a fourth meeting on November 24th.
At the same time, no doubt knowing the new Football Association was coming up with its own set of rules, a group of public school old boys met at Cambridge University to devise their own rules under which they continued to play.
Surprisingly, even though Rugby school had two representatives at this meeting, the new Cambridge rules forbade pushing players with hands, tripping up and shinning – precisely what the FA’s soccer members wanted to achieve.
At the FA’s fourth meeting – where James Turner and his brother-in-law, Theodore Lloyd Junior, represented Palace – the soccer clubs proposed that the FA should form a committee to reach out to the Cambridge rules as they ‘embraced every requisite of the game with great simplicity’ and were ‘the most desirable rules for the association to adopt.’ Palace’s Turner played his part that evening by seconding the motion.
The Blackheath Club objected, proposing that the motion should only say the Cambridge rules were ‘worthy of consideration’, and a vote was taken. The clubs tied with eight each and it was left to Arthur Pember, as President, to give the casting vote. He gave it to Turner and John Alcock of Forest F.C’s motion to contact Cambridge and discuss adopting their rules. The soccer ‘non-hackers’ had the upper hand – just.
But the Rugby clubs then turned the tables, saying they misunderstood the first motion and so put forward their own: that the FA Committee insist the hacking rule be kept in any communications with Cambridge. This vote was carried 10 to nine. Probably realising the Rugby clubs now had the upper hand, Alcock said it was too late to carry on and proposed that the meeting be adjourned until the following Tuesday, December 1st. This was agreed.
This was a shrewd move by Alcock as two schools, who were supporters of the Rugby faction, started their Christmas holidays and couldn’t attend the next meeting. In their place was a new member, Forest School of Walthamstow. This was a school close to Forest F.C. which, presumably, was no coincidence and, not surprisingly, they supported the soccer faction.
Crystal Palace clearly took their role in supporting the soccer cause seriously. Neither James Turner nor the Lloyd brothers were able to attend the hastily arranged meeting, but they made sure the club was represented by players Frederick Urwick and John Louis Siordet. In fact, Palace were one of the few clubs to attend all six inaugural FA meetings, providing seven different delegates - more than any other.
The battle continued at the fifth meeting and the Rugby faction tried to get it adjourned without success. The group then voted on removing the rules which allowed players to run with the ball in their hands and to ‘charge, hold, trip or hack’ a player with the ball, and this was comfortably carried by 11 votes to five. The soccer faction had finally won, and Crystal Palace had been an important part of its success.
A sixth meeting was held on December 8th, 1863, to confirm the new laws and the first FA Committee was appointed. Except for Blackheath’s Francis Campbell, they were all members of the soccer faction, including James Turner, and these men are now considered the Founding Fathers of the Football Association.
When Crystal Palace played their first reported match against Forest in March 1862, Forest had two brothers in their team, John and Charles Alcock. John was the older of the two and was one of the original Founding Fathers who helped establish the FA, but retired in 1866. He was replaced on the committee by his younger brother Charles, who was to become one of football’s great drivers of the modern game.
Two of Charles’ early innovations were the establishment of the world’s oldest international, England v Scotland in 1870, and a new Challenge Cup in 1871.
It must be remembered that at this time football was an entirely amateur game – there were no leagues, and teams just played friendlies against other local sides.
Alcock wanted to widen interest of the game and came up with the idea of a national Challenge Cup where any member of the FA could play the others in a knock-out competition. The team which eventually won could consider themselves the best team in England that year.
The FA Committee, on which Crystal Palace had a seat, approved the idea in July 1871 and at a meeting in October the then-Crystal Palace captain, Douglas Allport, proposed setting up a sub-committee ‘to frame a code of rules’ for the new Association Challenge Cup.
In February 1872 a separate sub-committee of three, Charles Alcock, Douglas Allport and Alfred Stair of Upton Park, were appointed ‘to select and purchase the new Challenge Cup’, and the FA Cup was born.
By the time the new season was well underway most clubs had already arranged their fixtures for the coming season, so a cup clash was tough to fit in. Only 15 sides, including Crystal Palace, entered the very first competition.
The first round fixtures were decided at that meeting and Palace were drawn away to a club they had never played before, Hitchin. The odd team out, Hampstead Heathens, were given a bye, going straight through to the second round.
The first round was played on Saturday, November 11th, 1871 and turned out to be somewhat chaotic as only four of the seven ties were played.
Hitchin v Crystal Palace was one of the two matches that kicked off at 3pm that day, so Palace played in one of the very first FA Cup ties. The two teams, playing in drizzling rain, were well matched and both played with “great spirit,” according to a report from the time.
Notable for Palace was that James Turner played in goal and, as far as can be ascertained, was the only original FA Founding Father of 1863 to play in the FA Cup. Chances were few and far between and, at the end of the 90 minutes, neither team had scored.
This was the first FA Cup draw and a decision on progression had to be made. Presumably because the clubs already had a busy fixture list the FA allowed both to go through to the second round.
In the run up to Christmas, Palace played their second round tie at home to Maidenhead. There had clearly been some bad weather as the notoriously wet Palace ground “was not at all in a good state for football, being very heavy from the recent thaw.”
The game was an even contest for the first hour, even though Palace goalkeeper Alex Morten was late arriving. But Palace scored three goals through Alfred Lloyd, Bouch and future England international, Charles Chenery, to wrap up the game 3-0 and take them through to the quarter-finals.
Crystal Palace were drawn against the top team of the day, the Wanderers, for their quarter-final, who they faced on January 20th, 1872, on Clapham Common. Palace put out a very strong team which included future England internationals Frederick Chappell and Cuthbert Ottaway, Charles Chenery’s friends from Oxford University’s social scene. Ottaway would become the first England captain in a recognised international match later that year.
The Wanderers had the better game but neither side was able to break the deadlock and Palace managed to hold the Wanderers to a 0-0 draw through the excellent play of goalkeeper Alex Morten.
The FA discussed what to do about the drawn quarter-final and decided to let both Palace and the Wanderers through to the semi-final, as they gave the Glaswegian club, Queens Park, a further bye; they reached the semi-final without playing a single round!
In the same month an FA sub-committee, which included Palace captain Douglas Allport, selected and purchased the new FA Challenge Cup trophy to be presented to the winner.
Crystal Palace drew the Royal Engineers for their semi-final which was to be played at the Oval. Palace again put out their strong ‘cup side’ which included Chappell and Ottaway. It was another hard-fought game that ended in a 0-0 draw and this time the FA ordered the match be replayed as only one team could go through to the final.
In the first FA Cup replay on March 9th, Palace could not call on star player Ottaway and this, coupled with the fact they did not look fit and the Engineers played a very physical game, saw the south Londoners go down to a 3-0 defeat.
Palace played a few more club games but their season, which had been both memorable for reaching the cup semi-final and for Allport personally, was otherwise over.
The game was entirely amateur in its early days; players were not contracted to play for individual teams and could be found playing for four or five different sides a season. Charles Alcock was a good example of this. When a player pulled on a club’s shirt, he was their player for that game regardless of which others he played for.
Notable first players include James Turner. Turner was the son of Thomas Turner, the first president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Turner Jr was a wine merchant who lived in London Road Croydon and was heavily involved with the founding of the Football Association, representing Crystal Palace at three of the FA’s six founding meetings. He was a member of the FA’s first committee and was its second treasurer. As such, the FA recognises him as one of its eight Founding Fathers, a proud player to have in our history.
He was also the brother-in-law of three other Palace players: Theodore, Alfred and Harry Lloyd, having married their sister Rachel. It’s ironic that, when Palace were close to liquidation in 2010, they were saved by hundreds of Palace fans demonstrating outside Lloyds Bank. Little did the bank suspect that Palace started life as virtually their family club – the three Lloyd brothers were the great-great-grandson of Sampson Lloyd, Lloyds Bank’s founder.
Next, we have Alex Morten. Morten was a stockbroker who lived close to Crystal Palace. He played cricket for the Crystal Palace Club in the summer, but in the winter he played football for the NNs of Kilburn who counted the FA’s first secretary, Ebenezer Cobb Morley, and first president, Arthur Pember, among their number. It seems highly likely Morten introduced the NNs team to Crystal Palace, one of our earliest opponents. Morten was a very capable goalkeeper and eventually switched to playing for Palace.
Englishman Morten stepped in to keep goal for Scotland in the first ‘unofficial’ international with England after the Scotland goalkeeper pulled out at the last minute. Morten also earned one cap for England and in doing so set a number of England records, which stand to this day. His date of birth is uncertain, but it was either 1831 or 1832, meaning he was born earlier than any other international footballer. At at least 40 it also makes him the oldest England debutant, the second-oldest player to ever represent England, the oldest debutant England captain and the oldest debutant England goalkeeper.
In the 1870s, as the Crystal Palace team grew in importance, a clutch of notable players put on the club’s blue and white jersey; chief among these was Charles Alcock.** Alcock was the most influential footballing figure of his day, and it was largely down to his efforts that association football got established at all. He joined the FA committee in 1866 and became its secretary in 1870, holding the post for 25 years.
In his early years he came up with the idea of playing international football and also dreamt up the FA Cup to expand competition among clubs. It was an idea which eventually led to the Crystal Palace Company building England’s first national stadium and hosting 20 very successful FA Cup finals between 1895 and 1914. Alcock played six matches for Palace between 1870 and 1872 and, living in Dulwich, would have known the club well.
A number of other England internationals played for the club at this time, including Palace regulars Charles Chenery, our first England international, Charles Eastlake Smith and Arthur Savage. Other internationals who played occasionally were Morton Peto Betts, who would score the first goal in an FA Cup final, Cuthbert Ottaway, who would become the first recognised England captain, Charles Morice, Frederick Chappell and John Brockbank.
When the new national stadium was built in 1895 and the Crystal Palace Company took direct control of the team, yet more England internationals turned out in the club’s last amateur games. Such notable stars included an England captain Charles Wreford-Brown, Croydon born Gilbert (‘G.O’) Smith, sometimes called ‘the first great centre-forward’, Hugh Stanbrough, Vaughan Lodge, Arthur Henfrey and Arthur Topham.
A single answer is not enough to do justice to all the notable stars who turned out for Palace in the 19th century, but we can’t finish without mentioning probably the most unique Palace amateur of all, the Reverend Kenneth Hunt.
Kenneth Hunt actually signed for Palace in October 1912, when the club had turned professional, but retained his amateur status as an ordained clergyman. Hunt was the last amateur to play and score in an FA Cup final, having netted for Wolves when they beat favourites Newcastle at the Palace in 1908. His uniqueness is that he is the only Olympic gold medal winner to have played for Crystal Palace, winning for the Great Britain football team in 1908, a side that was coached by Crystal Palace’s trainer, Adrian ‘Shy’ Birch - as was the gold medal-winning team of 1912.
The Crystal Palace football team that played under that name at the Crystal Palace started off as an amateur team in blue and white and eventually became the professional team, owned by the Crystal Palace Company, playing in red and blue in 1905. The Crystal Palace Company disappeared from history and the Crystal Palace burnt down in 1936, but the football club continued and still exists in the form of today’s Premier League team, bearing the image of its birthplace in the club badge.