How Canterbury City Football Club came about.
We are indebted to Dave Elliott for providing this article. The history of the club from 1947 to the present day will be available later.
Around 1880 organised games of Association Football were played in Canterbury. Local schools, including Simon Langton and St Edmunds as well as the villages of Chartham, Littlebourne and Sturry, were among the pioneers.
In 1888 a ream representing Canterbury played friendly games. That season they drew 1-1- at Dover and won 4-2 at home in the city. In 1901 Canterbury City’s record was P25, W13, D4, L8 Goals For 71, Goals Against 30. The ‘A’, or Reserves team’s record was: P15, W6, D 3, L6, Goals For 28 Goals Against 25.
In 1904-05 Canterbury City joined the East Kent Thursday League but the season was spoiled by clubs withdrawing and unplayed fixtures. City’s record was P8, W2, D2, L 4, Goals For 14, Goals Against 20. Points 6.
The local newspaper gave praise to City for building a grandstand on Wincheap Grove to hold 140 spectators in their first season. The cost of the stand and dressing rooms was £70. It was opened on December 4, 1904 by the Mayor, Sir George Collard.
The following season the club joined the East Kent League, meeting teams from Ashford, Deal, Dover, Folkestone and Ramsgate. They were also members of the Faversham & District League, but financial troubles brought a close to the club after only three seasons.
Around 1910 the Kentish Gazette began encouraging local football enthusiasts to form a club to represent the city. Mr P C Speed, of York Road, who had been secretary of the Canterbury League, took on the task. He recruited players from Post Office United and the new club entered the Kent League Division Two (East). They were able to acquire Pay’s Field which later became known as Bretts Corner. They played in blue shirts.
he local boys found the step between where they had been playing and the Kent League considerable and had little success, losing seven league games and two cup ties. They were given notice to withdraw and then played in the Thanet League. Their last home game, which was against Folkestone, was abandoned with the visitors leading 2-1. The reason was that a Folkestone player had refused to leave the field after being sent off. Their final match was at Shorncliffe, Folkestone on December 10, 1910 in the Kent Senior Cup when they lost 7-3 to the North Stafford Regiment.
In 1913 “Outsider” in the Kentish Gazette wrote that he found it difficult to understand why Canterbury did not have “winter sports”. He said that the “young men played cricket but when winter came they had no appetite for footer; even the Canterbury & District League has ceased for lack of enthusiasm”. However, Senior football did return to Canterbury in 1913-14 when another military unit, the Carabiniers, entered the Kent League Division II (East). They played on the Rising Sun ground and held a middle of the table position.
A local club that caught the eye during this period was Canterbury Alliance who attracted a large following when playing on Victoria Recreation Ground. In 1912-13 they reached the final of the Kent Junior Cup Eastern Division, losing to Buckland Paper Mill (Dover) 2-0. After the war they joined the Faversham & District League, finishing runners-up in Division II in 1919-20 and winning the division the following season without losing a match. After being promoted to the First Division they changed their name to Canterbury City.
The City club collapsed in 1921-22 for financial reasons. Because they played on the Victoria Rec. they were unable to charge entrance money. Meanwhile, Waverley FC, which had come into existence as a Thursday club well before the Great War, had been making progress. The club had been formed as a result of a meeting of some youths on the railways bridge in the Whitehall area. Essential funds for the flotation of the club were raised by means of a house-to-house collection. It was not long before they became a power in East Kent football.
The foundations of the club were laid by a committee consisting of Messrs East, Lewis and Stickells. Between 1908 and 1912 the Waverley had played in the Thursday section of the Canterbury League. They then joined the Thanet Thursday League for the season 1912-13. The following season they were runners up in the Faversham Charity Cup, losing 1-0 to Faversham Cotton Powder Works.
For a few seasons after the war the “Waves” remained a formidable Thursday team, winning the Kent Mid-Week Shield in 1921-22 and 1926-27. Matches against Deal Invicta and Ramsgate St. Luke’s were particularly ‘competitive’. In 1922-23 and 1923-24 they had been runners-up in the Canterbury Thursday League. They continued to play Thursday football in the Thanet League until 1930 when this section of the club was closed.
A marked interest in Saturday football came about after the First World War, with the revival of a local league. This persuaded the Waverley officials to start a Saturday section, joining the Folkestone Junior League in 1922 to 1928. During this period they reached the divisional final of the Kent Junior Cup, losing 2-0 to Hythe in 1923-24.
In 1925-26 the Waverley took their first step into senior football when entering the Kent League Division II (Mid-Kent Section). They finished runners-up in 1927-28.
Cup fever hit Canterbury in 1926-27 when the “Waves” reached the semi-final of the Kent Amateur Cup, having beaten Deal Town 11-2, Whitstable Town 5-0, then losing to Borstal 4-1. However, Borstal had played an ineligible player and, on appeal, the KCFA had the tie replayed, with the “Waves” winning 7-2 after extra-time. In the semi-final Waverley drew 1-1 with Dover United. In the replay at Folkestone they lost 2-1 in extra-time.
Although still remaining amateurs, in 1929-30 the “Waves” moved up to the Kent League Division I while the Reserves entered Division II. They had also played in the New Brompton League in 1927-28 and 1929-30.
On December 3, 1930 at the Savoy Café the supporters held their first meeting. Some fifty members turned up. By the end of the season membership stood at 323. This support was to be the backbone of the Waverley’s growth. They can claim to have one of the earliest supporters’ clubs in the country.
The Supporters’ Club arranged boxing tournaments, whist drives, dances and a voucher competition to benefit the football club. Apart from the social side, the supporters took over the selling of programmes, arranged travel to away games and presented the club with duck boards for the side of the ground opposite the stand.
Slowly the foundations were laid for a senior club in Canterbury and in 1931, at their annual meeting at the Gaywood Rooms, it was announced that the Waverley would become semi-professional. Reports of the meeting said that the club must be run on business lines and funds made available, and if the public wanted good football they should support the club.
The Supporters’ Club, which had its headquarters at the Station Hotel, came under the guidance of W.G. Cheeseman (Chairman), supported by G. Thomas, E.H. Steel (Hon. Secretary). W.F. Swain and P.S. Wilcox. The Supporters’ Club committee had five ladies to help arrange events. They were Mrs. E. Armitage, Mrs. F. Friend, Mrs. C.H. Norton, Mrs. H. Petts and Mrs F.W. Strand. The gentlemen members were: Mr Baker, W.H. Baines, F. Bromley, H.S. Cork, T. Curtis, G.W. Freeman, C. Newlyn, D. Prett, F.W. Strand and F.H. Witt.
The club itself was strongly served by Mr. H.H. Cooper (Chairman), Mr. W. Harvey (Vice-Chairman), Mr. H.S.S. Amos (acting Hon Secretary, and Treasurer) and a large group of vice-presidents including the Mayor Rev. S.G. Wilson, and President of the club Major H.G. James.
There was also a working committee including Messrs. Arllotte, Bishop, Hills, Jordon, Norton, Patterson, Potten, Turnbull, and Wood.
Waverley’s homely ground at Wincheap Grove, in close proximity to the River Stour, had a tendency to flood, which caused games to be postponed, with a loss of revenue. The supporters rallied round to help with finances.
To raise money, the club, who hired the ground from the Canterbury Gas & Water Company, agreed with a travelling circus/fair that they could use the area next to the pitch for the sum of £60. This arrangement continued until the Second World War.
In the 1930s a stand was erected behind the goal at the Wincheap end. The average gate was about 800. In 1930 Waverley played a Friendly with Queens Park Rangers and won 3-2. The game was part of a deal for the transfer of Wally Tutt to the London club. According to ‘Spectator’ in the Kentish Gazette, this game was conclusive proof of the high standard of the Kent League.
Seven of the Waverley’s players represented Kent in county games, Bartley, Gough, Lucas, Newton, Peters, Richards and Tutt.
Waverley were drawn against Kent League leaders Tunbridge Wells Rangers in the FA Cup of 1930 but lost 4-0. The gate of 2,747 established a record for the Grove. The “Waves” got their revenge in 1937-38 at Tunbridge Wells in the Kent Senior Cup, winning 3-2 after extra-time. At the time Rangers were a Southern League club.
A new senior club was formed in 1933, Canterbury Amateurs, who took the place of Waverley Reserves in the Kent League Division II. The reason for this was that the FA rules stated that clubs wishing to take part in amateur cup competitions had to be separate from professional clubs. Waverley Reserves, being amateurs, could not enter any cup competitions.
Canterbury Amateurs’ secretary was Mr. W.J. Ridge. They were run separately from the Waverley club but shared Wincheap Grove. They spent two seasons in the Kent League (1933-35) and then joined the Kent Amateur League. They became runners-up in 1934-35 but withdrew at the end of season 1936-37. Waverley Reserves returned in 1937 in the revitalised Kent League Division II.
Mr Bob Styles, who became club secretary in 1936, recorded that the players received £1.00 per match and that they favoured Christmas, Easter and midweek games as a bonus time (unemployment was rife). For important cup ties he was authorised to pay a 2/6d (12p) reward in the event of a win. The highest wage paid by the club was £2.12.6 per week to Archie Clements, a full back who had joined from Millwall. Originally he asked for £3.00 but after much discussion the deal was struck. Some committee members suggested that it was an invitation to bankruptcy.
The Inland Revenue was entitled to three pence for entertainment tax on every ticket sold at the gate. With finances running on a shoestring, the gate men resorted to not issuing tickets but taking the money and letting the customer through. So the word got round and more and more declined tickets.
he excitement of the cup returned in 1935-36 when Waverley knocked Dartford Reserves and Gillingham Reserves out of the Kent League Cup. They then faced Folkestone Reserves in the semi-final, drawing 1-1 before losing the replay 2-1 after extra-time at Cheriton Road.
There was a satisfactory end of season report for 1935-36, with gate receipts increased, a new stand and good accommodation for the players (the baths were big enough to have eleven players in each and there was a hot water system). All this was courtesy of Mr. William Harvey (Chairman). Sadly William Harvey was suddenly taken to hospital a week before the annual general meeting and later died. The Kent County Football Association allowed Canterbury Waverley to have a memorial fund and enough money was raised for a plaque to be unveiled at the Grove in his memory.
A Cup excitement returned in 1938-39 when the “Waves” beat Lloyds (Sittingbourne) 3-1, Sheppey United 4-3, United Glass & Bottle Manufacturers (Charlton) 4-0 and Ashford 1-0. They were then drawn against Southern League champions Guildford City. The Surrey club tried to get the tie played at Guildford but Waverley refused.
On the Saturday of the game the Daily Sketch brought fame to the “Waves” by featuring them on the back page, with a write-up and line drawings of the players, team manager and trainer. It was portrayed as a tale of two cities, with a place in the first round proper of the FA Cup at stake.
The supporters helped with ground improvements that allowed a record gate of 2,838 to attend, with gate receipts of £147.9.0. But Guildford won, though much against the run of play, by one goal. Haydn Green, the Guildford City manager, paid the highest tribute to Waverley.
During the 1930s several Football League clubs used Kent clubs as nurseries. Tottenham Hotspur used Northfleet United and Margate became attached to Arsenal. Then, when the agreement with Margate fell through in 1938, Arsenal’s manager, Jack Lambert, who had also been manager at Margate, approached Waverley’s secretary Bob Styles. He said that Arsenal would provide three or four players whose wages were £4.00. Waverley had to meet half of this cost and Arsenal would pay travelling expenses.
Lambert took an immediate interest in a young player from Hersden called Stevens. Another boy from the coalmining village, Jack Roberts, joined Northfleet before moving on to Spurs. Several other young players joined league clubs including John Conley (Torquay United), who later returned to Kent to play for Whitstable, and Less Fell who went to Charlton Athletic.
averley began their 1939-40 campaign with a 3-1 home win against London Paper Mill but then football was abandoned because of the outbreak of the Second World War. Later than season the KCFA organised a regional competition. However, with so many young men being called up for the war effort many fixtures were not played. Waverley’s record was P16 W6 D3 L7 GF 37 GA 57 Pts 15. They also reached the semi-final of the Kent Senior Cup, losing to Shorts, the aircraft manufacturers.
By 1946-47 Canterbury did not have a senior club. Bretts Sports took over as the city’s leading club when winning the Kent Amateur League (Eastern Section). They took the title in a play-off with Folkestone Town Reserves which they won 3-2 at Cheriton Road.