Yesterday, the 28th of January, marked the anniversary of what was believed to be the first ever meeting that launched Dulwich Hamlet Football Club.
The 'South London Press' reported way back then that...:
DULWICH HAMLET SCHOOL
A meeting of the ‘old boys’ of the Dulwich Hamlet Board School was held on Friday evening to discuss the formation of a ‘Dulwich Hamlet Old Boys Club.’ As set forth in the circular convening the meeting, the objects of the club would be to form a strong united association of all the fellows that have been through the school; to form a medium of communication between old schoolfellows; to form a body out of which various clubs could be established; to hold reunions, concerts, &c.; and by these and similar means to maintain the good fellowship among those whose school life has been passed together. Some 60 of the old scholars attended, while a large number wrote expressing approval of the proposal, and giving their names as members. The motion formally constituting the club was enthusiastically received and adopted, and a committee was appointed, comprising the head master, Mr W. Brenchley, as president; Messrs AE Snook and JH Russell, as vice presidents; Mr CT Hunt as secretary and treasurer; and Messrs H Croft (Dulwich Village), G Hiscox (East Dulwich); J Wynne (West Dulwich) and T Juster and E Harwood (Herne Hill) as representatives of the various districts. Mr GC Whiteley, MLSB *(chairman of the school), the Rev. GW Daniell (Dulwich Old College) and Mr Lorraine Wilson kindly consented to accept the position of patrons. The formation of the various clubs was discussed and immediate steps were taken respecting cricket and swimming, to be followed in due course by field, football and kindred clubs. Through the kindness of local friends the school is splendidly furnished with gymnastic apparatus, and an athletic club has been in operation for some time. It is proposed to hold the first social meeting and concert immediately after Easter. The secretary will be glad to receive the names of any ‘old boys’; who may not have been communicated with.
It was from these humble beginnings that the Club we all know and love today began. Starting off in the very much local Dulwich and the Camberwell & Brixton Leagues, The Hamlet rose to become the greatest and most famous amateur football club in England by the Nineteen Thirties.
There were many struggles to come, especially in the Sixties, culminating in two consecutive bottom of the table finishes in the middle of the decade. The Club was only saved from closure by the benafactive purchase of the ground by Office Cleaning Services, whose main directors at the time included the Goodliffe brothers, who wore our colours in the 1930's.
Despite that there were brief flourishes of hints of those glory days, under Jimmy Rose in the mid-Seventies; and with Alan Smith at the helm, as Division One champions , followed by some challenges for the Premier Division title, the closest in the modern era being in 1980, when we finished third-a feat equalled last season, during the current Gavin Rose era.
Relegation came in 1990, with the grand old Champion Hill Stadium reduced to a show of its former self...with the safety certificate at one stage reducing the capacity to a mere 300! Temporary remedial works were put in place, but we had no choice but to give up the remainder of our lease to ensure that there was a future & a new stadium was built in conjunction with the erection of a Sainsbury's store on what was our training pitch, in a development by out then landlords Kings College London.
The drop down into the lower level was short-lived. In our second season in the First Division-despite having to groundshare at arch-rivals Tooting & Mitcham United for the whole campaign- promotion was amazingly won on the last day of the season at Hitchin Town, to pip Boreham Wood by two points, which meant we had one our last seven matches on the spin.
There proved to be some exciting football too in the mid-Nineties, with the high-scoring side led by the flamboyant manager Frank Murphy, being the top scorers in the division, but still only finishing fifth behind champions Hayes, in a very tight promotion fight.
Relegation was to follow again in 2001, rock bottom on a miserable 22 points, which was nineteen away from safety. This time it took much, much longer to get back into the top flight of the Isthmian League. It too a long twelve seasons at this level to go back to the Premier, though there were several near-misses during Martin Eede's time in the dugout, when it had looked like promotion was on the cards, but for late collapses. Promotion was finally achieved by Gavin Rose, in his fourth year in the hot-seat he still sits in, clinching the title in that special afternoon back in 2013. This was The Hamlet's first championship success since Alan Smith had won the First Division thirty-five years earlier, in 1978.
During the current Gavin Rose era not only has the team flourished, but the crowds have exploded beyond all expectation.
In this modern era of non-league football I am sure that our founder Loraine 'Pa' Wilson would be extremely and equally proud of our support, the management & the players.
Time are difficult off the pitch, but let us all hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel...and our wonderful Club can continue to flourish for many a year to come...still here at Champion Hill, our home for the vast majority of those one hundred and twenty five years.
Thank you all for your support...Happy 125th birthday to us all!
(With thanks to Freda Weatherstone for the illustration)
Updated 10:36 - 2 Feb 2018 by Mishi Morath