Tag Archives: Nottingham Forest

Bygone football clubs (2)

Last time, I looked for the most part at the early days of Notts County and Nottingham Forest. They were not the only football teams to play their fixtures down on the Forest, though. A veritable plethora of small local teams flourished in Nottingham during this era. They had some wonderful names, all marvellously evocative of the origins of their players:

“Notts Artisans, Notts Athletic, Nottingham Bank, Nottingham Castle, Notts Forest Swifts, Nottingham Co-op, Nottingham Lindum, the Nottingham Manufacturing Company, Notts County Rovers, Nottingham Lace, the Notts Law Club, Notts Magdala, Notts Pioneers, Nottingham Postmen, Nottingham Post Office, Nottingham Press, Notts Thursday Athletic, Notts Thursday Rovers, Nottingham Thursday Wanderers, Nottingham Strollers, Nottingham Trent, and Nottingham Trinity.

All of the “Thursday teams” would have been from Sherwood, given the day when the shops closed for the afternoon in this northerly suburb of the town. Have a wild guess when it was half day closing in Sheffield. Yes, on a Wednesday. But what about the little Welsh town of Abergavenny?

Here is a sleepy Sherwood as recently as the early 1950s. How many houses have been demolished to make way for charity shops and empty premises!

pivcture

Not much is known about many of the smaller Nottingham clubs, except that their names sometimes figure in the very early rounds of the fledgling FA Cup. I would be very surprised indeed, though, if there were any connection between Nottingham Trent Football Club and Nottingham Trent University.

In the list above, mention is made of Notts Law Club. They played the High School on an unknown date during the Christmas holidays of 1879-1880 and duly beat their young opponents by 3-0. All three goals were strongly disputed by the High School and no further fixtures appear ever to have taken place against this opposition. Notts Law Club was the original team of the most brilliant outside right of his day, Arthur Cursham, who played for Notts County, among many other clubs, and eventually captained England. Notts Law Club, though, were an extremely violent set of individuals, and gained such a reputation for rough play and a willingness to argue the toss about every single decision that other local teams soon became unwilling to arrange fixtures with them. Indeed, so hostile was the general local reaction to the Notts Law Club that the team was eventually forced to disband completely. Notts Law Club never had a player who won an Olympic Gold Medal, but one of the other little teams did:

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This team was Notts Magdala F.C., who had a very famous player in the person of Frederick William Chapman, an Olympic Gold Medal winner in the United Kingdom team in the 1908 Olympics held in London. Here is a photograph of the team which won a hard fought Final against Denmark by 2-0, with the first goal coming from that very same Fred Chapman of Notts Magdala F.C. and also of the High School, which he had attended from 1891-1898. In the Olympic Final, Fred played as a central defender. The second goal was scored by the era’s legendary amateur centre forward, Vivian Woodward. Previously the United Kingdom had defeated Sweden by 12-1 and Holland by 4-0. Arguably, their Olympic victory made England, who provided all of the players for the United Kingdom team, Champions of the World. Fred Chapman is the second player from the right on the back row:

gold medalFred Chapman was still a relative unknown, however, even when he became one of the Notts Magdala club’s eleven Vice-Presidents, and later the Honorary Secretary and Treasurer. The club had 55 members and its playing captain was another Old Nottinghamian, John Barnsdale, (1878 –1960) born in Sherwood and later to play for Nottingham Forest on 28 occasions during the 1904-1905 season.  He was living at Lenton Hall around this time:

lenton

Houses must have been cheaper then. John Barnsdale was already Fred Chapman’s godfather, and years afterwards, became his “Uncle Jack”, when Fred married his sister, Evelyn Mary Barnsdale.

Not all of the local clubs on the Forest were called after the town. Prominent sides also included Basford Rovers and Sneinton Institute. It must all have been extremely colourful. Just a few of the old clubs’ colours have survived, and I thought it might be nice to recall them using present day teams who wear the same colours.

Notts Druids wore amber and black quarters, as do Hesketh Bank AFC most Saturdays in the West Lancashire Football League Premier Division:

black amber heketh bank xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxNotts Olympic lasted from 1884-1893.  They wore pink and white, rather like Portsmouth FC used to wear from 1898-1909, just before they joined Division 3:

pink whiteNottingham Press, appropriately perhaps for a team of journalists, wore all black, rather like DFC United in the USA. Another local team who wore all black were Notts Swifts.

all black dc utd.jpg xxxxx

Nottingham Rangers, who still exist, used to wear scarlet and white shirts. So did Notts Wanderers. Either team might have played in this kit, found in an online catalogue:

scarket white 1

or in this one, worn by Ottawa Fury FC in the North American Soccer League:

fury xxxxxx

or like the slightly more boring Charlton Athletic:

scarlet white bobbyor perhaps Stoke City:

 

scarley white 3

Nottingham Rovers used to play in black and white, perhaps like these gentlemen:

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Or like this old kit of Glossop North End AFC now in the North West Counties Football League Premier Division after a brief spell in the Football League:

black white glossop n e

I cannot really imagine that they wore the same kit as Portuguese team, Boavista:

proposta

Nottingham Scottish used to wear white shirts and blue shorts, exactly like Rangers’ away strip:

rangers white, bluxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Only the fabrics change in football kits. The colours of the shirts never seem to change very much.

These are Fred Chapman’s Amateur International caps:

chapman caps

I will tell you more about his career in another blogpost. By the way, the illustrations of old football kits came from the best ever website for the soccer nerd and all those boys who had more than twenty different Subbuteo teams. New Brighton Tower 1898? Oh, yes.

 

 

 

 

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Bygone football clubs (1)

Over the years, the Forest Recreation Ground has been used for many, very varied, sporting activities. Here is a modern map:

forest

In the medieval period, bear baiting had been probably the first activity on the Forest, with a horse racing course eventually being constructed on the very same site.

Originally the racecourse measured four miles long, but in the early 1700s, this was shortened to two miles. In 1797 a new track in the form of a figure-of-eight was laid out. Unfortunately, this rather strange layout was not successful, and another more conventional course, therefore, oval in shape, was constructed soon afterwards

By the 1860s though, the racecourse was in decline, offering only small prizes, and attracting only second rate horses.  The last race meeting took place on September 29th-30th 1890, and Nottingham’s horse racing subsequently moved to Colwick.

Around 1800, the centre of the racecourse had been used as a place of exercise by the many officers of the cavalry who lived in a distinctive Georgian building on Forest Road. Familiar to all High School pupils, it played host to a tiny sweet shop originally called “Baldry’s” and, more recently, “Dicko’s”. It is now a bakery. Most of those cavalry officers were destined to charge at the Battle of Waterloo:

Scotland_Forever

By 1849, cricketers were using the western end of the Forest for practice, and they soon moved to the centre of the racecourse to play professional games for large sums of money.

It is not really known when football was first played on the Forest. A group of young men regularly met there in the early 1860s, to play a primitive kind of field hockey called “shinney”. They soon thought of giving this up to play the new sport of football.

An initial meeting was convened therefore in the upstairs room of the then Clinton Arms in Shakespeare Street, and the “Forest Foot Ball Club” was duly formed in 1865.

Their first fixture on the Forest was on Thursday, March 22nd 1866, a friendly game between Fifteen of the Forest, and Thirteen of the Notts Club. The game was eventually played between Seventeen of the Forest and Eleven of the Notts, and, according to some sources, was goalless, Nottingham Forest’s first ever goal being scored in their third game, another friendly on the Forest against Notts County, which finished as a 1-1 draw.

Other contradictory sources say, however, that the initial game finished as a 1-0 victory for Nottingham Forest, with Old Nottinghamian, William Henry Revis, providing the decisive score.

One early newspaper article, described how:

“When the men were spread out, the field looked exceedingly picturesque, with the orange and black stripes of the Notts, and the red and white of the Foresters.”

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One of Nottinghamshire’s greatest early footballers, E.H.Greenhalgh, who played for England in the first ever international match against Scotland in 1872, was to write, of football on the Forest:

“The first set of players who came out were regarded as a company of harmless
lunatics who amused themselves by kicking one another’s shins, but did no great harm to the public at large, although in earlier days they would have been put in the stocks.”

Richard Daft, wrote in similar vein…

“When a young man I played regularly with the Notts County Football Club when it was first formed. I believe I played centre forward, but I am not quite sure about this as we were never very particular in those days about keeping in one place. Charging and dribbling were the chief features of the game at that time, and often very rough play was indulged in.”

The exact location of Nottingham Forest’s pitches has never been ascertained for certain. My own researches have led me to believe that they must have been immediately to the east of what is now the “Park-and-ride” car park, at the bottom of the slight slope, but I have no way of being totally sure about this. Look for the orange arrow:

Untitled forest

Forest certainly had major problems with their location, however, when they entered the F.A.Cup from 1878 onwards. The Forest was common land, with free access for all, but the regulations of the F.A.Cup stipulated that an admission charge had to be levied. For this reason, “Forest Foot Ball Club” had to move to the Meadows area for the 1879-1880 cup campaign.

This was not, of course, before the club had introduced various innovations. Samuel Weller Widdowson had invented the shin guard, which was first worn on the Forest in 1874. In 1878, the first ever referee’s whistle in the world was heard on the Forest, most probably in a game between Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Norfolk. It was blown by Mr C.J.Spencer, and marked the first step in a long, long journey of what shall we say, talking points?

zid

The club’s departure however, did not mean that the Forest itself was suddenly devoid of football clubs. Throughout the Victorian era, football was always to remain the main sport, played by scores of different local teams, all wearing their own unique and brightly coloured shirts and shorts.

Indeed, at this time, there were so many local teams using the pitches that the High School were frequently unable to fulfil their own fixtures on Saturdays, but instead had to play on Wednesdays, occasionally Thursdays, or even Tuesdays. At the time, of course, Wednesday was half day closing for shops and businesses in Nottingham, and Thursday was half day closing in Sherwood.

On these half days, it was by no means unusual to see footballers on buses and trams, travelling to their game, already changed into their kit. A newspaper at the time wrote of

“persons hurrying to the Forest football grounds, and dozens of players in full
rig making their way in the same direction,”

Notts County wore black and orange hoops, and at least three other kits:

notts county

Nottingham Forest had always worn their famous “Garibaldi Red”. Here are some of their oldest kits, with only minor changes from year to year, and those sexy shorts getting shorter and shorter:

forest 1868 zzzzzz

By the way, all the illustrations of old football kits came from the best ever website for the soccer nerd and all those boys who had more than twenty different Subbuteo teams. New Brighton Tower 1898? Oh, yes.

Forest and County were not the only football clubs in Nottingham.  Next time I will look at some of the less well known local teams in the area at the end of the Victorian era and before the First World War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Match-fixing (1)

Corruption in football is nothing new. More than a century ago, in 1900, Burnley goalkeeper Jack Hillman attempted to corrupt the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper and the other players by giving them £2 each to let Burnley win on the last day of the season and perhaps thereby escape relegation. It didn’t work. Burnley went down with 27 points from 34 games, along with Glossop North End who managed only 18. Here’s Hillman, apparently twenty minutes after the invention of angora sweaters::

jack-hillman-264x300

Had the bribe succeeded, Burnley would have overtaken and relegated Preston North End (28 points) who would have taken their place in Division Two. Hillman was called to account by the authorities, but amazingly, they didn’t accept his explanation of “I was only having a laugh!” He got a rather lenient twelve month ban, although this meant no pay for that period and the loss of a benefit match which would have netted him around £300. Even worse for him, though, was the fact that he never played international football for England again, having just broken into the team
In 1905, at the opposite end of the table, Manchester City were trying to win the League title. Billy Meredith, their star winger, decided to make the task a little bit easier by offering the Aston Villa players £10 to let them win. Like Hillman, Meredith received a year long ban, but rocked the footballing boat by alleging that he had been ordered to bribe the Aston Villa player, Alex Leake, by his Manchester City manager, Tom Maley. Bribery, said Meredith, was common practice at Manchester City who finished the 1904-1905 season in third place behind champions Newcastle United and Everton. A whole selection of players were suspended, as were members of the club staff and directors from the boardroom. Here’s Meredith. He looks like he’s wearing in a new moustache for his shy, and rather strange, German penfriend:

meredith

Meredith actually wrote an open letter to the Athletic News:

“You approve of the severe punishment administered by the Commission AGAINST ME and state that the offence I committed at Aston Villa should have wiped me out of football forever. Why ME ALONE? when I was only the spokesman of others equally guilty.”

In 1915, Liverpool played so poorly as they lost 2-0 to relegation-threatened Manchester United that one of the many bookmakers who had taken bets on the game refused to pay out, at odds of 7-1.  He had probably heard of the clandestine meetings of players in the pubs of Manchester and Liverpool. And the poor old bookmaker was completely right. In the United team, Sandy Turnbull, Enoch West and Arthur Whalley were the guilty men and in the Liverpool team it was the fault of Tom Miller, Bob Purcell, Jackie Sheldon and the rather appropriately named Thomas Fairfoul. Can you spot the guilty players in this old picture of Manchester United?

wh turn wets

Would you like a second go?

betting-scandal-600x312

It looks like Liverpool are not quite so helpful towards the local detectives:

liverpool 1915

And no, the man with the cap is the trainer.

Jackie Sheldon as an ex-United man was the mastermind behind the coup but not everybody in the two teams was happy to cheat in this way. Both Fred Pagnam (Liverpool) and George Anderson (United) refused to participate. Indeed, when Pagnam shot and hit the opposing crossbar his teammates all showed their anger with him. It was perhaps his own fault, as before the match he had threatened to score a goal to spoil their nasty little plan. By now, whiter-than-white Billy Meredith was a United player, but everybody had taken great care not to tell him about what was happening and nobody passed to him throughout the game…something which, of course, aroused his suspicions as to what exactly was going on.  A penalty was missed by such a distance that the ball only just failed to hit the corner flag.  The crowd, feeling they had wasted their penny entrance money, grew increasingly angry with the proceedings.

Overall though, things were getting very much out of hand with match fixing. As an example, all seven of the Liverpool-Manchester United match fixers, along with an eighth player, Lawrence Cook of Stockport County, were banned from football sine die. (that effectively means “for life”)
Cynics might say that that was a fairly limp punishment as professional football had already been suspended because of the war. The even more cynical would point out that the Naughty Eight were given hints about a possible return to football, but only if they signed up for the Army and survived the carnage of the Western Front:

somme

A succession of away games on the Somme and at Passchendaele gave seven of the Naughty Eight their promised lifting of the ban. Fairfoul in fact turned away from football but the other six went back to their previous employment. For some reason “Lucky Enoch” West did not have his ban rescinded until 1945 when he was 59 years of age.

The_Battle_of_the_Somme_film_image1

Poor Sandy Turnbull had to be contented with a posthumous permission to resume his footballing career. He joined the 23rd Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment before a free transfer to the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. He became Lance-Sergeant Turnbull and was killed on May 3rd in the Battle of Arras at the age of 33.  Sandy was the son of James and Jessie Turnbull, of I, Gibson St., Kilmarnock, Ayrshire and the husband of Florence Amy Turnbull, of 17, Portland Rd., Gorse Hill, Stretford, Manchester. He had won FA Cup medals with both Manchester City and Manchester United:

Deadgerman

The Grim Reaper has no favourites though. Sandy has no known grave and his death is commemorated along with that of almost 35,000 others from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in this fairly pointless battle and whose bodies have never been identified. Overall, the Battle of Arras was quite a slaughter. Nearly 160,000 British lads and about 125,000 young Germans renounced their right ever to play football again. In a mere five weeks. Here is Polygon Wood where Sandy had tried to mark out a football pitch for himself and his pals:

polygonwood

Alas, they didn’t realise that a Great War average of one ton of explosives per yard of trench was going to be a really, really big problem with that.

 

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Where did those three “merles” come from? Part Three

Last time, we looked at this shield which is that of Thomas Becket also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London, and later Thomas à Becket.

Becket-arms

Born in probably 1118 or 1120, he became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 but was then martyred in Canterbury Cathedral on December 20th 1170 by followers of Henry II, namely Reginald fitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton.

Surely this coat of arms is the easy and direct link with the “merles” of Dame Agnes Mellers?

badge

If you were scared stiff that your husband was on his way to Hell, then what better saint to recruit to your aid than the Numero Uno of English saints, the Head Honcho of martyrdom in England?  As one expert TV commentator recently said, in that original programme (to which, by now, I was giving my fullest attention):

“The most important English saint, by a wide margin.”

I think that Dame Agnes, like so many ordinary football supporters nowadays, did not have her own coat of arms or badge, but instead she was very attached to those of her hero. Not Nottingham Forest or Notts County for her, of course, but Thomas à Becket.

Perhaps Dame Agnes used to display Thomas à Becket’s coat of arms because, as a very pious  and religious person, a vowess of the future indeed, she had  already been on a pilgrimage to see the saint’s tomb in Canterbury Cathedral:

camterbury cathedrzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Dame Agnes may have done this on her husband’s behalf or she may have done it because it was what thousands and thousands of English Christians had always done over the centuries. Perhaps in the three hundred and fifty years since Becket’s death, a tacky tourist trade had built up, and Dame Agnes was able to buy her very own copy of the great saint’s shield, which she had then hung up over her mantelpiece for all her friends to see. We will never know, but for me, the visual coincidence between the two coats of arms is quite stunning. Black birds, of course, are not particularly common on heraldic shields. Eagles, yes, but not a great deal beyond that. Everybody preferred lions.

Game set and match for my theory is the coat of arms of Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), the Lord Chancellor of Henry VIII but more significantly perhaps, the second most important English saint, venerated by all English Catholics as Saint Thomas More. When King Henry wanted to divorce the barren Queen Catherine of Aragon in the hope of fathering a male heir with Anne Boleyn as his new, younger, sexier, more fertile and six fingered Queen, Sir Thomas More “steadfastly refused to take the oath of supremacy of the Crown in the relationship between the kingdom and the church in England.”

More would not retreat from his belief in the supremacy of the Pope over the King. He was beheaded on July 6th 1535. Before he died, More proclaimed to the watching crowd, that he was:

“the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”:

execution

As a young man Thomas had thought seriously more than once of giving up his legal career to become a monk. And now he was a martyr, and well on his way to becoming a saint.

It would be amazing, of course, if his father had had no influence on his growing son. How could the young Saint Thomas have been so pious and so spiritual had his father not influenced him at any point? Clearly, Sir John must have been a very staunch Catholic to have produced a son like Thomas. Here is the only known depiction of Sir John:

220px-Sir_John_More_xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

That pious father of the saint, Sir John More, was born around 1451 and died in 1530. He was a lawyer and eventually became a judge. As he rose in society, he was offered the chance of a coat of arms of his own. He may have been told of the possibility of having a shield with a striking visual pun. There is an heraldic bird called a moorcock, which is based on the male black grouse, a bird of the high moors, and is characterized in heraldry by its two projecting tail feathers:

moorcock-261x300

An ordinary cockerel has a curved over tail, and in heraldry is really much less desirable, quite often being referred to as a “dunghill cockerel”:

cock-265x300

Sir John was left to make his choice. You’ll find out what it was next time.

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Where did those three “merles” come from? Part Two

Last time, I posed a number of questions about the three black birds on the school crest, the so-called “merles”, and the coats of arms of a number of different families with the surname Meller, Mellers, Mellor and even Mellors:

Notts Crest COLOUR xxxxxxxxxxx

If you remember, I was far from convinced that there was any connection between Dame Agnes and any of these families, the closest of them a minimum of a week’s journey away in Manchester. I was equally doubtful about the existence of “merles” as a bird in English heraldry. Indeed, overall, in English, the word “merle” does not really seem to relate particularly strongly to birds at all.

Wikipedia, for example, states that “merle” is a first name used by both men and women, a surname of French origin, a rather beautiful pattern in dogs’ coats, another name for the wine grape Merlot, a German glider originally built in 1938 for the 1940 Olympics gliding competition, a Crusader fort near Tantura on the coast of Israel and finally mentions the fact that the MS Phocine, a ferry, was originally named MS Merle.

In the bird world, Wikipedia states that it is a name for the “Icterid varieties of which the male is predominantly black, especially the Common Blackbird, Turdus merula.” The first word is the Latin for thrush, and “merula” means Blackbird.
I need to say here that “Icterids” are exclusively American birds such as grackles, orioles, cowbirds, meadowlarks and bobolinks:

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Back to Wikipedia, which continues with the fact that “merula” gives the French their word “merle” and also gives the Scots their word “merl”. According to Wiktionary, it is also an “English 19th century bird name from merle, blackbird, possibly also a variant of Muriel”. That is in itself quite interesting as many common birds in Merrye Olde Englande had their own human names. Jack Daw. Mag Pie. Jenny Wren, Robin Redbreast. Sparrows were called Philip because of their chirping call. A modern equivalent would be the Soviet ruler, Joe Starling.
Very tenuous links between Dame Agnes and merles therefore, made all the more tenuous by another, etymological, dictionary,  which states that “merle” is a late fifteenth century word which nowadays “owes its survival in modern times to its use by Scottish poets.” And how many fifteenth century Scottish poets can you name? Or any living, modern ones come to that?
Scotland, of course, is even further away from Dame Agnes than Manchester. And just in case you see a possible link between Dame Agnes and the “late fifteenth century”, don’t forget that the alleged Mellers’ coat of arms wasn’t ever used by her, and first appeared only in 1808.

Sooooo, where did that coat of arms come from?

Well, just for a moment, let’s go back to that idea that Dame Agnes was a lifelong staunch Roman Catholic with a very real fear of Hell for wrongdoers, especially those who might have cheated their customers a bit, perhaps when they were flogging them very large and very expensive bells.

One evening, sitting comatose in front of our TV set, I happened to see this coat of arms on a documentary programme as the camera panned down the High Street of a famous city:

Canterbu
The city was, of course, Canterbury. But where did the City of Canterbury find those striking and exciting  black birds? Well, it’s not a huge surprise:

Becket-arms

The shield above is that of Thomas Becket also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London, and later Thomas à Becket. Born in December of probably 1118 or 1120, he became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 but was then martyred in Canterbury Cathedral on December 20th 1170 by followers of Henry II, namely Reginald fitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton.

Here is an account of the slaying, written by eyewitness Edward Grim. Edward must have been an extremely brave man. Completely unarmed, the young clerk stood up to four knights dressed in chain mail, all of them equipped with the heavy savage swords of the era. Edward was gravely wounded in the incident, as he tried in vain to protect Becket (Reader discretion is advised):

“The wicked knight leapt suddenly upon him, cutting off the top of the crown of his head. Next he received a second blow on the head, but still he stood firm and immovable. At the third blow he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living sacrifice, and saying in a low voice, “For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.” But the third knight inflicted a terrible wound as he lay prostrate. By this stroke, the crown of his head was separated from the head in such a way that the blood white with the brain, and the brain no less red from the blood, dyed the floor of the cathedral:

Murder_of_Thomas_BecketThe same clerk who had entered with the knights (not Edward Grim) placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to relate, scattered the brains and blood about the pavements, crying to the others, ‘Let us away, knights; this fellow will arise no more.”

640px-English_-_Martyrdmasxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Soon after this famously gory death, Thomas was promoted to sainthood by Pope Alexander III. Canterbury Cathedral subsequently became the most important centre of pilgrimage in England, most famously for Geoffrey Chaucer.

The birds on Thomas à Becket’s shield have red feet and red beaks and they are nowadays called “choughs”, although apparently in medieval times, they were often referred to by pilgrims as “beckitts”.

chough_nb_tcm9-94034

I feel sure that there is some kind of clue here:

columbo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where did those three “merles” come from? Part One

Not many people would be able to answer this question.

What exactly is “Ermine a Lozenge Argent charged with three Blackbirds rising proper on a Chief Gules an open Book also proper garnished Or between two Ducal Coronets of the last.” ?

Well, it’s one of these, more or less. What’s a lozenge between friends?:

Notts Crest COLOUR xxxxxxxxxxx

The origin of the High School’s coat of arms has always been, to me, a major enigma. Apparently, there has always supposed to have been a connection between the arms of Dame Agnes’ family, namely “Mellers” and another family called Mellor, who lived in Mellor, a village between Stockport and Glossop.

(Where?)

(Well, let’s put it this way. in either town you can easily get a bus to Manchester. It’s a distance of some seven miles and twelve miles respectively)

Here is their coat of arms:

0mellor coat of

To me though there is quite a difference in spelling between Mellor and Mellers, although the Mellor coat of arms is obviously a reasonable fit with the school’s crest.

This theory, though, does rely almost totally on the supposition that Richard Mellers was related to this “Family in the North” whose coat of arms displayed three black birds. In actual fact, there is no reason to suppose any proven link whatsoever between the two families. After all, it’s a very long way between Nottingham and Stockport in late medieval times. More than ninety miles, in fact. The best part of a week on foot, not counting any unexpected meetings with Robin Hood and his Merrie Men.

Let’s look at a small number of other likely coats of arms. Let’s start with Mellers. It should be said that Dame Agnes herself always spelt her name as “Mellers” (but never as “Mellor”):

For “Mellers”, we find very few coats of arms, but there is this one:

meller_c

Let’s try “Meller”. We do find this one, and furthermore, the very same shield is listed elsewhere as “Mellers” :

meller_cThat’s not the answer, though,, because we also find this shield for Meller, as well:

meller-ireland

And this one:

meller_large irish

And this one:

Smeller red

Clearly, something, somewhere, is not quite right. It may even be very wrong. There are problems here, and the first major one may well be connected with the simple issue of the spelling of Dame Agnes’ surname. Despite her own insistence on Mellers, mentioned above, a quick look at “Google Images” will reveal that Mellers, Mellor, Meller and probably Mellors, appear to be disturbingly interchangeable.Coats of arms just seem to come and go. They are different every tine you look at Google. This is because, I suspect, they are connected less with accurate heraldry than the desire to sell tee-shirts, mugs, key rings, ties and even underpants with your family crest on them.

Those black birds on the High School shield have always been regarded as Blackbirds, an everyday bird species in England:

blackbird

The theory is that the heraldic word for a blackbird is “merle”, taken from the French, and this gives us a devilishly funny pun for the surname “Mellers”. Such side splitters are called “Canting Arms”. They are used to  establish a visual pun, as in the following examples:

canting
I am just not sure about this word “merle”. Just because a coat of arms contains a number of black birds (as opposed to green ones), that does not automatically mean that we are dealing with canting arms, even if the French word “merle” refers to our familiar back garden bird, the Blackbird, aka turdus merula, and the name “Mellers” sounds perhaps, possibly, maybe, slightly, conceivably, like it.

What is more disturbing, though, is the discovery that “merle” appears to mean absolutely nothing whatsoever in English Heraldry. On Amazon, the search for “Heraldry” reveals five books, all with the same title. It is “A Complete Guide to Heraldry” by A.C.Fox-Davis:

fox daviesThis rather old book is the standard work on English Heraldry and has been for quite a considerable time. It is a book of some 645 pages, but there is not a single “merle” on any one of them.  And more important still, if merles did actually exist in Heraldry, then why did the Heralds’ College, known also as the College of Arms, call these birds “blackbirds” when they made that formal grant-of-arms to the school as recently as 1949? Why didn’t they call them “merles” and thereby preserve the “Laugh, I nearly died” visual pun?
And don’t think that the College of Arms are just a bunch of fly-by-night door-to-door sellers of heraldic key rings and underwear. They were founded well before Dame Agnes Mellers, in fact as far back as 1484. To quote the definition on the Heraldry Society website:

“The College of Arms is the only official English authority for confirming the correctness of armorial ensigns — Arms, Crests, Supporters and Badges — claimed by descent from an armigerous ancestor, or for granting new ones to those who qualify for them.”

In other words, if they say it’s a blackbird it’s a blackbird. You can’t just decide to call it a “merle” because you feel like it, or because it seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s just not allowed. Here is another blackbird, just to refresh your memory:

Blackbird-01

In 1920 at least, nobody called it a “merle”. In June of that year, the new school magazine, “The Highvite” contained a “Sports Chorus”, including appropriately vigorous music. The words were…

“Score our High School / ye Highvites now score for victory.
Our High School / For Highvites, never, never, never shall be beaten
By any Worksop / Newark & c. team
At the Sign of the Blackbirds three.”

No “merles” there then. It is equally interesting to note that in “The Nottinghamian” of December 1921, the school’s emblem is again referred to as containing blackbirds, rather than merles. This overturning of tradition, however, does not mean that the use of three black birds does not connect us directly with Dame Agnes. Let’s look at it from a different angle, just for a moment.

Many people have believed over the years that it was only when the school changed its site from Stoney Street to Arboretum Street in 1867 that the three black birds were first adapted. But this was definitely not the case since photographs from the mid-nineteenth century show quite clearly that a badge with three birds was displayed on the wall of the Free School building. In this case, though, their wings were folded rather than the modern version, flapping and ready for immediate and dynamic intellectual and sporting take-off:

stoney st enlarged

Indeed, it is thought that the three black birds were in evidence as an unofficial badge for the school from at least June 16th 1808 onwards. On this date, an unknown but apparently very bored clerk has decorated the title page of the funky new volume of the Schoolwardens’ Annual Balance Sheets with the traditional three black birds, so it has clearly been known as a symbol connected with the school for a very long time.

Interestingly enough, another slightly more modern place where the birds’ wings can be seen as folded dates from 1936, when some new stained glass sections were put into the windows at the back of the recently built Assembly Hall:

assembly hall

And nowadays, of course, this folded wings version forms the badge of the Old Nottinghamians’ Society. Presumably, that is why they appear in this guise on a car badge being sold off on ebay:

car badge

Next time, I will attempt to answer the question of where did those black birds come from? In the meantime here’s a clue. Not all black birds are Blackbirds:

chough_nb_tcm9-94034

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Criminology, History, Humour, Nottingham, The High School

The very first football season of them all 1888-1889 (Part 2)

In my previous article about the involvement of the High School’s ex-pupils in the newly invented Football League. I spoke in some detail about the career of Arthur Frederick  Shaw, who played twice for Notts County in that inaugural season of 1888-1889, before going on to make two more League appearances the following season. He then continued his career in the Second Division with firstly Nottingham Forest and then Loughborough. Here is the Notts County kit that he would have worn during that first season:

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When Arthur Shaw made his first appearance in the Football League on December 8th 1888, at home to Aston Villa, a narrow 2-4 defeat for the Magpies in front of 2,000 spectators, he was the inside right (No 8). In the same team, playing at left full back (No 3) was the splendidly named Herbert Durrant Snook, a fellow ex-pupil of the High School.

Born on December 23rd 1867, Herbert Snook entered the High School on September 11th 1876. He left at Christmas in 1882. Herbert was one of four brothers, the sons of James Snook, a wholesale merchant and draper. The family lived initially in Elm Avenue, Nottingham, before their fortunes improved dramatically and they moved to Penrhyn House, in Clumber Road, The Park, Nottingham:

penryn

The other three Snooks at the High School were James Brasher Snook, Frederick William Snook and Percy Walter Snook. All three played for Notts County in various F.A.Cup ties and friendlies, but never in the Football League.

In that first season of League Football, Herbert also played in three F.A.Cup ties. These were all home games, against Eckington (4-1), Beeston St.John’s (4-2) and Derby Midland (2-1). Herbert played as a right full back (No 2) against Beeston St.John’s, but as a left full back in the two other games. The Cup Ties against Eckington and Beeston St.John’s were both contested by Notts County’s reserve side. On the same day, the First Team played Football League fixtures against Blackburn Rovers (3-3, 4,000 spectators) and Burnley (6-1, 5,000 spectators), both games taking place immediately after the Cup games. The crowd against Beeston St.John’s and Burnley must have gone home happy. It isn’t often that County win two successive games and score ten goals doing it. Here is Notts County’s Meadow Lane. It is the football stadium in the top right. Nottingham Forest’s City Ground is towards the bottom of the picture, on the southern side of the River Trent:

meadoew lanexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Herbert’s brother, Frederick William, played against Eckington and Beeston St.John’s, at centre forward (No 9) in the first game, and as inside right ((No 8) in the second.  A third Old Nottinghamian to play was Henry Harold Brown who was at the High School from 1874-1878. He appeared as outside left (No 11) in both games and scored a brace of goals against Beeston St.John’s. His brother, Gilbert Noel Brown, yet another ex-pupil of the High School, played as centre forward (No 9) in this game.

In 1890, Herbert Snook was one of the earliest shareholders in the newly formed “Notts Incorporated Football Club”, although during the 1888-1889 season he had played in two friendlies for Nottingham Forest, the first against Stoke City (1-2), the annual Shrove Tuesday match. Here is the Stoke City kit:

Capture 1 - Copy

The second game was against his old team, Notts County (2-5). In excess of 5,000 spectators watched the match. On March 12th 1891, Herbert appeared for the Old Boys in their 3-1 victory over the High School First XI at the Gregory Ground, the home of both the High School footballers and of Nottingham Forest.

Herbert was to spend most of his life living at “The Cedars”, Derby Road, Lenton, Nottingham. He was keen on tennis, and in partnership with Gilbert Noel Brown, held the county men’s doubles championship for many years. Herbert was well known in political circles as a liberal, and worked in the old established family business of James Snook and Company Ltd., who were wholesalers and clothing manufacturers in Houndsgate, Nottingham. In actual fact, Herbert was still working until well into his eightieth year, after forty years as chairman and managing director, and a grand total of sixty two years in the company. Immediately after Herbert’s retirement, the business was taken over by a Birmingham firm. Herbert died on October 13th 1947, at the age of seventy nine, after an illness lasting some months. He was buried in the family vault in the Church Cemetery on Mansfield Road. Here is the Church Cemetery, a Victorian masterpiece. It has a permanent staff of eight vampires:

graveyard

Playing at right half (No 4) on December 8th 1888, against Aston Villa, alongside Arthur Shaw and Herbert Snook, was a third ex-High School pupil, namely G.H.Brown. Strangely, there are two likely candidates of this name in the Victorian school registers at the High School.

The first possibility is George Henry Brown, the son of Samuel Brown, a fish and game dealer of 96, Sherwood Street, Nottingham. He would have been nineteen years of age when the match against Aston Villa took place. A better fit though, would be George Hutchinson Brown, the twenty one year old son of George Wilkinson Brown, a grocer and chandler of firstly 14, Colville Terrace, and then 62, Addison Street, Nottingham. We will probably never know the answer to this enigma, unless Notts County have a dusty box full of players’ contracts from this era, hidden away somewhere, perhaps among the cobwebs of  their trophy room.

George Hutchinson Brown was to wear his admittedly un-numbered shirt as a right half (No 4) for most of that historic first season. He played 19 times out of a possible 22 games. He had the honour of playing in County’s first ever League game, a 1-2 defeat away to Everton at Goodison Park, and also in their first ever home game, a 3-3 draw with Blackburn Rovers. Here is the Blackburn Rovers’ strip, very similar to the present day:

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Notts County’s first ever league victory came in their fifth game of the season, and was a 3-1 home win over Everton. George Hutchinson Brown was again the team’s right half. Here is the Everton kit:

Capture 3 top - Copy

George also played in County’s first ever away win in the League. This was a long, long, wait, until Match 18 out of 22, a 2-1 win over Accrington on January 26th 1889, County’s only victory away from home in the whole season.  Here are the Accrington colours:

accrington-1892-1893-b

George Brown’s solitary goal came in a narrow 2-5 away defeat against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, in front of 4,000 spectators, on December 15th 1888. One particularly exciting game must have been the last one of the season, another narrow defeat at home, this time by 3-5 against Derby County. The Rams wore this unusual kit:

Capture 1 - Copyxxxx

George had played in friendlies for County in both the 1886-1887 and the 1887-1888 seasons. He made 28 appearances and scored one goal, against the Sheffield Club. Interesting results came against Scottish club, Hibernian (0-6), Aston Villa (8-2), Corinthians (1-4), Nottingham Forest (0-0, 12 000 spectators) and the disastrous Notts Rangers match (0-8). Here are the Hibernian colours of the era:

hinerbnian

George played in five F.A.Cup ties for County, against Nottingham Forest (1-2), playing as a centre half (No 5), Derby Midland (2-1), Old Brightonians (2-0), and Sheffield Wednesday (2-3). Best of all, he played as a left full back (No 3) in the El Classico of the Victorian era, Notts County 13 Basford Rovers 0. Here is Meadow Lane from the spectators’ point of view, seconds after the end of the game:

1962MeadowLanxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

At the end of the 1888-1889 season George left County for ever, and moved to Forest, where he was to play seven games in the Football Alliance, and a number of friendlies. Interesting results included games against Bootle (2-2), Grimsby Town (0-4), Long Eaton Rangers (3-5). Clapton (0-1), Walsall Town Swifts (0-1) and Everton (0-7).

A fourth Old Nottinghamian to play in County’s first season in the Football League was Harry Jackson, who was born on April 23rd 1864. His father, Charles J.Jackson, managed what the School Register rather grandly listed as a “Piscatorial Dépôt”, (probably a fishmongers, or even a fish and chip shop) and the family lived at 23, Carrington Street. Harry played on five occasions; as an outside left at Stoke (0-3), as a centre forward at Burnley (0-1) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (1-2, 1 goal), an inside left at Bolton Wanderers, (3-7, 1 goal), and an inside right at home to Derby County (3-5).

Here is the Burnley kit;
Capture 3 top - Copy - Copy

And here is the Wolverhampton Wanderers’ strip:

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Here are the Bolton Wanderers’ colours. Very little has changed here:

Capture 2 bottom - Copy (2)

In his career with County, Harry also played in 21 F.A.Cup ties, and scored 19 goals. In other games for County, all of which would have been friendlies, he made 101 appearances, and scored 85 goals. This gave Harry Jackson an overall career total of 104 goals in 122 games for Notts County, both totals and a strike rate which  are only exceeded by those of Harry Cursham himself:

h cursham

A fifth Old Nottinghamian in that same inaugural season of 1888-1889 was Edwin Silvester Wardle. Edwin was born on January 11th 1870 and the family lived at Magdala House in Mapperley Road. He attended the High School from 1881-1883. He made two appearances in the League for County, the first as an outside left (No 11) at Goodison Park, Everton, in the very first match of the season (1-2), County’s début in the Football League. Strangely, he then appeared as an outside right in the very last fixture of the campaign, the 3-5 home defeat to Derby County. Prior to this, he had played in six friendlies, scoring three goals, two against Aston Villa (3-3) and one against Halliwell (1-4). He also appeared in four F.A.Cup ties, scoring one goal against Staveley (3-1).

Another particularly disappointed Old Nottinghamian, the sixth to play in that first season of 1888-1889, must have been John Alfred Brown, who made just one appearance for County, as an outside left (No 11) in a game at Villa Park against Aston Villa. County lost narrowly by nine goals to one, watched by an entranced crowd of some 4,000 spectators.

John Alfred Brown was born on March 20th 1866. Along with his elder brother, he entered the High School on August 10th 1874, at the age of eight, although the date when he left the High School remains unknown. He made his first appearances for County towards the end of the 1883-1884 season, when, after the New Year, he played as an inside left in away friendly games at Walsall Swifts (1-2), and Sheffield Attercliffe (0-2). Overall, he played in 34 friendlies between 1884-1888 and he scored a healthy total of 14 goals. Interesting games and scores in 1884-1885 included his two goals in a 5-0 defeat of Wednesbury Old Athletic, and another goal against Hendon in an 8-2 victory. There were also games against Blackburn Olympic (1-1 and 0-3), Preston North End (1-2), Sheffield Wednesday (1-0), the Sheffield Club (3-0), Blackburn Rovers (0-2), Notts Rangers (2-1) and Derby County (0-2). Here are the Blackburn Olympic colours:

Blackburn_Olympic

For the most part, John was an outside left, although he also played at inside left, and inside right. In 1885-1886, he appeared in home games against Bolton Wanderers (3-3) and Great Lever (1-3), and in away games against Queen’s Park (1-5), the Sheffield Club (6-1) and Wellingborough Grammar School (8-3). He scored a goal at Sheffield, although three of the scorers at Wellingborough remain unknown. Two games were at inside left, with one at outside left, and two at centre forward. The following season of  1886-1887, he played at the Sheffield Club (4-1) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (0-2). He also appeared against Preston North End, a game which County were narrow losers by 0-14. Here is the Preston strip:

Capture 2 top y
John’s most successful season was 1887-1888 with 10 goals in 14 appearances. These included Walsall Town (0-4), West Bromwich Albion (1-5), Nottingham Forest (1-0), Preston North End (2-5), Everton (1-3). He played in home fixtures against Leek (8-1), Aston Villa (8-2), Preston North End (2-3), Grimsby Town (4-0), and Corinthians (1-4). A substantial veil might be drawn over Mitchell St.George’s (0-10).

John scored four times against Leek and Aston Villa, with single goals in each game against Preston North End. All of his games were as an inside left.

By the way, the illustrations of old football kits came from the best ever website for the soccer nerd and all the boys who had more than twenty different Subbuteo teams. New Brighton Tower 1898? Oh, yes.

 

 

 

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Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Humour, Nottingham, The High School