History - The very early years, 1894 to 1904/05
History 2 of 3

2. History - The very early years, 1894 to 1904/05

Crowborough Athletic FC - The very early years, 1894 to 1904/05

Crowborough Athletic FC were formed in 1894 and played in various leagues around the area for many years. However, not much is known about the club prior to 1974 and even people who are still actively involved with the club who can remember the 1950's are rather sketchy as to what league we played and if we won anything or not. Some of you may remember that the club suffered an arson attack three or four years ago and the old Cedar chalet which used to be behind the clubhouse was burnt down. Whilst the building itself was not that precious to us, some of the contents held within it were, such as old pictures from the early 1900's, 1920's, 1930's and 1950's, therefore, what history we did have of the period before 1974 was lost to us for ever.
I have been carrying out some research using the world-wide web and by looking at newspaper archive sites I know that in 1898/99 season, November 1898 in fact, Crowborough Athletic lost 1-0 away to Preston Wanderers in the Middlesex Senior Cup. This information came from a paper called "Lloyds Weekly Newspaper" and I would hazard a guess that the Preston Wanderers referred to probably came from the Brighton area, but that is only a guess.
Moving on slightly, in 1901/02 the club seemed to be playing in the Crowborough and District League (C&DL), which consisted of fourteen teams and had two divisions, the Senior Division consisted of the following teams: Crowborough Athletic, East Grinstead Reserves, East Grinstead Juniors, Uckfield, Mayfield and East Grinstead North End Excelsior. The Junior Division had the following teams: Crowborough Reserves, Rotherfield, Jarvis Brook, East Grinstead Blue Mantles, East Grinstead Celladema, Hartfield, Uckfield Reserves and Forest Row United. To show the varying type of newspaper of the day, the above information came from the "Sussex Agricultural Express" from July 27th, 1901.
There is a difficulty in going through the archives as sometimes there is a Crowborough Athletic mentioned in the reports but in the league table for the league in which the report was for, the name is just Crowborough, I have no doubt though that it is our club in both cases. I doubt the village, as it was then, could have sustained two clubs and whilst there was a Jarvis Brook, the distance between the two villages would have been greater than it is now. Where it does cause a problem first appears around 1904/05 as there is a club, just labelled "Crowborough" in the Tunbridge Wells and District League as well as the Crowborough and District League for that season.
Season 1902/03 is the first reference I can find of us entering the Tunbridge Wells and District League (TW&DL) where there was two leagues, Division 1 consisted of the following eight clubs and each club played fourteen games: Southborough (Champions), Vale Rangers (Runners-up), Mount Pleasant, Crowborough (Fourth), Rusthall, Ticehurst, Robins and Town Reserves. Division 2 consisted of: Southborough A, Vale Rangers A, Wadhurst, Speldhurst, Mount Pleasant A, St. John's United, St. Jame's United, Rusthall A and Anchor. According to the paper, our games were played at the "Beacon Sports Ground" and the paper, when writing about the next game, refers to Crowborough as the "Beaconites", I guess based on where the club played. The team is not mentioned in full although it does mention that "Coppard" will replace "Rickwood" in goal for the next fixture.
If we move on to season 1904/05 when it appears we played in two leagues, the TW&DL had three divisions and Crowborough were in Division 1. I have been able to find a report of a league meeting held by the TW&DL in which fines and point deductions were handed out for fielding ineligible players, nothing changes there then and Burwash were fined £1 for having three players booked in a game by the referee as their "knickers", shorts to you and me, did not cover the knees, as per regulations, and Burwash were warned as to their future conduct in this respect. The C&DL had two divisions with a Crowborough in Division 1 with Forest Row, Uckfield, Eridge United and Jarvis Brook. In Division 2 were Crawley Down, Hart Rangers, Groombridge Wanderers, Crowborough A, Uckfield A, Hadlow Down, Rotherfield and Eridge United A. Therefore, if as I suspect there is only one club in the village, we had three teams with the most senior side playing in the TW&DL. As an aside, Hart Rangers were also a Crowborough based side according to the newspapers.
To be continued