Rediscovering the heritage of the world’s oldest football league club: Notts County Football Club and Notts County Football in the Community
jjheritage is pleased to be working with Notts County Football in the Community in rediscovering the heritage of the world’s oldest football league club, formed in 1862. The Heritage Lottery Funded scoping project is due to be completed in April 2018 and will explore options for protecting and promoting the club’s history.
So, how did this history begin?
The club’s website refers to a local newspaper report which is quoted as saying: ‘The opening of the Nottingham Football Club commenced on Tuesday last at Cremorne Gardens. A side was chosen by W. Arkwright and Chas. Deakin. A very spirited game resulted in the latter scoring two goals and two rouges against one.' The Nottingham Guardian 28 November 1862.
This rather unusual report of the outcome of the match, two goals and two rouges, reflected that The Football Association was not formed until 1863, and the rules between football’s handling codes, such as rugby, and kicking codes could often be composite in the same game. Another thing that could change was club colours and shirts. Originally playing in amber and black hooped shirts, then chocolate and blue half patterns, in 1890 these were replaced by the now familiar black and white striped shirts, said to have inspired Juventus to change from their original pink colours.
The club was one of the original founders of The Football League in 1888, after professional football was acknowledged as inevitable by the Football Association in 1885. Notts County Football Club then reached its highest finish in The Football League during the 1890-1 season, and repeated the feat ten years later. Silverware would be more forthcoming from the FA Cup. After finishing runners up in this competition in 1891, Notts then took home the trophy in 1894.
In 1910 the club moved from Trent Bridge (where they had been tenants of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club) to their present home at Meadow Lane. The ground itself had a varied history, as it was bombed during World War Two, flooded in 1947 and, much later totally rebuilt between 1992 and 1994. More happily, it also hosted a number of festive events including a rock concert featuring Pink Floyd in 1968. Meadow Lane was also used by Nottingham Forest in 1968 after a fire had partially destroyed their main stand.
A landmark decision to sign the great Tommy Lawton from Chelsea for a record-breaking £20,000 saw large crowds and the Third Division (South) title in 1949-50. Since then, County had revived fortunes as a top flight club with manager Jimmy Sirrel in 1981-84 and under Neil Warnock in 1991/2. The club has subsequently survived relegation and promotion with equanimity, and the most recent financial problems were ultimately avoided when the present owner Alan Hardy took over in 2017. His appointment of Kevin Nolan as manager has also led to an upturn in fortunes on the pitch. More on the club history can be found here.
Three Words To Describe Your Club
In July 2017, the BBC reported a study of the three most popular words used to describe Premier League Football Clubs. The results are here with Leicester City FC, for example, described as ‘anomaly’ ‘impossible’ and ‘easiest’, which given their previous season was intriguing.
Building on this, Notts County Football in the Community conducted a ‘three words about Notts’ exercise in the context of examining the heritage, and respondents stressed the importance of ‘History’ and ‘Community’. This provided a basis for working with stakeholders to explore these themes.
As we all know, fans of football are often ardent historians of their club and there is a huge amount of expertise here. The project’s Reference Group, comprised of both local historians with a specialism in the city of Nottingham and Notts County FC, had been asked to think about other sporting and heritage venues that they have visited and liked. This fits with the longer term plans to assess and celebrate the heritage of Notts County. The project has asked: what would a heritage programme look like, and would other resources would be needed? Since the Notts County Supporters Trust was key in saving the club between 2006 and 2009, and the Football in the Community arm is vibrant and expanding, it reflects the club’s history to have diverse and inclusive voices in the formation of recommendations for a potential heritage programme.
With the club’s current focus on re-engaging the local community and a strapline that proclaims ‘An unrivalled history. An incredible future’, now seems a timely and topical opportunity to begin to reflect upon the history and heritage Notts County FC.