1895–96 Thames Ironworks F.C. season

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The Thames Ironworks founding team

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Thames Ironworks F.C. 1895–96
"In the summer of 1895, when the clanging of "hammers" was heard on the banks of Father Thames and the great warships were rearing their heads above the Victoria Dock Road, a few enthusiasts, with the love of football within them, were talking about the grand old game and the formation of a club for the workers of the Thames Iron Works Limited. There were platers and riveters in the Limited who had chased the big ball in the north country. There were men among them who had learned to give the subtle pass and to urge the leather goalwards. No thought of professionalism, I may say, was ever contemplated by the founders. They meant to run their club on amateur lines and their first principal was to choose their team from men in the works."
Syd King, Thames Ironworks player and West Ham United manager 1902–1932.[1]

Thames Ironworks F.C., the club that would later become West Ham United F.C., was founded by Dave Taylor and Arnold Hills in 1895. Taylor was a foreman at the Thames Iron Works and a local football referee. Thanks to Ironworks owner Arnold Hills' financial backing, he was able to announce on 29 June 1895 the following in the company's weekly journal:

"Mr. Taylor, who is working in the shipbuilding department, has undertaken to get up a football club for next winter and I learn that quoits and bowls will also be added to the attractions." – Thames Iron Works Gazette.[2]

Fifty would-be players paid half-a-crown for a year's membership, and Taylor spent the summer arranging the fixtures for Thames Ironworks F.C. and their reserves. Before the Irons played their first game Taylor returned to refereeing, handing over organizational duties to Ted Harsent.[3]

The birth of Thames Ironworks F.C. coincided with the demise of Old Castle Swifts, the first professional football club in Essex. Thames took over the tenancy of Castle Swifts' Hermit Road ground in Canning Town and also signed four of their players. The Hermit Road ground had been described as a 'cinder' heap' and 'barren waste'. It was surrounded by a moat and had canvas sheeting for fencing.[4]

The Swifts that joined the Ironworks team were right-back and winger Robert Stevenson and forwards Jamie Lindsay and George Sage. Scotsman Bob Stevenson became the club's first ever captain and he is credited as being the team's first player of note. He would also play at full-back and centre-forward during his Irons career.[4]

Looking to bolster their attacking strength, the Irons had also recruited Ironworks employee George Gresham, an inside-forward who had played for Gainsborough Trinity, who would go on to score many goals for the club in the following four seasons.[5]

The original colours of the team were Oxford Blue due to Arnold Hills being a former student of Oxford University, although they used a variety of kits, often wearing navy blue or white.[6] The Ironworks played their first ever fixture against Royal Ordnance reserves on 7 September 1895, the game ending 1–1.[7]

Other players likely to have been involved in this first game were Iron Works employee Charlie Dove, who had played at full-back and centre forward during his time as a school player, and Essex cricketer John Wood, who was the cousin of jockey Fred Archer. Dove was mainly used as a defender by The Irons, but would play every position for them during his stay there.

The Irons' biggest win of the season came in their third friendly fixture on 28 September 1895 when they beat Manor Park 8–0.

The newly formed club had the audacity to enter the FA Cup competition, as recorded in the Thames Iron Works Gazette:

"Having some good men in the club, we somewhat presumptuously considered it would be wise to enter for the English Association Cup."

In Thames' first competitive game they took on Chatham in a preliminary qualifying round of the FA Cup . The match was played at Chatham's ground in Kent as they had rated the Irons' Hermit Road Ground as unsuitable. On 12 October before a crowd of 3,000 they lost to Chatham 0–5.

Their biggest defeat came on 14 December when they lost in an away game to Iron Works rivals Millwall 0–6.

25 December saw Thames Ironworks face South West Ham at home, and they won 4–1, beginning a run of ten straight wins that ended on 17 February 1896, when they lost to South London team Vampires F.C. 1–3.

In the semi-finals of the West Ham Charity Cup held on 15 February 1896, Thames Ironworks beat Park Grove 1–0, in a game staged in Plaistow. Park Grove protested over a technicality and forced a replay at Beckton Road, which The Ironworks won 3–0.

On 7 March Thames Ironworks played Fulham for the first time in a friendly, winning the game 5–1.

Following a number of trials against local sides, 16 March saw an experimental 'floodlit friendly' at the Hermit Road ground for Thames Ironworks, in their first encounter with Woolwich Arsenal. George Gresham scored twice, in an epic encounter that finished in favour of Woolwich Arsenal 5–3. George Gresham scored two of the Irons goals that day.[7][8]

These early attempts at floodlighting were set up using Thames Iron Works engineers and equipment, and caused an amount of notoriety. They were also used for "The Irons" next game, in their first ever meeting with West Bromwich Albion, which they lost 2–4.[8][7]

The following day, an epic confrontation followed as Thames Ironworks faced Barking in the final of the West Ham Charity Cup on 21 March 1896 at The Old Spotted Dog Ground in Upton Lane. Drawing 2–2, the match was replayed a week later, and again the teams drew, this time 0–0. Eventually the final was replayed for the second time on 20 April 1896 and the Irons won 1–0, lifting a trophy in their first ever season.

Thames Ironworks won 30 of their 47 games in the 1895–96 season, drawing 5 and losing 12.

They scored 136 goals and conceded 68.

Squad statistics[edit]

No. Player Position FA
Thames Ironworks F.C. XI with most appearances
1 England Hugh Graham GK 4 18 22 1895
2 England Jas Taylor RB (LB) 18 18 1895
3 England Joseph Hurst LB (RB) 15 15 1895
4 England William Morton RH (LH/CF) 18 18 1895
5 England Collins CH (LH) 22 1 22 1 1895
6 England John Thomas Archer Woods LH (OF/RH/IL) 1 4 18 1 23 1 1895 Old Castle Swifts F.C.
7 Scotland Robert Stevenson (Captain) OR (CF/FB) 4 3 20 5 24 8 1895 Woolwich Arsenal & Old Castle Swifts F.C.
8 England George Sage IR (OF/IL) 1 4 15 1 20 1 1895 Old Castle Swifts F.C. & Thames Ironworks Employee
9 England Charlie Dove CF (IR/OR/CH) 18 6 18 6 1895 Thames Ironworks Employee & South West Ham
10 England George Gresham IL (OF/IR/LH) 22 10 22 10 1895 Gainsborough Trinity F.C.
11 England William Chapman OL (OR/IF/CH) 4 22 6 26 6 1895 St Luke's
Other players with appearances
5 England A. Williams CH (FB) 1 3 8 12 1895 Dartford
3 England French LB (WH/CH) 1 4 4 9 1895 Thames Ironworks Employee
10 England Billy Barnes[a] IL (OF) 3 1 5 8 1 1895
4 England Gillies RH (LH) 8 8 1895
1 England Gibson GK 7 7 1895
9 Scotland Jamie Lindsay CF (FB/IR) 1 2 3 6 1895 Old Castle Swifts F.C. & Thames Ironworks Employee
6 England Stares LH (RH/IR) 6 6 1895
10 England Johnny Stewart IL (RH/OL) 1 4 1 5 1 1895 Old Castle Swifts F.C. & Thames Ironworks Employee
9 England J. Fitzjohn CF (OR/IR) 5 1 5 1 1895
7 England H. Rossiter OR (IR/CF) 4 2 4 2 1895
10 England Thomas Freeman IL (OL/CF) 1 1 2 4 1895 Thames Ironworks Employee
6 England William Hickman RH 4 4 1895 Old Castle Swifts F.C.
2 England Catling RB (LB) 3 3 1895
6 England Hilton LH (RH) 3 3 1895
7/11 England Farrell OF 2 1 2 1 1895
10/11 England A. Nichols IL/OL 2 1 2 1 1895
2 England Tull RB 1 1 2 1895 Thames Ironworks Employee
7 England Fred Chamberlain OR 2 2 1895 Thames Ironworks Employee
9/10 England McArthur CF/IL 2 2 1895
2/3 England George Neil[b] FB 2 2 1895
11 England Arthur Darby OL 1 1 1895 Thames Ironworks Employee
6 Scotland Walter Parks LH 1 1 1895 Old Castle Swifts F.C. & Thames Ironworks Employee
1 England Watson GK 1 1 1895 Thames Ironworks Employee
10 England G. Patterson[c] IL 1 1 1895 Thames Ironworks Employee
8 England C. Rossiter IR 1 1 1895
1 England Woodford GK 1 1 1895
8 England A. N. Other IR 1 1 1895
Untraced 11 1 175 95 186 96
Own Goals 1 1 2
TOTAL 11 55 7 451 131 517 138
Other known players
Scotland Sam Hay F 1895 Victoria
England Frank McCulloch F 1895 Old Castle Swifts F.C.
  1. ^ Played in West Ham Charity Cup final games as a guest while registered to South West Ham.[10]
  2. ^ Played for the club while registered to West Norwood.[11]
  3. ^ Member of the Thames Ironworks committee.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ King, E. S. (1905). "The Football History of West Ham United". The Book of Football – via Spartacus Educational. 
  2. ^ Blows & Hogg 2000, p. 12.
  3. ^ Powles 2005, p. 14.
  4. ^ a b Blows & Hogg 2000, p. 17.
  5. ^ Powles 2005, pp. 65–66.
  6. ^ Belton 2006, p. 3.
  7. ^ a b c Tongue, Steve (2016). Turf Wars: A History of London Football. Pitch Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-78531-248-9. 
  8. ^ a b Powles, John (29 June 2017). "The amazing story of West Ham United's first home ground". West Ham United F.C. Retrieved 12 January 2018. 
  9. ^ Powles 2005, pp. 29–30.
  10. ^ Powles 2005, p. 27.
  11. ^ "George Neil". westhamstats.info. Retrieved 17 February 2018. 
  12. ^ Marsh, Steve. "1895–96 Thames Ironworks". whu-programmes.co.uk. Retrieved 17 February 2018. 


External links[edit]