St Albans Football Club 1881-1904. Those simple details will come as a surprise to some supporters of the present-day St Albans City, but during the latter part of Queen Victoria’s reign there was indeed a football club bearing the name of our city.
This is the first to attempt to breathe new life into the old club and give an inkling of how the senior club grew in St Albans before spluttering to a premature end in 1904. Maybe in years to come research will be carried out to learn more about the individuals who represented the football club in respect of their occupation, age, and where they lived. A large proportion of these players also turned out for other local clubs and with the St Albans club playing virtually nothing but friendly matches until the start of the 1897-98 season, there was little to stop them from honing their skills elsewhere.
Almost thirty years have been spent researching the details published here of the original St. Albans F.C., but even after all that time it is not possible to guarantee with certainty the accuracy of the line-ups. One of the biggest problems focuses on families that supplied several members for the team. A prime example would be the Sharpe family who provided players throughout the twenty-three years that the club was in existence. Occasionally J.W. Sharpe senior and J.W. Sharpe junior (the JW being John William) featured in the same team and this was not always made clear by the report. Also, when one of those two played and the other did not it, again, was not always made clear which one was on the pitch.
Several other members of the family also appeared in the team along with members of the Sharp (no ‘e’) clan and again it would appear that some of the reports of these matches may not have got the correct spelling or initial. But the Sharp(e)s were not the only family to present this problem as various members of the Miskin and Sargent clans also played a significant part in the development of the club, again without total clarity as to which members were involved. Where a clear error is thought to have occurred changes have been made and apologies are given to anyone who was at any of these matches and can prove us wrong!
There have been no Minute Books or results books to use for reference and virtually all of the information has been extracted from local newspapers of the era. A great deal of the information has been trawled from the pages of two St. Albans based newspapers, the Herts Advertiser and the Hertfordshire Standard. Other provincial newspapers have also provided useful scraps of information, none more so than The St. Albans Clock Tower that ran an excellent team photograph and player sketches back in May 1896.
Accumulating information about some seasons has proved more difficult than others and this is reflected in the space given to each season. Similarly, giving detailed information about individual players has proved testing and virtually all that is known about each player is passed on in these pages. The statistical section strives to give a complete listing of all games played by St. Albans, whether they be friendly or competitive, in its various guises (St Albans, St Albans Town, St Albans Amateurs) between 1881 and 1904.
Numerous people have made significant contributions to this article, some unknowingly, but pride of place with regards to gratitude goes to Peter Taylor who spent countless hours – many worthless but also numerous highly rewarding - with me at libraries, museums and even graveyards(!) in search of extra information. Without Peter’s contribution and enthusiasm this task would not have been possible and for his input I am eternally grateful. It was with great sadness that we lost Peter on 27th August 2019. He was a truly wonderful and irreplaceable friend and an inspiration for so much of the club history that appears on this site.
Others to whom special thanks are extended include; Derek Christmas (the St. Albans City press officer and historian from early in the 1950s until he passed away in March 2009). Brian Webb, who runs a website dedicated to the Victorian era of Luton Town, provided some excellent details of players who turned out for both clubs. The National Newspaper Library, St. Albans Library, Hatfield Road Museum (St Albans), Caroline Frith at the old Hitchin Museum, St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural & Archaeological Society, Andy Porter (Tottenham Hotspur historian and statistician), Pam Weatherley at St George’s School in Harpenden, Aubrey Hilliard, John J. Blackmore, Ray Stanton and Mrs Rosemary Jones. Thanks as always to Mark Jones (webbo) for his patience with this series of articles that are constantly being tweaked.
We would be delighted to hear from anyone in possession of any extra information and are keen to hear from anyone spotting any errors.