Here’s an unusual item from the Fifa Collection that is housed at the National Football Museum in Manchester. It’s described as an Aston Villa matchsafe – a white metal vesta case with a fine enamel decoration recording the club’s League and FA Cup ‘double’ season of 1896-97, including a portrait of club captain John Devey.
This shirt badge first appeared on the Aston Villa kit in 1957 and kept its place for 12 years until 1969 when new club manager Tommy Docherty introduced a new-style shirt with claret body and sleeves and its badge simplified as a pale blue rampant lion, minus the shield and its motto.
I wonder if the above badge resembled the badge in this report that appeared on a local newspaper on October, 9, 1896?
“Tom Horton, one of the Old Villans – and a good one, too! – has brought out a new football badge. It is in the form of a shield and the one we saw represented Aston Villa. It is beautifully enamelled in colours on brass, is retailed at sixpence, and is sure to become extremely popular. The badge can be worn in coat or hat, and makes an extremely pretty ornament – much superior to the gimcrack arrangements we have been used to. All the League clubs are to be honoured in the same way.”
I’m guessing that this Aston Villa jersey was worn for the 1935-36 season. It has a lace-up collar and a single blue ring.
The jersey was manufactured by Umbro who didn’t debut their football kits until the 1934 FA Cup final when both Manchester City and Portsmouth wore kits designed and made by the Wilmslow based company.
The famous Umbro diamond is used as a surround for both the name of the innovative Tangeru fabric and the name of the company. The other label sewn into the collar belongs to the Birmingham “Athletic Outfitter” William Shillcock.
Umbro’s association with Villa’s kit came to prominence again for season1975-76 and for the next five seasons as the club’s official kit sponsor, when its diamond logo was featured on the front of the shirt.
• More information about Aston Villa’s colours and kits at historicalkits.co.uk
It was a pity rain spoilt Devey’s benefit match, for, on a fine day, the game would have attracted sufficient spectators to make it worth while playing, though after the experience spectators have had of friendly matches at Perry Barr, it would be absurd to expect an attendance which would give a player an adequate reward for all his years of service.
Happily, however, Devey’s friends have worked hard on his behalf, and there is no reason to doubt that he will receive more than £100, which is about the usual amount derived from a Villa benefit.
Of the game little need be said; there was no need for the players to exert themselves, and they didn’t. It proves conclusively, however, that Smith is not now fit for the first team, and that Chatt is by no means a terror. Evans, the new back is, we should say, a decided acquisition.
In view of the match with the Albion tomorrow, training rules have been strictly enforced during the week, and a great effort is to be made to win another match at home.
source: local press coment, October 9, 1896.
“Ball used at Derby County match reported too heavy and large. Point same out to Shillcock [supplier] and in future instruct groundsman to weigh and measure them prior to being used.”
Source: Aston Villa Minutes, Thursday September 26, 1895.
Despite suffering the unenvious reputation as the man who lost the FA Cup, the resulting publicity didn’t do William Shillcock’s business as a football boot manufacturer and outfitter any harm whatsoever.
When William Shillcock died in 1940 – just two days before the death of the great John Devey – he left behind a considerable sum of money in his will, over £99,000 which by today’s values would be worth around £5.57 million!
Mr Shillcock, a business associate of William McGregor, founder of the Football League, was 83 when he died at his home in Trinity Road, Aston. He was survived by two sons and four daughters.
He once wrote about losing the Cup: “I pictured myself a ruined man. I seemed to see myself a hated individual – to see my business boycotted… I was the man who lost the English Cup… I believed the incident was destined to ruin my connection with football, but happily such has not been the case.”
Source: Claret & Blue magazine, number11, January 1995
There’s a mischievous old taunt which says that Aston Villa have lost the FA Cup more often than neighbours Birmingham City have won it. The claim is true. But the joke merely covers a historical blemish on the club’s conscience. Aston Villa DID lose the Cup. And they never got it back.
More than a century ago, in season 1894-95, Villa won the English Cup by beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0 at Crystal Palace, but on the night of September 11, 1895 it was stolen from a window of football outfitter W. Shillcock in Newtown Row, Birmingham. The Cup was never recovered, no culprits were apprehended, and a replacement trophy was produced.
Before agreeing to loan the trophy to Shillcock’s, the Villa directors had given the Football Association a guarantee of £200 against theft. To cover this they had taken out a movable policy for the same amount so that it was covered while on public display. Shillcock had also insured the Cup against theft for the same amount.
Villa were subsequently fined £25 by the FA for losing their English Cup, the same amount it cost the FA to have a new one made by Vaughton’s of Birmingham (the family firm of Howard Vaughton, the former Villa and England player). The original Cup had been manufactured by Martin Hall & Co for around £20.
At one time, because of the high value of insurance, it was proposed having the replacement made in gold. This would suggest that certainly Villa and the FA went ‘past go’ and collected their £200 insurance claim when the original Cup was stolen.
source: Claret & Blue magazine, Number 11, January 1995.
In these days of multi-million pound budgets set by football clubs and vast salaries paid to their players, this early Aston Villa balance sheet summarising the 1877-78 season is a fascinating insight to the finances of a fledgling football club. The report is provided by E. B. Lee, both a playing member of the club and its financial secretary.
Bearing in mind that the season was effectively only its third, the club was already running two teams, first and second.
Gentlemen, I have much pleasure in laying before you a BALANCE SHEET of the ASTON VILLA FOOTBALL CLUB for the Season 1877-78
Although there appears on the Statement a small balance in your favour, the Club is still in debt £4 4s. for printing expenses not yet paid. On the other hand, since the accounts were audited, I have received a little over £1 for ticket money from the Sheffield Heeley match, and shall no doubt shortly receive more, as there are tickets out, not yet accounted for. There are also outstanding subscriptions to the amount of £1 5s.
No doubt the slight deficiency stated above is accounted for in the improvements which have been effected on the ground, staking, roping etc., and also in the great expense gone to in arranging some very important matches, which are certainly for the advantage of the Club in a playing point of view, and probably in a financial one in regard to next season.
I am, Gentlemen, Yours faithfully, EDMUND BOTTERILL LEE, Financial Secretary
In the aftermath of Aston Villa’s success in winning the League and Cup ‘double’ in 1897, this letter from the former player Billy Watts was published in a local newspaper.
Presentation Medals to Aston Villa Directors & Officers
Sir – I was pleased to hear that the officials of the above club had been presented with medallions in recognition of services rendered, and I venture to suggest to the management that it would be a graceful act on their part if they could allow such a splendid recognition to act retrospective by honouring the small band of players now left to us who worked so hard in the early history of the club (without fee or expenses), and who subscribed the finances out of their then limited means to keep the concern going. Philospher Jack’s philosophy says had it not been for these pioneers and their hard work on and off the field (including bill posting etc., etc.) the present directorate would have nothing to direct. Going back to the first match played upon their old meadow – viz., against Wednesbury Town – I find we have still in our midst the following old players who took part in same: G. B. Ramsay, Jack Hughes, Teddy Lee, Sammy Law, the writer of this letter, and I would add the names of Will Sothers and Tom Pank. These might be presented with a token which would admit them to present and future matches, and I would venture to suggest that they would be of service rather than otherwise to the management. It is not the intrinsic value, but the graceful recognition which would be appreciated.
W. H. Watts
Here’s an order sent to Edwin Cox from the Sportsman Offices in Fleet Street, London, to provide a match report on an upcoming FA Cup replay between Aston Villa and Sunderland played on February 21, 1894. The first game at Sunderland ended in a 2-2 draw. Villa won the replay at Perry Barr, 3-1, but failed to get past Sheffield Wednesday in the next round. It was the season Villa won its first League title.
Mr Cox 14/2/1894
Dear Sir, Aston Villa v Sunderland – Feb
Please send a report of this event as under.
During the first half of game send ten messages of 150 words each and private message containing score (at half time).
Send ten messages of 150 words each during 2nd half of game and at finish wire result in private form.
If extra time is played send one or 2 extra msgs.
All above to be sent to Evening Chronicle, Newcastle on Tyne.
If you cannot carry out these instructions please let us know.
From the Claret and Blue magazine, number 9, September 1994
Aston Villa historians, of whom there appears to be many about, will be interested in an extract sent in from an Aston Villa programme of 1908. A word portrait of ex-player Olly Whateley, who played for the club between 1881-86, quotes him as making an unusual claim.
In wishing everyone ‘interested in the claret-and-blue colours” good luck, he adds as an aside… “which, I may remind you were designed by my humble self.”
Whateley’s correspondence to the club in that October of 1908 came from his address in London, a house which he called “Aston Villa”, in Charlwood Road, Putney. Does that house and sign still exist, we wonder?
Whateley’s occupation outside of football was a commercial artist. There are two samples of his on display at Villa Park, illuminated tributes to W. B. Mason and John Devey.
Here’s another rare Aston Villa team group. It’s from the 1892-93 season, and likely to have been taken at one of Villa’s away games, which could probably be identified by the line-up as follows:
(Standing) Dick Oxenbould (trainer), Peter Dowds, Fred Burton, Walter Evans, Bill Dunning, George Campbell, Joseph Dunkley, James Cowan, George Ramsay. (Seated) Albert Brown, Charlie Athersmith, Charles Hare, John Devey, Dennis Hodgetts.
Dowds joined VIlla from Celtic in the summer of 1892 and stayed just one season before moving on to Stoke and then returning to Celtic. He died from TB at the early age of 24 in September 1895. A headstone was laid in 2014 by the Celtic Graves Society, to mark Dowds burial site.
From The Athletic News, Tuesday, January 10, 1888
Mr D. Arkell, architect, who designed the splendid grand stand at Perry Barr, had the disposal of over 600 reserve tickets for last Saturday’s great match [against Preston North End], and by Friday eveining every one was sold. Of these, 200 were disposed of at 10s. each, and the remainder at 5s.. so that he will have a handsome sum to hand over. The applications for these tickets were from all over the kingdom, among the places represented being Northumberland, Nottingham, Shropshire, Lancashire, Cheltenham, and Leicester. Seven very favourably situated seats went for £5, or nearl 15s. each.
• According to the National Office of Statistics, £1 in 1888 is equivalent in purchasing power to about £130.83 in 2020.
This illuminated address was presented to Villa player and team captain John Devey on the occasion of his benefit match against Derby County, played at Villa’s Perry Barr ground on Monday, October 5, 1896.
The artwork was produced by the former Villa forward Oliver Whately, a commercial artist who claimed he introduced the famous combination of claret and blue as the club colours which first appeared as stripes on the kit worn for season 1886-87 when Villa won the FA Cup for the first time; so it is interesting to see how Whateley’s colours on his artwork match with those of modern times. Devey’s benefit match raised £100 for the player who later became a director of the club.
The illuminated address reads as follows:
• On the occasion of your benefit match – Derby County v. Aston Villa – we, the undersigned, on behalf of your numerous friends and admirers who have subscribed, ask your acceptance of a cheque value £100, as a mark of esteem for, and goodwill towards you, and as an acknowledgement of your great, successful, and unique skill as an Athlete extending over a period of 13 years.
• We remember with pleasure that you were for four years a forward player for the late St. George’s Football Club, abd were Captain during the latter portion of this time, and since the year 1892 you have held some honorable position in connection with the renowned Aston Villa Football Club.
• Under your judicious, kindly, yet firm captaincy, this club has more than maintained the prominent position it attained under the leadership of your predecessor – the evr to be remembered and beloved Archie Hunter.
• We record with gratification that during your Captaincy the Club has enjoyed the proud distinction of twice securing the League Championship, years 1894 and 1896, and winning the English Cup in 1895, besides numerous other Local Trophies, and your splendid play and Captaincy have been largely instrumental in producing these brilliant results.
• In the glorious cause of Charity, you have ever been a willing worker, ungrudgingly placing your services at the disposal of your club, for Charity matches.
• Your courteous demeanour, manliness of character, love of fair play, and power as a leader, have alike endeared you to comrades and opponents, whilst the willing admiration of countless thousands has testified to your skill on the football and cricket fields.
• We trust your career as an athlete will long continue, and when, in the natural course of things, retirement comes, that your days may be long in the land, and passed in the part of it, in which you have worthily lived, and with which you are so closely and honourably identified, and that you may yearly see the games to which you are so devoted, increase in popularity, bringing fuller health, and improved physique to its legion of players and followers.
Signed on behalf of the Subscribers: W. McGregor (Chairman), Joseph Dunkley (Treasurer)
Signed on behalf of the Committe: J. Adams and A. W. Cooknell (Hon. Secretary)
“Olly” Whateley, Illuminator, Elm Lodg, Mortlake, London
From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, June 20, 1892
The annual meeting of the members of the Aston Villa Football Club was held on Friday, Mr James Hinks (president) in the chair.
The Chairman moved the adoption of the report and statement of accounts. Mr Macgregor seconded the resolution, remarking that how to keep the players steady and sober was the coming question, and whoever could devise a plan whereby professional footballers could be kept at work and out of the public-house would render the football world a great service. The resolution was carried unanimously.
A motion, proposed by Mr Butler, and seconded by Mr Johnson, senior, that any official known to bet either on or against the Villa should be called upon to resign, was carried almost unanimously.
The officers and committee were then re-elected, and the meeting resolved itself into a special committee to consider the question of increasing the subscription from 7s 6d to 10s 6d. A motion to this effect was moved, but the meeting became so disorderly that it was impossible to count the voters on either side, although several attempts were made. Eventually the Chairman adjourned the meeting until Friday next.
source: “Play Up, Liverpool”
There was a period during the latter half of the 1880s when Villa team groups began to show more club officials in the line-up than players. This probably gave birth to the phrase “official team group”, signifying that the photograph was commissioned by the Villa hierarchy as a record of the club’s success in winning trophies.
This photo, taken to record the club’s trophy haul for the 1889-90 season, is a typical example. In fact, there are only TEN Villa players in the lineup. The 19 other men are all club officials.
So which Villa player is missing from the “official photocall”? It has to be the great Archie Hunter and team captain who collapsed while playing for Villa at Everton on January 4, 1890. Hunter was later given medical advice to retire as a player, which he accepted, and he never took to the field again in Villa colours. It’s possible that Hunter may have returned to Scotland for a period to recuperate, hence his absence from the team photograph. He later served on Villa’s committee until his premature death in November 1894.
The imbalance in the photograph between players and officials was intentional. It’s a tribute photograph intended to honour an “absent friend”; a full turn out by club officials, and where no other player was drafted in to fill the vacant spot left by Hunter – hence only ten players in the group. Officials and players were united in expressing their esteem for the club captain they considered irreplaceable.
The standing players are: Albert Aldridge, Frank Coulton, Dennis Hodgetts, Thomas Clarkson, Albert Brown and James Cowan. Seated are Harry Devey, Albert Allen, Gershom Cox and goalkeeper James Warner.
From the Villa News & Record, December 24, 1927
A tribute to “Teddy” Cox by John Urry
Edwin William Cox (always known as “Teddy” of that ilk), was a born journalist if there ever was one. Brought up as a compositor on the Leamington Chronicle and the Birmingham Daily Mail, he was a well-read and very sensitive peruser of books and papers, and he had a memory like a tombstone. He wrote English as clear and limpid as a running stream, and his descriptive powers, especially on sporting matters, were a good deal above the average. His football notes were always fine, good-natured and fair, and he would never be harsh to a player unless he did something deeterminedly dirty, and then he would lay the lash on very smartly indeed. “Teddy” Cox was a very dear old pal of mine, regarded by all good sportsmen as fair-minded, straight, and honourable, and extremely good company, for he “had a way wid him,” like Father O’Flynn, that made him a very lovable person. He was the first editor of the Villa News. His only fault – and a not uncommon one amongst pressmen – was procrastination. “Teddy” died in 1915, and if you are ever visiting the ancient church at Welford-on-Avon (delightful spot!) you may notice some altar-rails to his memory put there by the pressmen of Birmingham, as an affectionate tribute to a good and honest journalist.
A letter from G. B. Ramsay to A. Brown, 15 September 1886
I am much disappointed and the Committee annoyed at your not turning up to Training last night, as you promised me you would, and they hope you will go down regularly every Tuesday and Thursday in future. I have also been told that your Boots are not fit to play with, and must request you to get another pair at once. I have also heard expressions from the Committee to the effect that you don’t seem to work very agreeably with Rich Davis when he is your partner, and they hope you will try to improve this point which will be to the further interests of both of you. I hope you will give this your earnest attention, as all are on the look to make any improvement whatever, towards the better making of the Team in view of the great match we have before us. You have been selected to play on Saturday at Perry Barr, kick-off 3.30 prompt.
Geo B Ramsay
From the Aston Villa News & Record, December 26, 1927
“When I was first on the Aston Villa committee we used to meet in a small room at the “Village Maid” in Finch Road, and of the few then present, I can think of only one beside myself left to tell the tale. It was considered a bold venture when we took the ground at Perry Barr.
“I wonder how many of the present directors would like to be employed taking round bills announcing the matches, and asking shopkeepers to exibit them. The line of type announcing the the price of admission was always the same: “Admission 3d. Ladies free” and if 30s. was taken at the gate it was reckoned good.
“On match days the first committeeman on the ground was required to fetch the corner flags and goal tapes from a w.c. in the garden of the cottage where George Ramsay lodged. The present generation may not know what “goal tapes” are; they were a red tape about one-and-a-half inch wide, which were stretched across the two posts instead of the existing crossbar. You can well understand the disputes that arose as to whether the ball went under or over this loose, twisting, blown about contraption. Then think – no back nets, no linesmen, no offside and no efficient referee.
All our players then were occupied in business and could not, as a rule, get away before one o’clock on Saturdays. I used to leave Smethwick at the time, walk to Lozells, gobble down any food I could get as I dressed in my football togs, then run down Birchfields straight onto the playing pitch.
“I wonder how many players who have handled the Birmingham Charity Cup and perhaps admired the figure on the top, are aware that when Mr Moore (the modeller) desired “the perfect figure of an athlete,” the Birmingham Association flattered me by asking me to pose, which I did on seven or eight occasions at Mr. Moore’s private house in Leonard Road; so I shall always be in Brum, unless that Cup gets pinched like another I remember.”
• Less than two years after Tom Pank’s article was published in the Villa matchday programme, he died at the age of 70 in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital as a result of injuries received in a motor accident. He joined Aston Villa in 1875 and remained a playing member until 1882. In 1924 Pank was elected as a vice-president of the club.
The fallen leaves on the ground and the identity of the Aston VIlla players lined up in the photograph used as the masthead for this blog – and also shown below – indicate that it was probably taken sometime in the early autumn of 1891.
At the start of the 1888-89 season Villa switched from wearing striped jerseys to wearing quartered shirts, still in the club colours of claret and light blue. This style was kept until the start of the League Championship winning season of 1893-94 when the club opted to dispense with quartered tops and adopt an all-claret jersey with light blue sleeves.
There are two styles of jerseys worn by the players in this 1891/92 group. Some show a claret round neckline, while others have two-toned collars.
The line up is, left to right: Charlie Athersmith, George Campbell, Harry Devey, Walter Evans, John Devey, James Warner, Billy Dickson, James Cowan, Dennis Hodgetts. John Baird, Louis Campbell and John Graham.
From the Birmingham Daily Mail, 1897
At the Birminham Assizes on Monday, Sarah Byng, shopkeeper, Albert Road, Aston, sought to recover damages from John Reynolds, the well-known football player, formerly a member of the Aston Villa team, and now of the Celtic, Glasgow, for loss of services, through the seduction of her daughter. Mr Dorsett (instructed by Mr P. Baker) represented plaintiff, and Mr Harris (instructed by Mr Howlett), the defendant. In 1896 defendant lodged at the house of the plaintiff. In August he paid her daughter, Margarter Annie Byng, who was eighteen years of age, marked attention, went out for walks with her, and took her to the theatres. On December 11 a child was born, and a few months later an affiliation order was obtained against defendant, under which he had to pay 5s. a week. The girl worked at a hosier’s establishment, where she earned 15s. per week. She paid her mother 7s 6d per week, and assisted in the housework. In consequence of the seduction plaintiff was deprived of financial assistance, and also of her daughter’s services. A letter written by the defendant to plaintiff was read, in which he promised to come to Birmingham with a view to making an arrangement. He threatened to go abroad if they could not agree. He also stated that when he got to Scotland he commenced backing horses, and lost money. Jack Campbell lost £180 and Doyle twice that amount. Mr Harris, who did not call defendant, charachterised the action as vindictive. The jury found for the plaintiff, and awarded damages £20.
• More on this story and the life of Jack Reynolds at this link
One of my favourite cover designs produced for the Aston Villa News & Record. It’s over 70 years old and still looks fresh. I wonder who designed it?
From The Villa News and Record, December 5, 25 & 26, 1925
“It is with deep regret we announce that E. W. Strange died at four o’clock on Friday afternoon last, after lingering in a hopeless condition for several days. Everybody who knew him will be exceedingly sorry for “Wally” Strange was a very likeable man. He was about 50 years of age, and had been assistant secretary to Mr George B. Ramsay for 26 years. He was a good and faithful helpmate to Aston Villa, having its afairs at his finger-ends, and being one of the most loyal workers through all the years.
“The accident which led to Mr Strange’s death occured at Snow Hill Station, on the evening of Saturday, December 5th. He had been to Cardiff to make valuation of a player, and on alighting from the train fell down the stone steps leading from the Livery Street platform. Immediately it was seen that he had sustained a severe wound at the back of the head, and, unconscious, he was removed to the General Hospital; later he was transferred to the Dudley Road Infirmary, where he remained in a more or less comatose condition until the end came on Friday, the 18th, at 4 p.m. He had, during all this time, the most loving care and attention of the medical staff and a devoted wife, and his passing was without pain.”
This is a very early action picture of Aston Villa’s Howard Spencer, known as the Prince of Full-backs. It’s a staged photograph, one of a series taken to illustrate a feature on the Villa player in The Book of Football.
The Book of Football was a serialised magazine published in 12 fortnightly instalments during the course of the 1905/06 season. Part one appeared on Friday 20th October 1905 and the concluding part twelve on 23rd March 1906.
Howard Spencer joined Aston Villa in 1892 and went on to enjoy a successful playing career with the club until he retired in 1907 after making 294 appearances in all competitions. He also made six appearances for England. Spencer later joined the Aston Villa board in 1909 serving as a director until 1936.
For any genealogists out there with time on their hands, they may want to research the family connection between one of Aston Villa’s most famous supporters, HRH Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Howard Spencer, “Prince of Full-backs”.
From the Birmingham Daily Mail, April, 1893
Early on Saturday morning Philip Henry Clamp, who resided in Upper Thomas Street, Aston, and was until comparitively recently well-known in connection with the Aston Villa Football Club, was found incapably drunk in Parliament Street, Aston, and was conveyed by a constable to the lock-up in the Victoria Road. In consequence of his behaviour he was subsequently seen by Alderman A. Johnson, a magistrate, with a view to his removal from the station. Alderman Johnson after seeing Clamp, however, refused to sanction his removal, and a bed was prepared for him in the cells, and Dr Bark sent for. On arriving, the last-named gentleman said that Clamp was suffering from the effects of alcoholic poisoning, and ordered that he should be treated in his cell, inasmuch as it would be unsafe to remove him in the condition in which he then was. He was well looked after, and should in the ordinary event of things have been dealt with at the court sitting today. As he was unable to appear before the magistrate, Mr A. Hill this morning announced that as Mr Clamp had been in custody since early on Saturday morning he would be discharged. Immediately on the rising of the Court a visit was paid to the cells, where it was found that Clamp had just died. The deceased, as previously stated, was at one time hon. secretary of the Aston Villa Football Club, but of late had given way to intemperance.
Yesterday, Mr J. Ansell held an inquest at the Aston Police Court on the body of Philip Henry Clamp (44), agent, 58 Upper Thomas Street, Aston, who died in the cells at the Aston Police Station on Monday afternoon. Mrs Clamp stated that fro some time past the deceased had given way to habits of intemperance. Police constanble Wale said that about quarter-past one on Saturday morning he was in Parliament Street, Aston, when he found the deceased sitting on a doorstep. In reply to a question, deceased said he had fallen off the top of a tramcar at the Barton Arms, at the same time putting his hand at the back of his head. The ambulance was sent for and the deceased removed to the lock-up. When the charge was being taken he said, “Who is taking this charge?” and on the sergeant saying that he was, deceased asked, “What is it?” Receiving the reply “Drunk in Parliament Street” he made no reply, and was locked up. At the station he denied falling off the tramcar. Police-sergeant Howkins said he was on duty at the police station when the deceased was brought in, and heard him deny that he had fallen off a tramcar. As he felt cold when being put in the cells witness fetched four rugs and wrapped him in them. Shortly after five the same morning witness saw the deceased and found him more cold than before. He got a bed and placed the deceased upon it, and put more rugs over him. He remained with the deceased until half-past seven, and on the instruction of Superintendent Walker, he sent for Mrs Clamp, and also for the doctor. Dr Bark also saw the deceased about eleven o’clock and ordered his removal to a cell which was waramer than the one in which he was. The deceased denied to witness that he had fallen off the tramcar but said he had had “much champagne” at the Villa meeting on the Friday evening. Mr Bark, surgeon, Aston Road, said he attended the deceased in 1882, when he ordered him to give up dinking. After this he left off drinking for four or five years. Death was in no way attributable to foul play, but was due to syncope, primarily attributable to his drinking habits and neglect of food. The Coroner saaid it was very satisfactory to find the police administration under the circumstances was in every way above complaint. A verdict in accordance with the medical eevidence was returned.
This rare Aston Villa team photograph was taken at the end of the 1883-84 season and features some of the players who helped the club retain the Birmingham Senior Cup and also the Mayor of Birmingham Charity Cup.
There is evidence that Villa may have used three different kits during the season. Although it might be assumed that the shirts in the photograph represent the traditional claret and blue colours associated with the club, this is not so. They are two shades of green!
Villa had started the 1883-84 campaign wearing the blue and white hooped shirts that the club had switched to two seasons before. The team also used black jerseys for some games, possibly to avoid any clash with the colours worn by the opposition.
Villa first turned out in their two-tone green shirts for the match against Wednesbury Town, played at Perry Barr on Monday, March 24, 1884. This is confirmed by a note in the Aston Villa Minutes Book.
March 17, 1884 – Shirts: Mr McGregor seconded proposal of Mr Mason “That the trainer has charge of the new shirts and that they be used for Monday next”. Black Jerseys to be used for Saturday next.
The first newspaper reference to Vila’s new colours was recorded in the Daily Gazette on Monday, April 7, in the report for the Birmingham Charity Cup match between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion played at the Lower Grounds on the previous Saturday. Villa were described as being “attired in a new and pretty costume”.
The question of new shirts and colours was raised at a Committe meeting on February 4, 1884. The Minutes Book records that “eventually Messrs McGregor, Archie Hunter and O. W. Whateley were appointed a Sub Committee to arrange and report at a future meeting”.
Two weeks later, on February 13, “Mr McGregor showed several sets of colours – in combinations of two – and eventually after inspection it was agreed upon proposition of Mr Jefferies, seconded by Mr Bowen, to have two Greens”.
• Excellent graphic examples of Aston Villa’s colours and kit styles through its history can be viewed at the Historical Football Kits website.
Letter of G. B. Ramsay to Chief Superintendent Adams, August 13, 1886
Dear Sir, We are now preparing for our forthcoming Football Season and shall require from three to a dozen policemen (according to the importance of the match) nearly every Saturday and Monday afternoon. Therefore would like to have an arrangement with you to the effect that I send you a cheque or Postal Order at the end of every month, which would release your men half an hour or more instead of waiting for about for their money.
Then again I understand that a neighbouring club only pays 1/- per man for the same time. Could you not reduce the rate you charge us from 5/-, which will amount to a considerable item every week. Your very kind consideration of this will much oblige.
I require two policemen for Monday evening next August 16th at Wellington Road, Perry Barr at 5.30.pm.
Geo B Ramsay,
Aston Villa Football Club
Buffalo Bill’s legendary Wild West Show arrived in Birminham on November 3, 1887 and played for four weeks on the Meadow at the Aston Lower Grounds, where Villa Park is now located.
William F. Cody, alias ‘Buffalo Bill’, gave a description of Birmingham’s manufacturing reputation in his book published in 1888, titled The Wild West in England. He wrote:
“A brief but successful occupancy of the Aston Lower Grounds, Birmingham, followed almost immediately upon our London triumphs. Birmingham, the headquarters of the British gun-making industry, the fancy metal trades and of innumerable branches of the lighter hardware crafts, together with its numerous surrounding towns responded nobly to our invitation. The news of our reception in London had gone before us, and we met with a prodigious welcome from the screw-makers, the teapot turners and the manufacturers of artificial jewelry and ‘Brummagem goods’ in general.”
However, the opening show on the afternoon of Saturday November 5 resulted in a dismal attendance as Aston Villa were in action on the same day on the other side of the town, taking on Small Heath Alliance in a cup match. The crowd at Muntz Street was estimated at 12,000 and Villa won the tie 4-0.
A week later, the penny Dart journal posted a brief review of the opening show in its ‘gossip’ column:
The Wild West, at Aston, is a frost. On the opening day, instead of an attendance of 20,000, there was not much over fifteen hundred. It was a poor audience for a third-class football match. The huge stand had a few in the corner, and oceans of empty benches. Mr Sims Reeves-Smith [promoter] expected the Brums would come there in their thousands, not to say millions. But very few people seemed to know or care about it. The show is interesting. At least five or six items in the programme. But, to sit it all out in a cold, damp, November twighlight is not exhilarating – just. There was nothing to be seen of the Wild West after five o’clock. And one or two people, who came in at ten minutes to five, and whose shillings were taken, were highly indignant and demanded their money back.
“At the western edge of Aston Manor, where Heathfield Road and Lozells Lane (now Road) met, was built a house called Aston Villa. It is thought some time during the late 18th or early 19th century. For several decades the house served as a school for the ‘sons of gentlemen’ before being converted into the Villa Cross Tavern around the 1870s. (The building was finally demolished in the mid-1930s, to be replaced by a new pub, which in 1997 was serving as a job centre.
“Extremely modest compared with the likes of Aston Hall or Heathfield House, Aston Villa appears to have been one of barely a dozen major buildings, erected in the area during the period 1750-1835. Yet it was of sufficient importance that, by 1824 at least, the immediate vicinity around the house became known as Aston Villa, andd later more formally as the Villa Ward. The junction in front of the house became known as Villa Cross, from which Villa Road, as now, led to Soho Hill.
“Another institution to adopt the name Aston Villa was a Wesleyan Chapel, founded in 1850 on the corner of Lozells Road and George Street, virually opposite Aston Villa. It was here in the adjoining Sunday school building that pupils followed the muscular Christian creed of the day by forming a cricket team, probably in 1872.”
• Simon Inglis, Villa Park, 100 Years.
It was the members of the Aston Villa Wesleyan Chapel cricket team who in 1874 decided to form a football section to keep themselves active during the winter months, and so the Aston Villa Football Club was born.
• Local historian Don Abbott has published more details about the original Aston Villa at the Sporting Heritage website.
There are at least four Vila players who have far too much flesh on them to play for an hour and a half without tiring greatly. These are Campbell, Devey, Welford and Reynolds (pictured); a week’s hard training would do them the world of good.
Press comment, September 7, 1896
Oh, if the Villa forwards would only stop that stupid practice of fiddling about in front of goal. Outsiders are poking fun at the Villa.
The Critic, September 25, 1896