True colours

During its formative years Aston Villa Football Club took the field in various colours and styles. Seemingly the norm was to use the team strip for a couple of seasons and then change to new colours and another style.

The transition to claret and blue began in season 1885-86 when the club colours were described by secretary George Ramsay as Coral and Mauve jerseys. In the Alcock Annual for the same season Villa’s colours are listed as Coral and Maroon. As to the style, club captain Archie Hunter, referred to it as “the piebald uniform which was inartistic and never popular.”

In November 1886, the team switched to wearing a vertical-striped jersey, described in the club minutes as Chocolate and Light Blue, although one newspaper report noted the Chocolate colour as Cardinal [Red]. The team continued wearng these striped jerseys and colours until the end of 1887-88, as confirmed by team photographs and the mention of Chocolate and Blue in the Alcock Annual of 1887 as Villa’s colours for that season.

Aston Villa team group taken in November 1886 (notice the leaves on the ground) to unveil the club’s new shirts. (Standing) Joe Gorman, Frank Coulton, James Warner, Fred Dawson, Albert Allen, Joey Simmonds. (Seated) Richmond Davis, Albert Brown, Archie Hunter, Howard Vaughton, Dennis Hodgetts. (Ground) Harry Yates, Jack Burton.
Aston Villa in striped shirts with their trophies on display to complete the 1887-88 season. (Standing) Tom Vaughton, Philip Clamp, Albert Brown, Isaac Whitehouse, Harry Devey, William McGregor, Joshua Margoschis, James Warner, Alfred Albut, Albert Allen, William Cooke, George Ramsay, Dennis Hodgetts, J. Vickerstaffe, Joe Gorman. (Seated) Dr Vincent Jones, Frank Coulton, Fred Dawson, Archie Hunter, Harry Yates, Jack Burton, Gershom Cox, Henry Jefferies.

It was at a General Meeting of Aston Villa on June 2, 1888, when members voted and defined the official club colours. Rule 3 stated: The Club Colours shall be CLARET and LIGHT BLUE.

An item in the Club Minutes, August 17, 1888, made mention of an order for new jerseys: Resolved we have 1 dozen new jerseys, Club Colours but in quarters. Quotations from Gr[?] and Mr McGregor.

Ten days later another mention of new jerseys appeared in the minute book: Quotations not having been received, it was decided that they are not now obtained. Resolved instead of Jerseys we have Shirts, the Club Colours in quarters and same be had of Mr McGregor.

Aston Villa 1888-89

This historic team photograph, the first ever depicting the official club colours of Claret and Blue, was taken on June 22, 1889. The two trophies are the Mayor of Birmingham’s Charity Cup and the Birmingham Senior Cup. The lineup is: (Back row) Frank Coulton, Harry Devey, James Warner, Harry Yates, Gershom Cox, Fred Burton, Joe Gorman. (Front row) Arthur Brown, Albert Allen, Archie Hunter, Dennis Hodgetts, Bartholomew Garvey.

Special thanks to Vic Garvey, grandson of ‘Bat’ Garvey, for the use of this picture.

Villa in hoops

Aston Villa 1881-82

This Aston Villa lineup shows the team wearing blue and white hooped jerseys as the club’s first choice kit for season 1881-82. The two trophies are the Birmingham Senior Cup and the larger Birmingham Charity Cup.

A notice from the Midland Athlete inviting design entries for the Mayor of Birmingham Charity Cup.

Villa beat Walsall Swifts 4-1 to lift the Mayor of Birmibgham’s Charity Cup in its inaugral season. The Final was played at Aston Lower Grounds on May 6, 1882.

Villa won the Senior Cup for the second time defeating Wednesbury Old Athletic in the Final, also at the Lower Grounds, on April 1st.

The lineup is, (Standing) Oliver Whateley, David Anderson?, Edmund Lee, Archie Hunter, Eli Davis, George Copley?. (Seated) Howard Vaughton, Arthur Brown, Andy Hunter, Sammy Law, Joey Simmonds.

Noted accomplishments

If you are a collector of ephemera then this item may interest you – an Aston Villa Football Club letterhead produced for use in the first decade of the 20th century.

It’s printed in three colours, predominately blue, but a second shade of blue is used for the club crest and also what now appears to be a discoloured gold ink.

Shown right is a better example of the crest’s colours from a version of the club’s letterhead used 50 years later: light blue, embossed in a gold colour.

Notice the telegraph address – Villa, Birmingham – used by the club for communication. No email in those days! No mention of Villa Park, either. The registered office is Aston Villa Grounds.

Missing Archie

Aston Villa 1890-91

1890-91 wasn’t the best of seasons for Aston Villa. Without Archie Hunter to lead them – he had retired in January 1890 – the team struggled to compete at top level, finishing in ninth place in the League and exiting from the FA Cup in the second round. However, Villa retained two local trophies, the Mayor of Birmingham Chaity Cup, and the Birmingham Senior Cup, and also lifted the Staffordshire Cup for a second time.

The end of season line-up is: (back row) Alfred Albut, Fred Dawson, Joshua Margoschis. (middle row) James Lees, Billy Dickson, Jimmy Warner, James Cowan, Albert Allen, Tom McKnight, Charlie Hare, Harry Devey, George Campbell, Fred Burton, Isaac Whitehouse, Jack Graham, William McGregor, Archie Hunter. (front row) Fred Cooper, Charlie Athersmith, Albert Brown, Gershom Cox, Dennis Hodgetts, Louis Campbell, George Ramsay.

Billy the Boot Boy makes good

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.”

Advertising on the back of an envelope for “Shillcock’s Patent Football Boot”.

Source: Claret & Blue magazine, number11, January 1995

The Cup that was lost forever

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.