Barking Football Club
Can they rise again?
In 2013 Barking FC completed their seventh season in the Essex Senior League, one of 14 Step 5 leagues within the National League System (NLS). In six of these they have finished in the top half of the table without challenging for promotion. Yet, ambition to restore past glory remains; as noted by an annual application for promotion. They have played at a purpose built stadium in Mayesbrook Park since 1973.
Barking had merged with East Ham United in 2001, having returned, as champions, to the First Division of the Isthmian League. The other Hammers, as they were widely identified, had begun a ground share, two years previously. Between 1988 and 1991 the reformed Ilford FC had shared the ground.
This East Ham United derived from Storey Athletic in 1955, a title adopted two decades earlier to recognise their origin from former pupils of Storey Street School in North Woolwich. They won senior leagues in 1970 and 1973 and were quarter finalist in the national FA Vase in 1977, when they also won the first-
After more than fifty seasons in the Isthmian League, 2004, changes to the NLS placed Barking (& East Ham United) in the division for eastern England, Middlesex and the Thames Valley. They qualified for the four-
Can Barking revisit their former glories? The sad answer is probably no!
1895/96 and All That
By 1891 the population of Barking was almost 21,000. Once reliant on fishing and farming; incomers were attracted by industry setting up along the bank of the River Thames. Some of these firms had been forced out of the metropolitan area by ‘clean air’ statute.
1895 is pivotal in the story with the arrival in the borough of Woodville (Upton). They had won the Essex Senior Cup in 1893/94. Formed in 1882 they took their name from the quality housing being built on the southern edge of Epping Forest. It had at least football and tennis sections; the latter competed in its county cup. The footballers joined the Essex FA in 1886 using a ground on the Romford Road near it junction with Green Street. In 1892 they attended the meeting that attempted to establish a Southern League. Like many multi-
Woodville probably used Holland’s Field, which became the Recreation Ground, opened in April 1898; one of the first leisure initiatives of the new urban district council (UDC). By 1910 the development of Barking Park incorporated the Recreation Ground. Examining a contemporary map suggests it was the area on which the rugby club played from the 1960s until their move to Goresbrook; or alternatively the site of the grammar school (now Barking Abbey).
Woodville’s good run in the FA Amateur Cup was topped by again securing the Essex Senior Cup. In the previous season they had been disqualified at the semi-
In August 1896, at a meeting at the Town Hall a consortium of three businessmen, who had acquired (1) the Vicarage Field, confirmed the formation of an Athletic Association. The cricket club was also to be restarted; who continued to use Vicarage Field to the outbreak of the Great War. Major Glenny, who had built the commuter cottages adjacent to the new station on the St Pancras to Tilbury line, was also in attendance.
Woodville agreed to prefix the town to their name. The meeting also heard negotiations for the use of the ground, with the team of the local brass band; Excelsior had broken down. Several speakers were critical of the consortium’s motives and intent. The gate would be allocated one-
Excelsior previously used Holland’s Field, but was now at Eastbury Field, presumably within the 65 acres of the Manor’s land around the junction of Ripple Road and Upney Lane. Excelsior had won the Essex Junior Cup in 1894/95 and then held meetings to integrate with the Working Men’s Institute as Barking Town, also rejecting professionalism. As far as is known this Town did not play a fixture, as its better players opted to join the Association and be selected for a team built on Woodville. Both clubs had been founder members of the South Essex League in 1892 but it failed to complete its first season. It restarted in 1895 to provide senior amateur football in suburban Essex to 1921.
After two moderate seasons in the London League, Woodville resigned to join the South Essex League. They were champions in 1898/99 dropping only one point in their 14 league games. In 1900 the South Essex League had a brief dalliance with professionalism leading to Woodville not taking part. Whether there is a connection to a club of the same name traced in the Manor Park & District League in 1910 is not proven, as is a mention in a Grays newspaper that the club became part of the new West Ham United formed out of Thames Ironworks. The Association then agreed terms with London Caledonians to relocate from Tufnell Park. Formed in 1886 they had brought together the best London-
Meanwhile the Institute built a juvenile (2) team from elementary schoolboys’ teams. They won the London Minor Medals in 1897/98 adding the London Federation of Boys Cup the following season. In 1899/1900 they won the Leyton & District League and just failed to secure a third local success in the Essex Junior Cup. They won the Second Division of the South Essex League in 1900/01. The following season, having agreed a lease with the Association for Vicarage Field, they shared the title after a drawn play-
Victoria returned the Essex Junior Cup to the borough in 1905/6. They were former pupils of the Abbey Victoria National School, who, a decade earlier, with Cottis playing, were a successful schoolboy team. In 1908 they were one of the many junior clubs in the suburban area to join the Essex Amateur Football Association, a dispute that continued to the outbreak of the Great War. Since, the Junior Cup has been won by CLESCO in 1929/30, the team of the pre-
At its 1908 AGM, the town club’s membership was opened to those living in East Ham and Ilford. Ferndale, a branch of a national industrial society, members of the Ilford & District League, became its reserve team. The strengthened first team made an impact. They lost 1-
In 1911/12, as the London League again faced amateur and professional problems, the club made their fourth successive appearance in the quarter finals of the FA Amateur Cup also winning the South Essex League and the London Senior Cup defeating London Caledonians.
Vicarage Fields in the 1950s
In 1970, the club were informed the plan for the town centre Relief Road would mean .they were to lose Vicarage Field. Subsequent events show the club's heart and soul went with it. The Field had existed since 1794 when the parish vicarage was built adjacent to the Ripple Road. Subsequently surrounded by houses and shops, with poor access and insufficient on ground parking; it unlikely it would have met the requirements of 21st century grading; yet, like many grounds developed between the wars it had character. To peer through the fence on the Ripple Road after the club’s departure filled one with sadness. That the Relief Road was delayed is an irony, as the compact William Warne Sports Ground, off the A13, became available in 1976. Vicarage Field became derelict, was briefly tidied for youth teams; and is now under the site of a shopping complex, which bears its adulterated name.
Mayesbrook Park was the logical choice as its replacement, also providing a superior on ground social facility. It was fully exploited as the Cockatoo Disco. The club’s finances suffered significantly when a fire severely damaged the internal fixtures and fittings. With commercial ventures in Romford town centre also responding to the demand, the income, which funded their most successful era, dried up.
The other reasons for their decline are not specific to the club but to changes in sport and community. These can be briefly summarised:
From its beginning in the 1902 attempts for a coherent structure for London senior amateur football failed, giving tacit approval to illegal payments and player recruitment by providing employment. The semi-
Since 1959 central government has controlled revenue spending by local authorities. Loan sanction for capital projects, ‘rate-
Continuing demand for housing has made inroads into open space. The losses were to be offset by floodlighted facilities with artificial surfaces, but there is a reluctance to use these within the NLS. Competition from other sports continues apace. After the Second World War, redundant drill halls provided early sports centres before Sports Council funding helped to provide purpose built sports halls – a staple of their usage being short-
The Football Association seemed unwilling to involve itself in short-
Barking Town Again
The class system, the elementary and grammar schools, different religious faiths, and in 1919 between those who served at the front in the Great War and those that did not (for shirking their duty!) continued to influence community.
This was reflected at another lively meeting at the Town Hall to form a new club titled Barking Town as Barking were declared bankrupt during the war. The Vicar, as trustee felt a property owner should have a say in how his land was used gave his support to an amateur and parochial approach. The meeting disagreed launching an appeal for £300 to restore the grandstand; also appointing a secretary resident in East Ham. The UDC became the leaseholder of Vicarage Field, a response to an earlier East Ham United applying to join the Isthmian League in 1921? Who may have planned to use it?
In Town’s first season they won the Essex Senior Cup and were finalist in the London Senior Cup. The West Ham Charity Cup was also won. Before 1948, and the birth of the National Health Service, hospitals and similar charities benefitted from many such competitions. The club’s success continued in 1920/21 winning the London League and the London Senior Cup. In 1921/22 Town reached the semi of the F.A. Amateur Cup. They travelled to Darlington to lose 1-
In their first season as Athenians the club finished 8th of 13 clubs. In their next four seasons they secured at least a top three place without winning the title, and in 1926/27 bettered their previous Amateur Cup run, gaining their revenge over South Bank, before losing the final 1-
The loss of the Ripple Road stand to fire changed the landscape. The UDC funded replacement was opened in late December 1928. The increased rent caused the club financial difficulties and by January 1933, the arrears were significant; when a further difficulty arose. The club were investigated and found guilty of financial irregularities by paying expenses in excess of those incurred. Town’s officers were suspended sine-
Barking Yet Again
In 1934/35 Barking won the Athenian League title, securing 25 of their 26 home points to hold off the challenge of Enfield by two points. It was to prove the high spot of some lean times. 1949/50 apart, when the semi-
Blues and Daggers
The enlargement from the 14-
Barking, as the above honours list shows, participated in several with the occasional success.
Today Barking are six NLS steps below Dagenham & Redbridge; their now Football League neighbours. Dagenham’s arrival at Victoria Road in 1955 provided the land to build social facilities. Their plans included two community halls for the east of the borough and a restaurant to link to nearby industry. The former proved a fertile source of income allowing progression through the lower senior amateur leagues. Isthmians from 1973, they were immediately promoted to the Premier Division unto joining the Alliance Premier League in 1981, having won the FA Trophy.
With a new benefactor Barking responded to the challenge and set in train the rivalry between the town clubs. They secured five top half finishes between 1967 and 1972 including a club record run of 18 games unbeaten in 1968/69, when for the tenth time they progressed to at least the last eight of the FA Amateur Cup.
Barking’s crowning moment came in 1978/79 when the Isthmian League Premier Division title was won by a 12 point margin (3 points for a win) from their neighbours. The London Senior Cup was also won. On four occasions in six seasons (1978-
It was also a golden era for schoolboy football in national competitions. Barking won the Under 15s in 1975 as Mayesbrook shared the Under 19s for individual schools. The latter introduced in 1968 had first winners in the South East Essex Technical College, the forerunner to the University of Essex and earlier North East London Polytechnic.
In 1991, after 39 years at top level of the Isthmian League, Barking were relegated suffering a further relegation in 1996. They revived in their first Division 2 season with a fourth place league finish, a last 16 place in the FA Vase and won the Essex Thamesside Trophy on penalties 8-
The present Barking date their formation to 1880 when Barking Rovers were formed. It is likely the impetus came from former pupils of public schools, who established pitches in suburban Essex, in this instance Eastbury Field. They were allowed the use of Vicarage Field in 1884 when they affiliated to the Essex FA, formed two years earlier, as football became increasingly popular in its suburban area. Their best in the Essex Cup was the Third Round in 1885/86. Their use of the Field ended in 1889, on the pretext of damage to the cricket square, to give exclusive use to the clergy. They returned to the Eastbury Field, losing to Woodford (0-
Many sports historians adopt the convention that mergers and reconstructions create a new club, with earlier incarnations as antecedents. Barking’s formation date using this convention is 2006 with antecedents of 2001, 1932, 1919, 1902 and 1880. Nevertheless it is a glorious history, which in these days of televised international sport, will hopefully not be forgotten.
From research by the author and Fred H Hawthorn. Thanks to Barking FC historian, Derek Pedder
(1) The Advertiser report uses this word, although it was likely to be a seven-
(2) Juvenile -