Greens on Screen’s first page was published in January 1999. Its early purpose was to bring Plymouth Argyle a little closer to those unable to see their team, and whilst it has changed a great deal over the years, its core themes - sites and sounds for Westcountry exiles - still stand. The site was very lucky to take on the content of Trevor Scallan’s Semper Viridis in the summer of 2007, and in 2009 launched GoS-DB, a wealth of facts and figures from PAFC’s history. A year later we embarked on a complete history of Argyle, with much-valued contributions from chapter authors.
Greens on Screen is an amateur website and proud of it. It is run by one person as a hobby, although there have been aspects of the site over the years that would be much the poorer without the had work and much-valued contributions of a small band of volunteers.
Greens on Screen is self-taught and as a result, a little bit quirky. Amongst a few stubborn principles, advertisements will never appear (and don’t get me started on the plague of betting promotions on other sites). It began its life before many others, including the club’s official site, when there was a large gap to be filled, and although there is now a wide variety to choose from, GoS’s sole aim, to be a service to fellow supporters, still seems to have a place.
An original, comprehensive and thoroughly researched account of Plymouth Argyle Football Club from its earliest roots to the present day.Important copyright conditions:
This chapter is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence. Attribution must include the Author (Roger Walters) and this site's address (www.greensonscreen.co.uk) and must be displayed prominently, in close proximity to any associated material, and be implemented with strict regard to the licence conditions.
Parts too small for comfortable reading? Most browsers allow you to zoom. Try Ctrl+ (hold down the Ctrl
key, then press the +
key, without Shift).
Ctrl- reduces the size.
Have you new material to offer? Please get in touch by writing to Steve using the 'Contact Us' button at the top-right of the page.
Photos used on this page: Greens on Screen is run as a service to fellow supporters, in all good faith, without commercial or private gain. I have no wish to abuse copyright regulations and apologise unreservedly if this occurs. If you own any of the material used on this page, and object to its inclusion, please get in touch using the 'Contact Us' button at the top-right of the page.
THE HISTORY OF ARGYLE
An original account of Plymouth Argyle Football Club from its earliest roots to the present day
This is a printed representation of one chapter of GoS's History of Argyle (www.greensonscreen.co.uk/argylehistorymenu.asp), provided for ease of reading and personal retention. Inevitably it lacks links to associated pages, including match and player records, and its layout has been simplified to allow page breaks. Note also that Greens on Screen's online History of Argyle will be updated and new material added from time to time.
COPYRIGHT: the strict conditions for use of this printed version are the same for the corresponding online page, as specified on that page.
Chapter 2: 1890-1895
From Struggle to Demise
Continuing the Argyle FC story, the early 1890s saw a decline in the club's fortunes and ultimately the demise of its original form, whilst at the same time, Home Park was built.
Author: Roger Walters
Date: 30 Jun 2011
In this chapter: 1890-91: Argyle in decline ... 1891-92: Argyle struggle for survival ... changes in Devon association football ... 1892-93: Argyle struggle on ... new home at Hartley Pleasure Gardens ... Clarence Spooner and veiled professionalism ... the building of Home Park & the formation of the Home Park Association Football Club ... the opening of Home Park ... Jimmy Lynes exposed as a professional player ... 1893-94: Argyle down to two players ... veiled professional Jimmy Lynes with Argyle ... 1894-95: Argyle Football Club enters Devon League ... Argyle become the Plymouth Argyle Alliance Football Club ... the Plymouth Argyle Alliance Boxing Day fiasco ... Argyle defunct ... Home Park A.F.C. seek to become a professional League club ... first visit of professional League clubs to South West ... bibliography for this and other pre-1903 chapters
1890-91: ARGYLE IN DECLINE
Many of the original members had now left the club and it entered into a slow decline from hopeful beginnings. All but the most keen middle-class football enthusiasts played for no more than a small number of seasons between leaving school and taking up a trained professional job. The working-class single player continued until he became the sole or main bread winner in a family, or when he got married. Injury could only be risked by the well-off or the brave and foolish.
The ground at Marsh Mills was not secured for this season but a ‘home’ was found on land next to Cattedown Road, on the corner of where South Milton Street was later built. The elected club captain was Argyle’s speedy top goal scorer Alfred Hole Shilston and vice-captain was the artist Charles Edward Brittan. They must have been very good friends; Brittan married a member of the Shilston family. As Argyle lost ground over to its local rival clubs, Shilston was the only player to make it into the season's Devon County side. When Devon played Cornwall on the 10th January 1891, for the first time there was no Argyle player in the team. The Argyle Second XI was still operating under the captaincy of William Warmington but he left the club soon after the season started. There were two further changes in captaincy and the reserves struggled to fulfil fixtures, not helped by a very cold winter. The Argyle Reserve team was not formed again until 1897-98. From December 1890 through to January 1891 heavy snow and icy cold brought football to a halt.
Following the cold weather the First Round of the Devon County Association Cup was able to go ahead. There were six clubs entered from Plymouth, plus Tavistock and Torbay Association. Argyle were drawn at ‘home’ to play Torbay on Saturday 31st January 1891. Argyle hired South Devon Place from Plymouth F.C. as venue. A large crowd saw Argyle twice go ahead, and Torbay twice equalised. Extra-time was needed with Argyle the eventual winners 5-2. The next round was the Semi-Final played on Saturday 14th February at South Devon Place against Plymouth United who Argyle had not played for two years. Shilston scored first for Argyle to loud cheers from the 500 attendance. In the 78th minute, Argyle forward J. C. King went off with a broken collarbone leaving the team with 10 men. United made the most of the advantage and scored three goals in the remaining time to win 3-1. The holders Tavistock exited the competition, losing 1-0 to St. James-the-Less at Tavistock. The referee blew the final whistle just as Tavistock equalised but the goal did not stand. The Tavistock Gazette reports “…a crowd of men and lads hooted the referee as he left the field, and some boys threw missiles at him”. St. James-the-Less won the Final 2-1 against Plymouth United.
1891-92: ARGYLE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL
The Western Daily Mercury announced on the 19th September 1891 that, “…the Argyle club is defunct. Many of their best men have gone and some have ceased play. The remnant has joined Plymouth (F.C.)”. The players who joined Plymouth F.C. were last season’s captain and vice-captain Shilston and Brittan, plus regular playing member since 1886 Charles V. Baker. Thanks to a very determined member, Victor John Prout who had joined last season, he would not let the club die and kept it going. Argyle reformed later than usual for the season with Prout elected both captain and joint secretary with Charlie Bawden. The depleted club registered only fourteen players for the coming season. The ex Plymouth College contingent so prevalent since formation had gone, this was a new less middle-class Argyle.
Argyle were saved by the life-blood given by ex-pupils of a small, little known private school, Cheveley Hall, in Seymour Road, Mannamead. The principal was Daniel Slater whose sons Eric and Gilbert played for Argyle during this difficult period and others from this source included Prout, Shilston, Evans, Chapman, Frederick Lobb, Archie Fisher, and Reginald Lowther. Being late reforming meant that some club fixtures could not be arranged but a fairly full fixture card was filled and a ‘home’ ground was found at Saltram Park, Marsh Mills. Their entry into the Devon Cup, for the first time being decided on a League basis, was accepted. This was now the Senior Cup as the Devon F.A. had begun a Devon Junior Cup. There were only five clubs in the Senior Cup, all Plymouth based, and they were to play each other home and away to decide the outcome of the Cup.
Argyle’s first match in the competition was at Plymouth F.C. who included Shilston, Brittan, and Baker in their team. The Press predicted that Argyle would lose 6-0. Amidst great excitement in the first half, two of the ex-Argyle players, Charles Baker and Alfred Shilston scored for the Plymouth club and Frederick Lobb scored for Argyle. The second half was reported to have been, “entered upon with all the zeal and go imaginable” and the crowd “shouted themselves hoarse” as Argyle “repeatedly menaced the Plymouth goal”. Argyle equalised and then “Tumultuous cheering was raised when Prout, after the leather had been carried with remarkable judgement through the Plymouth ranks, scored the third goal for Argyle”. A fourth added just before time gave Argyle a 4-2 victory. The match report says it was one of the fastest and most exciting games ever played on the Plymouth ground. The win was so important for Victor Prout and the Argyle Football Club to resurrect the team against the Plymouth College supported Plymouth F.C. It was said that Argyle played with “extraordinary enthusiasm that nothing short of a fire engine would have damped their ardour”.
The return match six weeks later on the 12th December undid all the good work as Plymouth F.C. won 12-2. The second of the two Argyle goals was the club’s first penalty goal, scored by Evans, after its introduction into Association football in 1891. After such a heavy defeat Argyle were unable to raise a team for the next match. In the following fixture versus the Old Mannameadians, Argyle fielded five guest players but did manage a 2-1 victory. The Western Independent, Saturday 16th January 1892 reported that the vigour first shown by Argyle in the earlier matches had all but gone and “From all accounts the club is in a moribund condition, and the withdrawal of some of the best players is threatened. We…fear the Argyle is on its last legs”. A ‘home’ Devon Senior Cup (League) was played against Brunswick on the 23rd January 1892, which Argyle won 2-1, but the receipts were only 9 old pence (3 paying spectators) of which 50 percent was payable to the Devon F.A. leaving Argyle with 4½ pence. A week later in the same competition Argyle surprised everyone with a 3-3 draw against Plymouth United and their spirits lifted again. The season finished with an incomplete Devon Senior Cup League table. As Plymouth F.C. were unassailable they were crowned Cup Winners. Argyle did not play two of their eight Cup matches. On the 2nd March 1892, the table was:-
CHANGES IN DEVON ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL
It had proved difficult to complete a 90 minute match in good light on the grounds at Marsh Mills due to the late arrival of the train from Millbay Station. It did not matter so much in friendly matches but now the Cup was on a League basis a number of bad light abandonments meant matches had to be replayed. Players of clubs using Marsh Mills boycotted the railway in protest and some players travelled to an Argyle match in a horse-drawn clay truck on the Lee Moor Tramway. The League style competition completely changed the laissez-faire attitude towards the game. Due to abandoned and postponed matches, and the many club protests over the matches played, the over-run Devon F.A. turned to the secretary of the English Football Association, C. W. Alcock, to help solve the disputes.
There was a battle going on within the Devon F.A. as the working-class men became more determined to run it their way and the public school educated officials resigned. They had resisted the formation of a Devon Junior Association but people such as Alfred E. Floyd from Plymouth United and Syd Smith of St. James-the-Less forced through changes that showed Association football was for all clubs and classes, and they took control of the Devon F.A. Of the same ilk and acting on the Devon F.A. committee was Argyle’s Victor Prout and Charlie Bawden. The class war spilt over onto the pitch. Syd Smith, whilst playing for St. James-the-Less at Ford Park against Plymouth College, so badly injured his knee it ended his days as an out-field player. In a January 1892 match, J. B. Greenway, captain of Plymouth F.C., showed his mission was to give Alf Smith (Syd’s brother) his exclusive vigorous attention, which caused Alf to faint by the end. The two Smith brothers assisted Argyle in 1892-93, and the Plymouth College schoolmaster, and former pupil, John Brabyn Greenway had played for Argyle in 1887-88. In its short history, Argyle had changed from being the club for one faction, to that of the other.
The Devon F.A., keen to advance the game brought the touring Canadian team to Ford Park to play Devon on the 9th December 1891. Devon, who included Argyle players George Holdstock in goal and Charlie Bawden at half-back, lost 7-1 in atrociously muddy conditions for both players and the 2,500 spectators. At a special after match meal held in the evening the chairman and ex-Mayor John Thomas Bond told those gathered that the town council had recently bought land at Lipson for sporting recreation, and talks had begun with the War Office to negotiate the purchase of the Citadel and make it into a recreation ground. Regiments stationed there played football matches within its walls and spectators lined the ramparts. The vice-chairman for the evening was well-known Plymouth builder Alfred Richard Debnam who indicated that he would purchase the Citadel and carry out the building work. When the War Office did not sell the Citadel, Debnam pressed on with the plan to build a recreation ground. This was to be Home Park.
1892-93: ARGYLE STRUGGLE ON
The Argyle Football club survived the summer break and attended the Devon County F.A. Annual Meeting at the Borough Arms, Plymouth on 16th August 1892. Plymouth F.C. were now totally divorced from control of the controlling body they had founded on their ground and it was announced at the meeting that the Cup winners were retiring from membership. Though there was much indignation, the club did continue to allow the County matches to be played at South Devon Place. Representing Argyle at the meeting was Charlie Pappin who suggested the Devon Senior Cup revert to a knockout basis. After the chaos of last seasons League format, not surprisingly, the meeting adopted his proposal. In fact, Argyle had not paid their subscription to the Devon F.A. and did not rejoin to take part in the Cup competition. Plymouth United also withdrew from the Devon F.A. because it had promoted some junior clubs to increase the senior ranks. To make up for the serious loss of Senior clubs the Devon F.A. allowed for the first time teams from the Forces to compete in the Cup which, as a result, was not won again by a civilian club until 1900.
At the beginning of the season, The Western Independent ran a series of articles on the history of the Senior Association clubs and that on Argyle says, “The club was formed in 1886, but how the formation came about no one seems to know”. This was only six years later! Just about all the original Argyle members had now gone. Argyle had obviously intended to continue playing ‘home’ matches at Marsh Mills as the hon. Secretary Charlie Bawden had persuaded the G.W.R. to lay on a train for the convenience of footballers and supporters on Saturdays to leave Marsh Mills at 5.30. Argyle began the season with a run of six defeats and no ‘home’ ground. Morale dived, players failed to turn up to play, including the captain Victor Prout, and substitutes, if available, took their places. Argyle were in no fit state to have registered players for the Cup competition so it was a wise decision to play friendly matches only. What was remarkable about Argyle was, unlike so many Association clubs of the day who encountered difficulties and so easily disappeared, Argyle fought on adapting to changes and confounded predictions and reports of its demise.
NEW 'HOME' AT HARTLEY PLEASURE GARDENS
In 22 match line-ups for the 1892-93 season, Argyle listed over 60 players, many of them not club members. The few regular club members often had to play out of position in the unsettled team. They wore their Argyle black and green team shirt whilst the substitutes were often attired in their daywear white shirts. The first victory came on Saturday 3rd December 1892, 5-2 against Cheveley Hall, the school that provided members who had kept Argyle going. The school ground was at Hartley and Argyle acquired a new ‘home’ for the rest of the season, the exclusive use of the Hartley Pleasure Gardens. Its close proximity to Mannamead School gave Argyle the valuable assistance of its best players and with their help, on Saturday 17th December 1892, Argyle defeated St. James-the-Less 4-0 in the first match on the new ‘home’ ground.
On acquiring a ground, Argyle rejoined the Devon F.A., registering just thirteen players, four of whom were promptly called up into the Devon County squad to meet the Old Plymothians a week later. The County was so short of good civilian Senior club players that the majority of its team were from the Forces. Devon fielded two Argyle players in the match, Victor Prout and Michael Cloutte who was still a pupil at the Corporation Grammar School, and only two others from civilian clubs. The Old Plymothians won the Christmas Eve match at South Devon Place, 3 goals to 1. In their team was the Argyle pioneer Ernest Harry Babb who had returned from London, he became an art teacher at Plymouth College and Cheveley Hall School. Ever an Association football enthusiast, Babb was the driving force behind the Old Plymothians and their successor the O.P.M.’s, taking them into the F.A. Amateur Cup of 1896-97. He captained Devon County in 1893-94, and captained Plymouth F.C. who entered the F.A. Amateur Cup in the 1895-96 season. He suffered much pain from old football injuries but continued playing into his thirties. Like so many players, he gave up when he married.
CLARENCE SPOONER AND VEILED PROFESSIONALISM
Spooner & Co., Bedford Street, Plymouth, 1888
Argyle made a Boxing Day excursion to Torquay where they played for the first time at Plainmoor against Torquay Y.M.C.A. winning 6-5. A number of the players who guested for Argyle during the season were members of the St. James-the-Less club and one of them, who played on Wednesday 11th January 1893, in the future, would turn the Argyle Football Club into the professional club of today. He was twenty-two year old Clarence Newby Spooner from the Spooner & Co. Department Store owning family. Both he and his brother John Dawson Spooner were avid football, and sport generally, enthusiasts. They both wanted their staff to enjoy the benefits of leisure time and the participation in sports so founded the Avenue Recreation Club for employees in 1890. The club organised all sorts of events, which Clarence and J. D. often joined in.
Their Avenue Football Club was responsible for introducing clandestine professional football to Plymouth via the back door. Spooner included non-employees in his team and it was reported that they received gifts from the Spooner & Co. store in Bedford Street. A player specially brought into the Avenue F.C. team was James ‘Jimmy’ Lynes, later exposed by his employers as a veiled professional. Events on Wednesday 23rd March 1892 indicated it was an open secret. Avenue were playing Albany in the Devon Junior Cup Semi-final before a large crowd at Marsh Mills. The Western Daily Mercury reports that Lynes was surrounded by a large group of spectators and attacked; a free fight broke out between the two leading antagonists, both well known in local amateur circles, and Lynes. The newspaper reports Lynes came off best. The second half ended before time because the spectators would not stay off the pitch. Such was the general abhorrence of football professionalism in the South West, there were further reports of unprovoked attacks on Lynes during other matches.
Clarence Spooner made his one and only appearance for Devon on Saturday 18th February 1893 against Cornwall at South Devon Place. The now buoyant Argyle had four players called up in the same match, Charlie Bawden, Reginald Lowther, Frederick Roe, and Frank Conry. Though Devon lost 2-1, the four Argyle players retained their places and Victor Prout returned to make it five Argyle players in the next Devon fixture. The season should have ended on a high for Argyle but the same old problems resurfaced. On Saturday 28th February, Torquay Y.M.C.A. journeyed to Hartley in a return fixture, which Argyle won 7-2 but they had to find three substitutes to make up the team. The same problem occurred the following Saturday and after that none of the five remaining fixtures were fulfilled. No reason is known but perhaps as a number of the players were still schoolboys they were not available? The side did resurface to take part in the Avenue Football 6-a-side Tournament on Wednesday 12th and 19th April, reaching the Final before losing to Army side, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
THE BUILDING OF HOME PARK & THE FORMATION OF THE HOME PARK ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL CLUB
It has appeared in print that Home Park was built for the Devonport Albion Rugby Club but this is not actually correct. Albion needed a better ground and took advantage of its availability by becoming tenants. The initial reason for the ground was to provide a racing track for cycling races and to be the ‘home’ of an ambitious new Association football club. If the Home Park Association Football Club had succeeded in its goal to be a professional football club then Plymouth Argyle would not exist today.
Cycle races at the Raglan Barracks, 1884
Very popular civilian club bicycle races were regularly held on the parade grounds of the Royal Marine Barracks and the Army’s Raglan Barracks from 1877 until 1891 when permission to do so was suddenly withdrawn. This event brought forth a discussion on the lack of facilities for all popular sports in The Three Towns (Plymouth, Devonport, and Stonehouse). The main force behind demands for a purpose built ground came from the local cycling clubs as the important businessmen and town councillors were, almost all, members of the cycling clubs, including the previously mentioned John Thomas Bond and the builder contractor Alfred Richard Debnam.
Since the plan to convert the Citadel did not germinate, out of a lot of speculation and rumour, came two different schemes to build a ground, one at Hyde Park, Mutley and the other at the Exhibition Fields, Milehouse. Investigating cyclists reported to the Western Daily Mercury in a letter on Friday 9th September 1892 that they had found a large gang of men levelling land on the Exhibition fields. This was the start of what became the ‘Home Park Athletic Ground and Cycle Track’. The man behind it was Plymouth Cycling Club member Debnam. Almost as soon as building work began up to thirty young men from Plymouth United were seen practicing Association football on the site. An anonymous letter writer, also printed in the same edition of the Western Daily Mercury, said he thought the ground was “…a grand opportunity to push Association football forward…and make Association the premier game in Devon instead of Rugby. Just compare the gates of Association matches to those of Rugby up the country….bring Association football to such a pitch that we will be able to get some of the best teams down West and see some genuine football”. The informed prophet, who signed as ‘An Old Footballer’, was probably John ‘Jack’ Jaques of Plymouth United. He had already persuaded Alfred Debnam and his son, Alfred William Debnam, to back the formation of his Home Park Football Club; formed later that month on the 21st September 1892. They also saw that the success of their venture to be linked to the financial benefits that a professional Association football club would bring to Plymouth.
‘Jack’ Jaques was a shady character in more ways than one, being a Master Chimney Sweep and an employer himself. He had played rugby ten years previously as captain of the multi-sport Plymouth Amateur Athletic Club who raised its standard of play by ‘borrowing’ good players from other clubs. He then joined the Plymouth based rugby club, Holborn F.C. and led them to defect to the Association code in 1886, upsetting many club members in the process. Shortly after the end of his playing days, he became an official with Plymouth United. As an official with Plymouth United, he was exposed as offering 1 shilling and 6 pence (7½ pence) to Private Holland of the Royal Marine Light Infantry to acquire a soldier to play for United. Holland approached a player willing to play but ended up confined to barracks with the other player when someone informed his commanding officer of the deal. Holland later played for Home Park, hiding his identity in the newspapers under the pseudonym ‘Snowball’. Jaques believed that breaking rules was often necessary for change and he exerted a strong influence on local Association football but mostly remained in the background persuading others to take the lead (and the cost).
Alfred Richard Debnam, the man who built Home Park
To finance the Home Park Athletic Ground and Cycle Track Alfred Debnam (senior), who started the project off with his own money, had formed the Plymouth & Devonport Recreation Grounds Limited. The nominal capital of the company was £8,000 through an issue of £1 shares, which would eventually buy the completed ground from, and pay off the money spent by Debnam. On the hand-over Debnam held onto 4,500 shares, Alfred (junior), his son, took 100 shares under his wife’s name, so the company was firmly under their control. Jack Jaques did not purchase any shares.
The land, Home Park Field, was part of what was commonly known as ‘New Park’, Higher Swilley. Alfred Richard Debnam and the landowner Lord St. Levan entered into a Lease agreement on the 17th October 1892. Lord St. Levan, known for his anti-sport views, owned most of Devonport. His manorial controls crippled sport in Devonport; in 1902 it was reported he forbid his tenants renting fields for any kind of sport. Home Park Field, known as Holm Park Field in 1821, was the venue in 1830 for the last occasion in Plymouth of the vicious sport of bull baiting. The meaning of ‘Holm’ is a flood plain, flat land surrounded by streams, which are certainly still evident today when approaching the ground from the east. A ‘Park’ originally was a mixture of pasture and woodland managed to keep deer. Later a ‘Park’ also came to mean a place for leisure or sport. The Swilley area was still undeveloped and known for its dairy farms and market gardens that supplied The Three Towns. To the west of Home Park field was Tavistock Road (now Outlands Road). South West of the field in Tavistock Road, by the entrance into Gilbert Lane, was Elm Cottage, owned by Clarence Spooner’s Uncle, Newby Spooner, in the 1871, 81 and 1891 Censuses. Opposite was Outlands House, owned in 1891 by retired merchant John E. Scott, father of Robert Falcon Scott who became famous as ‘Scott of the Antarctic’. At Milehouse was the Britannia Inn and close to it James Tomlinson’s market garden business. Local players met and changed at the Inn or the Tomlinson nursery for matches at Greatlands, Boldventure, or Beaconsfield. Debnam engaged Tomlinson & Sons to level and landscape Home Park, and maintain the football pitch.
The newly formed Home Park Association Football Club took its name from its connection with the ground. It was a Wednesday club so that it could borrow the best of the Saturday playing clubs players, and would allow Devonport Albion to use the ground on Saturdays. The Home Park A.F.C. officials were President: Hudson E. Kearley (M.P. for Devonport) who bought £100 of the Home Park shares, Captain: James Lynes, Hon. Secretary: John ‘Jack’ Jaques, Treasurer: Alfred William Debnam. Whilst the ground was still in its early stages, the new football club played their first match, probably on Higher Home Park, versus Devonport Wednesday, on the 5th October 1892, winning 11-1. The team was made up mainly of players from Plymouth United, the maverick club that had withdrawn from the Devon F.A. just as building work was about to start at Home Park. This meant that they and their players were conveniently outside the jurisdiction of the Devon F.A. Local newspapers sometimes printed Home Park A.F.C. with Plymouth United in brackets after it. In the first Home Park A.F.C. team was Clarence Spooner, a professional football sympathiser amongst covert professional operators such as Jaques and Lynes. It was said that former Avenue Club (Spooner & Co.) player James Lynes, captain of Home Park, got Clarence into the side, despite sniggers over Spooner’s football ability. Clarence Spooner would later use Jaques experience for the benefit of the Argyle Football Club.
Final day to apply to join the Share List, Western Daily Mercury 5-1-1893
In early November 1892 the recently formed ‘Plymouth & Devonport Recreation Ground Limited’ gave notice that it was, “…to build a ground complete with a grand stand and enclosure to accommodate 4,000 persons, refreshment rooms, dressing rooms fitted with lavatories and lockers, patent registering turnstile and a bicycling track of four laps to the mile banked with the most approved and scientific principles”. Talks were in process for Albion to hold their matches at the ground. The capital of the company is £8,000 in 8,000 shares of £1 each. Applications for shares to be made to the Naval Bank, Plymouth or the solicitor company of John Thomas Bond (Bond, Pearce and Bickle).
At the beginning of January 1893, it was announced that both the Plymouth Cycling Club and the Albion Football Club were both entering into agreements to use Home Park. Negotiations were completed and signed in the final week of January, by which time the grandstand was half covered and the iron columns almost all in place and a splendid pitch for football had been laid. The Home Park A.F.C. released plans to bring Nottingham Forest (Football Alliance champions 1891-92) and another up-country club to Home Park. Seeking further publicity and to court favour, ‘Jack’ Jaques arranged for the Home Park A.F.C. to meet Devon at Home Park in aid of much needed funds for the Devon F.A. The match was played on Wednesday 8th March 1893 at Higher Home Park, outside the uncompleted ground, before a crowd of 600; Home Park A.F.C. defeated Devon, which included five Argyle players, 1-0, the goal scored by Lynes.
Mr. Debnam promised that the ground would be fully finished and ready for Albion’s matches at Easter. Every bill posting station in The Three Towns carried an advertisement announcing the series of Easter matches at Home Park. A week before opening the ground seemed far from ready to a Western Independent reporter. He was assured by the foreman in charge that the grandstand would be completed tomorrow (Saturday 25th March 1893). The reporter described the grandstand as magnificent, very spacious and divided into three sections; the centre section was the reserve seating and the sections either side as the ordinary seats. The seats had all been fitted into place. It was 230 feet from end to end, with a gable 30 feet wide in the centre on which a clock was to be erected. Land either side of the grandstand was also being ‘benched’. The toilets for the ‘players and racers’ as well as those for the public were still being fitted. The excess soil from levelling the pitch had been banked high on the gate side of the grandstand (at the Devonport end). This was being benched into a terrace for the public, up to thirty deep. The pitch was “like velvet”.
Whippet Racing at Home Park, 1903
Outside the banked track that encircled the pitch, strong wooden palings were still being fitted to prevent crowd encroachment onto the track and field and would prevent ‘canine athletes’ from escaping (Whippet racing). There was a sudden drop of many feet on the northern side caused by building the ground on the side of a hill. There were no plans to develop this part of Home Park yet as there was no money for another grandstand. The track was not going to be finished until just before the running of the first cycle races at Whitsuntide. There were also no plans to coat the track with cement or any other coating but this would be reviewed once the rolled earth and gravel had settled. There were several entrances, one for reserved and season ticket holders, two for the public and one for carriages. The latter will drive in and turn to the right and after dropping off passengers, the carriages were to park behind the grandstand. A store for bicycles was also provided. The unfitted patent turnstiles were on site and would be in place by the 30th March, just two days before the opening. Enclosing the ground was to be a seven foot high boarded fence.
THE OPENING OF HOME PARK
The ground was sufficiently ready in time for the opening match on Saturday 1st April, which was Albion versus Aberavon from Port Talbot, Wales. Reserved tickets were 1 shilling and 6 pence; those who paid at the turnstiles had to supply the correct money. The Albion Rugby Club made the first ever application in Devon to sell alcohol on a football ground but this was refused on police objections. Albion kicked off the opening match at 3 o’clock with no reported pre-match ceremony. The grandstand was full with 4,000 spectators and another 1,000 lined the ropes. The crowd witnessed a good game with the Welshmen on top for most of the first half and they went ahead with a dropped goal by Heywood to lead 4 points to nil at half time. In the second half Albion seemed more comfortable on their new ground and scored two tries by Sowden and Bryant, both converted, to win 10 points to 4.
On Easter Monday, Albion played the second match against another Welsh Club, Penarth. The third of the opening matches was the first Association football played at Home Park when the Home Park Club played the Gloucestershire cup holders Warmley from Bristol. On Wednesday 5th April 1893 a 1,500 attendance saw the ‘Parkites’, captained by Jimmy Lynes, deservedly win 3-0. The plans to bring Nottingham Forest to Home Park did not materialise because the guaranteed sum required by them was too much. Home Park’s professional plans were put on ice; the money had run out, cutbacks left the ground not fully developed all round the pitch, no clock was ever fitted on the central gable. Only 5,351 of the 8,000 £1 shares were taken up, of which 4,500 were assigned to A. R. Debnam. This means that Debnam ended up financing the whole project except for £851.
JIMMY LYNES EXPOSED AS A PROFESSIONAL PLAYER
Within a few days of Jimmy Lynes captaining Home Park against Warmley a remarkable series of letters appeared in the Western Daily Mercury that revealed not only him but also the accusers, Avenue F.C., of breaking F.A. rules on amateurism. Firstly, a letter appeared from the former Avenue secretary and current Devon F.A. treasurer John B. R. Orchard that Lynes had received money (which must have come from the Spooner brothers) to play for Avenue during 1891-92 season. The printed reply from J. Lynes asks, “…who is John B. R. Orchard?” and he also asks how could he have been paid when to have received money would have barred him from playing in any competition? Lynes, who was engaged by the Liskeard Cricket Club, financed by Lord Robertes, admits he is a cricket professional in the summer but this was not against any rules. The reply from Orchard states he was, as secretary and treasurer of the Avenue Football Club, the person who employed and paid Lynes as a professional footballer and he had proof in his possession. Jimmy Lynes wrote a reply denying receipt of any money or cheque. He pointed out that, if the allegations were true, would Orchard, a Devon County official, break English Association rules by not registering him as a professional? Underneath the letter, the editor of the newspaper advises they had seen evidence of a £3. 10 shilling cheque drawn on behalf of Lynes at the Devon and Cornwall Bank and that he had received as much as £20 for services rendered to the Avenue club during 1891-92. Jimmy Lynes gave his address as East Street, Plymouth; this street was directly behind the Spooner & Co. department store in Old Town Street and Bedford Street; a few yards from Spooner’s in Bedford Street was the Devon and Cornwall Bank. There was no further correspondence printed. This was not the end of Lynes football career in Plymouth. He and Argyle were to team up.
1893-94: ARGYLE DOWN TO TWO PLAYERS.
Argyle’s hard times continued from last season with the team rarely achieving a full line-up of club members right through the season. The club could not find a ground, so all fixtures were ‘away’ matches. Charlie Bawden, who was elected captain, said the club are “…in the direst depths of misery at their inability to get a ground”. The Western Independent on 18th October 1893 says that Bawden and Victor Prout are the only two players with the club and that “These two deserved much praise for the way in which they have worked to keep the grand old club going”.
In the first four matches, Bawden and Prout managed to cobble together a team using guests and substitutes picked up at the fixtures but the results were comprehensive defeats 7-1, 8-1, 7-1, 3-1. The losing sequence was broken against Plymouth College on 4th November 1893 where the Argyle Football club, fielding ten players, won 3-1. Helping Argyle to make up the numbers in this match, for the first time this season, was Clarence Spooner of the St. James-the-Less club. A number of this club’s members assisted Argyle during 1893-94 and Clarence made at least 6 appearances for the Dark Greens. Joining Argyle from the Home Park club (teaming up with Clarence Spooner again) was the controversial Jimmy Lynes.
VEILED PROFESSIONAL JIMMY LYNES WITH ARGYLE
As part of his ducking and diving professionalism, Jimmy Lynes occasionally liked to use a pseudonym; he is first shown as picked for Argyle on the 18th November under the name ‘Foundry’ possibly, because his official profession was as a toolmaker. To make a living, he earned money in sport and worked in a job supplied by his sporting employer. Certainly the Albion Rugby Club enticed players from outside the area by also finding them jobs, usually in the Dockyard, from which they were easily released for club duties. His allegiance was not usually to one club; he was up for hire. During this season, whilst an Argyle player, Lynes played for Warmley under a false name in a vital Bristol & District League match. This led to much protest with Warmley being deducted the two points they had gained. At the same time, he was in dispute with his former club Home Park over an undisclosed matter.
Now that Lynes was with Argyle he exerted his influence, with Clarence Spooner’s support (and money?) over the club, initially as an ally to Bawden and Prout who were probably grateful at the time for any support in keeping the club going. Jimmy Lynes, who was from Coleshill in the Midlands, is first known in the South West as a footballer with the Liskeard Association Football Club in 1890-91. In 1890, he married Emma, from nearby St. Ive. The Liskeard club used the same sports field as the cricket club so it is possible he was paid in both sports, perhaps through keen sportsman, Lord Robartes. From there he joined the Avenue Club, sponsored by Spooner & Co. On Wednesday 17th January 1894, after Lynes had joined Argyle, the club arranged a first ever fixture against Liskeard. A large crowd turned up at Liskeard to see Argyle, with Lynes and Spooner playing, defeat the Cornish club 3-1.
The only Argyle player appearing for Devon County this season was Jimmy Lynes, though there were four Argyle players representing a Devon County Senior XI versus Plymouth Garrison containing Forces personnel at Tavistock on Saturday 27th January 1894. Devon suffered a heavy 10-2 defeat. Three days earlier Argyle had lost 3 goals to 2 in the Devon Senior Cup 1st Round against the 7th Company Royal Artillery. They were the current holders and eventual 1893-94 Cup winners. When an opponent injured Lynes during the match, there were loud cheers from the Artillery supporters. Both teams arrived at the Marsh Mills venue in a ‘four-in-hand’ (carriage pulled by four horses) and on the return the winners led the way.
Argyle continued to struggle to field eleven players for the rest of season winning only one of seven matches and they failed to play any fixtures after the 3rd March 1894. The one victory was a meaningful 6-2 result versus Plymouth F.C. who fielded E.H. Babb in their team. Jimmy Lynes was not the only veiled professional Argyle player in this match. Making his second appearance for the club was Henry Tonkiss; like Lynes, he was from the Midlands and played for Plymouth United/ Home Park. Ironically, professional Tonkiss had assisted Home Park A.F.C. in the inaugural F.A. Amateur Cup. He flaunted his professionalism very openly and mockingly told the Western Independent he was offered more money to not play for Argyle than he had been offered to play for them against Tavistock on the 10th February, so he failed to turn up.
A week after playing for Argyle against Plymouth F.C. on the 17th February, he played for Plymouth United in their 3-0 defeat of Argyle, explaining United paid more. Argyle’s opponents had played such a physical game that an enraged reporter told of Jimmy Lynes being harried disgracefully by Moorhouse of United, who repeatedly jabbed his foot down the Argyle players leg until it bled freely. The reporter, censoring for decency, writes “I am very glad the *** Moorhouse was ordered off the field”. With Lynes tormentor now off the field, the reporter continues, “Tonkiss watched Lynes assiduously, and both were very keen on the ball and the man”.
Tonkiss name does not appear in any match reports soon after the Argyle match, or during the following season so presumably he found employment elsewhere in England. He returned to the local scene in 1895-96. Both Lynes and Tonkiss seemed to act as they wished without the Devon F.A. threatening to curtail their disregard for the rules governing professionals in amateur football competition. Things began to change at the end of the 1893-94 season when the Devon F.A. suspended Jimmy Lynes (Argyle Football Club) until 31st October 1894 for having received money from Plymouth United during 1892-93 season. For their part Plymouth United were suspended until 30th November 1894 for playing Lynes as an amateur. Though the club was given the right to defend itself United chose not to and the club did not reform in 1894-95; it did not have to because it and its players continued solely as Home Park A.F.C. There were no accusations or inference that Lynes or Tonkiss had received remuneration of any kind from Argyle.
1894-95: ARGYLE FOOTBALL CLUB ENTERS DEVON LEAGUE
The Devon F.A had been afraid to act but was now trying to regain its dignity and control of the game with the guidance and assistance of the English Football Association. It was forbidden for any Devon F.A. club to play a non-affiliated club, and non-registered players could not take part in any Cup or League competition. Originating from a suggestion by Argyle’s Charlie Pappin in 1892, the Devon F.A. was now run by a neutral executive instead of representatives from clubs affiliated to it. Meetings were now not open to all comers, including the Press. With a new found confidence the Devon F.A. formed the first ever League competition in the far South West, the Devon Senior League and Devon Junior League; these were to operate in addition to the Cup competition. The six clubs joining the Senior League were Argyle, Devon Regiment, Royal Naval Barracks, St. George’s United, St. James-the-Less, and Somerset Light Infantry.
The tightening of rules and the threat of suspension of players and clubs meant trouble for Argyle who would have to field registered players in the League matches. Suspended Jimmy Lynes was unavailable until the 1st November, and would have to be registered as a professional until re-instated as an amateur by permission of the English F.A. Therefore, he could only play for one club and would only be available in friendly matches to clubs in amateur competitions. The Western Independent asked, “Who will engage him?” and answered its question that the Plymouth Alliance (Wednesdays) Club claimed him as their captain “…but this once a week job would hardly suit him”. This club was a new and unknown club who had not played a match.
The future did not look good for Argyle when one of its mainstays, Victor Prout, helped rival club St. James-the-Less prepare for the new season. Elected Argyle captain Bawden and club secretary Prout managed to fulfil the first fixture on Wednesday 3rd October 1894 in a friendly match versus the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Including both Bawden and Prout in the Argyle F.C. team, only nine players were fielded, and two of those were substitutes, as they lost 1-0. The next two matches, both friendlies, were not played because they could not raise a team. Before the League programme had started, the Argyle Football Club had ended under that name.
ARGYLE BECOME THE PLYMOUTH ARGYLE ALLIANCE FOOTBALL CLUB
The Western Daily Mercury of the 13th October 1894 announced, “The Argyle Football Club being short of members has amalgamated with the Plymouth Alliance Football Club. The combined clubs will be called the Plymouth Argyle Alliance Football Club”. The P.A.A., as they were conveniently shortened to, took over all the matches arranged by the Argyle F.C. secretary. The first Plymouth Argyle Alliance match took place on the same day versus Plymouth College at Ford Park. The only known Argyle F.C. players were Prout, who scored two goals in the 4-3 victory, and Bawden. This first fixture after the amalgamation with the previously non-existent Alliance club did reveal something of its origin besides its captain being the suspended Jimmy Lynes. One of the Alliance players was Clarence Spooner. Others in the line-up included a Royal Artilleryman, schoolboys from the Corporation Grammar School, and ex pupils of Cheveley Hall School.
Report of the first match played by the Plymouth Argyle Alliance, from the Plymouth College school magazine ‘The Plymothian’, November 1894
The P.A.A. was to have played its first Devon Senior League Match on Wednesday 17th October 1894 versus the Royal Naval Barracks on their Keyham pitch. The Argyle Alliance arrived with two unregistered players so a friendly match was played which they won 3-1. A Devon Senior League match was played three days later versus the 2nd Battalion Devon Regiment at South Devon Place, as a ‘home’ fixture. The club had no ‘home’ ground for the 1894-95 season but paid a sum to Plymouth F.C. who hired their ground out to clubs. The Alliance acquired 2 league points with a 3-1 victory. It was proven after the match that one of the players, Balchin (Royal Berks Regiment), was unregistered so the points were given to the Devon Regiment. The Army side were the eventual 1894-95 League and Cup winners. Apparently, the Argyle Alliance had still not paid their subscription to the Devon F.A., which should have been done by the 1st October, before competition started. The omens were not good for the rest of the season.
Now that the club was under Jimmy Lynes' influence, the Plymouth Argyle Alliance played the majority of its matches on Wednesdays instead of the usual Saturdays. Lynes' suspension ended at the end of October and his first match was on Wednesday 7th November 1894 for Argyle Alliance versus the Exeter Association Club on their new St. James’s Park ground. Argyle won the friendly match 3-0. Though not the same club that became Exeter City, this is the same ground as today. An historic first for Argyle who had already played at Plainmoor in 1892, therefore the last of the three Devon Football League grounds that Argyle played on was Home Park. There was a coming fixture arranged for the 14th November 1894 versus the Home Park Club that would have been the club’s first match on the Home Park ground. This match, like so many this season, failed to take place and Argyle were not to play their first match at Home Park until December 1899, seven years after their first at Plainmoor and five years after the first at St. James’s Park.
With Lynes now back, the club seemed still to be two different clubs. On the same day Argyle played Exeter, they had also advertised a fixture away to Liskeard. Who was running Argyle now, Lynes or Prout? The Plymouth Argyle Alliance are reported to have played Brooklyn Wednesday on the 21st November, losing 2-4, but secretary Victor Prout said this was not ‘Argyle’. On Wednesday 28th November 1894, the rapidly imploding chaotic club had managed to arrange three different ‘away’ fixtures, at Home Park A.F.C., Launceston, and Liskeard. Argyle turned up at Liskeard, winning 1-0. The club did play two Devon Senior League matches, both ‘away’ defeats, versus 2nd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry (0-2) on Saturday 24th November, and a week later 2nd Battalion Devon Regiment (1-6). Jimmy Lynes could not play in any League fixture as he was, by F.A. rules, registered as a professional; therefore, he is Argyle’s first professional player but not necessarily the first to receive money to play.
The clubs whose fixtures Argyle failed to turn up to did not complain in the Press but the situation was building to a head and it was a matter of time before the club would collapse. The end came closer by another suspension of Lynes, this time for illegally playing for Weymouth. He therefore could not play for Argyle on Saturday 8th December versus Plymouth F.C. and the captain, Charlie Bawden, ruled himself out with a leg injury so bad he may not play again. Argyle lost 2-0 and their full-back Archie Fisher was injured during the match and not available for the coming matches. The League match versus St. George’s United on Saturday 15th December was not played. On Friday 21st December, a ‘Charlie Bawden XI’ had arranged to play the Old Mannameadians. The Plymouth Argyle Alliance Football Club played the Old Mannameadians on Monday 24th December 1894 at Hartley. In the team was captain Bawden who had miraculously recovered from the long term leg injury and Lynes back from suspension but no Victor Prout. The P.A.A. was leading 2-1 at half-time but eventually lost 5-2. This was to be the last match played by Argyle for almost three years. The club’s fixtures curiously continued to be shown in newspapers for the rest of the season.
THE PLYMOUTH ARGYLE ALLIANCE BOXING DAY FIASCO
On the 26th December 1894 three different Cornish towns, Truro, Bodmin, and Liskeard were expecting to fulfil a previously arranged fixture with the Plymouth Argyle Alliance Football Club on their grounds. Only Liskeard was honoured with the arrival of an opponent though the team played as the ‘Jimmy Lynes XI’ and not as advertised. The Lynes XI lost 6-1; Hemming, the goalkeeper from Home Park A.F.C., is reported not to have tried and “let the lot go by”. At Bodmin and Truro, posters advertising the fixture of their local ‘Town’ club against a prominent Plymouth side attracted big crowds to their grounds and a holiday mood prevailed. The Great Western Railway had arranged a special cheap fare for those going to the game in Truro; over a thousand spectators gathered and eagerly awaited the arrival on the pitch of their Truro team and the Plymouth Argyle Alliance. Meanwhile the Truro club officials were getting extremely anxious at the non arrival of their opponents and were frantically sending telegraph messages for news. No answer came back but, to calm the restless crowd, it was announced that the Plymouth team had missed their train and would be on the next. When the next Plymouth train did arrive in Truro without the booked opponents, the Truro officials, still in the dark, announced to the crowd that the two clubs had mixed up their dates and the match was to be played tomorrow (27th). Fortunately, some players from the Truro Athletic and Defiance (Torpoint) clubs, who had played each other in the morning, were at the ground and formed a Combined XI to play Truro City and appease the crowd. Later in the day, it was clarified that the Plymouth Argyle Alliance would not be fulfilling their fixture against Truro City on the 27th December either. To stop anyone turning up for a non-existent match the Town Crier was sent around Truro with the announcement.
No apology was received from Argyle and the incensed Truro club took steps to demand compensation from them for the expenses of the fixture, and they demanded the resignation of the Argyle secretary, Victor Prout. The events on Boxing Day were still unknown outside Truro, so the same pattern of events followed its course at St. James’s Park Exeter on Monday 31st December 1894 for the next Argyle fixture versus the Exeter Association club. A large crowd had gathered but again the Plymouth Argyle Alliance failed to turn up. However, this time, Fred Axworthy of the St. James-the-Less club, who was to have played for Argyle, turned up. He had been staying in Teignmouth and did not know the current state of affairs. He offered to take on the whole Exeter team but this was declined and the match was abandoned.
The Western Independent of the 2nd January 1895 said, “…the Plymouth Argyle Alliance Club should be dissolved”. The Truro newspaper, ‘The West Briton’ reported on the 3rd January that the Cornwall County F.A. secretary was looking to take proceedings against Argyle. As some form of recompense to the incensed, the newspaper reports that the Argyle captain Charlie Bawden had resigned. No official announcement was made and incredibly, the situation continued. The Plymouth Argyle Alliance were due to play a Devon Senior League match versus St. James-the-Less on Saturday 5th January 1895. St. James turned up at their Carbeal, Torpoint ground and again the Alliance failed to show. The Devon F.A. awarded the points to the ‘home’ club. The reporter, in the Western Independent of the 9th January 1895 writes, “I suppose really there is no Argyle Alliance. That is the basis clubs who have matches with the club had better work on. The old Argyle members have resigned, so has the secretary”.
With both Charlie Bawden and Victor Prout now having resigned there was no Argyle; the Club was defunct and would remain so until August 1897. Since 1891, Argyle had been Bawden, Prout and friends. Without these two stalwarts, Argyle would have disappeared a few seasons earlier, with a shorter history from its 1886 origin, probably forever. The constant struggle to put out a team meant that so many local Association football enthusiasts had made at least one appearance for the club. The many that had helped the club out included important people who would resurrect Argyle from its ashes.
HOME PARK A.F.C. SEEK TO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE CLUB
Whilst Argyle were falling apart during the 1894-95 season, the Home Park Association Football Club was beginning to take steps to fulfil its ambition to become the first professional League club in the South West. The Southern League had begun in the 1894-95 season; the most westerly club in membership was Swindon Town. Since the opening of Home Park in April 1893, the Home Park Association F.C. had played second fiddle, on its ‘home’ ground, to the Albion Rugby Football Club. During 1893-94, Albion had stolen the Home Park club’s thunder by bringing top rugby opponents (including Cardiff, Hull) to the Home Park Ground. The Home Park A.F.C. became the first club in the West to purchase and use goal-nets in October 1893. They entered the first F.A. Amateur Cup competition and defeated Bristol clubs Bedminster, and Bristol St. George before having to make a very long journey to meet Stockton on 3rd February 1894. The team had left Plymouth at 8.45 a.m. on Friday yet only just reached the ground in time for kick off on the Saturday afternoon. After spending thirteen consecutive hours in a railway carriage before arrival unsurprisingly, they lost 5-0. The club broke the amateur competitions rules by fielding at least one professional player, Henry Tonkiss. Fulfilling this fixture must have been the longest and one of the most expensive journeys undertaken by any sporting club to date.
Home Park, with the old Albion Rugby Ground at Bladderly a half mile to the north-west, circa 1894
To finance the ground, and the Association club, the terms for use of the Home Park ground were very high. The Devon F.A. said they could not afford to pay the rates for County matches so chose to use the inferior and cheaper South Devon Place. After one whole season using the ground and considerably increasing their takings, the Albion Rugby Football Club were annoyed they were passing a lot of their profit back in ground rent (£350 for 1893-94). They asked the Debnam run Plymouth & Devonport Recreation Grounds Limited for easier terms for 1894-95 season. This was not forthcoming so Albion moved back to their previous ground Bladderly, half a mile north-west of Home Park. The departure of Albion gave the Home Park A.F.C. an added energy and determination to further Association football by bringing professional League football to Plymouth. Various famous clubs were rumoured to be coming to Home Park until the club announced on the 28th November 1894 that they had engaged Football League Division One club Small Heath (Birmingham City from 1905) to play on 9th January 1895. There was no love lost between the Devon F.A. and the Home Park A.F.C., their alter ego Plymouth United defunct after Devon F.A. action against professionalism. They arranged the Small Heath fixture to clash with a Devon County fixture at South Devon Place. The date of the Devon County match was re-arranged. A newspaper report that Preston North End declined an invitation to play Home Park on Boxing Day 1894, because they did not want to travel such a distance seems untrue. A glance at their Football League Division One fixtures shows they could not have fitted it in.
After the departure of Albion, Home Park A.F.C. did not have sole use of the pitch for long. Plymouth businessmen formed a new Rugby club in late October 1894 as a rival to Devonport’s ‘Albion’. The club was the Plymouth Rugby Football Club and was not associated with the Plymouth Football Club who had played Rugby and Association football at South Devon Place since the late 1860’s. Plymouth F.C. had given up the Rugby code after a heavy defeat against Albion during the 1889-90 season. The new Plymouth R.F.C. played its first match at Home Park on 21st November 1894 versus the Royal Naval Engineering College (Devonport). The Plymouth Albion we know today derives after the First World War from the Plymouth Rugby Football Club when it reformed and acquired a new ground at Beacon Park in 1919. Devonport Albion decided to throw in its lot with the Plymouth R.F.C. rather than reform itself. This resulted in the formation of Plymouth Albion in 1920. The club colours come from the green and white of Plymouth R.F.C. and the cherry and white of Devonport Albion.
FIRST VISIT OF PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE CLUBS TO SOUTH WEST
On Wednesday 9th January 1895, Small Heath became the first professional Association team to play in the South West. The Home Park grandstand was nearly full and a satisfactory crowd of 4,000 attended. In the Home Park goal was the tall figure of Percy Buchan, a former public schoolboy who had not long left Mannamead School. The rest of the Home Park side were composed of working class civilians and lower ranks from the Forces. The referee was Lieutenant J. L. J. Conry, a former pupil of Mannamead School who had played for Argyle in 1892-93. In the first half Home Park, encouraged by the cheers of the spectators, passed the ball finely and put Small Heath under some pressure, but could not score. The Football League club counter attacked and sent in several shots, which Buchan finely saved, to hold the score to 0-0 at half time. Home Park continued to have their chances in the second-half but their opponents class came through and they scored 3 goals, the result 3-0. This event was only two weeks since the demise of Argyle.
Woolwich Arsenal, 1895, including Charlie Hare who played against Home Park and returned seven years later to coach the Argyle Football Club.
(Back Row): P. O’Brien, J. Powell, F. McAvoy, Hollis (Trainer), C. Jenkyns (Captain), F. Davis, J. Boyle.
(Middle Row): G. Crawford, S. Mills, C. B. Hare, R. Gordon, R. Buchanan, P. Mortimer.
(Front Row): D. Howat, W. H. Storer, T. Caldwell, A. Ward.
Those underlined played against Home Park, plus W. Sharpe (not shown)
Two more matches took place at Home Park as part of the clubs programme to infuse interest and desire for professional Association football into the Plymouth public. On Wednesday 20th March 1895, Football League Division Two club Woolwich Arsenal defeated the self-styled ‘Champions of the West’ Home Park, 2 goals to 1 before a fairly large crowd. When Home Park equalised during the match, all the Arsenal forwards actually rolled up their sleeves and within a minute Buchan had fisted away three shots. Two weeks later on the 3rd April, Millwall Athletic, the Southern League champions, were held to a very creditable 2-2 draw after Home Park had been 2-0 down. Though Argyle were currently not in existence, the matches did throw up connections. The referee in both matches was Syd Smith, who had played for Argyle; the Home Park goalkeeper Buchan later became the Argyle keeper up until they entered the Southern League; and playing for Woolwich Arsenal was Charlie Hare who returned in 1902-03 season as professional coach to prepare the Argyle Football Club for professional League football.
Who would have believed at the end of the 1894-95 season that it was the defunct Argyle, not Home Park A.F.C., who would be Plymouth’s professional League club? If the Home Park club had succeeded, the ground would be decorated in the club colours and the fans would be bedecked in Gold and Black, as Home Park resonated to shouts for the ‘Parkites’!
BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR THIS AND OTHER PRE-1903 CHAPTERS
Click here for a full list of references.
Greens on Screen is run as a service to fellow supporters, in all good faith, without commercial or private gain. I have no wish to abuse copyright regulations and apologise unreservedly if this occurs. If you own any of the material used on this site, and object to its inclusion, please get in touch using the 'Contact Us' button at the top of each page.UK time at page load: 05 July 2022, 02:21.