One of the first things I learnt when researching my book at the beginning of last year (The Red Dragons – to be published by Lolfa in October 2012), was that Wrexham’s badge was wrong. It states the year 1873 as the foundation of the club, when football historians had long found evidence which pointed to a meeting in the Turf Tavern on September 28th, 1872 as the date that the club was formed. But since the digitisation of the Wrexham Advertiser in December 2011, new evidence has emerged which has led some to suggest that the club may have been formed much much earlier. I decided to look at that evidence for myself and here is are the results of my research.
Firstly, this snippet from the newspaper dated January 1855 is a stunning piece of new information. Unrelated to Wrexham Football Club, it gives us one of the earliest mentions of football in written Welsh history.
But on the 3rd February 1866, we have the very first mention of a ‘club’ in Wrexham which plays football.
There is a fixture to be played against the Provincial Insurance Office by the ‘remainder of the club’. At first I thought that this could have been the cricket club, but a later snippet shows this to be referring to a ‘football club’.
Sadly the match was postponed. But once again it is emphasised that the fixture is between member of the club who work for “Provincial Insurance” and the remainder of the club. So we know that a lot of the players were employees of the insurance company.
On the 10th March, 1866, we have the first written evidence of the ‘football club’, but this item leaves us in no doubt that earlier references were also referring to the same ‘football club’.
We’ve now established that there was ‘a football club’ in Wrexham in 1866, but we still don’t know if this was the same club that is in existence today. It’s important to be able to prove continuity if we are going to claim that Wrexham FC was founded in 1866. Without that proof, the claim can’t be made.
We can see from the following cutting that the club played a series of games against the Provincial Insurance Office, which shows the lack of opposition at the time. The club members were in effect playing amongst themselves.
Now look at this one. This is a clipping which tells of the foundation of an ‘athletic and cricket club’ (which plays football) by the “Working Men’s Club”. It will take a more adept sociologist than me to confirm the significance of this, but my instinct tells me that this is a separate club from the football club which plays fixtures against the insurance clerks and the Fire Brigade. The ‘gentlemen’ and the ‘workers’ simply did not usually mix on the sports field until the game became more competitive in the mid 1870s.
The following item confirms that the cricket club and the football club were closely associated in September 1866. This is also important because we are told that it was the members of the cricket club who formed the current Wrexham FC in 1872. If we prove that the current club is a continuation of that founded by the cricketers, then we can say Wrexham was founded earlier than 1866.
Does this following item from September 1866 refer to the newly formed working men’s ‘football and athletic’ club, or is it the winter arm of the cricket club? Are they the same thing?
The next item in which a gift is donated to the cricket club by the football club is slightly confusing. I would have expected the same people to be members of both clubs, but this suggests otherwise. The two sports clubs obviously have a close relationship however, and Fyfe was a member of both cricket and football clubs.
The next item confirms that ‘Wrexham Athletic & Football Club’ will play another fixture against the members of the club who were also Insurance Clerks. Clerks v Town , but all members of the same club.
I believe the following event confirms the continuity of the football club to the end of 1867.
There wasn’t any mention of the football club in the early months of 1867, but maybe this piece tells us why.
And here we have evidence that the club carries on into the 1867/68 season.
And the club still exist for the 1868/69 season. If we can get to 1872 without a gap, I think we might have a very strong case for claiming an existence since 1866 for the current club.
By 1869, we have confirmation that the Provincial insurance clerks formed the body of the Wrexham club.
And here we have perhaps our most exciting and important piece of evidence. Listed as a members of this club are W Pritchard (captain), E.Cross, E Evans, and G.Pritchard. The current Wrexham club was considered to be formed at The Turf in 1872 by F.Page, WH Pritchard, T.Walker, N.Humphreys, D.Dale, E.Cross, E.Evans, and G.Pritchard. F.Page, was named as President of Wrexham FC in the 1872 article, and here we have him as presenting an award to the 1969 club. There are four other members who were present in both 1869 and in 1872. Surely this is evidence of continuity?
The wording of the notice that has been taken as the foundation of the club in 1872 is “purpose of starting a football team for the coming season”. Could it be that this was in fact just an annual meeting of the 1866 club? They don’t talk about starting a club, they talk about starting a team. Were they just looking for extra players in 1872?
Sadly, there is no further mention of the football club in the Wrexham Advertiser until 1873, by which time the club as we know it is up and running.
So there we have it – by my reckoning, that’s an unbroken period between 1866-1869, and then a lack of information until 1872, when five personalities that were members of the football club that we know existed from 1866 were said to have met to ‘form a team’ to play football in 1872. That’s enough for me to be convinced that Wrexham FC were founded before February 1866. And the club disbanded in 1883 before reforing in 1886. If that three year hiatus can be happily ignored in the history of the club, then I would argue that the gap between 1869-1872 is of little consequence.
In my view, Wrexham FC were founded before 1866. How long before? The truth is out there.