1910 to 1919


Wimbledon had no alternative but to announce, on September 3, 1910, that all football was suspended. It was to prove the end of an era, but while the club itself was treading water, another Wimbledon team was emerging in nearby Coppermill Lane, now home of the Wimbledon Greyhound and Speedway Stadium. 


This side comprised council workers, but they were backed by former Wimbledon chairman Headicar and it was he and Lieutenant General H. Kent who paid their initial County and London FA affiliation fees. Former Wimbledon players too, in Sandy Davidson and Johnny Canham, joined the fold and, on July 1, 1911 they de­cided to call themselves Wimbledon Borough FC, adopting the council's crest as their badge.


How ironical that the local authority's lack of support should lead to the club's demise, initially, while their later encouragement should lead to its rebirth. For that is exactly what happened. Leytonstone FC had already set the precedent, by disbanding and reforming, and the Wimbledon Borough side were to follow suit, dropping the word 'Borough' from their title to compete again in the Surrey and London Senior Cups and the FA Cup proper for the 1912-13 campaign.

And there was a new ground as well, a move to Wimbledon's famous home of today, at the comer of Plough Lane and Haydons Road. The initial approaches for the site, disused swampland that was once a refuse dump, had been made during the club's one season layoff. Initially purchased leasehold, co-owner, Mr. Gill Knight, provided £50 towards the cost of necessary immediate improvements, while over the next two seasons the pitch was fenced in and the playing surface greatly improved; a dressing room was built; and a covered stand for 500 seating spectators erected.

Dramatic improvements, these, by a club written off, but by a club that just didn't know when to die. The first season at the new ground began on September 9,1912, but the first League points were a long time in coming, achieved in the Southern Suburban competition against South Tooting at the end of November. Although there were honours, in the form of a Knighthood, for the former president Holland, there was nothing else for the club to celebrate that season.

They finished bottom of the table, but had a new president in Lt. General Kent and new secretary in S. J. Meadows, who had taken over from Mr. C. A. Snook, the man who had led the club through its transformation. All the old faces were there, in Messrs. Anstee, Marks, Campion, Headicar, Spil­ler, Canham and Bitton, and there was again a genuine belief in the club.


The FA and Amateur Cups would be contested, and although hopes in the former came to an abrupt end in a 4-0 extra preliminary round defeat at the hands of Walton, Wimbledon were to make their big screen movie debut on November 1,1913.

Dave Walker, victim of that Boxing Day bashing seasons earlier, was their first cinematic star as it was he who scored the winner in the replayed London Senior Cup game with Leyton at Plough Lane, screened later the same evening at the Queens Theatre.

From then Wimbledon's fortunes began to turn for the better. Consistency became the name of the game as they were able to field much the same side for the second half of the season, climbing to a respectable fifth in the Southern Suburban League.

Vice president and chairman Mr. H. w. Marks presided over the end of season's annual dinner, in the absence of Lt. General Kent who was attending a regimental function. Listed among the many members also in attendance were secretary S. J. Meadows, J. A. Gill Knight, W. Spiller, J. Campion, W. Bitton, A. Scarborough, vice president E. Anstee, press secretary G. Owen, ground manager G. Henwood, first team captain R. Canham, second team captain J. Brown and assistant secretary, Courtney Martin.

Mr. Meadows reported that the committee were quite satisfied with the past season's work, considering their humble beginnings. There were now 100 paid up members, and a balance, in hand, of £12, six shillings and 10 pence. But Britain was on the brink of World War, and although Wimbledon entered the 1914-15 season in confident mood, taking out a pre-season advert in the Wimbledon News to reveal their hopes and plans, the thoughts of all were turning to the battle fields of Europe.


As early as September 5 that season Wimbledon arranged to donate all proceedings from their match with Tufnell Spartans to War Distress, a move repeated throughout the season. By the end of October, 27 Wimbledon players had left to join the forces and from then the formation differed from week to week as players came home for leave or left to join up.

Wimbledon were able to complete their season's fixtures but, on September 13, 1915, made the following announcement: "At a committee meeting of the club it was decided that no football engagements for the present season should be entered into, this course being adopted in com­mon with the majority of first class amateur clubs."

The Wimbledon club officers who remained at home continued the improvements at Plough Lane, used for occasional benefit games between various regiments and units, and so the war years continued, with few reports of any football at the club through 1916, 17 and much of 1918. But then, on November 23, 1918, the Wimbledon News announced: ''Wimbledon Football Cub to be restarted."


Mr. A. Gill Knight writes: "I, as vice president, beg of you to announce in your valuable paper the fact that we are preparing to restart the club immediately and that we shall be glad to hear from old members and any first class players who are desirous of joining a tip top club. ''We have the finest ground in the southern district and have spent large sums erecting a stand and dressing rooms, and laying out and banking the ground at Plough Lane."

A trial match, between the north and south of London against Hampstead Town kicked off the new beginnings on December 14, 1918. The start of a new season proper, in a hastily arranged United Senior League, on January 4, 1919, kicked off a new era in the history of Wimbledon Football Club.

The United League comprised Catford, Southend, Tufnell Park, Darracqs of Tooting, Great Western Railway, Hampstead Town, Southall and Barnet Alston, as well as Wimbledon. The Dons had a real interest in the competition as Mr. Gill-Knight had provided the trophy and they were to make a flying start, defeating Catford 2-0 in the League opener on January 4, 1919.

Tufnell Park and Danacqs were both beaten, 1-0 and 4-2 respectively and Great Western Railway went much the same way, suffering a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the in­-form Dons. Pre-war skipper Billy Woods, who had just been demobilised, was in the crowd for that one, along with former 'keeper Snell.

But the next four reported games showed a change in fortunes. Wimbledon picked up just one point, while their Charity Cup clash against Charlton Athletic ended in a 4-1 defeat. Wimbledon faced Charlton in a friendly as well, faring no better in a 3-1 defeat, but they got back on the right track with a 1-0 win over Barnet Alston.

There were fund raising games to face as well, against Metrogas and Metropolitan Police, with monies raised going to the wives and families of footballers who lost their lives in the war.

Wimbledon were to stage their first end of season dinner dance since the outbreak of war and among the members attending was the club's founder, J. W. Selby. There was a general meeting, at the Town Hall on June 11. Joseph Hood was in the chair for that and he was certainly looking forward to the coming seasons. He did not expect the club to win the FA Cup, he said, but was confidently expecting one or two trophies, at least, to make their way to Plough Lane.


The following season did indeed produce some memorable Cup moments as Wimbledon progressed in the FA Cup and reached the fifth round of the Amateur Cup. Edgar Goodens was back in the ranks, as captain. He had joined the club in 1913, but on returning from the Army had opted to play for Merton and helped them to the Amateur Cup final.

He and vice captain George Armitage were regarded as two of the best half backs in the amateur game. Wimbledon's line-up was widely regarded as one of the best that had represented the club, while their success in the United League led to them being elected into the Athenian League on its resumption after the war years for the 1919-20 season.

Their reserves were to compete in the Southern Suburban League, while there was midweek football to enjoy as well, in the Kingston Wednesday League.

Wimbledon were to finish seventh in their first season in the Athenian League, a creditable achievement and lost just once all season in Wednesday competition to take that title. But it was in the cups that they found their best form and biggest crowds. Walton, Sutton and Kingstonian were all knocked out of the Amateur Cup before Wimbledon drew Tooting.

Over 9,000 spectators turned out for that one, but Wimbledon were in dire trouble, 2-1 down with just seven minutes left. It was then that the elements intervened. A blanket of dense fog descended, the referee called it off and Wimbledon won the replay, 6-2! 

There was a similar situation in the Surrey Senior Cup. Having overcome the threat of Kingstonian 3-1, in front of over 6,000 supporters, Wimbledon were then convincing winners over Summerstown. But the visitors objected, won their appeal to get the game replayed and knocked out Wimbledon in the rearranged tie, 2-1.

Another bumper gate, topping 5,000, turned out when Wimbledon faced local rivals Summerstown again, this game finish­ing a draw, while friendly fixtures saw Wimbledon lose out to both Chelsea and Hampstead, 5-1 and 3-1.

In the FA Cup, Wimbledon progressed over two hurdles before being beaten by the professionals of Guildford, while their Amateur Cup run finally ended at the hands of an excellent Dulwich side, by the re­sounding margin of 9-2.

The only silverware for Mr. Hood to savour, therefore, came from the Kingston Wednesday League, while the Reserves battled gamely to finish fourth in the Southern Suburban League.

There were improvements off the field as well. The Club purchased an old Army hut to be converted into dressing rooms and a committee room, while the washing facilities were spruced up and work con­tinued in building up the banking around the ground.    next