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June 29 2022 5.44pm

The big Crystal Palace 1861 lie

June 26 2022

Fake news

Fake news

Crystal Palace have claimed they were founded in 1861, which would make them the oldest professional football club in the world. The Holmesdale Online’s Gordon Law explains how this is false.

The story of the Victorian Crystal Palace team is a fascinating one and I spent around three years researching and writing my book Palace Pioneers: How the first Crystal Palace helped create the modern game.

I have written other books on Crystal Palace but found this one the most enjoyable to produce. As a lifelong Palace fan I was not only interested in understanding more about these trailblazing players but also discovering if today’s CPFC was genuinely founded in 1861. As much as I wish it was true – it sadly is not.

But don’t just take my word on it. The FA and the National Football Museum have considered the matter in depth and agree that there are two separate clubs, with the same name, founded in 1861 and 1905 respectively.

I have read with interest the matchday programme articles over 2021/22 penned by fellow supporter Peter Manning who seems to think the opposite is true.

He says there is a direct lineage and he has “undisputed provable facts” that the present club was formed in 1861 – yet these are strangely absent.

Manning’s case is made up of plenty of assertions, half-truths and falsehoods which I can debunk one by one.

The Crystal Palace Company

The Palace website claims: "The Crystal Palace Company, which owned and operated the giant cast-iron and glass Crystal Palace on a 200-acre site in Sydenham, set up the cricket club in 1857, from which the football club was born."

This is not true. In 1857, the Company created a cricket field on the grounds of the park and put out its management for tender.

Cricket-ground-1857

(Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, April 19, 1857)

As a source of revenue, the Company decided to lease the field to a new cricket team. This was a private sports club (Crystal Palace Cricket Club) managed by a committee of members.

Steve Martyniuk, in his book 'The Origin of Crystal Palace FC, Volume 1', writes about this.

He says: "The Crystal Palace Company, the capitalists that they were, having laid out the facilities then invited proposals for how the cricket club should be managed.

"The result of the request was that the club ended up being organised by a committee of its own members; President, Secretary, Treasurer etc, who would handle its finances and carry out the necessary admin."

Below is a report from the Cricket Club’s 1864 AGM.

CPCC-AGM-1864-pt1a

(Sydenham Times, March 22, 1864)

The report of the meeting mentions that the club split the costs of draining and relaying a portion of the ground between itself and the Crystal Palace Company.

CPCC-AGM-1864-pt2a

(Sydenham Times, March 22, 1864)

The Crystal Palace Company owned the ground and the cricket club paid rent to use it.

In 1865, newspapers reported that Kent County Cricket Club was interested in playing matches on Palace’s home ground. Kent secretary WS Norton had to speak with both the ground’s landlords and tenants to make this happen.

CPCC-rent-ground-2a

(Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser, January 9, 1865)

Manning claims that the Crystal Palace Company – which later became a shareholder in a new Ltd company set up by the 1905 club – owned Crystal Palace cricket and football clubs.

He says: "There was only one Crystal Palace, one Crystal Palace Company that owned and managed everything that happened within the Crystal Palace grounds and there was only one football team called Crystal Palace that played its football at the palace."

This is not true. Catering and other sporting facilities were independently operated by third parties in the park.

For example, Martyniuk explains in his book how a refreshment contractor Frederick Sawyer got into a legal dispute with the Company over the terms of his agreement.

The first CPFC disbanded in 1876

The first Crystal Palace FC played on a portion of the cricket field, was formed in the 1861/62 season and folded during 1875/76.

No results can be found for more than 20 years since and they are no longer listed in the Football Annuals.

Manning says: "All told the myth that the club folded in 1875 can be firmly dispelled. The club continued to exist and its footballers could still be found playing cricket for Crystal Palace as late as 1894."

The Athletic News, in 1883, clearly reports that CPFC disbanded as they could not come to an agreement with the owners of their pitch in Crystal Palace Park.

This was divulged in a match report of a team calling itself Crystal Palace Rovers that played against the Pilgrims, in Walthamstow.

The writer says the idea of Crystal Palace Rovers was “to revive the past glories of the old Crystal Palace Club, which, in its day, was one of the strongest metropolitan societies, but eventually came to grief owing to a misunderstanding with the Palace authorities about their ground.”

The-Athletic-News-January-17th-1883

(Athletic News, January 17, 1883)

The football team clearly folded. And if the Crystal Palace Company owned the club, then how could it have a dispute with itself? Essentially, the Crystal Palace Company forced CPFC out of the park.

I have not found anyone who worked for the Crystal Palace Company that was involved with the first Crystal Palace FC.

In 1945, a Croydon Advertiser reporter tried to find out more about the first CPFC that existed "many years before the present club" by speaking with the General Manager of the Crystal Palace Company. However, Sir Henry Buckland could find no records in the company's archives.

Advertiser-1945

(Croydon Advertiser, May 10, 1945)

Crystal Palace CC and Crystal Palace FC

The folding of CPFC in 1876 ruins Manning’s narrative, so he invents a story that both football and cricket clubs were one of the same so the false lineage continues.

The Field reported in December 1867 that the football club was close to becoming “extinct” as it had no ground after playing for two years in Penge. This plainly shows that it was autonomous and run as a separate club to the cricket club and Crystal Palace Company.

Almost-folded

(The Field, December 7, 1867)

Manning says: "The Crystal Palace Club did not close as the footballers continued playing cricket in the summer..."

The footballers who played cricket for Palace went off to play for other football clubs. Newspaper reports show that captain Charles Eastlake Smith represented the Wanderers FC and the Anerley Hawks FC.

Both football and cricket clubs were called the ‘Crystal Palace Club’, were separate and managed by their own individual committees.

The Crystal Palace Cricket Club secretary in 1872 was Charles Chenery.

Chenery-CPCC-secretary-1872-1

Chenery-CPCC-secretary-1872-2

(Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, April 27, 1872)

The same year, Douglas Allport was secretary of Crystal Palace Football Club.

Football-Annual-1872-1

Football-Annual-1872-2

(Football Annual 1872)

Manning claims the cricket and football clubs were a joint ‘Crystal Palace Club’.

He also says: “We’re certain the current club was founded in 1861.”

If his argument was correct, why does he have the founding date of 1861 – and not 1857 when the first cricket matches were played?

Manning says: "The club did not fold and the footballers did not leave – they just suspended playing football."

There is no evidence of this. The Crystal Palace footballers played for other teams when CPFC disbanded in 1876.

For example, like Eastlake Smith, Charles Chenery and Francis Barlow joined the Wanderers FC, while William Bouch played for Upton Park FC. In the summer, some played their cricket for Palace and some for other sides.

London County Cricket Club

The Palace website claims: "The Crystal Palace Company, which owned and operated the giant cast-iron and glass Crystal Palace on a 200-acre site in Sydenham, set up the cricket club in 1857, from which the football club was born."

This is false. As I have stated above, Crystal Palace Cricket club was a private members club independent of the Crystal Palace Company.

The only cricket club set up by the Company was the London County Cricket Club in 1899.

In his autobiography, Palace cricketer Ian Maxwell Campbell says there was opposition to "our old and well-established Crystal Palace Cricket Club" being replaced by "a club newly formed by the Crystal Palace Directorate and called London County Cricket Club."

Ian-Maxwell-Campbell

(Reminiscences of a Vintner by Ian Maxwell Campbell)

Campbell also confirms that Crystal Palace Cricket Club was a "self-supporting club" when there were efforts to resurrect it years after it was forced to close.

Ian-Maxwell-Campbell-2

(Reminiscences of a Vintner by Ian Maxwell Campbell)

Crystal Palace CC folded and did not merge with another club

Manning says: "The Crystal Palace Club did not close as the footballers continued playing cricket in the summer and the club existed until 1900, when it merged with WG Grace's new London County Cricket Club."

Again this is false. Crystal Palace Cricket Club was wound up and remaining funds were given to charitable causes – not transferred to London County Cricket Club if there was a merger.

CPCC-folds

(The Standard (London), Nov 21, 1900)

The Crystal Palace Company set up the new London County Cricket Club in 1899 which spelt the end of Crystal Palace Cricket Club.

As CPCC was forced to “wind up” in 1900, the new LCCC took its place in the park. Some members joined the new club but there was no merger.

Crystal Palace Cricket Club shared their field in their final season with WG Grace’s London County Cricket Club (a "new club") as CPCC had already made their fixtures.

WG-Grace

(Globe, May 2, 1899)

Simon Rae, in his biography of WG Grace, confirms that London County Cricket Club replaced Crystal Palace Cricket Club.

Simon-Rae-1

(W.G. Grace: A Life by Simon Rae)

Rae also establishes that Crystal Palace Cricket Club closed down in 1900.

Simon-Rae-2

(W.G. Grace: A Life by Simon Rae)

The London County Cricket Club played its final first-class matches in 1904 and the enterprise folded in 1908.

The Crystal Palace Company did dip their toe in the water of organising a football team for the first time in 1895. They arranged three exhibition matches over three years by fielding a team made up of mostly Corinthian FC players.

The 1906 CPFC handbook

Manning says: "When the professional club published its first handbook in 1906, it listed some of the internationals who had previously represented it, including Alex Morten in 1873 and Arthur Savage and Charles Eastlake Smith in 1876, showing they recognised themselves as a continuation of the original amateur team."

Does it? Manning has taken this information from the 1906 handbook out of context to suit his narrative.

The handbook simply mentions the players in a page of general football facts, which actually omits Palace's three-times capped international Charles Chenery. Note that it labels them as players of the Crystal Palace Football Team (not club).

CPFC-handbook-1906-07-p63

(Crystal Palace handbook 1906)

Reading the rest of the handbook, it's all pretty clear that it's a brand new club set up in 1905 – not a continuation of one from 1861.

On page 8, there is a review of season 1905-06 and the article refers to the "newly-formed Crystal Palace Football Club" and the "new venture".

It continues on page 13: "Rarely indeed has a club established a better record in its first season than did the Palace club..."

The Introductory Notes on page 5 say it's the "first handbook of the Crystal Palace Football Club" looking back on "the club's formation" and its "first season".

The 1947 supporters’ magazine

In 1947, the Glazier Gazette, the official magazine of the Crystal Palace Supporters' Club, appealed for information and photographs for a forthcoming history of the club.

It read: "To prevent misunderstanding, it should be pointed out that the Crystal Palace Club in existence before 1905, was a purely amateur concern and had no connection with the present Club."

GLazier-Gazette

(Glazier Gazette, 1947)

The first CPFC colours

Manning has even invented the kit worn by the first Crystal Palace FC. He claims the Palace building was painted sky blue, so that means it was the shade of blue worn by the football team.

Manning says: “The ironwork of the Crystal Palace itself was painted blue and white to give the impression that the entire building was made of glass and surviving colour prints of the time suggests the blue was a shade of sky blue.

“So it seems pretty likely that the football team chose that same shade of blue and white, which visitors would have been familiar with, for their own club colours.”

The Football Annuals are very specific on the shade of colours in its club directory and it states CPFC’s colours were white, blue and dark blue. The blue serge shorts worn by players of the time were navy blue, which the England football side has maintained to this day.

Kit

(Football Annual 1874)

As for the shirt design, Manning says: “[In the Football Annuals] Where clubs’ shirt colours were made up of hoops, stripes or bars Alcock invariably said so. But for Palace he said nothing.

“That leads us to conclude that the shirt was a simple bicolour, with one half white and the other half blue – a common design in Victorian football and very similar to Blackburn Rovers’s traditional kit today.”

It’s far more likely CPFC played in blue and white one-inch hoops as that was the most popular jersey design of this era.

From 62 shirts of clubs from the south, up until 1876, research by Historical Kits shows 31 of a hooped design, 23 are plain and the remaining eight are a mix of stripes, quarters, halves or a single hoop.

Blackburn Olympic was formed in 1878 and the ‘half-and-half’ shirts did not become common until long after CPFC had disbanded.

The 1905 CPFC

The second Crystal Palace was formed in 1905, registered under the company name of Crystal Palace Football and Athletic Club Ltd. The Crystal Palace Company later ended up becoming a major shareholder.

There are dozens of newspaper stories reporting the new club being set up. There is not one reference of it being a continuation of a club formed in 1861 or even 1857. No names of any of the personalities involved with the first CPFC are mentioned either.

"The Directors of the Crystal Palace Company have met the Company in a very generous manner, and there is every hope of launching successfully a first-class Football Club," wrote the South London Press (May 20, 1905).

"The opening season of London’s new club at the Crystal Palace is being regarded with some interest. The club has leased the Palace ground for five seasons," reported the Edinburgh News.

"In the opinion of those interested in football, the new venture will be a great attraction for South London, and there is every prospect of success," said the Norwood News (May 6, 1905).

The-Times-31-May-1905

(The Times, May 31, 1905)

CPFC – two different clubs with the same name

Stuart Hibberd, the author of 'The first Crystal Palace Football Club 1861-1876', has reached the same conclusion as me.

He is co-author of the books 'To the Palace for the Cup - an affectionate history of football at the Crystal Palace', 'The centenary history of the Arthur Dunn Cup' and the forthcoming 'Tottenham Cakes and Bolton Pies! The Story of the 1901 FA Cup'.

Hibberd says: "Like the guy who works down the chip shop who swears he’s Elvis, the claim by CPFC that they were founded in 1861 must be treated with some caution. The Football Association has given its opinion on the second of these claims and is firmly of the view that it has no substance.

"The fundamental reason that the claim is false is demonstrable by the evidence that: a) the 1861 club folded in 1876, ceased to exist, and never played another game, and b) all contemporaneous reports from around 1905 shows that the current CPFC were an entirely new club."

I hope this article clears up the misinformation about the original Crystal Palace FC. The so-called direct lineage from the first Crystal Palace FC to the second Crystal Palace FC claimed by Manning is false.

I am sure some Palace supporters will like the idea of supporting the "oldest club in the world", while others won't care either way. However, I believe that telling the truth and protecting English football's heritage is paramount.

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