This article is based on reports from newspapers of the time.
Football in the 1880s was a level playing field where even clubs from small towns or villages had the opportunity of achieving fame. By 1909 those days were long gone, few being left in the second division of the Football League and only Bury still being in the First Division. The reason was simple, finance already playing a prominent part in the success or failure of the great football clubs. The clubs from the larger centres of population were already the only ones with sufficient means to succeed in League football. There was always, of course, the exception which proved the rule. In the Second Division of the English League there was only one particular club which did not depend on its gates of twenty to fifty thousand for the means of existence.
That club was Glossop.
Throughout the history of the Glossop club one name stood out prominently above all others, and but for his support it is safe to say that Glossop would have been amongst the “have beens” many years before.
Unlike most millionaires, Samuel Hill Wood was a sportsman first and had a strong belief in spending his wealth among the mill operatives who had created it. Samuel Hill Wood had both played cricket for Derbyshire, including as captain, and had played for the Glossop North End team at outside right.
Two brothers named Baxter were instrumental in introducing Association football into Glossop, having become involved with the sport whilst living in Darwen. The Darwen club was, at that time, one of the big ones and, with Accrington and Blackburn Olympic, popularised Association football in Lancashire.
The Baxter Brothers soon found interest in Glossop and several junior organisations were formed, prior to the establishment of Glossop North End in 1887. There were no leagues, of course, so all the fixtures were “friendlies” but local youths overcame the difficulties and, although progress was slow, eventually overcame the competition from the powerful Rugby organisation of the town. Amongst those involved were Oswald Partington (later the member of Parliament for the High Peak, before becoming the second Baron Doverdale), L. Knowles, A. Warner, H. Hallows, J. Littler, S. and E. Hindle, Stopford, Kershaw, R. Eliot, A. Garlick. J. H. Dowling and William Hallows, who acted as the first club secretary.
The success of the Rugby code meant that many of the crack Rugby clubs paid regular visits to Glossop, but the budding “Soccer” eleven succeeded in their efforts to keep their heads above water. The first ground on which the club played was in Cemetery road, but after a short tenancy the club removed to the “Pyegrove”, and afterwards to Silk street. Many games were played against other junior clubs (including Hyde Borough, Denton Lads, Dukinfield Onwards) which had sprung up like mushrooms. Progress was slow, and one can gain some idea of the strength of the team from the class of clubs encountered - in 1888 and 1889 Glossop North End eleven played the reserve team of Dinting Albion, along with Glossop Olympic, Lower Barn, Charlesworth, Glossop South End, etc.
Mark Elliott, who in later years acted as secretary and gave great service to the club, was one of the youths in the early days who struggled gamely to establish the game in the town. The first big breakthrough came in April 1890 when the club was elected as a member of the newly formed North Cheshire League along with Hyde Chapel, Hatherlow, Mottram Villa, Compstall, Hooley Hill Wesleyans, Romiley, Denton Wanderers, Hawk Green, Hyde Borough Denton St. Lawrence and Glossop Olympic. This League later included other local clubs such as Hayfield, Gee Cross, Denton Lads and Hadfield so the rivalry, in consequence, was great.
Some rare struggles were witnessed. The meeting with Hadfield was at that time the “Derby Day” and the attendances at these matches would compare very favourably with some of those for second division games 10 or 15 years later. Admission to the ground could be obtained for one penny and twopence. The officers of the club in 1890 were:—Secretary J. H. Downing; treasurer, A. Warner; committee. W. Slater, J. Littler, A. Warner, J. Richardson, J. H. Hallows, S. Hindle, A. Kenworthy, and J. Booth. The players were pure amateurs, and paid their own expenses but, judging from a minute passed by the committee in March 1890, proposed by C. Bethel, and seconded by J. H. Downing, it was evident that at times the club sometimes had to make up the eleven at the last moment. The minute read as follows — “That any member being picked and not sending word by Thursday night to the secretary of their inability to play, unless in a very unfit state of health, or impossible through business, will be fined sixpence.”. The club finances were never really in a flourishing condition, and another minute passed in May 1890 throws a sidelight on an item of expenditure which reflects that. The minute read “That J. Littler look after the balls and that he is paid 2s. 6d. at the end of the season.”.
By that time, Oswald Partington had become the club captain. He was a bustling, vigorous full back with a powerful lunging kick. Along with W. Gee, who had joined the club in 1890 he made a pair of backs which would not disgrace many Second Division clubs. Gee was an enthusiastic footballer, and used to walk from Whaley Bridge to Hayfleld and was then met by a trap sent over the moors to carry him to the ground, a distance of eight miles. S. Hancock, a little outside left known as “two pen'orth o' copper”; T. Spencer, a clever half-back from Dinting Albion, who hailed from Manchester; J. Littler, a local lad; J. Richardson, a sprinter, and E. and S. Hindle were also prominent players connected with the club.
For a time another ground in Hall street was the headquarters of the club, but a further removal to Silk street took place, and in November 1891 Mr. T. Nield was elected secretary He did not hold the reins of office long and in 1892 Mr. J. Hallsworth acted as secretary for a few months. Oswald Partington and Mark Elliott (who had joined the committee in 1890) were elected auditors. Mr. E. Garlick succeeded Mr. Hallsworth in December 1892, but died in February 1893. Oswald Partington was persuaded to act as secretary temporarily, but retired in July 1893 when Mark Elliott, whose services to Glossop football cannot be over-estimated, was appointed. In the 1893-4 season, Glossop North End won both the cup and championship of the North Cheshire League, the only time the club won a cup during the first 20 years of its life.
It was during the North Cheshire League days that Samuel Hill Wood (also later the member of Parliament for the High Peak, and created a baronet in the 1921 New Year Honours) became interested in football, and on the disbanding of the Moorfield eleven he joined the North End club as outside right. From this point the club made rapid progress and professionalism was introduced, Mr. Wood funding the wages of the players. Amongst the first professionals signed on were: Dick Rae, who later became trainer to the reserve team; James Paton, a centre-forward from Aston Villa, who unfortunately ended his career through a broken leg, and Andy Pearson who came to Glossop under the name of Cameron and rendered yeoman service as inside left.
On September 1 1894, through the generosity of Samuel Hill Wood, a new ground, “the New Pyegrove”, was presented to the club. The opening game, a 3-3 draw with the Sheffield Strollers, attracted a gate of over £11. From this point progress was rapid, and in 1894-5 admission was obtained to the “Combination”. The report in the Liverpool Mercury of 3 September 1894 read: “The Football Combination, of which the Everton second team were until recently such distinguished members has undergone a great change as regards the affiliated clubs. Only five of the old formation remain - Buxton, Chester, Dresden United, Leek, and Macclesfield. Those which have dropped out include Everton, Stoke, Nantwich, and Stockport County, and the vacancies have been filled up by Ashton North End, Glossop North End, Hanley Town, Staleybridge Victoria and last, but not least, Northwich Victoria. The teams will now probably be more equally matched.”.
Just three weeks earlier, Glossop North End had become a member of the Football Association. As the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of 10 August 1894 reported: “A meeting of the Council of the Football Association was held last night, at the offices, Chancery Lane, London, under the presidency of Mr. J. C. Clegg, of Sheffield, when the principal business was to divide the clubs into electoral divisions, and make the draw for the English Cup. Applications were made from the following clubs for membership:— Bristol South End, Glossop North End, Faversham, Leicester Y.M.C.A., Harwich, Hexham Excelsior, Leeds, Newstead Byron, Woodville, Clitheroe, North Wingfield, Eastbourne, Hucknall Torkard, Aston, Old Edwardians, Old St Luke's, Trafalgar A.F.C., Slough, St. Alban's, and Hastings Athletic. These were all passed and the clubs entered.
In 1895-6 the club finished third in the Combination table with twenty-one points. Only 14 matches were played, 9 were won, 2 lost, and 3 drawn, and 33 goals were scored against 13. The club's position was a creditable one, seeing that the teams met included Everton, Macclesfield, Oldham, Chester, Northwich, Leek and Buxton. The season throughout was a very successful one and out of 42 matches played 24 were won, 13 lost, 5 drawn, and 116 goals against 46 were scored. The team was particularly strong at half-back, and Burleigh, who hailed from Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sargeant, and McHardy had a lot to do with the improved form displayed. The “gates” also began to grow, and in a Combination match with Ashton North End £43 was taken at the gates - a record up to that time.
One signing of the time provides proof that the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. That was the introduction to football of Joe Frail, a goalkeeper, who afterwards played for Middlesbrough and many other first-class clubs. The story goes that Frail was down on his luck and on tramp when he came into contact with Sam Hill Wood. He claimed to be a goalkeeper and, had although he had never been heard of in Lancashire and Derbyshire football circles, Sam Hill Wood invited him up to Moorfield where he had his own cricket and football ground. Whenever a new player came to Glossop for a trial at the time, the gardeners, coachmen, gamekeepers, butlers, etc. at Moorfield were called upon, and the newcomer had to undergo a private trial, sides being formed from the professionals and the house staff. Frail was placed in goal, and gave such a marvellous display in the practice game that he was immediately signed on and his exhibition in his first real match was spoken of for years afterwards as one of the finest displays of goalkeeping ever seen at Glossop.
The energetic management displayed by Mr. J. W. Sykes and the executive, resulted the club gaining admission in the season 1896-7 to the Midland League, and under the captaincy of W. Storer (who was also wicket keeper for the English and Derbyshire cricket teams) the club came second to Doncaster Rovers for the championship. Out of 27 matches played 34 points were obtained, 15 matches won, 8 lost, 4 drawn, and 67 goals scored against 39. The record for the club for all matches in that season read: 49 played, 30 won, 11 lost, 8 drawn, 123 goals for, 39 against.
The following season the club finished fourth in the Midland League table. Tom Bartley, a clever centre-forward, who had proved a most successful goal scorer, was capped by Wales, the only player to receive his cap whilst a playing member of the Glossop team, although many Internationals also played for the club from time to time and, in 1901-2, Arthur Goddard represented the English League against the Irish League at Woolwich.
Glossop North End 1898-9
Few of the supporters, if any, expected that the season of 1898-9 would prove the most momentous in the club's history. Application had been made for admission to the Lancashire League, the club had been admitted and the necessary deposit of £25 had been paid. However, owing to the intended extension of the Second Division, Glossop North End were invited to make application for one of the vacancies, and, along with Barnsley, Burslem Port Vale and New Brighton Tower, were elected. Naturally, the club were willing to sacrifice their £25 deposit to the Lancashire League, and the foresight of the executive in accepting the main chance was quickly justified. Mr. G. H. Dale was appointed manager, and he succeeded in signing a fine group of players, including Williams (Luton), goal; Punch McEwen (Luton), and Herbert Rothwell (an amateur from Newton Heath), full backs; Colville (Edinburgh Hibernians), Gallagher (ex-Luton and Vale of Leven), Donaldson (described as the old Newton Heath war horse), Tinto (Glasgow Rangers), J. Lumsden (Liverpool), and Colvin (Liverpool). The name of the club was also altered from Glossop North End to Glossop. The team played brilliantly throughout the season, and succeeded in finishing second to Manchester City with 46 points, and thoroughly earned a place in the First Division, to the exclusion of Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton Wanderers. The excitement continued throughout the month of April, and it was only the failure of New Brighton at Leicester and the success of Glossop over Loughborough on the last Saturday of the season that placed Glossop in the first two clubs by one point over Leicester Fosse. The team which met with such unexpected but acceptable success was presented with £25 each man by Sam Hill Wood, and was Williams (goal), McEwen and Rothwell (full backs), Colville, Clifford, and Killean (half backs), Colvin and Gallagher, Donaldson, Price and Lumsden (forwards). Punch McEwen played fine football, and there was no cleverer full back in either First or Second Division: but the ability of the whole team is shown in their record, which read:- 34 matches played, 20 won, 8 lost, 6 drawn, 76 goals for, 38 against.
The team also did well in the English Cup ties and defeated New Brighton (home) 4-2, Crewe Alexandra (home) 1-0 and Stockport County (away) 2-0, but were defeated by Newcastle United by one goal to nil at North road, where the club had moved to on admission having been gaining to the Second Division. The ground had previously been the head-quarters of the old Rugby club, but again Sam Hill Wood's influence succeeded in breaking down all obstacles in its way of occupying the cricket ground, where it stayed for many years. Blackpool were the first Second Division team to play on the North road ground and a victory of four goals to one was recorded by Glossop. The full record for all matches during 1898-99 was:- Played 50, won 30, lost 12, drawn 8t, goals for 110 against 52. T. Bartley was the scorer of the first goal for the club in the Second Division on September 3 1898. During 1899 the club was formed into a limited liability company, and the first directors were Mr. S. H. Wood, chairman; A Sidebottom and W. Oliver, directors; G. H. Dale, manager; Mr. M Elliott, secretary.
At the meeting of the Football Association Council on 11 August 1899, the club was given permission to change its name from Glossop North End to Glossop F.C. The club members had passed a resolution to change the name at the end of July.
By contrast, the season 1899-1900 proved a disastrous one. The team had to all appearances been materially strengthened, but disaster followed disaster, and at the end of the season the club had lost its place in the First Division, only eighteen points being gained. The season opened with a victory against Burnley (2-0) at home, but on the following Monday Aston Villa slaughtered the “innocents” by nine goals to nil at Villa Park. Another victory was obtained (1-0) at North Road against Notts Forrest in September, but five months elapsed before another victory was recorded, when Stoke were beaten by two goals to one on February 3rd, followed by a win over the Blackburn Rovers in the same month (4-2). The melancholy record for the season read:- Matches played 34; won 4, lost 20; drawn 10; goals for 31; 74 against; points, 18. The club also suffered defeat in the first round of the English Cup, Stockport County, after a draw, defeating them by three goals to nil at North Road. Altogether 43 matches were played - 7 won; lost 24; drawn 12; goals for 42; against 87.
Notwithstanding the failure of the team, there was one bright speck in the dark cloud which enveloped the club, and that was the discovery of a player destined to make a name and gain honours and distinctions - Herbert Burgess. Mr. G. H. Dale discovered him in the ranks of a junior team - Openshaw United - and engaged him at the princely figure of five shillings a week. He was first tried at half-back, but against Liverpool in the closing stages of 1899-1900 he was given a trial at full-back. For his inches - he only stood 5ft. 4in and weighed 11st. 4lb. - he was without doubt the greatest left back seen for many years. Hard as whip cord, alert, keen, and quick on the ball, there was nobody better and his success in later years came as no surprise to those who watched him regularly.
In the following season, 1900-1901, the team failed to win their way back to the First Division, and finished fifth with 38 points. Thirty-four matches were played, 15 won, 11 lost, 8 drawn, and 51 goals scored against 33. The club met with a serious loss through an unfortunate accident to Colville, who broke his leg, but Arthur Goddard, who was afterwards transferred to Liverpool for £460 proved one of the best outside rights ever connected with the club. He had been signed from Stockport County for £260, a record transfer fee at that time.
ln 1901-2, the club finished eighth in the 2nd Division with 32 points from 34 matches played. Ten were won, 12 lost and 12 drawn, and 36 goals against 40. Former international Johnny Goodall (who had played for Preston, and scored a goal, when they beat Hyde 26-0 in the record scoring FA Cup tie) was the next manager, after the retirement of G. H. Dale, but he failed to pull the club out of the mire, and in 1902-3 the team sank to 11th, with 29 points. Their record read:- Played 34, won 11, lost 16, drawn 7. Forty-three goals for, 58 against. But worse was to follow with the departure of Burgess and the club sank into the 17th position in 1903-4 and were compelled to seek readmission to the Second Division. Their miserable record read 34 matches played, 10 won, 18 lost, 6 drawn, goals for 57, against 64, points 26.
Two of the officials, Messrs. Oliver and Scarratt, got into trouble with the Football Association for approaching players registered with other clubs and were suspended. This was only the forerunner of further trouble, for in January 1904, Mark Elliott, who had held the secretarial reins since May 1893, eleven long years, was also suspended for approaching an amateur connected with a Shropshire junior club - Lockett, of Ludlow. Another star, however, had begun to dazzle the eyes of the Glossop enthusiasts - a local youth named Irvine Thornley, who was transferred to Manchester City later, in April 1904.
Thornley was a fine bustling forward and scored goals galore, and rapidly developed into one of the best men in the country. But further trouble arose, and Thornley, along with his father, were suspended.
Misfortunes, however, never came singly, and Glossop's cup was soon full to the brim. The Football Association set up an inquiry into the Glossop club's affairs. Several players and directors (including Murphy) were suspended and the club fined £250. Samuel Hill Wood (who had remained on the club's list of retained players) and his mother, however, came to the rescue of the club once more and donated £200 towards the fine, while the public could only raise the remaining £50.
Another great player, Archie Goodall, was next entrusted with the management of the club, and the ex-Derby County centre-half appeared to have a strange liking for Irishmen. Synott, the Irish international, was signed as a partner to Orr, and proved a rare capture, and Cairns, Gall, McGuiness, Lawrence and other Irishmen were drafted into the eleven, with the result that the club finished 11th in 1904-5 with 30 points. Ten matches were won, 14 lost, 10 drawn, and 37 goals scored against 46. Jack Boden was a shining light in the half-hack line, and was afterwards transferred to Aston Villa.
Archie Goodall having resigned from his position as manager, another noted international “Jock” Robertson was engaged in January 1906. Once more Mr. Wood's purse-strings were let loose in the vain endeavour to get together a team worthy of a great sportsman's patronage, but the club could only finish 15th in the table in 1906-7 with 32 points. Their record was a slightly better one and 13 matches were won, 19 lost, 6 drawn, and 53 goals for against 79.
In 1907-8 a practically new team was put together, but with no better result, and the club only escaped from having to apply for re-admission to the Second Division on goal average. Thirty-eight matches were played 11 won, 19 lost, and 8 drawn; 54 goals for and 74 against for 30 points.
Early in the 1908-9 season the club looked to have a chance for promotion, the team seeming to be the best for several years. Several players, including Comrie, Gould, and Grimes were transferred to First Division dubs and new men in Wilson, from Bradford City, and Morrison, a centre half from Fulham, were signed. Stapley and Raine, a couple of amateurs, along with James Robertson, one of the cleverest inside men in the country, were the nucleus of a hot attacking force, and the defence, which included Butler from Stockport County in goal was sound. J. Cuffe. a local youth who had played for the team for several seasons was developing into a fine player (Note: John James Cuffe played for other clubs in addition to Glossop (being confused in some publications with the Australian cricketer John Alexander Cuffe) and was briefly landlord of the Pear Tee Inn, High Street East). Once more, though. trouble overtook the management, and in December 1908 the ground was closed for some time owing to the conduct of the spectators.
Despite that the club enjoyed a fine run in the FA Cup. Glossop reached the sixth round of the competition by defeating Chesterfield at Chesterfield, drawing with Stockport County at Stockport and beating them in the replay at North road after extra time, and beating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 at Sheffield. Wednesday missed two penalties and Glossop, awarded a penalty in the last minute of the game, scored. In the game against Bristol City in the sixth round Glossop's luck turned. With the home drawn it looked odds on the team reaching the semi-final for the first time, but when the match was due to begin a blinding blizzard swept across the ground. Despite that the game was played and ended in a nil-nil draw. The other three sixth round games were abandoned and many thought the Glossop game should have been abandoned as well. Bristol City won the replay at Bristol the following Thursday by the only goal scored and went on to appear in the final where they were beaten by Manchester United.
Certainly a roller-coaster of an experience for the first 20 (ish) years of any club but still a remarkable achievement for one from such a comparatively small town as Glossop.