How history repeated itself - almost - at Wymondham Town Football Club
10:30 05 July 2014
This week Wymondham Town Football Club celebrated a remarkable turnaround after the community stepped in to save it after a threat to its future. However as Wymondham historian PHIIP YAXLEY discovered, the situation happened once before - almost exactly 100 years ago.
The recent events at Wymondham Town Football Club have seen history repeat itself. Well, almost.
In 1914, the football clun was just recovering from a disastrous spell in which it had fallen into debt and temporarily folded – surprising for a club which, since its formation in 1883, had been a leading light in local football and had won the Norfolk Senior Cup on two occasions.
In 1906 it dropped out of the strong Norwich & District League just to play friendlies, leaving Wymondham Church Lads the only team from the town in that league.
Then in 1909, following a 9-0 thrashing by Thetford in the First Round of the Norfolk Junior Cup, it folded with debts of £2 – about £160 in today’s money.
It was not until July 1912 that Church Lads decided to become “Wymondham” and thus the town team was re-established on the King’s Head Meadow.
All was well again, for in that last season before the First World War (1913-1914), the resurrected Wymondham Town FC were only narrowly beaten in the Senior Cup competition by the eventual winners and finished runners-up in the Norwich and District League, which in those days included the likes of Dereham, Diss and Fakenham. Organised league football had been suspended during the Great War, but after the cessation of hostilities the town enjoyed success again and competed in the East Anglian League from 1935.
After World War Two it played in the Norfolk and Suffolk League then from 1964 in the Anglian Combination and produced many headline-making displays, not least a stirring 4-3 victory over Yarmouth in the FA Amateur Cup in 1958.
But success on the field never came without sound administration and financial stability. Today sponsorship, bar takings and lettings seem to be the main source of income, Years ago it was a bit different.
In the 1930s and the immediate postwar period, an admission fee was charged to watch the town play on the King’s Head Meadow – and crowds sometimes reached the 1,000 mark. A somewhat curious incident occurred in 1932 when a Customs and Excise officer turned up at a match and found that entertainment tax (one penny for a sixpenny (3p) ticket was not being collected.
Legendary club secretary Fred Hall and gatekeeper Fred Tooke were brought before the local magistrates’ court and each was fined ten shillings (50p) - although their excuse was there had been a rush of boys at the gate!
When the Customs officer asked the magistrate what the alternative penalty would be for these well-known Wymondham worthies, there was laughter in court when he replied: “Oh, seven days.”
Eventually it was no longer practical to charge an entrance fee, but a programme could be bought.
Sponsorship in those days was confined to advertisements in the match day programme, the lucky number of which won a free seat at the Regal Cinema.
In the 1950s and 1960s, an active supporters’ club raised funds with social events and, on receiving a cheque in 1963, Fred Hireson, the club’s treasurer, commented: “Without a strong supporters’ club, it would be difficult to maintain amateur Norfolk and Suffolk League football in the town.”
Almost every local figure, from the sitting MP to the Earl of Kimberley, were persuaded to become vice-presidents for a fee, while in 1968 a 200 Club was set up under the chairmanship of Terry Nicholls, the then landlord of the Windmill Pub, and this yielded income for a short time.
Today Andy Gardner and his team have been digging the club out of a very big hole and it is hoped it will be kept afloat to enjoy many more triumphs on the King’s Head Meadow. A successful soccer team is good for a town’s profile.