"The Chronicles of a Country Parish" - A village appraisal of Sulgrave published in 1995

(Back to Chapter 3 Index)

The game has been played in this village since long before anyone living can remember. There is an old photograph of most of the team during the 1880/90s when they played in knee britches and wore caps with tassels - at least, they did in the photograph. Those in the photograph were Joseph Wootton, Harold Wootton, Wallis Fenemore, John Hawks, George Jones and the Reverend Harding. They played in Madam's Close; the pitch was on the south side and ran from east to west. The goal posts on the western end stood almost alongside the public footpath and this is where the spectators used to congregate.

Sulgrave Football Team - 1896
(Known as "The Magpies")

As the years passed younger members came into the team and one of the strongest of the early 20th century teams (1920s) won almost all of the competitions that they entered. Fred Wootton was goalkeeper, Tom Wootton and Vic Carter were the backs, others included Arthur Creed, harry Clifford and Walter Cleaver. Tom Wootton and Vic Carter went on to play for Banbury Harriers whose ground stood at the bottom of Bloxham Road, Banbury. They played in the Oxford Junior League and after two seasons they moved on to play for St. Frideswides, Oxford, in the Oxford Senior League, and they played on what is now Oxford City Ground over the river in St. Aldates. After they left the Sulgrave team it gradually fell to pieces and due to various disagreements the pitch in Madam's Close was closed.

During 1917/26, there were about 30 boys at school and their main activity in playtime was a rough house game of football with an old leather football case stuffed with rags. The boys had the back playground, which was walled all round, and when the ball was kicked over the wall into the adjoining gardens whoever climbed the wall to fetch it, if caught, got two good hidings, one from the master and one from the neighbour!

The new Vicar, the Rev. Pakenham-Walsh, was interested in organising some activities for the boys and in about 1924, another football team was formed. Mr Aubrey Cave gave consent for a pitch to be formed in one of his fields, a nice level field just across from the Potato Ground and everyone was allowed to go over the Vicarage grounds to get to the pitch. The old goalposts, which had been stored in Wootton's workshop on the corner of Church Street and Park Lane, were fetched out and repaired. Sockets fitted with stoppers were buried in the ground, so that the football posts could be lifted out after matches and put away to allow the cattle graze the ground during the week.

Sid Wootton began playing for the team in about 1928, and the team at that time was Oliver Wootton in goal; Alf Kimnell, Sid Wootton, backs; Ben Wootton, Eric Constable and Ken Smith, half backs; Harry Middleton, centre forward, Harry Boyles and Tom Wilcox, right wing; Charlie Dore, Rupe Wootton left wing. They were a fairly good team and were always somewhere in the middle of the league tables around 1930/31. Harry Middleton joined the Coldstream Gaurds. Ken Smith went away to work and Harry Boyles left the village.

Alf Kimnell, Tom Wilcox, Ben, Rupe and Sid Wootton went to play for Wappenham in the Northampton Senior League. At that time a Mr. Grubbs kept the public house at Weston and he hired out a very large Rolls Royce as a taxi. Since four of the team were from Towcester they travelled by car. The other seven used to travel in Mr Grubb's taxi (he was one of the trainers), to away matches at Stoney Stratford, Blisworth and many of the other larger villages. In 1931 the team were league runners-up but by the next season this potentially successful unit had split up, with girlfriends proving more attractive than football!

One player, however, allowed nothing to come between him and his love for football. A farmer's son, from Greatworth, he used to ride bareback on one of their old carthorses to wherever the team was playing. He would throw a sack on his horse's back, a rope halter for reins, and wearing his football kit and an old mac, jump on and gallop across country to the match. He married very young, and lived in a large house in Greatworth. He once arrived at a match in Shutlanger covered in blue paint. It emerged that his wife resented the time spent playing football, feeling that he would be better employed painting the kitchen. Eventually, he had lost his temper and, taking a large can of bright blue farm implement paint and an even larger whitewash brush, had started in one corner of the kitchen and worked his way round painting over the wall, the furniture and pictures indiscriminately. By the time he had finished there was so much paint on the floor that he painted that as well, and the kitchen table legs! His football career continued unimpeded thereafter!

Another player of distinction was Arthur Boyles. He had lost a leg when he was a small boy, but was the most agile person on crutches one could find anywhere. He could run faster than most players and of course he could use one of his crutches to control the ball. In league matches he was only allowed one crutch, but nevertheless was a valuable member of the team.

Matches at Silverstone included hazards other than one's opponents. There was an old lady who used to stand on the touch line and swear at the opposing side, and if a player was running the ball down the wing she would stick out her umbrella and try to trip him up.

In 1992, Sid Wootton and Alf Kimnell are the only two players from those 1930s days still living in the village and they have a great regard for the Rev. Packenham-Walsh and the influence he had over the youth of those days. Sid Wootton remembers that during the 1929 slump most of the young men were out of work, and the Vicar would allow them to go into the Parochial Hall, or Poke Hole as they called it, when the weather was too wet or frosty for them to play in the fields. There was only one room then, before the British Legion carried out the improvements, and often there were 15 to 20 lads either keeping warm by the fire, playing billiards or indulging in a football match - indoors!

After the second world war, the Sulgrave Football team was again started by Colin Wootton and Tony Butcher and some of their pals from Magdalen College School, Brackley.

Football match in Sulgrave 1963

See here for more on football in the village in the 1950s and 1960s