F.J.C. Blake – From a Fox to a Doggie

Sol Campbell, Carlos Tevez and Mo Johnston are all players who have played for football clubs who shared a rivalry in the relative recent past.  Spurs to Arsenal, United to City and Celtic to Rangers are all difficult paths and certainly, in the case of Johnston, and the circumstances in which his deal was finally struck, it certainly takes some bottle to do so.

Even in the early days of Clapton FC, there was initial concern from local clubs such as Blake F.jpgUpton Park and Woodville that the new tenants of the Spotted Dog Enclosure would poach their best players.  This was not the case but, as the Tons progressed towards becoming one of the leading lights in amateur football, a fierce but sporting rivalry with the Ilford Football Club developed and, for a player to change alligence from one to the other, was seen as treachery of the first water.

So enter Frederick James Carter Blake, as fine a full back as any that played in amateur football during the 1920s.  He was captain of Essex FA representative team and of the Ilford team that won consecutive Isthmain League Championships in 1921 and 1922. So imagine the shock when, he did the amateur equivilent of crossing Stanley Park  or swapping N17 for N7 by travelling  4 miles west of Lynn Road to Upton Lane in order to join Clapton at the start of the 1923-24.

Blake was a local lad, born in Walthamstow in 1892 and began his footballing career with the local Avenue Boys Club who were later to become Walthamstow Avenue FC.    He later played for Deptford based club, Bronze Athletic.

In 1911 he moved to Newbury Park, the home of the ‘Foxes’, Ilford Football Club.  Blake captained the first team during a most successful period in their history when they won two Isthmian League Chapionships. He served as a Major in the Essex Regiment  during the Great War, and also played for, and was captain of, Clapton Orient’s war-time XI from 1916-18.  After the War, he returned to Ilford and then, in 1923, became a Ton.

His first season at Clapton saw him replace S.W. Adams (who later signed for Ilford!) and join E.A. Penstone and W.I. Bryant at the heart of Clapton’s defence.  Penstone had been recently recruited from West Norwood FC and this threesome was united throughout two successful FA Amateur Cup campaigns in 1924 and 1925.  Blake also captained Essex FA.and also represented London FA.

The disappointment of his desertion from the Ilford ranks is fairly evident, but expressed in a most gentlemanly fashion by the Newbury Park club, through their correspondent ‘HayBee’ who wrote the editorial in their matchday programmes.  Furthermore, the transfer did not automatically go through and,  Blake was sidelined for over a month,  before a meeting of the Isthmian League Committee can its approval to the move.  Later that season, a begrudging compliment was paid to the Doggies by the Ilford club for their Amateur Cup success, although it was tempered by pointing out that ‘Claptons great season’ had been helped by their managing to secure home draws in the completition on the way to their achievement.  The following season, HayBee’s editorial in the Ilford programme pre-empts potential problems or, possibly, re-acts to previous incidents when, having referred to ex Ilford stalwarts, Blake and Potter, who were now lining up for the Tons says “Anyway, we hope our supporters will cheer good play impartially and refrain from the barracking that spoils good sport and good felowship between players”.

Having enjoyed all the successes with that great Clapton team, F.C.J. Blake moved to Catford Wanderers in 1930.

After retiring from playing football he lived in Upminster but suffered injury in car accident at Ingatestone in 1944. During the second world war he bacame an ARP warden afterwards became the landord of the Three Cups public house in Chelmsford.  He also served as the Vice President of the Essex Referee’s Association whose headquarters were at the Three Cups.  He remained a prominant figure in Essex football and even found time to become the Chairman of the Chelmsford Licensed Victuallers Association.

F.J.C. Blake passed away in Romford in June 1960 but the rivalry between these two great old amateur clubs continues to this day, albeit on a gentler and friendlier basis.  There is no doubt that F.J.C. Blake would have been delighted to have seen over 750 spectators at the Spotted Dog for last season’s match between the clubs, however, one is sure that he would possibly have preferred it to have taken place in the Isthmian League, the traditional home of both clubs.

One can but hope.

Clapton Team 1925
The Clapton Amateur Cup Winning Team of 1925

H.T. (Harry) Earle

Of all the great Clapton players of the early part of the 20th century, there is probably none more colourful or charismatic than Harry Earle who was a striking figure at the heart of Clapton’s defence.

Born in East Grinstead, Mr Earle flirted with other clubs such as Woolwich Arsenal and Millwall Athletic before finding his niche at the Old Spotted Dog. He is easily recognisable amid the group photos of the Clapton team and Essex County, for whom he received a County Cap. Amid a melange of players sporting various forms of  ‘face furniture’, his is the most voluminous moustache and with it, he had the frame to match.

Mr Earle was employed at Godwin Road School in Forest Gate.  Although not qualified as a teacher, he was eventually co-opted as such, due to 33 years service, but on one occasion he asked the West Ham School Board for permission to leave work early to play for Clapton FC. His employers had refused such request previously and following a vote acceded to his request on this occasion. It sparked an article in the local newspaper in which members of the board described football, and cricket, as being a waste of time whilst the local priest, Father Ring, supported this denunciation of sport, submitting that it was only a little less of a scandal that the drinking business.

Harry Earle was yet to court more controversy when he was declared to be a professional by the Football Association having accepted a gift of a set of furniture from the Clapton club on the occasion of his marriage. Both the club and Mr Earle appealed unsuccessfully to the FA and lost. As a result, Earle immediately signed as a professional with Notts County where he played for a season. He continued to be the trainer of West Ham Schools until 1912 by which time his playing career had come to an end. His obituary. in the Stratford Express in 1951, was adamant that despite his professional status’, he never once accepted a pay packet.

In 1905 he received a most cordial reception from the Clapton supporters when he returned to the Old Spotted Dog Ground for a friendly match against Notts County. Whatever his feelings about his own situation might have been on that day, he must have been pleased to see that his opposite number in the Clapton goal, J. Wilding, who was to go on and play for the Tons in two Amateur Cup finals, had once been the West Ham Schools goalkeeper under his charge.

Harry Earle’s final legacy to Clapton FC was that his son S.G. (Stanley) Earle also played for the Tons with some distinction in the 1920s and at both full and amateur international honours for England. But that’s another story…..

Earle H2

62 years Ago Today in Oxford

Oxford City’s White House Ground was a typical Isthmian style ground but with a few quirky attributes that today’s groundhoppers would have loved. City  played their first match at the White House Ground in 1900  and stayed there until  1987 when, following a legal battle the ground was lost to the freeholders and the club made homeless.

The main entrance to the ground was from the Abingdon Road, to the east, behind one of the goals.  On the left, as you entered, behind the same goal, was a small stand that only took up about 35% of the end.  Along the touchline to the left was a long covered terrace and to the right a main stand, with an uncovered terrace to the side of it.

However, the finest and most memorable quirk was St Matthew’s Church, the grounds of which, abutted the football ground itself in the north west corner.  In order to gain access to the west terrace from the main stand, one had to pass through a gate and then along the side of the church grounds so as to access another gate, allowing one to move behind the goal.

1On 19th December 1953, the visitors to the White House ground were Clapton FC for an Isthmian league fixture with a 2.15pm kick off.  Clapton were said to be having a better season in the league whereas the hosts were struggling and, in fact, finished bottom of the pile that season and had to apply for re-election.

teamsBut Christmas must have come early for the Oxfordshire men that afternoon as they ran out 4-1 winners thanks to a hattrick by home centre forward Tony Skull. The Clapton team featured M Lyonsgoalkeeper Terry Dove, centre forward Peter Wylie and Mick Lyons (left).

The matchday programme, costing 3d, has some lovely advertisements including one from the Co-operative Sports Department who laid claim to providing ‘wing wizard’ Stan Matthews with boots of his own design.  A bargain at just 45/6 a pair.  (That’s £2.27p in today’s gelt)  Others include the Simons brewery that were swallowed up by Courage in the 1960s and better known local brewer, Morrells who fragmented in the late 90s and are no more.

Following their eviction from the White House Ground, City endured a couple of seasons of inactivity on the pitch and then had to virtually start again. However, the club itself had remained intact and a gradual re-emergence took place.  They came back through feeder leagues, were promoted to the back into the Isthmian league, enjoyed a Wembley appearance in an FA Vase final and then further promotion to the Conference South (National League).

Today Oxford City run numerous teams for men, women, girls and boys. They play in a stadium with a 3G pitch and are wholly immersed in their local community.  They have shown that a club can come back from adversity without going to the wall and re-emerging as an ‘AFC’.

The last Isthmian League meeting between the clubs took place on 19th February 1994 when City ran out 5-0 winners in their first season at their Court Place Farm Ground.  But for me, whilst the meeting at the White House Ground of the 19th December 1953 was most important, the real match of the day was taking place some 150 miles away in Heavitree, Exeter.  My Mum and Dad were getting married.  Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad.

See some fabulous photos of the White House Ground and previous City teams here





W.D.J. (Walter) Tull

Walter Daniel John Tull was born in Folkestone on 28th April 1888. His father was a carpenter from Barbados who had moved to Folkestone and married a local woman.

By the age of nine, Walter had lost both his parents, and when he was ten, he and his brother Edward were sent to a Methodist orphanage in Bethnal Green. His brother left the orphanage two years later, was adopted by a Scottish family and became a dentist. Meanwhile, Walter played for the orphanage football team, and in 1908, began playing for Clapton FC.

It has been widely, and mistakenly, reported in articles in both football and national press that Walter played for Clapton Orient (now Leyton Orient).  Other reports state that Clapton FC were a local team and infers that the Tons were a mere ‘bunch of amateurs’. How wrong they are.

Amateurs they may have been, however the Clapton team of this era were one of the best non-professional outfits in England.  Whilst playing for the Clapton FC, Walter Tull won winner’s medals in the FA Amateur Cup, London County Amateur Cup and London Senior Cup. He, and Clapton FC, were certainly no ‘bunch of amateurs’.

Clapton Team 1909 2

The Clapton team of 1909, winners of the FA Amateur Cup and London Senior Cup.  Walter Tull is seated in the front row, one from the right.

However, Walter Tull had been identified as a player of great skill and, in March 1909, the Football Star called him ‘the catch of the season’.

tull2In 1909 he signed as a professional for Tottenham Hotspur and whilst with the Spurs he experienced, for the first time, spectator racism when his team travelled to play Bristol City. According to one observer, ‘a section of the spectators made a cowardly attack on him in language lower than Billingsgate.’ The correspondent continued:  “Let me tell those Bristol hooligans that Tull is so clean in mind and method as to be a model for all white men who play football whether they be amateur or professional. In point of ability, if not actual achievement, Tull was the best forward on the field”

In October 1911 Tull moved to Northampton Town where he played half-back and scored nine goals in 110 senior appearances. When the First World War broke out, be became the first Northampton player to sign up to join the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, and in November 1915 his battalion arrived in France.

Walter Tull
Walter Tull

The Army soon recognised Tull’s leadership qualities and he was quickly promoted to the rank of sergeant. In July 1916, Tull took part in the major Somme offensive. Tull survived this experience but in December 1916 he developed trench fever and was sent home to England to recover.

Tull had impressed his senior officers and recommended that he should be considered for further promotion. When he recovered from his illness, instead of being sent back to France, he went to the officer training school at Gailes in Scotland. Despite military regulations forbidding “any negro or person of colour” being an officer, Tull received his commission in May, 1917.

Lieutenant Walter Tull was then sent to the Italian front. This was an historic occasion because Tull was the first ever black officer in the British Army. He led his men at the Battle of Piave and was mentioned in dispatches for his “gallantry and coolness” under fire.

Tull stayed in Italy until 1918 when he was transferred to France to take part in the attempt to break through the German lines on the Western Front. On 25th March, 1918, 2nd Lieutenant Tull was ordered to lead his men on an attack on the German trenches at Favreuil. Soon after entering No Mans Land, Tull was hit by a German bullet. Tull was such a popular officer that several of his men made valiant efforts under heavy fire from German machine-guns to bring him back to the British trenches. These efforts were in vain as Tull had died soon after being hit.

He was the first British-born black army officer and the first black officer to lead white British troops into battle.

In 1997 an appeal was launched in Northampton to recognise Walter Tull’s achievements, inspired by research undertaken by Phil Vasili and an enthusiastic local fan. In July 1999 a memorial to Walter was finally unveiled at Sixfields the home ground of The Cobblers, and the approach road to the stadium renamed Walter Tull Way. More recently, the offices of Probation Services in the centre of Northampton have been renamed Walter Tull House.

Walter’s status as a war hero should also be considered in the context of other un-named Black soldiers who fought for Britain in both World Wars and other battles across the world over hundreds of years.

So, journos, archivists, playwrights and the football world in general, please remember that Walter Tull first made his mark on the game of football at the Old Spotted Dog Ground and with Clapton FC.






English Wanderers 1913 & The Clapton Connection

This article is not so much about a Clapton Tour but a trip to Paris, taken by a sets of English players, where they played friendly matches against local opposition on 1st November 1913 (the French holiday ‘Toussaint’).

The ‘English Wanderers’ were described as a ‘team of English Amateurs’ and played their match against an USFSA (Union des Sociéties Françaises Athletiques) XI at Auteuil, near Paris.

USFSA were responsible for all sports, including amateur football in France. They famously had a run in with FIFA when the English Amateur Football Association was denied membership and, as a consequence resigned. Even more famously, they wore white shirts white red and blue interlocking rings on the front. It is thought that this design was the influence behind the Olympic five ringed emblem as their president, Pierre de Coubertin was one of the founders of the modern Olympic Games.

The shirts worn by the English Wanderers had the three lions badge on the left breast of the shirt and they wore blue shorts.

The Clapton players who represented the English Wanderers were :-

Harold Meredith Lemoine, despite his French sounding surname, was born in Cambridge in 1877 and came to prominence originally when playing for Hunslet FC in Yorkshire. He then came south to play for Shepherds Bush FC and in 1909 made the trip across London to sign for the Tons. A year later, he had signed amateur forms with Southend United. At the time of this tour (1913) he had returned to Loftus Road to play for Shepherds Bush FC.

J.E. Olley was a half back in two Clapton teams that won the FA  Amateur Cup in 1907 and then again in 1909. He won Amateur International caps for England against Sweden and Ireland.

H.M. Lemoine is the goalkeeper whereas J. E. Olley is on the back row, far right.
H.M. Lemoine is the goalkeeper whereas J. E. Olley is on the back row, far right.

126 Years At the Old Spotted Dog !

osd9On Saturday 24th September 1887, Clapton Football Club played it’s first ever match as tenants of the Old Spotted Dog ground.  Their opponents were Old Carthusians, an experienced team made up from the old boys of Charterhouse School in Godalming, Surrey.

Advertisements were carried in the Stratford Express to publicise the match.  In the event, 700 people paid 3d to watch the teams fight out a 1-1 draw.  The crowd was disappointing and the following week’s Express report told of the attendance being adversely affected due to a Sports Day held at Leyton that same afternoon.

However, it also told of how the first Clapton goal was struck home. – “A volley by P.A. Read was punted forward and, before Wilkinson could get it, Sellar rushed up and headed it through to scenes of great enthusiasm.”  – Clapton has arrived at the Old Spotted Dog.

The teams for that historic match were :-


H.E. Peattie
C.E. Morris
A.E. Cassleton
P.A. Read
J. Barclay
S. Smith
J. Sellar
J. Cowan (capt)
R.H. Clark
J.S.L. Prior
T. Radford

– goal –
– back –
– back –
– half back –
– half back –
– half back –
– right –
– right –
– centre –
– left –
– left –

L.R. Wilkinson
P.M. Waters
A.M. Waters
C.W. Ware
T.W. Blenkiron
S.R. Arthur
C.A. Smith
A.C. Nixon
H.C. Price
F.J. Cooper
E.P. Rathbone

The Old Carthusians team of this day were one of the strongest in the country.  They included C.A. Smith who was later to find fame, firstly as an England cricketer but later as Sir C. Aubrey Smith, the actor, who went on to star with Clark Gable, Sir Laurence Olivier and Greta Garbo during his thespian career.  At back were the Waters brothers who were both England internationals and were nicknamed ‘morning’ and ‘afternoon’ due to their initials.

The Old Carthusians had previously won the FA Challenge Cup in 1881 and, in the previous season to this match, reached the quarter final where they were beaten by the eventual winners, West Bromich Albion.  Later, in 1891, the Carthusians were to win the FA Amateur Cup, a trophy that was later to find it’s way to the Old Spotted Dog Ground on no less than five occasions.

Old Carthusians were the first of many visitors to the Old Spotted Dog.  They were followed later that season by Ilford, Nottingham Forest and London Caledonians to name just a few.

The above information was extracted from ‘Fired Up For the 90s’ a Clapton FC publication from 1989


Unfortunately, those currently in charge of the lease at the ground and passing off as Clapton FC have shown that they cannot be trusted with either.  Director of the lease holding company and Clapton Members Club ”Chief Executive’ Mr McBean has previously undertaken, to the High Court, to sell the lease from under the club. His ‘club’ has no membership and the lease holders are currently subject to a statutory inquiry under s46 Charities Act 2011 by the Charity Commission.

For those who are interested in safeguarding the ground and keeping Clapton FC playing there.
Join Clapton FC