Woolwich Arsenal Football Team, 1895

The Virtual Victorian loves football, and with the season about to start again it seemed a good enough reason to look back through the mists of history, with many of our modern teams having had their origins in the early 1800s. 

At this time, a dribbling form of the sport (as opposed to the handling game developed at Rugby school) was played at institutions such as Eton, Shrewsbury and Charterhouse. But the rules of the game were varied (sometimes from one half to the other) and fixtures played by the 'old boys' at university, or in the army, often descended into chaos. 

A Corner Kick by Thomas Hemy. 1892
Sunderland v Aston Villa, the two most successful teams of the decade.

However, with a rapidly growing support base, it soon became a necessity to impart some Victorian discipline, which is why, in 1863, the newly formed Football Association drew up its rules and regulations ~ which also proposed using referees to offer protection against the all too frequent violent tackles. Broken bones were far from rare!

Goal! By Thomas Hemy. 1882

Teams were also encouraged to wear more than coloured caps or scarves to identity themselves. By 1872, at the first FA Cup final, The Wanderers donned what must have been a fetching combination of pale pink, cerise, and black. Meanwhile, the Royal Engineers were somewhat more subdued in a manly dark red and navy blue.

The Wanderers, originally known as Forest, in 1863

In truth, working class players at that time could ill afford to buy their kits. Many were fellow workers, such as the founding members of Arsenal FC, who were all employed at the Woolwich Arsenal Armament factory. 

There the team had been inspired by the arrival of two players who came from Nottingham Forest, and fifteen men then volunteered to pay sixpence each to from a club, playing on Plumstead Common and originally known as Dial Square, after one of the factory workshops. 

Soon after this they changing their name to The Woolwich Arsenal. The team colour was decided when the team at Nottingham Forest donated a set of bright red shirts ~ still Arsenal's colour to this day.

Arsenal FC - a  fine and dashing squad of men!


  1. Football always seems more manly when played by men with whiskers, doesn't it?

  2. Great stuff Essie. Our captain at Aberdeen has whiskers and he scored a screemer on Thursday night in the Europa league, against Apollon Limassol. Roll on the new season.