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Collections10th July 2021

Football’s Coming Home – the people’s game

As football fever captures the nation ahead of the Euro2020 final between England and Italy, it gave us a perfect opportunity to kick open some of the photo boxes in our archive and dive into some past editions of Periscope to find out a little more about the beautiful game and it’s association with the Dockyard.

Why is it called the people’s game?

Modern football originated in Britain in the 19th century. Since before medieval times, “folk football” games had been played in towns and villages according to local customs and with a minimum of rules. However, the development of modern football is closely linked to industrialisation and urbanisation in Victorian Britain. The working-class inhabitants of Britain’s growing towns and cities had lost their old pastimes, such as badger-baiting, and were searching for new ways to have fun.

From the 1850s, industrial workers were likely to have Saturday afternoons off work, and this led to many turning to the new game of football to watch or to play. The increase of literacy encouraged press coverage and the development of the railways enabled players and spectators to travel to football games. Average attendance in England rose from 4,600 in 1888 to 7,900 in 1895, rising to 13,200 in 1905 and reaching 23,100 at the outbreak of the First World War (Britannica, 2021).

The Dockyard has always been a place of community and family, as well as work. Sports teams and groups were set up to keep the workers engaged and prevent industrial unrest. Healthy competition between departments was encouraged and the workforce was brought together through family fun days and sports events, this included a raft racing event across the River Medway.

Sports were either played in leagues or as inter-workshop and Department competitions.

We found some incredible images of the Dockyard’s past Football Teams in our Collection…

Photograph of a Chatham Dockyard football team c. 1920. George Edward Verroest, apprentice and later painter in Chatham Dockyard is possibly pictured here.


‘Destroyer Championship’. Malta. HMS Vimiera and HMS Viscount football teams at Empire Sports Ground, Malta


Gunnery School football team with trophy and field guns, 1917


T.S. Mercury Boys Football Team. Photograph postcard of the T.S. Mercury Boy’s 1st XI Team, 1922-23. Team in kit lined up on the football pitch in front of the goal. The reverse of the postcard is annotated with a message to Mrs E. Clitheroe in Norfolk. Her son writes that he has arrived safely and informs her how much money he had left after his journey. The postage stamp is dated 29 Jan 1930. One penny stamp with King George V on it.


The Electrical Engineer Departments` Football Team 1916-17


Football team 1942


The winners of the various competitions were awarded trophies and in later years were often featured in Chatham Dockyard’s newspaper Periscope.

Do you know any of these ex players?

Five a side football, Weapons Shop B team


Design Division football team posing


Dreadnought Planning Team group photograph


Civil Service football team photograph



Boiler Shop winning team pose for group photograph


Football at Chatham Dockyard was known to be high standard…but a little rough!  They had The Royal Engineers to compete against, and the Great Lines to play them on.

The first Football Association Challenge Cup (FA Cup) took place after the 1871-1872 season and was contested by twelve British teams.  You can see how well the Royal Engineers did in the first 6 cup finals!

FA cup finals 1871-72 – 1875-76







Runners Up

Royal Engineers


Kennington Oval



1872–73 FA Cup (1) 1872–73 Wanderers 2–0 Oxford University Lillie Bridge 3,000
1873–74 FA Cup (1) 1873–74 Oxford University 2–0 Royal Engineers Kennington Oval 2,000
1874–75 FA Cup (1) 1874–75 Royal Engineers  †1–1 * Old Etonians Kennington Oval 2,000
1874–75 FA Cup (2) 1874–75 (R) Royal Engineers 2–0 Old Etonians Kennington Oval 3,000
1875–76 FA Cup (1) 1875–76 Wanderers  †1–1 * Old Etonians Kennington Oval 3,500


Hidden Heroines – Ladies that Changed the Game

There has always been women’s games as well as men’s games and women’s football is as old as men’s football.

Women were playing professionally, in front of large paying crowds, even in 1881. In fact, the top goal scorer in history is Lilly Parr, scoring 986 goals during her professional career 1919 – 1951, earning her place as the only women inducted into the National Football Museum.

In the late 19th Century, football had also already been introduced into some schools as it improved the girls’ fitness and was thought to create better mothers. In no time at all these women were playing in large stadia to thousands of people!

Here are some of the articles we have found in Periscope on woman’s Football Teams …

You can find out more about the women’s sports teams in our exhibition, Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of the women of the Dockyard. 

Is football coming home?

Did you know when penalties were first introduced they were called the ‘kick of death’?

We’re not sure our nerves will cope if the game is concluded in a kick of death but regardless of the team you’re backing, it’s a big night and a time for celebration.



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