Earliest Days-before 1908

How many Eagles supporters have heard of M D Nicholson, who won a FA Cup winner’s medal within a year of leaving the Club? Or Arthur Taylor, later one of the first professionals in the south of England? Or knew that a 1-6 defeat at Toddington probably put the Club out of business?

These are all players or episodes in the history of the two clubs that bore the name of Bedford Town Football Club before the one founded in 1908.

Or maybe we should say “at least two”, since there is much that is still uncertain about this period.

To read an outline of these very early days please go to The first two Bedford Towns.

Also covering this period are two Excel spreadsheets giving all the match results and team details that I have been able to find for these years. To read these please click on the arrow at the top right hand corner of the two boxes "Pre-1908 Clubs' Known Results" below. You might then need to click on "Open with Google Sheets" within each spreadsheet to see the full detail.

Finally below the two results boxes is a background note on these results.

Results and teams 1884 to 91.xlsx
Results and teams 1891 to 1899.xlsx

March 2017 update



I expanded this site in 2015 to cover the 1908-40 period and also the previously forgotten story of the two clubs that bore the name Bedford Town between 1884 and 1899. At that stage I didn’t attempt to set out any results or team lineups, since it was clear that by no means all the matches played by these clubs were ever reported in the press.

However, I have continued my research since then, and with the help of the British Newspaper Archive (BNA), available on its own website or that of Findmypast, I have found enough match reports to make it worth preparing “Results and Teams” pages on a similar basis to those on the main site for 1908 to 1982.

These take the form of two Excel spreadsheets, one for 1884-91, covering the first Bedford Town club (sometimes called “Bedford Association”), and the other for 1891-99, covering the second club, originally called Bedford Swifts.

This short note adds some explanatory material.


Much of the information comes from the two main Bedfordshire papers of the period, the Bedfordshire Times (BT) and Bedfordshire Mercury (BM), but the BNA has revealed reports from papers in neighbouring towns and counties that fill in some gaps-although in a few cases they confuse rather than assist, by giving different scores and even occasionally different opponents!

On the two spreadsheets, details of the sources are set out below the results and lineups in red, along with short notes highlighting points of interest.

The “reports” in the papers vary greatly in detail, from a full description of the match complete with lineups and scorers, down to a one-line mention of the result without any more information.


The layout has been adapted from the one used elsewhere on the site, setting out the BTFC lineup in bold and the opposition on the line below, in unbold. In some cases no lineups can be found, in others only the BTFC lineup and in a few only that of the opposition.

In home fixtures the opponents are in Roman type (eg LUTON TOWN), and in away fixtures in italics (eg LUTON TOWN). In a few instances it isn’t clear whether the fixture was home or away.

Neither Bedford Town club competed in a League, so all the matches listed were friendlies except for a few in Cup competitions, which are identified against the name of the opposing club.

The goalscorers, where known, are given in italics to the left of the lineups, BTFC scorers first, then a semi-colon (;) then opposing scorers. Often only the BTFC scorers are known. Goalmouth scrimmages sometimes led to goals where nobody identified the scorer; this is stated in the notes.

After the scorers are any known names of referees and/or umpires. Before the 1891/2 season, match control was mainly in the hands of “umpires”, one for each team, and only if they disagreed would the referee be called on to decide the issue. It appears that sometimes there was no referee, which could cause problems if the umpires disagreed. From 1891/2 the law was changed to something like its modern form-the referee became the key figure and the umpires became linesmen, but even then, the referee’s decision could provoke a walk-off by a disgruntled team (see for example the Swifts v Rushden Good Templars fixture on 7 October 1893).

Players’ positions

As elsewhere on the site I have set out the teams horizontally from 1 to 11, although they would not have been numbered on the field. However, lineups in the papers took several different forms. In the early days the forwards were sometimes listed first, then the half backs, then the full backs and finally the goalkeeper. Later, although it became customary to list players from the goalkeeper up to the forwards as we do today, sometimes left backs, left halves and left wingers and inside lefts were listed before their “right counterparts”. Sometimes centre-forwards (often just called “centres”) were listed before the other forwards and sometimes afterwards.

Where the report makes clear what positions players occupied, I have listed them using the conventions adopted in the 1950s and 60s-so the lineup will go goalkeeper, right/left back, right/centre/left half, right wing, inside right, centre forward, inside left, left wing. But sometimes it isn’t clear and I have simply listed them in the same order as that of the report. Quite often teams played with only two half backs and six forwards. And there were occasional matches where more than eleven turned out!

Names, initials etc

Many players’ surnames recur from match to match but sometimes a surname slightly changes in spelling. Sometimes initials are given, sometimes not, and sometimes they change as well. It is impossible to be sure whether we are looking at the same player or which version of his name is correct, so I have simply reproduced what the papers said. However, one can speculate-for instance it’s very likely that the “H W Hockley” who appeared for BTFC on 5 November 1887 against Wolverton, was Herbert Oclee, later captain, and the various spellings of Seabrook, Seabroke or Seabrooke, with initials also sometimes changing, may well have been the same player. Likewise, the names of opposing clubs show some variations (eg Woburn Sands and Woburn Sands Rovers), but they may have been the same club-without researching all their histories as well, one can’t be sure.

Unreported matches

What we have here is obviously incomplete, because many matches went unreported, and I have undoubtedly not found all the ones that were reported-Victorian papers didn’t have sophisticated or regular layouts and reports tended to get shunted around from week to week, making them hard to find especially on microfilmed or digital copies. Also I haven’t attempted to list reserve matches or those played by the Thursday section of the second BTFC club.

The coverage on these sheets of the very early seasons is obviously very incomplete, as is that of the last season or so in the late 1890s. However, it is possible to compare the numbers of results listed here with the full record, as reported at the AGM or annual dinner, for a few seasons, as follows:

1889/90: full record shows 15 played, spreadsheet shows 6

1890/1: full record 20, spreadsheet 16

1892/3: full record 14, spreadsheet 15!-but three of these are probably what we would call pre-season friendlies which may not have counted in the full record

1893/4: full record 29, spreadsheet 17 -the 29 may include reserve or Thursday fixtures

1894/5: full record 38, spreadsheet 12-almost certainly the same applies here.

So I am not attempting to claim that this is anything like a complete record-but that doesn’t seem a reason not to include the matches that we do know about. As and when new results come to light I will add them to the spreadsheets.