Bristol Downs Association Football League

Bristol Downs Association Football League


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When the League Started and
Trials to Represent the Downs were held on Christmas Day

                                                                                                            Sneyd Park AFC (1905-06)

The League meeting that followed the AGM discussed several points that resulted in decisions prior to the commencement of matches.

One of the important issues was the availability of each Saturday’s results. This was resolved by agreeing with Gyles Brothers, the sports outfitters still based at the top of the Black Boy Hill, that each Saturday evening the full League results would be shown in its window. The responsibility for giving Gyles Bros. the match result rested with the winning team, or in the case of drawn games, the home club.

Another question arose as to which pitch was allocated for each match. This was also resolved with the help of Gyles Bros., who agreed to place a plan of all the football pitches on the Downs in its window.

Saturday, 9th September 1905 saw the very first matches being played in the Downs League. It was a miserably wet day, but because the season proper was not due to start until the first Saturday in October, only a short programme of League fixtures was played on that day:

Division 2

  • College Albion v Rangers                                                 (referee Mr. H. A. Perry)
  • Kingsdown Guild v St. Pauls United                              (referee Mr. C. J. Thorne)


Division 3

  • Broad Plain Res. v St. Andrews (Montpelier) Res.      (referee Mr. A. Hemmings)


The match between College Albion and Rangers ended in a goalless draw, but there were plenty of goals in the other two games. Both St. Pauls United and St. Andrews (Montpelier) Reserves led 1-0 at half time, so the honour of scoring the first goal in the Downs League must be shared between Walters (St. Pauls United) and Collis (St. Andrews).

St. Pauls United eventually ran out 3-0 winners, thanks to two second half goals by Jennings, whilst St. Andrews (Montpelier) Reserves won 4-1, with further goals from Knight (2) and Channing. Broad Plain Reserves, who only fielded eight players, scored a late consolation goal through Bragg.

That evening the League held a social event at the Crown & Dove Hotel in Rupert Street. This event, and many subsequent ones, was held to raise money for the League; this occasion marked the commencement of a long and fruitful association between the Crown & Dove and the League. The social evening appears to have been a resounding success and was attended by representatives of both the District and North Bristol Leagues. The highlight of the evening was a piano recital including a much-enjoyed version of “Down at the Old Bull & Bush”.

At the first League meeting after the social event, the League received the news of the resignation of its Assistant Secretary, Mr. J. E. Pratt. Mr. Pratt, who was employed by Budgett & Company, had been transferred to that company’s Cardiff office, and whilst he was continuing to live in Bristol, he felt he was unable to devote sufficient time to the League’s interest. Mr. H. J. Jenkins of Holy Trinity was therefore elected as the new Assistant Secretary.

In the first season, none of the Downs League clubs reached the finals of the GFA Cup competitions. However, several created favourable impressions against more formidable opponents in the earlier rounds.

One of the League’s more successful clubs in the first few weeks of the season was Hotwells YMCA from Division 1. On 12th October 1905 Hotwells YMCA was due to play a GFA Minor Cup match against Bristol South at Victoria Park. Whilst both teams arrived to play the match, no referee appeared, and a friendly match was played, Bristol South eventually running out winners. Some weeks after this the GFA ruled that the result of this friendly match stood as a cup result and Hotwells YMCA was left to concentrate solely on its Downs League efforts for the rest of the season.

A problem associated with the formation of any competition, particularly a league where there is more than a single division, is the need to find donors of cups, etc. This role fell to one of the League’s Vice Chairman, Mr. G. C. Cooper, who by November 1905 had found an anonymous donor for each of the three division championship cups; it is believed that at least one of the trophies was donated by His Grace, the Duke of Beaufort.

On Christmas morning (!) 1905 a trial match was played on the Downs in order to select the League XI to play Bristol City Reserves; the teams picked for the trial were –



   G. W. White (St. Michaels)

C. Quin (St. Michaels)     F. Bridges (Clifton Athletic)

W. Stratford (Clifton United)     S. Stratford (Clifton Athletic)      W. Rawlings (Westbury Park)

J. H. Chapman (Winchester House OB)      H. Hiley (Cotham Amateurs)

A. J. Veysey  (Winchester House OB)       P. Abbott (Clifton Athletic)    E. Redwood (Westbury Park)



F.James (Hotwells YMCA)      B. B. Jenkins (Sneyd Park)       E. Russell (Hotwells YMCA)

S.Webb (Hotwells YMCA)     G. Cashing (Hotwells YMCA)

R. Hiley (Cotham Amateurs)      W. Thomas  (Kingsdown Guild)      H. Fisher (Sneyd Park)

R.Hiley (Cotham Amateurs)      A. D. Chapman (Winchester House OB)

   W. Youell (Cotham Amateurs)

Referee: Mr. F. M. Giles

A.J. Veysey was a new player to the Downs League; only the previous season he had turned out for Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Football League. Two players selected for the B Team were unable to play (Thomas and Fisher), and Clutterbuck and Pearce of Barton Hill Adult School appeared in their places.

Besides the trial match on Christmas morning, a Division 1 game, Clifton Athletic v Holy Trinity, was played on the Downs on Boxing Day (which was a Tuesday); the home side was not in a charitable mood and finished easy winners by 5-1.

By early 1906 the League was halfway through its programme. Some clubs were already near to completing their fixtures – St. Pauls United had played eight out of its nine home fixtures by 9th December. However, bad weather started to affect matches and on 10th February five of the scheduled eleven League matches were postponed. Nevertheless, there was still plenty to report and debate at the next League meeting on Wednesday, 14th February when the referee’s reports for the previous fortnight included the following –

  • Christ Church (Clifton) played with only ten men.
  • Goldney Athletic had a player without the prescribed colours.
  • Broad Plain was reported for being late and ten minutes late at successive games.
  • Holy Trinity played with only nine men.
  • Clifton United played with only ten men and kicked off ten minutes late.
  • Hotwells YMCA played with only ten men.
  • Kingsdown Guild was reported for arriving late.

The same meeting sanctioned the League’s first ever transfer; L. F. C. Chaplain from Sneyd Park Reserves to Broad Plain.

On Saturday, 24th February 1906 the League’s first ever representative fixture was played. The opponents, Bristol City Reserves, trounced the Downs League XI 11-2 at Ashton Gate. This result was not necessarily a disgrace as City Reserves had also well beaten representative sides from both the District and North Bristol Leagues during the latter part of 1905. The Downs League XI for this match was:

   W. Youell (Cotham Amateurs)

A. D. Chapman (Winchester House OB)       H. L. Jenkins (Holy Trinity)

E. Russell (Hotwells YMCA)      S. Stratford (vice captain) (Clifton Athletic)      C. Condick (Westbury Park)

J. H. Chapman (captain)  (Winchester House OB)       H. Hiley (Cotham Amateurs)

D. Jenkins  (Cotham Amateurs)        D. H. Reddell (Winchester House OB)           J. Jenkins (Sneyd Park)


A further representative match against Bristol Rovers Reserves was played at Eastville on Good Friday 1906 and resulted in another defeat, this time by 5-1.

The leading positions in Division 1 had been close all season, and by the end of March 1906, the top four clubs had broken away:

Whilst Cotham Amateurs had only one match to play, both Hotwells YMCA and Sneyd Park had two more games. The vital factor was that Sneyd Park’s two remaining games were against Cotham Amateurs and Hotwells YMCA.

On Saturday, 7th April Sneyd Park lost 1-0 at home to Hotwells YMCA. This meant that Sneyd Park could not be champions, but if Cotham Amateurs beat Sneyd Park, and Hotwells YMCA lost to St. Michaels, then Cotham Amateurs could still be champions –


                                      P     W    D   L    F     A    Pts

Hotwells YMCA         17    13    2    2   46    16    28

Cotham Amateurs  17    13    1     3   40    13    27

Sneyd Park                17    11     3    3    51    18    25


In the event, Sneyd Park beat Cotham Amateurs 2-1 on 21st April and Hotwells YMCA became the first ever Downs League champions.

At the other end of Division 1, Broad Plain had drawn its first League match with St. Michaels 3-3 on 16th September 1905. However, following this Broad Plain lost its remaining seventeen games, conceding over 100 goals and scoring only seven more itself. In particular, Broad Plain was beaten 10-1 by Clifton Athletic and 9-0 by Sneyd Park.

Division 2 also resulted in a tight finish, with Barton Hill Adult School running out as champions after a very close contest with College Albion and St. Pauls United. League rules required clubs finishing on the same number of points at the end of the season in the promotion positions to play-off, goal average or goal difference was not taken into account. In the play-off Barton Hill Adult School beat College Albion.

The Third Division championship was a far more clear-cut affair with Eastbourne finishing as easy winners from Crescent and Stoke Bishop Athletic, who contested the runners up position all season.

The League’s second AGM took place on Monday, 9th July 1906 at the Kingsdown Guild. The Chairman’s review of the League’s first season included reference to the fact that the League had 28 referees, including 20 who had qualified during the season. After congratulating the various champions of the divisions, the Chairman announced his decision not to stand for re-election because of growing business commitments. Mr. J. A. Stevens was then elected Chairman, Mr. Giles becoming a Vice President.

Several of the League’s rules were amended at the AGM including the entrance fee per team, which was doubled to 5s. (25p) per season. In another change, it was decided that any player who had played in another League on a Saturday must apply for a transfer. In season 1906-07 a new mid-week league known as the Wednesday League was formed and many Downs League players performed in the new league each week.

Finally at the AGM the constitution for the coming season was agreed. The League champions from 1905-06, Hotwells YMCA, became known as Hotwells Athletic, whilst a new club, Dominicans, was elected straight into Division 1 to replace Holy Trinity, who had decided to leave the League and revert to playing friendly games only.

In Division 3 there were numerous changes, several clubs folded or left the League. Elected to fill one of the vacancies was Clifton St. Vincents, whilst St. Andrews (Montpelier) Reserves severed its links with the parent club in the District League and became known as St. Andrews. One further problem, which has continued to arise throughout the history of the League, was the late resignation of a side just before the new season was to commence; in this case it was a new club elected to Division 3 under the name Bristol Wheelers.