The History of Football in Cambridgeshire

Football match Meldreth v Ashwell 4th January 1901
Photo from Royston Crow
Meldreth v Chatteris 18th January 1901
Photo from Royston Crow


The earliest record of football in Cambridgeshire is noted in the Cambridge University records of 1579. We read that a match played at Chesterton between townspeople and University students ended in a violent brawl and caused the Vice-Chancellor to issue a decree forbidding them to play “football” outside of college grounds!  Needless to say, this did not deter the students and townspeople of Cambridge from further matches for we note from later University records that a further decree was issued in 1634 which was not repealed until 1863, the year the Football Association was formed.

This was then the scene: the Laws of the Game had been drawn up by a group of Cambridge University students in 1846 and posted on the trees which surround Parker’s Piece, a park area in the centre of Cambridge. The game in Cambridge became organised and when students, after graduating, returned as teachers to public schools they carried with them the new code and the game became more regularised.

The Cambridge Rules were accepted, with slight modifications by the FA in 1863, but it required a further 17 years to elapse before Cambridgeshire joined the then existing two dozen counties in association with the national body.

Prior to this, quite a number of clubs were in existence within the County – Sawston had three Clubs – Sawston Mill, Rovers and St. Mary’s. In the main, football was played on Parker’s Piece by students rather than townspeople, but gradually in the years preceding 1884 graduates and townsfolk organised clubs so that there were 12 clubs in existence – Albert, Cam, Cassandra, Granta, Old Perseans, Perse School, Printers, Rovers, Newmarket, Linton, Sawston and Swifts. The town Clubs were composed mainly of University graduates and middle class townspeople!

Towards the end of that year a meeting of secretaries and captains was held by Mr. (later Rev.) F.B. Westcott’s rooms in Trinity College, where it was decided to form an Association and the Mayor of Cambridge explained the objects of the Association as: “To develop the game which showed signs of a splendid consummation someday”.

How true were those words which were to mark the birth of the Cambridgeshire Football Association!

With kind permission of Cambridgeshire F. A.

Football in Meldreth and Melbourn: The Early Years

Melbourn Football club were playing during 1892 to 1893. It appears from newspaper reports at the time that at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century, Meldreth and Melbourn played as one team, being referred to either as “Melbourn and Meldreth” or “Melbourn and Meldreth District”.

In 1915 the Cambridge Independent Press published an obituary of Mr Butteau formerly of the Retreat Melbourn. He was reported to be the founder of the Melbourn and Meldreth Football Club.

October 1899

The Cambridge Daily News reported on two of Meldreth and Melbourn and District FC’s matches; one against Cambridge St. Mary’s Reserves and another against Ashwell.

1st December 1899

Cambridge Independent Press reported that the Melbourn and Meldreth Football Team received a visit from the Cambridge Beehives yesterday (Thursday afternoon) and was successful by 4 goals to 2.

8th December 1899

The Royston Crow reported as follows: Melbourn and Meldreth v The Albert Institute Cambridge.  On Saturday afternoon last the Melbourn and Meldreth Football Club met the Albert Institute (Cambridge) Club in the Cambs. Junior Cup Competition.  The match was played at Melbourn and the spectators had the satisfaction of seeing the home side win by 2 to 1.

16th February 1900

Cambridge Independent Press reported that “Whittlesford, after a month’s rest played Melbourn and Meldreth.  Whittlesford won 2-Nil.

20th September 1901

Cambridge Independent Press reported on a successful past season of Melbourn and Meldreth District Football Club.  “Various changes have been made and it is hoped it will enhance the Club’s chances of obtaining the honour they have coveted for the past two years in the Cambs. Junior Cup.  In both years they reached the semi-final, missing the final by a narrow margin.”

4th January 1901

The Royston Crow reported on the match between Melbourn and Meldreth v Ashwell.  Melbourn and Meldreth won 2-1.

18th January 1901

The Royston Crow reported on the match between Melbourn and District v Chatteris.  Chatteris won 2-1.

It appears that both these matches were controversial.  In the match against Ashwell the Ashwell captain left the field followed by his team in protest against the referee’s decision to award an own goa.  The referee then signalled Meldreth to continue and the forwards ran down the pitch scoring another goal, bringing the final result to 2-1 in Melbourn and Meldreth’s favour.

In the match against Chatteris, despite the report stating that the match was played in “good temper”, it was also reported that a protest had been made against several of the Chatteris team although no reason was given in the report.

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