Rocester Cotton Mill, photographed by W. H. Hall in 1905

The History of Rocester Football Club

Part 2 - The Early Years (1876-1939)

 

Due to the almost total lack of press coverage in the days before the 1900’s and leading up to the 1914-18 war, it has proved extremely difficult to research the early history of the club in any great detail.

 

For many years it was generally believed that Rocester Football Club was founded in 1890, but this was based on a limited amount of research through local newspaper archives which had uncovered a match report and some references to other friendly matches being played. Indeed the club held a highly successful Centenary Tournament in 1990 to mark the occasion, but further research has since revealed that the origins of the club date back at least another fourteen years. The earliest reference found dates back to Saturday 16th December 1876, when an edition of the Staffordshire Advertiser newspaper briefly mentions a match played the previous Saturday at the Rocester ground between Tutbury Mill and Rocester, which "resulted in a draw in favour of Tutbury".

 

Arguably, the events leading up to this first match could be traced back twelve years to 16th January 1864 when the owner of the Rocester Mill, Henry Houldsworth, died, leaving the Mill and property to his son William Henry.

William Henry Houldsworth either wasn’t very interested in the Rocester Mill or maybe he considered it not a good proposition for further development. Local traditions state that the village workforce, which numbered some 400 hands, and W. H. Houldsworth got to odds. Anna Brandon of Rocester travelled to Reddish (Stockport) to report that malpractices were occurring at the Mill, and the result was disastrous for the village – the complete closure of the Mill, which occurred some time around 1874.

 

Exactly how long the Mill remained idle is not certain, but no doubt it was long enough to cause hardship in the village. However, on 3rd July 1876 Walter John and Charles William – the Lyon brothers – bought the Mill. The Lyon family had previously owned and run the cotton mill at Tutbury, and from this connection the Rocester Mill became a part of the Tutbury Mill Company.

 

Walter John and Charles William Lyon were educated at Cambridge. Both gentlemen excelled in most sports, including archery, tennis, bowls, cricket and football, and their sporting prowess quite probably led to the seeds being sown for a Rocester football team following the re-opening of the cotton mill.

 

The Football Association had been formed more than a decade earlier in 1863, and organised football matches became increasingly popular throughout the country as towns, villages and workforces played matches against each other. Almost inevitably, a team was raised to play a friendly match against the workers from the Tutbury Mill on Saturday 9th December 1876.

 

Friendly matches continued to be played against teams from the surrounding area on a fairly regular basis on the cricket field, south of the Lodge (Millholme) off Mill Street, until the first competitive matches were played in the Ashbourne & District League some time during the early 1880s.

 

Some of the earliest recorded Rocester matches:

 

Saturday 9th October 1880

Rocester 0 Uttoxeter Templars 2

A match between these teams took place on the Rocester ground and after a well contested game the Templars gained a victory by two goals to nil.

 

Saturday 16th October 1880

Rocester 1 Alton 2

A match was played at Rocester between these clubs and resulted in a win for Alton by two goals to one. There was a disputed goal but it occurred after time had elapsed.

 

Saturday 13th November 1880

Rocester 0 Burton (LILY) 0

A match between these clubs was played on the Rocester ground and after a very exciting and pleasant game the result was a draw, neither side scoring a goal, though the game was in favour of the home team.

 

Saturday 20th November 1880

Rocester 2 Clifton 1

The return match between the above teams was played on the Rocester ground, and after a very fast and well contested game the result was in favour of the home team by two goals to one.

 

Saturday 27th November 1880

Alton 0 Rocester 0

The return match between these two clubs was played at Alton and was a very unpleasant game throughout, the home team going in for a deal of unnecessary “horse play” with the evident view of disabling their opponents and the match resulted in a draw, no fair goal being scored by either team.

 

In response to the above, the Staffordshire Advertiser of Saturday 11th December 1880 carried the following notes:

 

The report supplied to us of the match played on the Alton ground on Saturday 27th November between Alton and Rocester stated that no fair goal had been scored on either side, but the Alton club secretary has taken exception to this. If there was an error – and we have neither time nor inclination to investigate this - it was purely accidental as we take it for granted that no club secretary would intentionally mislead us. It appears that for some time past the matches between these two clubs have not been played in the friendly spirit which should prevail and we recommend that the members “make up their differences” and start afresh in a better temper.

 

Saturday 11th December 1880

Rocester 3 Ashbourne (Dove Valley) 1

This match at Rocester, after a very pleasant and fast game, resulted in favour of the home team by three goals to one. The play of both teams was good; Mr. C.W. Lyon for the home team and Messrs. Melbourne and Sowter for the visitors particularly distinguished themselves.

 

Saturday 24th November 1889

Sudbury 2 Rocester 2

Sudbury’s first match, played in Sudbury Park, and after a good game the score was 2-2.

Rocester Football Club 1895-96

Back: G. Wood (Trainer); E. Gaunt; F. Roe; H. Gunby; W. Holmes; C.W. Lyon (Ex/Pres); Rev. M.G. Lascelles (Vice/Pres). Middle: G. Hawley; G. Braddow; C.H. Lyon. Front: W. Pountain; P. Fearn; J. Haviland; W. Ufton; R. Walker.

 

Match reports appeared sporadically in the local press throughout the club’s formative years but not with any great detail. From the rather sketchy records that are available it seems likely the team met with little or no success until the 1897-98 season, when they won through to the final of the Uttoxeter Challenge Cup. On 23rd April 1898, Rocester's earliest recorded cup final ended in defeat against Uttoxeter, who scored a 2-0 win at the Wharf Ground. The Rocester team was Bullock (in goal); C. Lyon; and Abbots (full-backs); P. Lyon; Cotton and Archer (half-backs); Braddow; Creighton; S. Wolfenden; Alcock and Bond (forwards).

 

Probably the first player of any note to represent the village club was Charles Henry Lyon, a full-back or half-back who was described as “a promising young footballer” in the Derby Mercury newspaper dated 18th August 1897. Lyon was listed among five top local Amateur players that Derby County could call upon to play for their Reserve team in the Midland League during the forthcoming season.

 

The earliest success for the club so far uncovered came on Saturday 19th April 1913, when Alton Athletic were beaten in the Ashbourne News Cup Final, which was played on the Paddock Ground in Ashbourne. The result isn’t noted in the brief report published in the Uttoxeter Advertiser, but the following extract paints a lovely picture of the excitement in the village at that time:

 

"The train arrived at Rocester Railway Station down the Ashbourne branch line at 7.20pm, with the glorious Ashbourne News Cup held aloft by the Rocester captain, (Lamburn.)

 

The carriages packed to the limits with Rocester supporters were met by throngs of cheering villagers. Hoisted shoulder high, (the captain, Lamburn) and headed by Rocester Brass Band was carried through the streets to cheers and songs marking progress to Rocester Square.

 

Between the Red Lion Inn and Cross Keys a night of merry making ensued accompanied by Rocester Brass Band and the celebrating throng."

 

With no recognised football taking place throughout the Great War (1914-1918), a meeting was held in the village infant school on the evening of Tuesday 2nd September 1919 with the sole intention of reforming the club. Mr. F. Sandham presided over the meeting, and it was quickly resolved that the club should be restarted and that an application should be made immediately to join the Ashbourne & District League. It was also decided to enter both the Derbyshire Medals competition and the Ashbourne News Cup; and that a dance would be organised at the Ashbourne Road School to raise funds. Completing the formalities, Messrs A. Harper and F. Sandham were elected Joint Honorary Secretaries; a Committee was also chosen, Mr. G. Wood was appointed captain and Mr. F. Wood vice-captain.

 

Unruly Fans!

 

At a meeting of the Ashbourne & District League in November 1919, a complaint was made by Ellastone F.C. about the unruly behaviour of the Rocester supporters.

 

Ellastone alleged that "...the referee lost control of the game, the Rocester spectators became very unruly and when the referee gave a penalty they broke onto the ground and kicked the ball off the spot. There was also some fighting."

 

Rocester won the game 4-3.

Mr. Bould’s Band provided the music for the hastily-arranged dance which took place on Friday 5th September - just three days after the meeting. The event was hailed as a success, as was a subsequent dance held two weeks later when W. Carpenter acted as the M.C. and Mr. Bould’s Band once again played the music.

 

The Ashbourne & District League had already agreed its constitution for the season with just five clubs taking part, including Ashbourne Town Reserves and Hanging Bridge Reserves – whose respective first teams had been entered into the Matlock & District League. But with such a low number of member clubs Rocester, as “one of the oldest clubs in the district”, were readily accepted into membership. The number of clubs was increased to seven following a subsequent application from Ellastone Rovers, who successfully applied to join after hearing of Rocester’s late acceptance.

 

Oakamoor provided the opposition for Rocester’s first match after the Great War – a friendly match played on the old ground on Saturday 27th September 1919. Rocester won the game 3-1 in front of what was described as “a fair attendance”. A week later the first competitive match of the inter-war period took place against Ellastone Rovers, where Rocester won an exciting Ashbourne & District League tussle by four goals to three.

 

Enthusiastic club members continued to move things forward and it wasn’t long before a wooden pavilion, which would serve the club for many years to come, was built on the Mill Ground.

 

With a number of keen footballers in the village the team quickly took shape, and in their first season back in competition Rocester reached the Derbyshire Medals Final - though not without some controversy. 

 

The Derbyshire Medals format saw teams throughout the county split into regional groups, and those teams would then play a knock-out competition. Rocester were drawn in Group 11, and after receiving a First Round bye they beat Ashbourne League rivals Uttoxeter Comrades Reserves 3-2 to reach the Semi-Finals. Having reached the last four Rocester were drawn at home to play Nestle’s United on Boxing Day, but after travelling to the ground the Nestle’s party were left furious after Rocester failed to turn up. Their players, along with the referee, were all out on the pitch, changed and ready to play before the official cancelled the match and ordered everybody to return to the dressing rooms.

 

In view of their wasted journey, Nestle’s Secretary Mr. Swinson lodged a complaint requesting that their expenses should be paid in full, and that Nestle’s should receive a ‘walkover’ into the Final. The case was dealt with in January at a meeting in the White Swan in Ashbourne, where it emerged that Rocester had attempted to move the game back one day to Saturday 27th December because the mill-hands had to be at work, and the ground also may not have been available.

 

Mr. Harper, the Rocester Secretary, said he had visited Ashbourne on 20th December with the object of approaching the Nestle’s Secretary, but instead saw the captain of the team who promised to acquaint Mr. Swinson with the details and let Rocester have a reply by the following Tuesday. There was also some communication by telephone on 24th December, and then on the day of the game a postcard was delivered to Mr. Swinson’s address at about mid-day stating that the game must be played on the 27th, but the players were already on their way by then.

 

As no agreement had been reached with Nestle’s nor prior consent obtained from the Derbyshire F.A. to change the fixture date, Rocester were ordered to pay expenses to Nestle’s and to the referee, who had travelled from Derby. The Management Committee did, however, stop short of throwing Rocester out of the competition and ruled that the match had to be re-scheduled. When it was finally played on 28th February, goals by Pegg and Cliffe gave Rocester a satisfying 2-1 win and the prospect of meeting near neighbours Alton Athletic in the Final.

 

George Shepherd became the first Rocester player to play in the Football League when he was selected to play for Derby County against Burnley, which resulted in a 2-0 win for Burnley.

It turned out to be his only first team appearance for the Rams, although he did feature in a number of Reserve team games that season including the Derbyshire Divisional Cup Final on 25th March, when he scored the only goal of the game in the closing stages against Ilkeston United.

ROCESTER FOOTBALLER FOR DERBY COUNTY

 

On Saturday 21st February 1920, George Shepherd, a member of the Rocester Football Club, played for Derby County in their First Division match against Burnley at the Baseball Ground.

 

On the previous Saturday Shepherd had his trial with Derby County Reserves in the Central Alliance League at Sutton Town, when a draw was recorded, Shepherd scoring the equalising goal.

 

He plays in the inside-left position, and has done good work for his club before and since joining H.M. Forces. He is young, very speedy, has good control over the ball and is not at all a bad shot.

 

Earlier during that 1919-20 season there had been another controversial episode involving Rocester and Nestle’s United after the two teams had been pitted against each other in the Ashbourne News Cup. More than 100 spectators had travelled from Ashbourne to support Nestle’s in the First Round tie, which took place on the Mill Ground. However, the match was abandoned in the 87th minute because the referee, who caused the problem by arriving half-an-hour late, deemed it “too dark for the players to judge the ball with any accuracy”. Rocester led 2-1 at half time, and the Nestle’s players complained about the fading light for much of the second period before two late goals made it 4-1 to Rocester. Although only three minutes remained, the official stood by his decision to call a halt to the game, and it was ordered to be replayed two weeks later when Nestle’s made the most of their second chance by recording a comfortable 3-1 victory.

 

 

Derbyshire Medals Runner-Up

1919-20 (click to enlarge)

As the season drew to a close Alton Athletic clinched the Ashbourne League title with a couple of games to spare having remained unbeaten. Rocester’s last two games were both set to be against the newly-crowned champions, with the first meeting scheduled for the afternoon of 18th April - Good Friday -  at the Paddock Ground in Ashbourne in the Derbyshire Medals Final. The game had generated a lot of interest, and a good-sized crowd paid what was believed to be record gate receipts for the Paddock Ground of 21 pounds, 14 shillings and seven pence (£21.73p). Despite putting up a good show Rocester were beaten 2-0 by the favourites.

 

Six days later when the teams were due to meet again at Alton in the last league game of the season, Rocester failed to turn up.  The club were severely reprimanded by the Ashbourne League’s management committee, who handed out the following punishments: A 5 shillings (25p) fine for non-fulfilment of a fixture; forfeiture of the club's 10 shillings deposit; re-imbursement of 12 shillings and sixpence to Alton for referee's expenses; and £1 compensation to Alton for loss of gate receipts. Also, medals due to Rocester were ordered to be withheld by the Derbyshire F.A. until the fines were paid.

 

This episode rumbled on until the next League meeting after Rocester accused Alton Athletic of overcharging for the referee’s expenses, which should have been nine shillings and sixpence (47½p) rather than the twelve shillings and sixpence charged. Alton were told to refund the extra three shillings.

 

Uttoxeter & District League Champions 1920-21

George Shepherd, Rocester's first ever player to play in the Football League, is at

the centre of the front row with the trophy

At this same meeting in August 1920, Rocester Secretary Mr. Harper also informed the League about some other difficulties the club were having in connection with Rocester Mill, where a scheme was being discussed to form an Athletics Club.

 

If this project went ahead there was a very real possibility that the Football Club wouldn’t be able to use the ground, and with that in mind Rocester’s application to join the Ashbourne League for the forthcoming season had not yet been submitted.

 

Mr. Harper told the meeting that Rocester wanted to play in the Ashbourne League, but did not want to lose their ten shillings deposit if they applied and then subsequently had to withdraw from the competition, and in response to this it was agreed that the deadline for membership would be left open for a further two weeks.

 

Given Mr. Harper’s claims about not wanting to lose the ten shillings deposit it seemed more than a little contradictory to then announce that Rocester had in fact already applied for membership of the newly re-formed Uttoxeter & District League! It soon transpired, however, that the Mill Ground was to remain available for football and Rocester continued their association with the Ashbourne League in the 1920-21 season by fielding a reserve team in it, whilst the first team competed once again in the Uttoxeter League.

 

Rocester opened their 1920-21 Uttoxeter League campaign in emphatic style with four straight wins, scoring an amazing 29 goals in the process. A club record victory was achieved in the last of those four games on 30th October 1920 when Abbots Bromley were walloped 16-0, although a month or so later that result was expunged from the record books along with a 7-0 win over the same opponents after bottom-of-the-table Abbots Bromley resigned from the league.

  

Uttoxeter Nomads earned a 1-1 draw on 6th November to bring the winning sequence to an end, and two weeks later Nestle’s United inflicted what turned out to be Rocester’s one and only League defeat of the season when they recorded a 4-2 win in Ashbourne.

 

Positive results continued throughout the autumn and after a run of twelve consecutive league victories between 11th December and 2nd April Rocester were crowned champions of the Uttoxeter League for the first time ever.

 

A 2-1 away win against Oakamoor United on 19th March 1921 more or less sealed the league title. Edward Wood and 'Chigley' Cliffe scored the decisive goals, and the Rocester line-up was: G.Wood; H.Wheelock; R.Wood; Richardson; E.Wood; Birch; Carpenter; W.Baker; C.Cliffe; Pegg; Cope.

 

Presentation of the trophy and medals took place in the village on 16th April when Rocester took on and beat a Rest of League XI 3-0 - a large crowd was present as the players of both sides were escorted onto the field beforehand by the Rocester Brass Band.

 

At the end of the game Mr. Cyril Hawthorn, an official of the Uttoxeter League, in presenting the cup and medals said it gave him “the greatest possible pleasure” to do so. Rocester had deservedly won the trophy, and he did not hesitate to say that they were the premier team in the league. They had played good, clean football, and were a credit to the league.

 

Following the presentations, Edward Wood suitably returned thanks before calling for three cheers for Mr. Hawthorn, which were heartily given.

 

In the evening a procession was formed, the captain of the team being ‘shouldered’ and the cup held aloft. Music was again provided by the popular Brass Band.

 

The much-coveted Ashbourne News Cup provided a good opportunity to bring some more silverware to the village, and a comprehensive 9-0 away win over Biggin-by-Hartington saw Rocester safely through to Round Two. However, despite such an easy victory on the pitch the club found itself in hot water with the authorities due to the behaviour of a spectator.

 

Mr. G. Walker, who was the referee in the match, registered a complaint stating that “A spectator (who is also a player) named J. Hirst came on to the field of play and struck a Biggin player (Palfreyman).”

 

The referee, who appeared in person before the Ashbourne Divisional Committee of the Derbyshire F.A., gave corroborative evidence, as did Mr. Pegge, the linesman. Hirst and Carpenter, who also attended the inquiry, excused the assault on the grounds of provocation.

 

Hirst was found guilty and fined 10 Shillings by the committee, who also warned him off all grounds under the jurisdiction of the Derbyshire F.A. for three months.

 

PROSECUTION OF ROCESTER SPECTATOR ORDERED

 

However, due to the Derbyshire F.A.’s determination to put a stop to misconduct of this description, that was not quite the end of the matter. After the case had been passed back in the normal way to the D.F.A. from the Ashbourne Committee, a resolution was passed to the effect that unless Rocester were prepared to submit to decisions given by the Ashbourne Divisional Committee, consent to their continuance in the Ashbourne & District League would be withdrawn.

 

Further to that, Biggin-by-Hartington Football Club was instructed to take legal proceedings against J. Hirst for his misconduct, though no trace of any subsequent prosecution has been uncovered.

 

In Round Two, a routine 4-2 victory over Ashbourne Corset Works saw Rocester progress safely into the last four, where they were drawn against Hanging Bridge. Team captain Edward Wood led by example in the Semi-Final played at the Paddock Ground, scoring both goals – one a penalty – in a 2-1 success which sent Rocester into the final.

 

 

 

 

Left: The victory over Hanging Bridge was particularly enjoyed by Rocester’s supporters, who had been taunted during the preceding weeks by their opponents about how they were going to put Rocester in their place. The banter had reached such a point that humorous 'In Memoriam' cards were printed and subsequently circulated among the large crowd after Rocester’s triumph.

 

Report published in the Uttoxeter Advertiser from the Uttoxeter Nomads v Rocester match played on Saturday 6th November 1920…

 

FOOTBALL

 

Uttoxeter & District League

 

Uttoxeter Nomads v Rocester

 

Uttoxeter Nomads were at home on Saturday to Rocester. Up to this match neither team had dropped a point, so that a good game was anticipated, and both teams turned out at full strength. E. Wood won the toss for Rocester, and Harvey kicked off before a large crowd, including a good number from Rocester.

The opening exchanges were in favour of Rocester, and for the first ten minutes they pressed hotly, but could not score. The Nomads then had a turn, Ward shooting a little wide.

After 25 minutes a pass from the right wing enabled E. Wood to get in a fast low shot which Ritson partly stopped, the ball just rolling into the net, thus giving Rocester the lead.

Just afterwards the Rocester right wing came again, and in a tussle for the ball Chitty   was penalised for jumping. E. Wood took the penalty, but shot over the bar.

Encouraged by this, the Nomads applied great pressure for some time, but could not get through. The game was fought at a very fast pace, Rocester having had most of the game in the first half and leading by 1-0 at the interval.

On resuming the Nomads started faster than ever, and kept Rocester in their own half for some time. There were many thrills. Rocester then had a turn, and Baker shot wide.

After 15 minutes of the second half had gone the Nomads equalised. J. Hill fastened on the ball and sent it forward at a fast pace, Hoptroff turning the leather into the net with his head. Rocester strongly objected to the goal on the grounds that Hoptroff was offside when he received the ball, but the referee did not hesitate in his decision. After this, unfortunately, some feeling was shown, and fouls were frequent, but the Nomads stuck to their heavier opponents, and now had the game well in hand.

About ten minutes from time Hoptroff had a glorious chance of giving the home side the lead, but he shot over. The Rocester team made a final rally, but they could make no impression on the Nomads defence. Time was called with the Nomads pressing hotly.

Result: Nomads 1 Rocester 1

Mr. Foster, of Kingsley, was the referee.

Before the match and at half time the Uttoxeter Town Band played selections on the ground, which was much appreciated.

 

Ashbourne & District League champions Alton Athletic provided the opposition in the Ashbourne News Cup Final on Saturday 9th April 1921, which was also played at the Paddock Ground. As expected, Alton proved to be difficult opponents, and the two well-matched teams fought out an exciting 2-2 draw.

 

Both teams were at full strength for the replay two weeks later, when a crowd of over 1000 spectators had gathered before Edward Wood won the toss for Rocester and promptly took advantage of the wind.

 

After a tentative start Rocester began to get on top, and they almost took the lead when a good centre by Carpenter beat the goalkeeper but hit the crossbar before being cleared.

 

Rocester were dominating the game, but were caught out just before half time when Keeling broke from the centre and sent the ball to Byatt, who touched it past G. Wood to open the scoring.

 

On restarting the game Rocester continued to take the game to their opponents, however Warner, the Alton goalkeeper, was having a brilliant game and saved shot after shot to keep his team in front.

 

Then from a breakaway Wright scored a second goal for Alton; the ball rolling into the net through a misunderstanding by the Rocester backs and goalkeeper.

 

Rocester were distinctly unlucky to be two goals down on the run of the game, but 10 minutes from time a corner was forced, and Chigley Cliffe headed it into the net.

 

Alton set up a determined defence which held Rocester up to the final whistle, and they duly won the cup for a third successive season. Goalkeeper Warner was the saviour of his side. Wood in the Rocester goal had little to do – the shots he had to deal with could be counted on one hand.

 

During the ensuing years the Uttoxeter League disbanded and Rocester rejoined the Ashbourne & District League. Once again the side was rarely good enough to challenge for honours, and when the Uttoxeter League reformed in the summer of 1929 the committee wasted little time in deciding to switch back.

 

Only five other clubs – Croxden Amateurs, Hollington Stars, Tutbury Town, Uttoxeter Amateurs and Uttoxeter St. Mary’s Institute - elected to follow suit which resulted in a league campaign consisting of just ten matches.

 

The tone was set when Hollington Stars were thrashed 11-0 in the opening fixture, and after eight wins, one draw and just one defeat Rocester were crowned Uttoxeter League Champions in November.

  

Report published in the Uttoxeter Advertiser for the match played on 24th April 1926…

 

ROCESTER WIN UTTOXETER

LEAGUE CUP

 

The Rocester Club met Uttoxeter Rovers on the Dove Bank ground, Uttoxeter, on Saturday afternoon, before a fairly large crowd. Both teams were strongly represented, and the game proved to be a very exciting one which the spectators thoroughly enjoyed.

 

Rocester won the game by three clear goals, and they deserved their victory. They played the open game, swinging the ball about with fine judgment, which kept the Rovers’ defenders on their toes. The Rovers also adopted the open game, and the Rocester defence was fully extended on many occasions.

 

The first half was fought at a fast pace, and the Rovers had the unfortunate experience of being a goal in arrears after only one minute’s play. Cope kicked off for Rocester, and Baker immediately passed out to Cliffe on the Rocester right. The winger centred without wasting a second, and Cope nodded the ball into the net.

 

This early reverse did not affect the Rovers, for they attacked with great determination. Rocester clung to their lead, however, and their defence gave no quarter. Rocester led by 1-0 at the interval.

 

The second half was equally interesting and both teams played for all they were worth, the respective goalkeepers having plenty to do to keep their charges intact. As time went on Rocester gained the upper hand, and towards the end they made sure of victory by scoring two more goals through Cope and Wood, the latter’s goal being a very fine shot from some 25 yards out. Rocester thus won the cup by 3-0.

 

Rocester were well served in all departments, G. Wood in goal being the shining light in a sound defence. The halves were consistently good, E. Wood playing his usual brainy game at centre, J. Tansley also doing well at right half. The forwards were all good, and played together with perfect understanding, being well led by Cope.

 

The Rovers were very good as a team and were well served in all departments, Slater being especially good in defence. Green and Groves worked hard in the middle line. The forwards played with fine understanding, but they were completely out of luck in front of goal. J. Plant was in splendid form and made many openings for his colleagues besides finishing off many solo efforts with good shots. Rocester, however, deserved to win, and no one will begrudge them their splendid victory.

 

The Rocester players, on returning home after the match, were met at the station by the Rocester Brass Band, who played them up to their headquarters, the captain (E. Wood) being in possession of the two trophies they have so deservedly gained during the season. The band afterwards played selections in the Square.

 

Bert Slaney

As the league fixtures were completed so soon, the League Cup was played on a mini-league basis with the top two teams contesting the final. Rocester easily won through to the final but Uttoxeter St. Mary’s provided something of a shock by winning the cup with a 6-4 win at a neutral venue described in the local press as “Mr. Chell’s field near Uttoxeter station”.

 

Progress looked to have been made in the much-coveted Uttoxeter Challenge Cup competition when Jack Stubbs scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Hollington. However, following the game Hollington lodged an appeal stating that Rocester had fielded an ineligible player, and the Challenge Cup Committee upheld their complaint. They then re-instated Hollington back into the competition and Rocester were removed. The ineligible player? Jack Stubbs.

 

Rocester were presented with the championship trophy on 19th April 1930 following a special challenge match against a Rest of League XI, which resulted in an impressive 8-2 victory.

 

At the end of the season Uttoxeter Amateurs folded and Uttoxeter St. Mary’s successfully applied to join the more powerful Burton League, leaving the Uttoxeter League with just four clubs in membership and with little option other than to disband again.

 

Rocester’s committee had several options open to them, but instead of rejoining the Ashbourne League or following St. Mary’s to play in Burton they elected to try their luck in the Leek & Moorland League.

 

The first season in the new surroundings (1930-31) proved to be a highly successful one. Some huge victories were chalked up including 13-1 v Cellarhead, 9-0 v Foxt Juniors and 9-1 v Churnet Works, but despite those results and only three defeats all season Rocester had to settle for the Runners-Up spot behind Waterfall.

 

Leading scorer Charlie Swanwick netted 25 goals in the 22 league games, and he added another 9 to his total in the various cup competitions as the team made up for the disappointment of finishing second by winning three of them.

 

The League Cup was the first of the three, and was won on the morning of 18th April 1931 when Cauldon Church were beaten 3-2 in the final in Cheddleton - Swanwick, Stubbs, and ‘Dickie’ Whitehouse scoring the goals. Amazingly, after winning the cup the team continued their journey into Leek and beat Wardle’s Sports Club 5-2 in a league match!

 

Undoubtedly the highlight of the season was winning the Uttoxeter Challenge Cup for the first time ever. This was a notable success as three of the area’s top sides had to be overcome in order to take the cup. Uttoxeter St. Mary’s (2-0) and Waterfall (4-0), who had just pipped Rocester to the Leek & Moorland League title, were both beaten on the way to the final where Tutbury Town provided the opposition on Mr. Chell’s Field.

 

Two goals by Harold Briddon, one by Jack Stubbs and an own goal gave Rocester a fine 4-2 victory – however Tutbury could count themselves a little unlucky having missed a penalty and twice hit the woodwork during the match.

 

Trophy number three came in the shape of the Ashbourne News Cup, although the final against Brassington went to a replay which was held over into the 1931-32 season before goals by Mr. Beardmore and Charlie Swanwick sealed a 2-1 win.

 

The successful 1931 treble-winning team display the Leek & Moorland League Cup, the Uttoxeter Challenge Cup and the Ashbourne News Cup.

 

Back: Dan Wheat; Rowland Wood; William Carpenter; Bernard Brain; Albert Brown.

 

Middle: Dr. Smith (Chairman); Cliff Walker; George Sheldon; Cyril Carpenter; Richard Whitehouse; Jessie Briddon; Harold Briddon; Edwin Carpenter (Secretary).

 

Front: Jack Shipley; Ernest Keeling; Jack Stubbs; Jack Braddow; Bert Fowers; Charlie Swanwick; George Shepherd; Reg Burton.

 

 

After an excellent first season in the Leek & Moorland League the club had high hopes of maintaining their push for honours throughout the 1930’s, but things didn’t turn out that way and fortunes quickly began to decline.

 

In 1932, having made early exits from all four cup competitions Rocester went on to finish in a respectable third place in the table, but the side was beginning to break up and within a couple of years the club was was back in the Ashbourne League where they played until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

 

FRANCIS BERTRAM CARPENTER

 

For many years several members of the Carpenter family maintained an association with the Rocester club.

 

By the end of World War I, four sons of Francis William Carpenter became heavily involved with the Football Club. Bertram, William and Cyril played through the 1920s, whilst Edwin Alfred Carpenter became the club Secretary from around 1919 through to the early 1950s - serving the club for more than 30 years.

 

The next generation of the Carpenter family maintained connections with William, Edwin, Cyril, Joseph, Francis (Bert) and Keith all serving the club as players and/or committee men.

 

Joe Carpenter enjoyed a lengthy playing career representing Hastings United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Gloucester City as well as other clubs locally, but it was his younger brother Francis "Bert" Carpenter who was ready to make an even bigger impact.

 

Burton Town signed Bert, a 19 year-old inside-left from Stoke City in July 1938. As reported in the Burton Daily Mail, "It was after playing for his local team Rocester, near Uttoxeter, that he was secured by Stoke following two trials. He has a good record and the Town are confident they have made a good capture."

 

During the 1938-39 season, Bert made a total of 45 appearances for Burton Town, who were members of the powerful Midland League (36 League, 5 F.A. Cup and 4 other games). He scored 24 goals, including 16 in the League and 5 in the F.A. Cup.

 

During the summer of 1939 Bert was signed by Manchester United, but had little time to make an impact at Old Trafford as League football was suspended in September 1939 due to the outbreak of war, and he was loaned back to Burton.

 

He joined the military with the Royal Artillery, but sadly at just 21 years of age Gunner Carpenter lost his life during the retreat from Dunkerque on May 30th 1940. He is commemorated on the Dunkerque memorial in the French town.

 

 

         At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

we will remember them.

 

 

BURTON DAILY MAIL, May 11th 1939

 

To-day’s Sports News.

               ____________________

 

TOWN PLAYER’S

NEW CLUB.

____________________

 

Carpenter Joins

Manchester United.

____________________

 

Manchester United have signed Francis Bertram Carpenter, Burton Town’s 19-years-old inside left, and unless they feel disposed to make a donation to the Town they will get the player for nothing, writes “Townite”.

 

Carpenter had not re-signed for the Town and therefore was free to join any other club. Now that he has signed for Manchester United the Town directors are to get in touch with his new club with a view to obtaining a grant.

 

Carpenter has improved since he joined the Town last August. Born at Rocester, near Uttoxeter, Carpenter’s first professional engagement was with Stoke City for whom he scored 18 goals in the 1937-38 season in Central League and other matches.

 

With the Town he has played at inside-left in 45 games and scored 24 goals, 16 of which were scored in 36 Midland League games.

 

He stands 5ft. 9ins and weighs eleven stones.

 

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