Friday 26th June 2020
One of the few benefits of the Coronavirus pandemic has been that it has afforded club President Mark Smedley the time to continue with his research into Royal Wootton Bassett Town Football Club's rich history.
Over the past decade, the research that he has undertaken – in cooperation with his son Stuart – has enabled the club to put together a detailed archive containing fixtures and results stretching back to the 1897-98 season.
Their work has also uncovered how the club was formed in early November 1882 following a meeting at the Royal Oak Hotel (the building opposite the Town Hall and now occupied by Old Bank Antiques and the Co-Operative Food store).
It was also revealed that financial issues and the loss of its ground, coupled with a tightening of Wiltshire League rules regarding the residence of players, led to the club ceasing operations in September 1908.
And it was understood that it would not be until the 1930-31 season that Bassett reformed. However, research over the past few weeks reveals this was not the case.
Having been out of action for close to two years, in July 1910 the North Wilts Herald carried an account of a 'well attended meeting' at the Town Hall 'to consider the advisability of re-starting the Town Football Club'. This was the second such meeting, one having been held a week earlier, to consider the prospect.
It would appear there was much enthusiasm for reforming the club too. A number of officers were elected to the committee and it was decided that Bassett should once again enter the Wiltshire League and Wiltshire Cup.
Meanwhile, Mr. C. Waite, who had previously been chairman, was 'quite willing to contribute his "bis of gold" towards a fresh start' and stated he 'should not rest satisfied until they had succeeded in bringing home a trophy'. Yet, with reference to the club's downfall two years earlier, he made sure to note that change was needed given that previously there had been 'something radically wrong with the management'.
However, the summer of 1910 proved to be a false start. Writing to the North Wilts Herald on 27 July, H. Boulter (Secretary) and J. Kembrey delivered bad news, which – in light of the current magnificent facilities Bassett enjoy – deserves to be republished in full:
Will you allow us through the medium of your valuable paper to notify those of the public who are expecting the formation of a football club at Wootton Bassett, that the Committee has been reluctantly compelled to abandon all hope of forming one, owing to the fact that it has been found impossible to obtain a suitable field in which to play.
There are several in the immediate neighbourhood, the owners of which have been approached, a very fair rental offered, and a guarantee to make good any damage done by the team. Unfortunately, the owners are not sportsmen enough to extend this small favour to their fellow townsmen. Everyone will admit that an owner has a right to do what he likes with his own, but it is surprising to find that in a country town where there is little going on no one can be found to encourage the younger generation in the formation of a club which would provide manly and healthy recreation for them.
It is to be hoped that the reason of the refusal on the part of these owners is a perfectly honest one, and that they have no personal animus against any members of the Committee.
Thanking you in anticipation for publishing this letter. – We are, sir, yours respectfully,
J. Kembrey, H. Boulter'
Previously it was thought that it took two decades until Bassett reformed. But now it can be revealed that the club was initially resurrected in 1919 under the name Wootton Bassett Albions. This was then changed to Wootton Bassett Town a couple of seasons later.
The club played in the Vale of White Horse (VWH) League, which was centred around teams in Purton and Cricklade and whose entrants included, among others, Fairford Town and Malmesbury Town. Previous research suggested that it was not until the 1950s that Bassett and Malmesbury were in the same league as one another, with Fairford becoming league rivals as late as the 2000-01 season.
In 1923-24, Bassett also participated in the Swindon and District League before concentrating their efforts fully on that competition in 1924-25. Bassett then reverted back to the VWH League for the 1926-27 campaign, which proved to be a disaster.
Although winning two of their opening three matches, Bassett appear to have lost all but one of their remaining fixtures (the lone positive result being a draw) with a number of heavy defeats. Bassett had difficulties with raising a side and, sadly, it appears folded at the season's conclusion.
Fortunately, it would only be three years before the club was established once more.