The First FA Cup Clubs

On the 11th November, 1871, eight of the 15 clubs that had entered the inaugural FA Challenge Cup, competed in the first four FA Cup matches ever to be played.

Jarvis Kenrick of Clapham Rovers scored the first ever goal in FA Cup history in their 3-0 win at Upton Park, a game ‘re-played’ just last weekend at the original venue of West Ham Park, where that defeat was avenged by the current incarnation of Upton Park with a 5-1 victory.

Also meeting on that historic day were local rivals Maidenhead United (as Maidenhead) and Marlow (as Great Marlow), the oldest repeated fixture in the history of the competition. Maidenhead won this particular encounter 2-0, but both sides continue to compete in the FA Cup having only not done so just once each in the competition’s history. Maidenhead chose not to enter in the 1876-77 season to save some money, Marlow entered in 1910-11 season as normal, but somehow the FA managed to lose their application so the Blues missed out.

Also winning 2-0 in that opening round of fixtures was Barnes who defeated Civil Service, whilst Hitchin and Crystal Palace played out a nil-nil draw. Neither of these latter two clubs are connected to the modern day clubs, but their match was one of only two in the whole history of the FA Cup whereby both clubs progressed as a result of a drawn game. And Crystal Palace were beneficiaries of that bizarre rule again later on in the competition that inaugural year.

Seven other clubs also entered the first FA Cup but didn’t play a match on the opening day. Hampstead Heathens had already been given a ‘Bye’, but Royal Engineers and The Wanderers would both progress because their respective opponents, Reigate Priory and Harrow Chequers, both withdrew. Glasgow based side Queen’s Park were due to host Donnington School from Spalding in Lincolnshire, but they could not agree a date for the game to be played and the FA decided both clubs could progress to face each other in the next round instead. However, Donnington School scratched before that Second Round match could be played.

Elsewhere in the Second Round Barnes and Hampstead Heathens drew one apiece, but instead of both clubs advancing they took part in the first ever FA Cup replay, which was won 1-0 by the Heathens. The Royal Engineers had a convincing 5-0 win over Hitchin and Crystal Palace beat Maidenhead 3-0. The Wanderers also beat Clapham Rovers but it is unclear if the scoreline was 3-1 or 1-0.

The third round, or Quarter Finals even though it only involved five clubs, saw Queen’s Park get a ‘Bye’, The Wanderers and Crystal Palace draw 0-0 and so both progress, and the Royal Engineers win 3-0 against Hampstead Heathens.

Both semi-finals ended goalless, but obviously it would have been farcical to progress all four clubs so replays were arranged. Royal Engineers defeated Crystal Palace 3-0, but Queen’s Park could not afford to make the journey back down to London to face The Wanderers so scratched having played just one game, scored and conceded no goals, but made the first ever FA Cup Semi Finals.

The first ever FA Cup Final was settled by a Morton P Betts goal for The Wanderers in their 1-0 win over Royal Engineers in front of 2,000 paying spectators at the Kennington Oval. MP Betts played under the pseudonym AH Chequer to reference the fact he was originally a member of the Harrow Chequers side. He was only eligible to play in the final because Harrow Chequers had scratched without kicking a ball, ironically when due to face The Wanderers.

The Wanderers would go on to lift the FA Cup four more times over the next six seasons before eventually folding during the 1881-82 season. The club still has the ninth equal highest number of FA Cup wins. A new The Wanderers club has been formed in the 21st Century, currently competing in the Surrey South East League Junior Division One. The club has ambitions to return The Wanderers name back to the FA Cup. Three promotions are needed to help bring that dream to have a chance of reality. I for one hope they do.

The Royal Engineers would eventually lift the FA Cup themselves beating the Old Etonians in the first ever FA Cup Final replay three years later, one season after losing to Oxford University in the Final and three years before once again losing to The Wanderers. The Royal Engineers would continue to compete in the FA Cup with diminishing levels of success right up to and including the first competition run in conjunction with the Football League’s inaugural season.

Queen’s Park continued competing in the FA Cup until the Scottish FA banned any of their member clubs from doing so in 1887. Because of the costs and logistics of competing in a mainly Southern England based competition, many of Queen’s Park’s early ties never actually happened either because they or their opponents scratched. And Queen’s Park never conceded a goal in the FA Cup until 12 years after competing in that first FA Cup competition when they won 7-1 at Oswestry in a Third Round tie in 1883-84 season. The club had had 21 scheduled matches in that time, but had only played four of them.

Queen’s Park made the Final that season, the only Scottish club ever to do so, but they were beaten 2-1 by Blackburn Rovers. The Glasgow club made the Final again the following season, but lost 2-0 to the same opponents in the only occasion of a second successive Final between the same two clubs.

The fourth Semi-Finalist in that debut FA Cup season, Crystal Palace, only appeared in the competition four more times, won just once more (a 3-0 replay win over 105th Regiment), before losing to The Wanderers by the same 3-0 scoreline they had suffered in their Semi-Final defeat to Royal Engineers. The club disbanded in 1876, but the Crystal Palace name lived on in the FA Cup, first as the venue for all Finals between 1894-95 and 1913-14, then secondly from 1905 in the shape of the current, twice FA Cup runners-up, Crystal Palace FC.

Hampstead Heathens, who had made it to the last five in the inaugural FA Cup, never played in the competition again, thereby becoming only one of two clubs to have reached the Quarter Finals every time they competed in the FA Cup. The other club to do so, Oxford University, at least took part in eight FA Cup campaigns.

Maidenhead and Marlow we already know have tremendous continuous FA Cup records right up to the present day, with Maidenhead making the Quarter Finals three times and Marlow reaching the Semi-Finals in the 1881-82 season. Of the other first year clubs, Barnes competed a total of 14 times up to and including the 1885-86 season, but only made it as far as the Third Round on two occasions. Hitchin would never again get as far as the Second Round the club reached in that debut season, scratching in four of their other 13 campaigns, and failing to go beyond the Qualifying Rounds when re-named as Hitchin Town and playing in the South East League. The club dissolved in 1915 not long after hostilities in Europe began.

Clapham Rovers would go on to have a more illustrious FA Cup record, reaching the Final in the 1878-79 season, losing 1-0 to Old Etonians, before coming back the following year to beat Oxford University by the same scoreline, thanks to a goal from the delightfully named Clopton Lloyd-Jones. The club would have a total of 16 FA Cup campaigns before they dissolved sometime around the end of the 1911 season.

Reigate Priory would appear in the FA Cup just nine times in total winning just one match (a 1-0 victory over Barnes in 1875-76), and had three consecutive seasons in the late 1920s when members of the Surrey Senior League and Southern Olympian League. The club is still going and currently competes in the Surrey Elite Intermediate League, one step below the minimum level from which clubs currently can enter the FA Cup.

Civil Service FC is also still going strong, still competing in the Southern Amateur League, a league for which they were founder members in 1908 and, but for 10 years immediately after the end of World War I, have been members ever since. The club has competed in the FA Cup 30 times, but didn’t register a victory until the 1899-1900 season in what was their eighth campaign. The club made the Second Round in 1874-75 thanks to a walkover, but have never come close to emulating that success since. In the FA Cup’s centenary year, the 1971-72 season, Civil Service were invited to enter the competition in commemoration of the centenary celebrations, despite not qualifying based upon league status. Exempted until the 1st Qualifying Round they lost 10-0 at Bromley who were competing in the much higher Isthmian League.

Upton Park had a quite successful FA Cup record despite never coming close to lifting the famous trophy. The club appeared in four Quarter Finals in 16 consecutive seasons of competing in the FA Cup before dissolving temporarily in 1887. Five years after re-forming in 1891 Upton Park returned to the FA Cup for 15 more consecutive campaigns. However, the club had to compete in the Qualifying Rounds during this time and never made it further than the 3rd Qualifying Round before folding during the 1910-11 season.

Harrow Chequers would enter the FA Cup on two more occasions, in 1874-75 and 1875-76, but as in this debut FA Cup season the club scratched without playing a match, thus holding the record of the most FA Cup entries without ever playing a game. Donnington School, however, hold the record for being the first club to ‘disappear’ from the FA Cup. Following their two abortive attempts to play Queen’s Park the club never submitted an entry to play in the competition ever again. So by virtue of one round exit before Hampstead Heathens, they are the first club to exit the FA Cup and never to be seen again.


The 1871-72 FA Cup

First Round (11th November 1871)

Barnes 2-0 Civil Service

Hitchin 0-0 Crystal Palace (both teams progressed)

Maidenhead 2-0 Marlow

Upton Park 0-3 Clapham Rovers

Queen’s Park v Donnington School (no game played – both teams progressed)

Royal Engineers v Reigate Priory (walkover for Royal Engineers)

The Wanderers v Harrow Chequers (walkover for The Wanderers)

Hampstead Heathens- Bye


Second Round (16th December 1871)

Barnes 1-1 Hampstead Heathens (replay Barnes 0-1 Hampstead Heathens)

Clapham Rovers 1-3 The Wanderers (or Clapham Rovers 0-1 The Wanderers)

Crystal Palace 3-0 Maidenhead

Hitchin 0-5 Royal Engineers

Queen’s Park v Donnington School (walkover for Queen’s Park)


Third Round / Quarter Finals (20th January 1872)

Royal Engineers 3-0 Hampstead Heathens

The Wanderers 0-0 Crystal Palace (both teams progressed)

Queen’s Park – Bye


Semi-Finals (17th February 1872)

Royal Engineers 0-0 Crystal Palace (replay Royal Engineers 3-0 Crystal Palace)

The Wanderers 0-0 Queen’s Park (replay – walkover for The Wanderers)


The FA Cup Final (16th March 1872 – Kennington Oval)

The Wanderers 1-0 Royal Engineers

(MP Betts aka AH Chequer)


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