150 years ago this month. Wrexham FC : second oldest league club in Britain

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Wrexham Advertiser – Saturday 30 September 1865

By the time the advert opposite appeared, Wrexham FC was already entering it’s second season.

Wrexham Cricket Club played their first game ‘at the ground by the turf tavern “on Friday 25 April 1863. In a Wrexham advertiser article, dated 8th October 1864, covering Denbighshire County Cricket Club’s dinner at the Turf Tavern a speech made by their secretary Edward Manners was reported: There is one thing, gentlemen, for the great want of amusement in this town in winter time. It is my intention to purchase a football in the course of this week, and I shall expect a good many down to the field next Saturday. There are other games I should like to introduce, especially a Yorkshire one called knur and spell, a very nice game. It was only yesterday I called upon the Mayor and he said like should like to see an athletic club established in Wrexham (cheers.)

I contacted David Dodgson who is related by marriage to members of Edward Manners living family. Through genealogical research he has found out biographical background on the founder of Wrexham AFC. Edward Manners was born in Knaresborough, Yorkshire in 1831. By the time of the 1851 Census he had moved to Truro Cornwall and was employed by W. Brunton & Sons a Fuse Manufacturing Company, ( munitions and explosives). By 1854 – 1855 he has married Elizabeth Rule and has three sons. Presumably the explosive product he sells is in great need by mining companies and in 1860 he moves to Wrexham and becomes manager of W Brunton Fuse Works in Brymbo, Wrexham, and is living at 26 Regent Street, Wrexham. Four years later he has become the Honorary Secretary of the Wrexham Cricket Club and is discussing launching the football club. From reports in the Wrexham Advertiser it would appear, he played an active role in social and sporting activities in the town. Evidently soon after his arrival he is involved with the cricket club, and it would appear from reports that he was responsible for changing the name from Wrexham C.C. to Denbighshire C.C. It was during the end of season dinner in October 1864 that during his speech as Hon Secretary of the club that he proposed going down town to purchase a football for winter activities. Two weeks later there is a report of the recently formed club’s first game against a local Fire Brigade team. On Saturday 22nd October 1864, Wrexham Football Club played their first ever game against the Prince of Wales Fire Brigade on the Racecourse where they still play today. It was advertised that the game was to be fifteen-a-side, but it turned out to be a ten-a-side game ‘which resulted in an easy victory for the Fire Brigade, they winning the two first goals out of three.’

Though reports of matches are scarce during the latter part of the 1860’s there are reports of Athletic meetings staged by the football club, where E Manners is co-ordinator, and clerk of course at some pony meetings staged at Racecourse. The club’s first regular home was within Acton Park which was just a marked out pitch within a large open area. In 1873 Wrexham AFC used the site of the present Racecourse for their first games, before moving across town to Acton Park and then back again to the Racecourse that would be their home for the next 148 years.

Edward Manners wife, Elizabeth died late summer of 1878 and by 1881 he has moved to17 Hill Street Wrexham, with his youngest son Fredrick (a draper) and is still employed as manager of Brunton Fuse Works. Around 1880 Edward Manners became Hon Secretary of Football Association of Wales. This lasted for two or three years until he had to resign as work was taking him to London. In 1882 Wrexham Lager Beer Company established and by the 1891 Edward Manners is now living at 22 Wellington Road, Wrexham, with daughter Annie aged 22, and his occupation is listed as Traveller for Wrexham Lager Beer Co.

With a foundation date of 22nd October 1864 Wrexham FC is the second oldest league club in Britain after Notts County and before Stoke FC.