On the Ball

The Story of the First Rye Football Clubs

Football, the soccer variety, captured the imagination of the people of Rye well before the turn of the century. There were doubtless many teams playing the old style “kick and rush” type of football in Rye and the surrounding districts in the days of the great Corinthians and Wanderers—but legend only tells the story of the early clubs of Rye.

Rye Town Football Stars 1904
Rye Town Football Stars 1904


1904 saw the first real successes recorded, in that year the Rye Football Club carried off the Tunbridge Wells Charity Cup in front of capacity crowds at the Central Ground, Hastings. That evening the victorious team was welcomed at Rye Station by hundreds of enthusiastic supporters who had been unable to get tickets for the great game. The Rye Town Band played “Sussex By The Sea” as the team, captained by J. H. Gasson, was chaired shoulder high by the Fire Brigade to the rostrum where the Mayor and Councillors awaited to add their congratulations to those of the people. A great procession around the streets followed, the cup held high for all to see, if it had been the F.A. Cup these eleven heroes could not have commanded greater acclaim. The names of W. H. Donovan; A. Rhodes; F. Boreham; F. Phillips; A. Adams; W. Smith; H. Plews; J. Adams; G. Sellman and E. J. Young, along with that of J. H. Gasson are indelible in the memory of all who witnessed their footballing prowess.

One of the great characters of the Rye Football Club in the pre first war years was Edward Rhodes, better known as ‘Jokey’ Rhodes. When the team had ‘away’ matches, Jokey, who worked on the Camber Tram, used to ‘knock off’ at eleven and rush to Rye Station to board the special train the team hired, on many occasions he was late but the Station Master always held up the train until his arrival.

Another successful soccer club in Rye was the St. Mary’s Club, formed by the Reverend Laucher at the beginning of the century. 1904 was also a red letter year for this fine team, they captured the Rye and District Junior Charity Cup. In the years 1904-14 they played many friendly games with Newhaven, Bexhill, Lydd Garrison and East Grinstead but their greatest success in this period was in winning the Sussex Junior Cup in 1914.

Rother Invictors, a team from the Rother Iron­works, shared the town salts with the Rye Football Club right up to the war year of 1914 when football activity in the area practically came to a close for the duration, save for the games played between service teams.

After the war in 1919, the Rye Football Club restarted but the only old faces to rejoin were Arthur Adams and Jimmy Sellman. The Club was only a shadow of its former self, but played on into the early thirties until it finally amalgamated with The Rye Old Boys F.C.  a very young and enthusiastic Club, formed by Mr. Sidney Allnutt to give lads leaving school a chance to carry on playing in those early days when there were no minor leagues.

The St. Mary’s team, in contrast to that of Rye F.C., reformed in 1919 and regained all its old glories winning the Sussex Junior Cup in 1921, 22, 23, 26, 29 and 1931.

A new club was soon to take the field and bring victories to the town that were undreamed of in those early days, instead of having several clubs all with one or two good players and a lot of mediocre ones, why not have one club fielding several teams, graded according to abilities? These were the thoughts of several soccer loving officials in the thirties, their ideas soon became reality and RYE UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB was born and to this day is one of the foremost Clubs in Sussex.

Next month the story of Rye United.

Rye Town Football Club 1904

Rye Town F.C., 1904

From the April 1966 Issue of Rye’s Own

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