ndy Bates has sent to me a super collection of mostly football related photographs from around the early 1900s. It's not a random collection, however, they all have a connection with one man: Herbert Chapman.
In this first photo, Mr. Chapman is on the far right, but the mystery is.... does anyone know which team this is?
After remaining a mystery for some months, we must now be extremely grateful to have heard from local football historian, Lionel Bird, who has done such sterling research on many of the people and teams pictured here in what turns out to be, in fact, a rare and valuable collection of photographs.
I will treat you all to Lionel's findings by each relevant photo as you move down this page....
For the first photograph, Lionel informs us:
"Herbert Chapman was employed at the Rudge factory during the First World War. He organised men's and women's football matches to raise money for the Rudge-Whitworth Prisoner of War Fund. Photograph 1 is the Coventry Rudge Plane Department team who defeated Birmingham Rudge Press Department 3-1. The match was played at the Coventry Cricket Grounds, Butts on Saturday 21 April, 1917."
Herbert doesn't appear in this next team photo, but Lionel Bird still has the details....
"Photograph 2 relates to another fundraising match played by teams representing the Stamp Shop and the Press Shop at the Rudge Coventry factory. The venue is probably Spencer Park in Earlsdon and the game took place on Saturday 13 January, 1917."
Again, the Chapman connection is unknown, as is the smartly dressed person on the ball, but Andy has a feeling that this could be at a park in Earlsdon....
In agreement with this view, Dave from Eastern Green (who took the colour photo above) has now put forward some convincing evidence for the location of this photo. On the Historic Coventry Discussion Forum he has this to say....
"....Looks very much like Spencer Park Recreation Ground. The line of trees in the distance is very similar and beyond the fence could be the railway line etc. The photo I have taken has all the greenery expected of this time of year, however, a walk there in the winter makes the view very similar to the football photograph. I am standing near the current centre spot of the pitch currently there as taking this photo.
Incidentally I work with a local football historian who tells me the gentleman would have been someone of local importance 'Kicking off the match', possibly a game of importance like a final, etc."
We needn't have doubted it - Lionel confirms....
"Photograph 3 shows Victor A. Holroyd, Sales Manager of the Coventry Rudge factory. He performed the customary 'kicking off' ceremony, watched by the referee who is standing behind him. The game was between teams representing the Rudge Birmingham Rea Street factory and the Coventry Rudge Works. This match raised money for the Mayor's Prisoner of War Fund and took place at Spencer Park on 24 March, 1917."
Herbert Chapman does appear in this next picture; top row, fourth from the left. A clue is also provided on the ball itself, on which is written ST. JOHN'S F.C.
Lionel continues with more amazing information....
"This photograph shows Herbert Chapman in the Saint John's football team. Andy Bates informs me that Herbert was in the Church Lads Brigade and the date on the football is 1911-1912. The Midland Daily Telegraph (forerunner to the Coventry Telegraph) gives results for a Saint John's C. L. B. (Church Lads Brigade) F. C. during the 1911-1912 season, so this is definitely a photograph of that team. Herbert Chapman was born in 1889 so he would have been about 21 years old when the photograph was taken."
In this team photo we have not only a piece of silverware, held by Herbert Chapman himself, and a young mascot holding the match ball, but also a huge advertising board reminding us that the best bicycles in Britain were made here in Coventry at the Rudge factory! But once again, what is the team?
For this next image Andy would like to make us aware of a few noticeable points....
"This is another picture with the 'Rudge' advertisement in the background, there are more people in this one. I have turned it on its side and, as you can see, at some point there has been a photo resting against it, and printed on it is Herbert receiving a trophy. If you look closely you can see a faint advertisement printed on the top. It says Burges and 16 Smithford Street."
Indeed, by placing your head on your right shoulder you will be able to spot the things that Andy has. Does this give any further clues to the team or the people in the picture?
These two great Rudge team photos have also received Lionel's expert attention....
"This pair of photographs relates to the match described in photograph 1. They show Herbert Chapman holding the Rudge inter-department trophy after winning the final. Herbert may well have been captain of the team and I am convinced the gentleman fourth from the left, sitting next to Herbert, is Johnny Round, the Rudge secretary. He became a famous local football administrator, being involved for 40+ years, and was an important Executive Committee member of the Coventry City Supporters Club during the 1920s. The 'Rudge-Whitworth Britains Best Bicycle' sign is at an entrance to the Coventry Cricket Grounds."
And finally, Lionel finishes with some general background about the man who links many of these fine images together:
"I believe Willam Chapman, Herbert's father, was a Rudge supporter from the time when the club formed in 1889. Although he was employed as a watchmaker, Rudge, like most clubs, drew the vast majority of their support from employees and people living locally. William and his family lived in Thomas Street, literally five minutes walk from the Coventry Cricket Grounds and the Rudge factory. It's possible he had a connection to the Rudge Committee or certainly would have known committee members and club officials living in such a tightly knit community. Herbert was employed at the Rudge factory during World War One and he organised two ladies football teams to represent the works. The charity football matches raised a significant amount of money for the Prisoner of War Fund."
A change of venue and sport now. Now we have Herbert appearing in a rugby team photo; standing second from the right with black shorts.
Staying with rugby for one more photo we have a team with a name and a year this time. This is the Trinity Guild R.F.C. pictured for their 1905-6 season. If anyone knows anything about, or anyone who was connected with, this team, it will be great to hear from you.
I'm delighted to add that I have been contacted by Graham Owen, who recognises one of the players:
"The photo of Trinity Guild from the 1905-06 season was instantly recognised by me, as my grandfather is in the back row, second from right, apparently leaning to one side. His name was Francis Burke and the same photograph is published in a book about the team called 'Blood, Sweat and Beers'."
Andy has also provided one last mystery picture - a completely unknown team photo! As always, if anybody can shed some light on the people or the venue, please get in touch through my contact page or the Forum.
By the time Herbert got mentioned in this snippet from our local newspaper he was living in the lovely little seaside town of Budleigh Salterton, near Exmouth in Devon. The "Midland Daily Telegraph" to which Herbert referred became the "Coventry Evening Telegraph" in November 1941.
It will also be very interesting to learn more from somebody about the reported Royal visit to Coventry. All we can ascertain from this is that it was while Edward was still the Prince of Wales, therefore it was before the 20th January 1936 when he became King for a brief few months before the controversial abdication later that same year.