Morecambe Football Club’s decision in 1921 to move to Christie Park or Rosebery Park as it was then called, came about through the determination, enthusiasm and vision of a group of local businessmen and supporters who refused to be overawed by the huge challenges confronting them.
They simply rolled up their sleeves, put their money where their mouths were and got on with the job of creating a club that is now well on its way to celebrating 100 years of football in Morecambe.
This is their inspiring story.
From the June 8th, 1921, edition of The Visitor.
As announced in last week’s Visitor, the Morecambe Football Club have secured a new playing ground in Lancaster Road. A meeting was held in the Lupton Hall on Friday evening, Mr F Moss (chairman) presided supported by Messrs W R Bradbury (secretary), F Creek (financial secretary), A Gordon (honorary architect), F Bannister (vice-chairman), W Daniels, T Chadwick, L B Brookfield, F J Sibbald, W B Clarke, A Cumpsty, Gregory, T Norris and William Curwen (members of the committee). The hall was crowded. At the outset, the chairman said they had succeeded in obtaining a ground and that the club was fortunate in securing the assistance of a local gentleman in the purchase of the field. He admitted that the ground was not entirely as it should be in regard to use. It would need a lot of “squaring up” and the committee desired to appeal for volunteers to help in the work of preparing the ground. There was an enormous amount of work to do and the time was short. The site consisted of two fields separated by a hedge and this would have to be removed. Mr Gorton had offered to superintend the work of preparation free of cost, so that everything would be carried out in a business-like manner.
The committee estimated the cost at £1,500. The field had been bought for the club and they would be required to pay interest on the purchase money. Mr Gorton said the field was situated in a good position and he thought that when the levelling of the playing area had been completed they would have a very good ground. The chairman made an appeal for volunteers to support the committee and almost every person present held up his hand in response to the appeal. The committee did not desire to shoulder the whole burden all the time. He contended that those who “paid the piper” should have some share in the management of the club. It was suggested that a membership should be opened with £1 1s as the annual subscription. Members would be entitled to attend the general meeting and have a vote on any matter brought up. That would not interfere with the sale of season tickets as members would be able to purchase them in the ordinary way. The committee further suggested that the club should be formed into a limited liability company, with the capital at the estimated amount required for ground alterations - £1,500. Debentures would be issued at amounts something like £20, which would carry a small amount of interest. They would be redeemable at any time by giving a month’s notice to the committee.
Mr Gorton: “Will the Corporation help the club?”
The chairman: “We have been before the Corporation and got nothing.”
Mr William Curwen: “I might tell you that we got plenty of sympathy.” (Laughter)
Mr Green: “I think the Corporation might allocate a sum of money out of the advertising Fund to the club.”
Mr Curwen replied that the money set apart by the Corporation for advertising purposes had already been spoken for. Councillor Daniels mentioned that certain remarks were passed at a Corporation committee meeting the previous day which indicated that the club might receive some consideration very shortly.
Improvements to the ground continued apace, allowing the club to be able to kick-off as scheduled at the start of the 1921-22 season.
The Visitor reported, in a pre-season story, that much interest was evinced in the first of a series of trial matches which took place on the new ground - Rosebery Park, as it is to be known - in Lancaster Road. Over 200 spectators watched the first trial, which was a “typical” first game. The two teams, Reds and Whites, chosen for the match consisted of entirely new players, but five of them failed to put in an appearance.
The teams were:
A Hirst (Nelson); W McGlynn (Bolton), J Holden (Chorley); R Woodhouse (Morecambe), Morris (Bolton),
J Hindley (Chorley); A Cope (Manchester), T Mason (Burnley), J Wilkinson (Clitheroe), J Molloy (Preston),
H McCrae (Blackburn)
A Richards (Burnley); S Cragg (Colne), W Billingham (Blackburn); T Bolton (Preston), J Mercer (Blackburn), John Edward Farnworth (Morecambe); H Boyes (Preston), G H Moore (Burnley), Rhodes (Darwen),
G Wood (Darwen), R Morris (Bolton)
The Visitor report commented: “As could only be expected, the players showed a lack of training and the play never reached a high standard.” But it was to their credit that the local men, especially Farnworth, Jackson and Woodhouse showed up extremely well amongst the strangers. Indeed, John Farnworth was the best man on the field.
The match was won by the Whites 3-1.
In the newspaper edition before the start of the season, The Visitor reflected great excitement in the town with the following headline:
“The Morecambe Football Club are making elaborate arrangements for the opening of the season next week. Indeed, from what we know, the Committee are going to cater for football on a scale never equalled in the football history of the town, and the people of Morecambe-especially those football enthusiasts- can rest assured that the club will be more than worthy of the town it represents.”
Adding to the optimism was the news that the club had signed William Thomas Whittaker, who the previous year had played with Portsmouth in the Southern League and who was believed to be the best and cleverest footballer Morecambe had yet seen.
And so, to the Big Day - the club’s very first match at Rosebery Park. But it was back down to earth with a bang, as explained by The Visitor match reporter, known as Flagman, in his very first sentence: “There were over 3,000 spectators at Rosebery Park on Saturday to see Morecambe in its re-organised form, open their second season in Lancashire Combination football, with Fleetwood, and under rather depressing conditions the home team were decisively beaten, Fleetwood scoring four goals.”
No doubt the officials and supporters were deeply disappointed with the outcome of that very first game at Rosebery Park, but little did they know that not only would the name Rosebery Park change to Christie Park, that the club would move to yet another home, The Globe Arena, and that 95 years on the Shrimps would have established a fine reputation in League 2 of the Football League.
Well done to those marvellous pioneers!
Back Row (L-R)
H Woodhouse (assistant trainer), F Moss (chairman), F Lock, F Johnstone, F Berry,
J Satterthwaite, A Gradwell, J Manley, W R Bradbury (honorary secretary)
Front Row (L-R)
G Bland (trainer), W F Gradwell, F Gornall, William Thomas Whittaker,
John Edward Farnworth, Rennie Procter, S Walker (reserve)
A report from the Lancashire Daily Post concluded:
“Morecambe, with a last game victory over the new champions, Lancaster Town, finished a single point ahead of their first season’s total in the Lancashire Combination. Eighteen points were secured at their new ground of Rosebery Park, situated on the main road between Morecambe and Lancaster and made even more accessible by the opening of new roads. The club were fortunate in getting such an enclosure after an initial season at Woodhill Lane, and they did well in carrying out improvements at such short notice. Of course, more work is needed on the ground, and the committee are anxious to make it a splendid ground if only the measure of support will warrant the outlay. Many of the most consistent players, brought from a distance, have settled in Morecambe, and with a collection of young forwards, whose ages range from 19 to 23 years of age, there are possibilities in this side.”
For the final game of the season Morecambe entertained the new champions, Lancaster Town, at Rosebery Park and fully deserved their magnificent 3-0 victory with goals from Whittaker, Lock and Gornall.
How quickly fortunes change in football as Morecambe became champions of the Lancashire Combination in 1924-25 by a single point from Rochdale Reserves and even Dick, Kerr’s rose from the basement to finish fourth.