Crystal Palace F.C. (1861)

Crystal Palace F.C. was a short-lived amateur football club who were formed in 1861 and became founder members[1] of the Football Association in 1863. The club is thought to have disbanded and disappeared from historical records around 1876.

The book called "Palace at the Palace"[2] released in 2018 has made claims that the original amateur club is directly linked to the professional Crystal Palace football club that exists today and currently competes in the Premier League. The book has provided supporting evidence that they should be regarded as the same club, the theory being that the original club was re-formed as opposed to a completely new club being created, as they were both owned by the same Crystal Palace Company. This would make the current professional club the oldest professional football club in the world. However to date, the claims have not been officially ratified, although the current professional club does include references to the original amateur club in its own chronicled history.

Crystal Palace
Full nameCrystal Palace Football Club
GroundCrystal Palace Park


The club was formed in 1861[3] by the Crystal Palace Company which owned the Crystal Palace Exhibition building. It had been lobbied by existing members of their Cricket Club to provide a continuation of sporting activities during the winter months. All of the football club’s management-committee and most of its original players were previously members of the Crystal Palace Cricket Club, which had been founded in 1857[4] by the Crystal Palace Company and played on the same pitch within Crystal Palace Park.[5]

Commercial Structure

Although both the cricket club and football club were amateur, they formed part of the Crystal Palace Company’s commercial enterprise, which was intended to generate revenue.[6] Membership of the club was by subscription only, at a price of one guinea per season, and spectators who wished to watch the games had to pay the one-shilling entrance-fee into Crystal Palace Park.[7]


The football club’s players were not company-employees; typical membership was formed from wealthy upper-middle-class businessmen who could afford the subscription and who had the leisure time to participate in sport.[8] Walter Cutbill and A. Cutbill were prominent members, and both former pupils at Forest School, a leading school in the early development of the game.[9]

Committee member and goalkeeper, Croydon born wine merchant James Turner (1839-1922) became the first proper treasurer of the Football Association after its formation,[10] and numerous Palace players were influential committee-members of the F.A. during its formative decade.[11]

When international football commenced in 1870 and 1872, Crystal Palace footballers featured in both the official[12] and the ‘unofficial’[13] versions of the first-ever international games.

Four players from the club appeared for England:

Support of Association Rules

The club became founder members of the Football Association in 1863, and along with Wanderers F.C., Barnes F.C. and the N.N. Club were described by Charles W. Alcock as being the four clubs who formed ‘the backbone of the Association game’ in its early years.[14]. Delegates of the club attended every AGM of the Football Association for its first crucial decade, during which time the Laws of the game were evolved. In 1867 when only five delegates turned up at the AGM, it was only the vote of Crystal Palace’s representative Walter Cutbill (1844-1915) which prevented the adoption of two major Sheffield Rules laws. Proposals to adopt rouges (secondary goals either side of the main goal) and the virtual abolition of offside were defeated by a single vote.[15]

Creation of the FA Cup

At the F.A. Committee meeting held on 16 October 1871 to discuss the creation of the FA Cup competition, Crystal Palace Club captain and share-registrar Denison Allport (1844-1931) proposed the formation of a committee to draw up the rules for the competition.[16] He was also part of the delegation which selected the trophy. Palace competed in that first competition, reaching the semi-final stage where they lost to the Royal Engineers after a replay.[17] The club played in the FA Cup in the next four seasons, their last recorded match was a 3–0 defeat to eventual winners Wanderers in the second round of the 1875–76 FA Cup.

Demise of the club

The Crystal Palace Company experienced a financial crisis in 1875-76 as a result of being sued by its refreshment contractor.[18] As a consequence it engaged in a number of cost-cutting measures among the attractions being offered in its park, one of which was its football club. At this time the football club were still very active: they included current England international players in their team[19] and were also still on the management committee of the Football Association.[20]


The Crystal Palace Company began hosting the FA Cup Final on a regular basis in 1895[21] which was played at the sports stadium in Crystal Palace Park. The company then decided in 1905 to form a new football club to play at the stadium. The current Crystal Palace F.C. was formed as a professional outfit and played at the Cup Final venue until 1915.



  1. ^ Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle 12 December 1863
  2. ^ Palace at the Palace. Peter Manning 2018.
  3. ^ Athletics and Football, Sir Montague Shearman, 1887, p276
  4. ^ The Spectator, 18 April 1857
  5. ^ The Origin of Crystal Palace FC, Volume I. Steve Martyniuk 2016.
  6. ^ Morning Chronicle, Monday 25 May 1857
  7. ^ The Origin of Crystal Palace FC, Volume I. Steve Martyniuk 2016.
  8. ^ The Origin of Crystal Palace FC, Volume I. Steve Martyniuk 2016.
  9. ^ Forest School Magazine archive, 1867
  10. ^ Sporting Life 05 November 1864
  11. ^ Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle 24 February 1866
  12. ^ Sheffield Independent 02 December 1872
  13. ^ Pall Mall Gazette, 05 March 1870
  14. ^ Football, The Association Game, by Charles Alcock (1905), p14
  15. ^ Sporting Life 27 February 1867
  16. ^ The Sportsman 18 October 1871
  17. ^ Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle 24 February 1872
  18. ^ York Herald 17 February 1875
  19. ^ Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser 06 March 1876
  20. ^ Sheffield Independent 01 March 1877
  21. ^ The Times, 30 November 1895

External links

A. H. Savage

A. H. Savage (fl. 1870s) was an English amateur footballer. He made one appearance for England as a goalkeeper, and also played for the original Crystal Palace club. His identity is not definitively known; most football researchers now identify him as Arthur Henry Patrick Savage (18 October 1850 – 15 August 1905), but there are other contenders.

Alexander Morten

Alexander Morten (some sources say "Alec Morten") (15 November 1831 – 24 February 1900) was a goalkeeper who captained the England team in its second official international, played against Scotland on 8 March 1873. He made his first international appearance for Scotland in 1870, before switching to England three years later.

Charles Chenery

Charles John Chenery (1 January 1850 – 17 April 1928) was a footballer who played for England in the first international match against Scotland. He also played cricket for Surrey and Northants.

Charles Eastlake Smith

Charles Eastlake Smith (1850 – 10 January 1917) was an English amateur footballer who played for Crystal Palace and England. By profession, he was an insurance clerk.

Cuthbert Ottaway

Cuthbert John Ottaway (19 July 1850 – 2 April 1878), was an English footballer. He was the first captain of the England football team and led his side in the first official international football match.

Representing his university at five different sports – a record that remains unmatched – Ottaway was also a noted cricketer until his retirement shortly before his early death at the age of 27.

Frederick Maddison (footballer)

Frederick Brunning Maddison (22 July 1849 – 25 September 1907) was an English footballer who played for England as a midfielder in the first international match against Scotland, as well as winning two FA Cup medals with Oxford University in 1874 and with The Wanderers in 1876.

Later he was a music publisher and, together with his wife the composer Adela Maddison, was closely associated with the French composer Gabriel Fauré.

John Cockerell

John Cockerell (22 November 1845 – 27 January 1937) was an English amateur athlete who played for England in two of the unofficial football matches against Scotland in 1870 and 1871.

Robert Kingsford

Robert Kennett Kingsford (23 December 1849 – 14 October 1895) was an English footballer who made one appearance for England in 1874, and was a member of the Wanderers team that won the 1873 FA Cup Final.

William Lindsay (footballer)

William Lindsay (3 August 1847 – 15 February 1923) was an English amateur footballer who, generally playing as a full back, helped the Wanderers win the FA Cup in 1876, 1877 (when he scored the winning goal) and 1878 and made one appearance for England in 1877. He also played cricket for Surrey between 1876 and 1882.

Subsidiary teams
Founder members
Chief Executives


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