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For a little more than half a century the name of Jarrow AFC was to be found in the first tier of minor leagues, just below the Football League itself. But apart from a brief period in the early 1890's, when it even took on Everton at Goodison Park, the club endured a constant struggle for survival. Economic depressions, competition from local Football League clubs at Sunderland, Newcastle and South Shields, the Great War - Jarrow AFC battled through it all. In the end it succumbed to a fatal blow from a most unlikely source - the UK Ministry of Defence.

This is a brief account of the long and drawn-out tribulations of this football club, or rather clubs, as more than one organisation carried the proud name of Jarrow AFC during the 55 years of its existence.

No one can say for certain when the game of football was first played in Jarrow. In all probability St. Bede, the town's most illustrious son, would have kicked around a makeshift ball in his youth, before settling down to a lifetime of scholarship at the Low Jarrow monastery. Whether he did or not, such matters are not recorded in his written works, and this intriguing possibility must remain a matter for conjecture. We can, however, state one fact with absolute certainty: the first team from Jarrow to play football in any kind of organised league was Jarrow Rangers AFC.

The origins of the club are obscure, but it is likely that it was formed some time during the 1880's, the decade which saw an explosion of interest in the game in the rapidly-expanding industrial townships of Northern England. Prior to the establishment of league competitions, football teams competed against each other in Cup tournaments or in 'ordinary' matches - what today might be called friendlies, although this would be a misnomer, as these encounters frequently displayed very little in the way of friendliness. An objective comparison of the merits of different clubs was difficult; Cup competitions depended then, as now, on the luck of the draw, and the published tables lumped together all the leading clubs in England and Scotland, goal average being the criterion which determined a club's position. The "final table" for 1885-6 season is shown below.

Records of leading clubs 1885-6

Records of Leading Clubs - 1885-6 season
(from the Newcastle Daily Chronicle - 13th May 1886)

The organisational structure of football changed dramatically in 1888-9 with the formation of the Football League. The laid-back, gentlemanly approach to the setting of fixtures gave way to a systematic and rigid structure, more suited to the emerging professionalism within the game. Regional leagues sprang up overnight; in the North-East the Northern League and the North-East Counties League were founded in 1889-90. The latter failed to complete a full season, Whitburn being the leaders when it finally ceased, and in 1890-1 it was superseded by the Northern Alliance.

These developments prompted George Tarbet, then secretary of Jarrow Rangers, to propose a league for Tyneside clubs. In a letter to the Newcastle Daily Chronicle on 21st April, 1891, he expressed the view that although there had been a lot of talk about setting up such a league, "talking without acting is no use", and he therefore took it upon himself to try to form one. The clubs he felt would make good members were as follows: Willington, Neptune, Science and Art, Westgate, Benwell Hill, Portland, Trafalgar, Pelicans, Mickley, Hebburn Argyle, Jarrow Rangers and Bill Quay. He concluded by inviting the secretaries of these clubs to contact him to arrange a meeting of interested parties.

His proposal was received with some enthusiasm, and sixteen clubs expressed a desire to join. A meeting was arranged at Lockhart's Cocoa Rooms in Grainger Street, Newcastle on 9th May, 1891, which was attended by fifteen of them. After some discussion on how many clubs should participate in the league a vote was taken, and it was resolved that the membership should consist of 12 clubs. A further vote was then taken to determine which of those present should be elected to the league, and on the first ballot 10 clubs were elected outright, with three clubs tied for the remaining two places. On a second ballot Hebburn Argyle were eliminated, and the following 12 clubs were deemed elected: Benwell Hill, Bill Quay, Jarrow Rangers, Neptune, Newburn St. Michael's, Pelicans, Portland, Trafalgar, Wallsend N.E. Rangers, Westgate Athletic, West Wylam Harriers and Worswick Rovers.

Hebburn Argyle were probably the strongest team in the area, and a sceptic might think that it was convenient for the other clubs not to be exposed to their undoubted talent. Their exclusion was somewhat ironic, since only seven of the elected members proved able to field teams when the league commenced operations in the autumn of 1891. Nevertheless, the fledgling league made it successfully through its first season, even making a small surplus of £0 12s 3d. Trafalgar were the first champions, with Jarrow Rangers occupying third place.

Tyneside league final table 1892

Tyneside League - Final Table 1891-2
(from the Newcastle Daily Chronicle - 16th May 1892)

According to contemporary press reports, Jarrow Rangers' home ground in 1891 was at "Gateshead Road". This poses a mystery: Examination of old town directories indicates that this was the original name for Albert Road, and it is evident that people still referred to it as such, however Albert Road was completely built up by 1891. The most likely location is just over the border into Hebburn, on the south side of what would later become known as Victoria Road. This area was then separated by open fields from Shields Road (the old name for Victoria Road) in the main part of Hebburn, and it may have been known as Gateshead Road from its proximity to the latter in Jarrow. Another possibility - the site of the football pitch in the present day West Park, is less likely, as this was usually referred to as the "Park Road ground" in newspaper reports on Jarrow Rugby Club.

This original Tyneside League does not appear to have been a success, to judge by the fact that on 12th April 1894 a meeting was held at Lockhart's Cafe in St Nicholas Square, Newcastle to discuss "the formation of a league of Tyneside clubs", to be known as the "Tyneside League". Jarrow Rangers, who appear sporadically in match reports during 1892-3 and 1893-4, appear to have ceased operations around this time. George Tarbet, their former secretary, had become match secretary of Jarrow Presbyterians FC, a founder member of the new Tyneside League.

David MorrisonWhile Jarrow Rangers were struggling to make their presence felt, developments had taken place elsewhere in the town which were to have a more lasting impact on its footballing future. Cycling was another sport which had seen a boom in popularity during the 1880's, and the Jarrow Amateur Bicycling Club frequently held events on the track in Park Road. In the summer of 1890 they fell out with Jarrow Cricket Club, from whom they leased the track, and set about looking for an alternative site. After considering a number of possibilities they leased a 6½ acre site at Monkton. This was transformed into a new cycling and running track which was formally opened on 15th August 1891.

It occurred to an enterprising member of the club, David Morrison, that these facilities would be ideal for football. His vision found favour among a circle of friends, and a club was formed with Morrison as secretary. His post was an honorary one; he was a plater by profession, and also acted as District Auditor for the Boilermakers' and Shipbuilders' Society. The club sent a representative to the meetings which set up the second Tyneside League in April 1894, and were elected to membership. However, demonstrating the high level of ambition which was to characterise the club in later years, they then applied to be admitted to the Northern Alliance. For a newly-formed club with no previous record, and no team, this was an unprecedented step, but they were supported and assisted by Tom Watson, then Secretary of Sunderland FC and President of the Northern Alliance. At the Alliance AGM on 15th June 1894 Jarrow presented their case for membership, along with 11 other candidate clubs. In the subsequent ballot Jarrow and Trafalgar were elected.

Having achieved Alliance membership, getting a strong enough team together became a matter of urgency, but in those early days there was no shortage of young men eager to become involved. As the Shields Gazette put it: "The newly-formed club in Jarrow will be known under the appellation of the Jarrow Association Football Club. In the ranks of the new team will be found the pick of the now defunct Rangers, and several players of good reputation from far away combinations."

The new team took the field for the first time on 22nd August 1894, at the cycling track, Monkton, in a friendly match against Bill Quay Albion. Jarrow's line-up comprised: J. Cassidy, J. Wood, R. Curry, J. M. Robertson, J. Donald (captain), R. Hogarth, J. Chrisston, A. Hayes, J. Oxberry, C. Harland, P. Smith. Both Cassidy and Curry had previously played for Jarrow St. Bede's. There was a good crowd in attendance, curious to see how the new team would perform. They were not to be disappointed; Jarrow attacked from the whistle, and although Bill Quay staged a number of counter-attacks most of the pressure came from the Jarrow side. Eventually a poorly-cleared shot from Smith fell to Harland, who put the ball in the net for Jarrow's first goal. At half-time the score remained 1-0 in Jarrow's favour. At the commencement of the second half Jarrow attacked once more, and Harland got his second within minutes. Smith then added a third to make the final score 3-0 to the home team.

A further friendly match took place at Monkton on 8th September 1894, when Jarrow defeated Newcastle Albion 2-1. Their Northern Alliance league programme commenced with an away match at Willington Athletic on 15th September. The opposition this time was a little stronger, and Jarrow went down 3-2. A further away defeat followed at Blyth Spartans, but on 29th September Jarrow entertained Shankhouse at Monkton, and in a close-fought encounter emerged with a 4-3 victory.

Things did not always go Jarrow's way; Shankhouse avenged their earlier defeat in the return match on 22nd October, winning 3-1, but the team finished their first season in a very creditable fifth position, as shown in the following table.

Northern Alliance final table 1895

Northern Alliance - Final Table 1894-5

Jarrow's nearest rivals were Hebburn Argyle, who were able to boast a more ancient pedigree, having been formed as early as 1882 as St Aloysius' Juniors. Local derby matches attracted good gates; a game played between the two at Hebburn on 1st February 1896 attracted a crowd of 4,000. The teams lining up were: Jarrow - J Cassidy, W Kent (Capt.), R Curry, A Jones, J Barr, J Purvis, W Watson, J Stenton, A Heys, J Wallace, J Kelly; Hebburn - J Ryder, D Wilson, J Hobson, P Inglis, B Crially, N Errington, A Mowat, W Stewart, G McShane, R Bruce, J Murphy. Hebburn were seeking revenge for a defeat earlier in the season, but as often happens on such occasions a hard-fought game ended in a 0-0 draw. Two weeks later Jarrow made a better fist of it, beating Argyle 2-0 at Monkton. A shot from Hayes was fisted out by the Hebburn goalkeeper, but "Jarrow's forwards pounced upon the ball, and scrimmaged it into the net". McGee secured a second.

As might be expected, the dominant team in the Northern Alliance was Sunderland 'A'. On 22nd February they were the visitors at Monkton, and the home fans were rewarded with a splendid 2-0 win over this formidable opposition. 6,000 spectators saw Jarrow beat Birtley 6-0 at the latter's ground on 7th March, but the winning run came to an end on 21st March when Newcastle United 'A' beat the home side 1-0 at Monkton. Another Newcastle side, East End, were Jarrow's next victims, going down 2-0 at Heaton Junction on 28th March, and then succumbing to a double by losing 3-0 at Monkton on 11th April.

On 21st March 1896 a limited liability company was registered with the cumbersome name of "The Jarrow Cycling, Athletic and Football Ground Company Limited". This company, the Directors of which were Arthur Barnett, James Dudgeon, Joseph Johnson, Thomas Morris, David Morrison, Robert Reavley, David Reid, David Thomas and Joseph Thompson, purchased the Monkton Stadium from their landlords, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (The company would have been a separate legal entity from the Football Club, but the same personalities were in charge in both cases).

Throughout the 1890's Jarrow continued to consolidate its position in the Alliance with some fine performances. In 1897-8 the club finished second in the league, and the following season it went one better, finishing as champions, six points ahead of the runners-up, Newcastle United. Supporters had other triumphs to cheer too; the club had two magnificent Cup runs. The first was in the English Cup, where after a replay and extra time they defeated their old rivals, Hebburn Argyle, in the final of the qualifying tournament.

The reward for their efforts was a rich prize indeed - Jarrow were drawn against the mighty Everton at Goodison Park. The game took place on 28th January in front of a disappointingly small crowd of only 2,000, largely due to another cup-tie, Liverpool versus Blackburn Rovers, taking place on the same day. Jarrow's team was - Cassidy, Goaling, Kent, Blythe, Appleton, Miller, Molloy, Simms, McDonald, Frost, Goodchild. The ground was hard and slippery, and the players found it difficult to keep their feet. The First Division side made heavy work of it, and at half-time the score was only 1-0 in their favour. Their two full backs, Palmer and Molyneaux, played a major part in stifling Jarrow's attacks. Jarrow kept their heads up, and in the second half they too managed to score, but class told in the end, and Everton clinched a second goal to win 2-1. The Cup run was over, but what an achievement for a team of part-timers!

Joe Blythe, the Jarrow right-half, had evidently made an impression during the game, for in March he was transferred to Everton for the princely sum of £125. Blythe himself received a bonus of £10, and a wage of £3 per week plus £1 for a win.

Jarrow's second Cup run was in the Durham Cup, the premier County trophy, which that season attracted 45 entries. On their way to the final they defeated Whitburn and Hebburn Argyle after replays, and in the semi-final they beat Sunderland 'A' 1-0 at Monkton. The final took place at Roker Park on 8th April 1899. Jarrow's opponents were Bishop Auckland, former winners of the trophy in 1891/2. A crowd of 2,500 attended the game. Jarrow, fielding a weakened side with two regular players missing (and having lost the services of Blythe to Everton), won the toss, and attacked the Roker End to take advantage of a strong breeze. Bishops absorbed their initial attack, and then counter-attacked to score an early goal which rattled the Jarrow side. Both sides played entertaining football in the first half, and both Cassidy and his opposite number were called upon to make some spectacular saves. Bishops had the better of the play however, and at the interval the score was 2-1 in their favour. Simms was the scorer for Jarrow. The second half was a rough affair, and degenerated after Molloy for Jarrow was kicked in the face. Bishops scored a third goal after ten minutes, and shortly afterwards Lodge, their inside-right, was kicked in the stomach and had to be carried off. Playing with only ten men, Bishops still managed to add to their score, and as the play became even rougher Marshall, their captain, was spoken to by the referee. Jarrow had the best of the play, but none of the luck, and at the finish Bishops carried off the trophy by a margin of 5-1.

The 'A' team also performed well, winning the Championship of the Northern Combination, and they also reached the final of the Tyne Charity Shield, in which they were beaten 2-0 by Walker Parish. The game was played at Hebburn Argyle's ground, and the first goal for Walker was scored by the then legal method of charging the goalkeeper into the net with the ball in his hands.

The strength of the club at the time is shown by the fact that in the following season they made it once more to the first round proper of the English Cup. The draw, when it was announced, must have caused some mixed emotions. Their opponents, Millwall, were not as glamorous as Everton, and at the time were not even in the Football League. On the other hand, Jarrow had been drawn at home! Millwall offered a cash inducement to transfer the venue to their own ground, but this was turned down by Jarrow, and wisely too, as one can imagine how their supporters would have reacted. The game took place at Monkton on 27th January 1900 in good conditions, some early afternoon rain having cleared by the start. A good crowd, estimated at 5,000 was in attendance. Jarrow's team had undergone some considerable changes from the previous season, only four members of the Championship-winning side remaining. One notable absentee was their former captain, William Kent, who had been transferred to Sheffield United. The line-up was - Callaghan, Armstrong, Gosling, Cullen, Wilkinson, Gilroy, Goodchild, Gordon, McDonald, Linsley, Molloy. Jarrow kicked off into the wind in confident mood, but within three minutes Brearley had opened the scoring for Millwall. Three minutes later Banks scored again for Millwall with a shot that gave Callaghan no chance. Jarrow responded, and were threatening the Millwall goal when the whistle blew for half-time. The second half commenced in front of a crowd that had swollen to around 8,000. Millwall soon had the ball in the net again, but offside was called, to the relief of the Jarrow supporters. The play soon became one-way, and Callaghan was perpetually busy. There was no further score, and the final score remained at 2-0 to Millwall.

Jarrow's loyal supporters were not, however, to be totally disappointed with their season, as the club once again reached the final of the Durham Senior Cup, beating St Augustine's and Darlington among others on their way to the final. As the opposing side was Sunderland 'A', Roker Park was obviously not an appropriate venue, and instead the game was played at the ground of South Shields on 21st April 1900. The weather was fine and sunny, and a crowd of some 5,000 had turned out. The Jarrow line-up was: Lyall, McGraw, Gosling, Cullen, Wilkinson, Gilroy, Molloy, Linsley, A. Gordon, G. Gordon, Heron.

Sunderland kicked off, and not long afterwards Jarrow were appealing for a penalty, but a free-kick was given instead. A sudden break by A. Gordon for Jarrow got the ball up the field, where he passed to Heron, who transferred it on for Linsley who slotted it into the net to open the scoring. This brought frantic cheering from the Jarrow contingent, and a burst of activity by Sunderland, who kept Lyall busy in the Jarrow goal. The second half saw Jarrow on the defensive for most of the time, but they were able to keep the Sunderland forwards from scoring, and the game ended 1-0 in favour of Jarrow. After the game the cup was presented to them by Councillor Lawson of South Shields on behalf of the Durham FA.

Despite these performances the club was experiencing financial difficulties. Local industry, dominated by shipbuilding, was going through one of its periodic slumps, and for those who had money the proximity of two major League sides in Newcastle and Sunderland proved a greater attraction. In order to balance the books the club's management followed the well-trodden path of selling players; in February 1901 both goalkeeper Lyall and left back Gosling were transferred to Sheffield Wednesday. They then adopted a drastic (and rather naive) policy for season 1901-02. It was decided that the team would be run along amateur lines - it would contain professionals, but they would not be paid except where lost time was involved. Those in charge of the club probably felt that ambitious young men would be prepared to play a season without remuneration if there was a chance of being spotted by a larger club. This bizarre decision proved to be disastrous; Jarrow's results were even worse than before, attendances continued to decline, and the club finished second from bottom in the league. This was not as disastrous as it might have been; the Alliance itself was in crisis following the decision of Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough to transfer their 'A' teams to the Northern League, and in the circumstances Jarrow's re-election was a formality. Despite this, the directors felt unable to carry on and the club disbanded during the close season.

Jarrow FC was absent from the Alliance for only one season, as the club reformed for the 1903-04 season. It never regained its past glories however, and now faced another threat, the emergence of two more local clubs - Jarrow Croft and Jarrow Caledonians.

It is difficult to pin down exactly when they were founded. The popularity of football in the Edwardian era led to the formation of a bewildering array of small sides, and an equally bewildering array of leagues to accommodate them. The town of Jarrow was no exception to this phenomenon. Among the names which crop up during this period are the following: Jarrow Croft, Jarrow Old Boys, Jarrow Gymnasium (all Newcastle Amateur League), Jarrow St Paul's, Jarrow St Bede's, Jarrow Blackett (all Shields and District League), Jarrow Bede Burn (Tyneside Combination), Jarrow United, Jarrow North End (both Tyneside Temperance League), Jarrow Croft Albion (Newcastle Legion of Honour League), Jarrow Springwell United, Jarrow Palace Band, Jarrow St Paul's 'A', Jarrow St Bede's 'A', Jarrow Royal Oak 'A' (Mid-Tyne Junior Alliance), Jarrow Park Villa (Shields and District Junior Alliance), Jarrow Brotherhood (United Free Churches League), Jarrow Barmen (North Durham Wednesday League), East Jarrow United (Byker & District Amateur League), Scots Abroad (Tyneside Amateur League), Jarrow Albert Hall, Jarrow Athletic, Jarrow Argyle, Jarrow Aston United, Jarrow Blackburn, Jarrow Brinkburn, Jarrow Neptune, Jarrow Langley Villa, Jarrow Burnside, Jarrow Curlew Villa, Jarrow Queens Park, Jarrow Royal Oak, Jarrow Salem Swifts, Jarrow White Rose, Jarrow Elm Villa, Jarrow Cobden, Jarrow East End United, Jarrow Adelaide, Jarrow Leybourne, Jarrow Union Villa, Jarrow Spencer Jackson, Jarrow St Leonards, Jarrow Excelsior, Jarrow Hylton United, Jarrow Mercantile, Jarrow Blue Crusaders. As their names suggest, these were mostly pub, club, church and street teams which came and went, never amounting to anything significant. Even so, many of them ran more than one team, so references to them can be found in leagues other than those mentioned above. Occasionally a club would rise above the minor leagues in which they had started to play on a more elevated stage. Jarrow Croft and Jarrow Caledonians were two such clubs.

Croft were the older club, and the earliest reference to them I have found is dated 29th December 1900; they were then playing in Division 2 of the South Shields Junior League. By 1903, they were members of the Northern Amateur League, and played their home matches at Simonside. The exact location of the ground is unknown, however a Jarrow Guardian report in 1908 refers to them playing "behind the Tombs". If this is a reference to Jarrow Cemetery, it suggests their ground may have been in the vicinity of the present Hill Park Estate. They had a superb record in 1903-4, losing only one game, and ended the season as champions of the league. They then switched to the Newcastle Amateur League, and distinguished themselves there too, winning the championship in 1907-08.

Jarrow Croft FC 1907-08

Jarrow Croft FC, champions of the Newcastle Amateur League 1907-08
from the Jarrow Guardian

Jarrow Caledonians first took to the field in season 1906-7, playing in the South Shields Junior League, and, according to the Jarrow Guardian, "carrying all before them". For season 1907-8 they switched to the Tyneside Combination, and showed their superiority here too by winning the Championship and also the Heworth Nursing Cup. They were a relatively young, and ambitious side, and rapidly progressed. During the summer of 1909 they moved from their old ground in East Jarrow to a site located on the former pit heap in Jarrow, which they transformed at a cost of £150 into what the Evening Chronicle described as "a splendid enclosure".

curlew road opening

Lord Northbourne raises the flag at the official opening of Jarrow Caledonians' refurbished
ground, Curlew Road, Jarrow - 7th September 1912

curlew road opening

Lord Northbourne and club officials at the official opening of Jarrow Caledonians'
refurbished ground, Curlew Road, Jarrow - 7th September 1912

curlew road opening

Lord Northbourne, watched by the Mayor of Jarrow, kicks off at the official opening of
Jarrow Caledonians' refurbished ground, Curlew Road, Jarrow - 7th September 1912

Baines card - Jarrow

A "Baines" series card issued circa 1910.
The floral art around the shield suggests that this was actually Jarrow Caledonians

A poor performance in 1908-09 saw Jarrow playing to humiliatingly low home gates, and on 27th February 1909 the club was wound up - this time for good. Their place in the Alliance was taken by Jarrow Caledonians, who finished fifth in season 1909-10, and also carried off the Ingham Cup.

Jarrow Caledonians - Ingham Cup winners

Jarrow Caledonians - Ingham Cup winners 1909-10
(image courtesy of Margaret Davies, grandaughter of Maxie Perry, team Captain)

The name of Jarrow FC however would be revived later. In 1909-10 Jarrow Croft were once more Newcastle Amateur League champions. Displaying a greater degree of bravery than common sense they then joined the professional North Eastern League, whilst still retaining their amateur status. From the beginning they were out of their depth, their best performance being to finish 15th (out of 19) in 1911-12. The management of the North Eastern League encouraged their member clubs to drop names which sounded as if they were mere pub sides, and under this policy Seaham White Star, South Shields Adelaide and Sunderland Royal Rovers, had become, respectively, Seaham Harbour, South Shields and Sunderland Rovers. Jarrow Croft followed suit, beginning the 1912-13 season with the 'Croft' tag, but dropping it for their match against Wingate on 5th October 1912.

The rest of Jarrow FC's history is a tale of constant struggle against adversity. Initially things looked promising. Jarrow Caledonians, always a more business-minded organisation, acquired Jarrow FC in the summer of 1913 and for the following two seasons the club played at the former Caledonians ground in Curlew Road, which was closer to the centre of the town. They did not, however, succeed in acquiring Jarrow's most valuable asset - winger George Keenlyside, who chose instead to join South Shields. North Eastern League football ceased at the end of 1914-15, and for a further two seasons Jarrow played in a league known as the 'North Eastern League - Tyneside Combination.' This was not a success - the standard of football was poor, there were constant organisational problems due to the majority of the players being engaged on munitions work, and attendances were dismal, other than for charity games. The league ceased operations at the end of the 1916-17 season, and on the 6th October 1917 an EGM of the Jarrow Caledonians Association Football Club Ltd (still the registered name of the club) saw the company formally wound-up.

The tale was not yet over; in 1919-20 normal football returned, and for the next 20 seasons Jarrow was once more represented in the North Eastern League. Initially this was under the name of 'Palmers Jarrow,' Palmers being the shipyard which dominated the economic life of the town. The club played at the Curlew Road ground, which evidently had suffered during the war - following a League inspection of the ground in November 1919 the club were advised that "the pieces of broken glass and stones must be removed from the pitch, and every effort must be made to keep the pitch in good order." In March 1920 the name of the club reverted to Jarrow AFC, the 'Palmers' being dropped from the title. The 1920's saw the town's topsy-turvy football fortunes continue. Never finishing higher than 6th, the club occupied bottom place in 1923-24, but achieved re-election primarily due to the fact that it had just invested in a new ground, Campbell Park, situated in the adjacent town of Hebburn, and intended to rename itself Jarrow and Hebburn AFC. This proposal predictably brought a protest from Hebburn Colliery FC, still playing in the Northern Alliance, and the Durham FA refused permission for the renaming. The investment in the new ground went ahead however. Capable of holding 15,000 spectators, this was a bold, but somewhat unwise venture. The regular attendance at a home game was no more than 10% of the new ground's capacity, Campbell Park was a long way from the residential heartland of Jarrow, and the locality was not well served with public houses.

Jarrow v Middlesbrough 1920

From the Middlesbrough v Jarrow match programme - 27th November 1920
(Boro's right-winger was a Jarrow lad - Wallace Clarke)

The first game at Campbell Park was a friendly match on 1st September 1924. The visitors were Newcastle United, the match finishing at 1 goal apiece. Two weeks later Jarrow signed outside-left George McCracken from South Shields, and he immediately made his mark, scoring two goals on his debut against West Stanley. Overall, however, the team was weak, and by early November Jarrow were third from bottom.

A match against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park on 10th January 1925 produced a bizarre incident. Both teams scored three times, Jarrow from a McCracken hat-trick, but Middlesbrough were awarded three penalties. In disgust the Jarrow goalkeeper refused to defend his goal for the last of these and the 'Boro penalty taker shot into an empty net. A succession of narrow victories lifted them to a comfortable mid-table position, but after going down 1-0 to Darlington Reserves at Feethams in April 1925, the Football Chronicle commented; "Jarrow are still sighing for a centre-forward." The club ended the season in 12th place, but did win both the Hebburn Infirmary Cup and the Palmer's Hospital Cup. These competitions were notionally for reserve sides, but Jarrow left nothing to chance, and McCracken was on the score sheet on both occasions.

Season 1926-7 was Jarrow's best year of this decade. The first team finished sixth in the table, and the reserves won the Hebburn Infirmary Cup, defeating Hebburn Leslies 4-2 in the final. Coincidentally it was a time of (limited) economic resurgence in the town; on 28th March the blast furnaces at Palmer's were tapped for the first time since 1923. The long period of economic depression had not only hit the town's football team; infant mortality was 50% higher than the national average, and the death rate from tuberculosis 150% higher.

The early years of the 1930's brought better fortunes to the club. In 1930-31 it once again reached the 1st round proper of the English Cup, this time travelling to Crewe Alexandra. In an exciting game Jarrow were the more attacking team, but a single goal 15 minutes before half-time gave the honours to the home side, and put paid to Jarrow's dreams of going one step better than their Victorian counterparts.

A notable addition to the playing strength in 1930 had been 16-year-old goalkeeper Jimmy Thorpe. His stay was a brief one however, as his undoubted talent quickly attracted the attention of League scouts, and after a 4-4 draw against Newcastle at St. James's Park on 13th September both Sunderland and Wolves had declared an interest. The lure of big-time football proved irresistible, and Thorpe signed for Sunderland in early October, having played only a handful of games for Jarrow. His career at Roker Park was a successful one, but ended in tragedy in 1936 when, after being badly roughed up in a home game against Chelsea, he lapsed into a coma and died 4 days later.

Although English Cup glory had eluded the club, the 1932-3 season saw it get its hands on the Durham Senior Cup once more, defeating Spennymoor United 2-1 in the final at Bishop Auckland on 8th April 1933. This was despite a disastrous performance in the League, the club finishing in bottom place and only avoiding relegation through the decision of Newcastle United to join the Central League.

The following season, 1933-4, proved to be their best ever year in the North Eastern League. They got off to a fine start, beating a strong Sunderland Reserves side 2-1 at Campbell Park on 14th October. The Jarrow line-up was:- Hetherington, Lewins, Reid, Richardson, Wall, Riley, Edington, Watson, Charlton, Barkas, Heslop. Three weeks later they gave Middlesbrough Reserves the same treatment, winning 2-0 with goals from Heslop and Charlton, and in the return match at Middlesbrough the following weekend they held the Teessiders to a 2-2 draw. Carlisle Reserves were the next to fall, going down 4-0 on 18th November, and Jarrow then travelled to Chopwell to hand out a 5-0 thrashing on 9th December. This lifted them to 2nd place in the league table, behind Sunderland Reserves. Their campaign in the Durham Senior Cup commenced on 16th December, and Annfield Plain were the unlucky opponents, losing by an impressive 9-1. Tommy Charlton, the right-winger got 4 goals, Harry Barkas 2, Seymour 2 and Edington 1. The gate receipts however only amounted to £3-10s-0d, indicating a crowd of less than 200. Their next game, at Durham on 23rd December, was attended by high drama. Jarrow, having established a 3-2 lead, indulged in what the home fans evidently thought was time-wasting, and there were several calls to the referee from the touchline to do something about it. When the game finished in Jarrow's favour the angry crowd attacked the referee, and he had to be helped to the dressing rooms by officials from the home club. The mob besieged the dressing room for some time, throwing mud at the windows, but eventually they drifted away and the hapless referee was able to make his escape.

Jarrow closed out the Old Year in style, beating Workington 5-1 at Campbell Park on 30th December. For once they had a decent attendance, 6,000 spectators turning out to see the attractive Cumbrian side who would go on to become the season's top scorers with 147 goals. Jarrow's goals on this occasion were scored by Barkas (2), Seymour (2) and Edington.

Once again they made it through to the final of the Durham Senior Cup, and faced Cockfield at Roker Park on 21st April. Jarrow sprang a surprise on the Darlington men by playing their right-winger, Tommy Charlton, in his old position at centre-forward. This may have confused the opposition, but it did not confuse regular centre-forward Harry Barkas, who scored the only goal of the game to bring the Cup home to Jarrow for the second season running. More good news was to come; Blyth Spartans, their rivals for the N.E.L. medal, awarded to the highest non-Football League club, had gone down 5-0 at Gateshead and their superior goal average had been wiped out. Jarrow were now above them in the table, and they made no mistake in their remaining games, finishing their season with an emphatic 9-1 away win over Annfield Plain to romp home as medal winners.

Jarrow FC - Durham Cup winners 1934

Jarrow AFC at Campbell Park 1934
Back row: Ginger McDonald, Joe Mellon, Joe Richardson, Tommy Hetherington, Nichol Wall, Middlemiss, Val Riley, ?
Front row: ?, Tommy Charlton, Tot Watson, Bill Storey, Harry Barkas, Heslop, ?
(thanks to Godric Page and Pat Riley for player identities)

Ironically 1934 was the year in which Palmer's shipyard closed its doors for ever, sounding the economic death knell for the town. It also signalled the end of Jarrow FC's fortunes, as the great mass of unemployed workers in the town were unable to afford the admission charge.

Accounts for the Durham Cup Final of 1934
(from the minute book of the Durham Football Association)

During the Second World War, the town of Jarrow was to experience the horrors of modern aerial bombing on more than one occasion. The first bombshell to be dropped on the town however came not from the Luftwaffe, but from the War Ministry, which announced in March 1939 that a new anti-aircraft unit was to be formed at Hebburn, the 87th Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (TA). The new unit would need a Drill Hall, and the location which had been selected for this development was to be the Jarrow F.C. ground at Campbell Park. Protests were in vain, a final decision had been taken, and the club was required to vacate the premises. Its previous homes, Curlew Road and Monkton were light years from North Eastern League standard (in fact Monkton Stadium had been semi-derelict until 1937), and to bring them to the standard required would require a level of investment that Jarrow simply could not afford. There was nowhere to turn, and the club committee was forced to conclude that the game was up. Two weeks later, at the annual meeting of the North Eastern League, a letter of resignation from Jarrow was read out by the Secretary, Mr W.R. Tulip. He said that the club had had 'heartrending luck' and moved that their 10 guineas membership fee be returned to them.

Campbell Park requisition 1939

Newcastle Journal - 18th March 1939

Following the end of the War, and the resumption of normal football, a club bearing the name of Jarrow F.C. made a brief appearance in the Northern Alliance, playing from Monkton Stadium. It failed to attract much support, with gate receipts sometimes falling below £1 in total, and was forced to withdraw from the Alliance on 16th March 1949.

The club struggled on through the following season in the Northern Combination, and even entered the Durham Challenge Cup, winning a couple of qualifying matches, but its status had diminished to the level of a works or pub team, and it could no longer be regarded as a representative of the whole town. The dream which had inspired David Morrison, and which on more than one occasion had come close to reality, had finally ended, 55 years later.

What of the grounds on which Jarrow AFC's footballing exploits were enacted? Both the Curlew Road and Campbell Park sites are now occupied by housing, with nothing to show that they ever existed, but the stadium at Monkton avoided this sad fate, and is now a Sports and Athletics Centre run by South Tyneside Council. And there is even football - it is currently the home of the South Tyneside Youth League.

© Patrick Brennan 2007

Jarrow AFC League Record

1891-92Tyneside League1110103623213/7Jarrow Rangers
1894-95Northern Alliance2212374640275/12Jarrow AFC
1895-96Northern Alliance2615565431356/14
1896-97Northern Alliance2414285224305/13
1897-98Northern Alliance2615565325352/14
1898-99Northern Alliance2619437324421/14
1899-00Northern Alliance2688103932249/14
1900-01Northern Alliance2697102830256/14
1901-02Northern Alliance26831626591913/14
1902-03---------did not compete
1903-04Northern Alliance27132124444286/151 fixture not completed
1904-05Northern Alliance--------final table not found
1905-06Northern Alliance28981144402610/162 fixtures not completed
1906-07Northern Alliance24351627661112/13
1907-08Northern Alliance30117124845298/16
1908-09Northern Alliance1553720281313/16wound up on 27-2-1909
1909-10Northern Alliance28117104443299/15Jarrow Caledonians
1910-11North Eastern League341122134702416/18Jarrow Croft
Northern Alliance3016775525394/16Jarrow Caledonians
1911-12North Eastern League361071952872716/19Jarrow Croft
Northern Alliance3017765026413/16Jarrow Caledonians
1912-13North Eastern League3810523528652516/20started season as Jarrow Croft
Northern Alliance321451349583310/17Jarrow Caledonians
1913-14North Eastern League3812101655633411/20
1914-15North Eastern League3810101846853014/20
1915-16NEL-Tyneside Combination143471728108/81st half-season
145271523126/82nd half-season
1916-17NEL-Tyneside Combination105321511132/61st half-season
8314121473/52nd half-season
1917/19---------club defunct
1919-20North Eastern League34166125532386/18started season as Palmers
1920-21North Eastern League3814111346443910/20
1921-22North Eastern League381651751573712/20
1922-23North Eastern League38176155763409/20
1923-24North Eastern League381032546962320/20
1924-25North Eastern League3813111453573712/20
1925-26North Eastern League38184166277409/20
1926-27North Eastern League Div I38169138066416/20Northern Alliance became NEL Div 2
1927-28North Eastern League Div I3812521761222915/20
1928-29North Eastern League Div I38165176777379/20
1929-30North Eastern League Div I38176157468408/20
1930-31North Eastern League Div I422361311169525/22
1931-32North Eastern League Div I421951882814310/22
1932-33North Eastern League Div I3810325651212319/20
1933-34North Eastern League Div I38247710542552/20
1934-35North Eastern League Div I3824599360534/20
1935-36North Eastern League381771486634110/20Northern Alliance reformed from Div 2
1936-37North Eastern League3810622551132616/20
1937-38North Eastern League3810523711052518/20
1938-39North Eastern League3811522691042716/20
1939/46---------club defunct
1946-47Northern Alliance3020289759423/16
1947-48Northern Alliance349421731072215/18
1948-49Northern Alliance--------withdrew from league in March 1949

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