Bishopsteignton Football Club celebrated its 100th anniversary on the 15th October 2020. This is the club’s story highlighting the ‘highs and lows’ throughout the years, those that were involved to make the club successful including managers, players and helpers, players’ successes, a gallery of photos identifying the members, events and artefacts.
It all started in 1920.
It is noted in the Bishopsteignton United Programme 1998-99 that Bishopsteignton Football Club was founded prior to the 1920/21 season. Thus making the club, if not the oldest club in the South Devon League at least one of its senior members.
How the club started is not sure; however, it is known that the village schoolmaster, Mr Wallis, encouraged future players by forming a school team several years before. Although Lindridge House Estate had its own team, this still left few chances for village boys to play. Mr Wallis was motivated through the ‘wanting’ to play football from the boys along with villagers who wanted to help and hence Bishopsteignton Football club was formed.
The first match was played at home September 1920 losing against Babbacombe Athletic.
It is also noted in the book ‘Decades of Pride’ by D J Back, that the game on 15th October 1920 resounded in a 3-2 first win over Chudleigh Reserves with the scorers noted as Parish (2) and F Heywood. What a fantastic start for this newly formed club!
The newspaper clippings below, which came from the Teignmouth and Gazette Post dated 11 October 1974, identifies all the original team players, and where they played their home matches at Murley Grange Fields; although other reports suggest they also played at Cockhaven Lane and Durley Lane in the early days, where conditions and changing facilities were far from appealing.
The villagers provided tea at the home match on 24/12/20, to celebrate the new club, against Torquay Town Reserves who were defeated 6-1, and was followed by a ‘smoking concert’ which was attended by Col Gardiner, (Chairman of the club), Dr Addison MP, Mr Bottomly (Hon Sec Torquay Town Res) and Mr H Heywood (Hon Sec of the village team); this was a successful event and it was hoped it would be an annual event.
The second season started with a good attendance at the annual meeting of the club on the 06/08/21, chaired by Col G F Gardiner. The balance sheet from the last season showed £3.16s.5d in hand, another success. Officers were elected: Chairman Col Gardiner, Hon Treasurer Mr Jos Harris, Honorary Secretary Mr F Heywood; Mr F Heywood was re-elected captain and Mr F Parish as vice-captain.
The playing season started with defeating Babacombe Rovers at home (Murley Fields) by 7-0, the scorers were noted as Treen 3, Back 2 and Dawe 2. The winning streak continued with:
24/09/21 Bishop AFC 4 Ellacombe 2
12/11/21 Bishop AFC 4 Torquay SS Old Boys 1
The following balance sheet for the season 1921-22 shows the club still in credit and doing well financially.
The season ended with the team and their friends enjoying their first social outing to Ilfracombe via Credition on the 01/07/22 enjoying a good dinner and sight-seeing and then returning to Bishopsteignton via Barnstaple.
The future season 1922/23 looked very good for the club as the majority of the last season players re-signed for the new season and new young talent joined to enhance the playing strategy together with securing the services of Mr C Nash, ex Royal Navy, to take on the position of trainer, thus resulting in their home match at Murley on 16/12/22 against St Marychurch having a score of 2-2 (scorers being Parish, Back).
Season 1923/24 saw the club start the ‘Whist Drive’ social fund raising event for all to enjoy, which continued for years to come. The following receipts show that these weekly events took place in the Church.
This season also saw the reserves doing well and beating Dawlish at Murley with P Back (3), Shambrook (2), L Back (2) and Holman (1).
It also saw South Devon Area Clubs, at Newton, for the first time cautioning Bishopsteignton Club and warning them as to the future conduct of their spectators. This was due to a report by Mr W Batty, the official referee at the game between Bishopsteignton and Great Western Reserves who felt threatened by the spectators and had to be escorted from the ground.
As you can see from the following balance sheet from the season 1924/25 the club was increasing their financial standing from previous years:
Expenses included the hire of the field at Murley Grange for the home matches and transport for away matches as below:
Bishopsteignton Football Club continued to take part in the Devon County Football Association as witnessed by the below receipts.
Success in this season was also reported in the secretary’s report as mentioned below:
Season 1925/26 Bishopsteignton played away at Galmpton against Dartmouth Rangers on 10/10/25 in the first round of the Herald Cup and won 3-1, (scorers Dawe, F Back, P Back). Below also shows the gate receipts of the 2nd round, but unfortunately no other information is available about winning or losing this game.
The Herald Cup is a knockout competition featuring all the South Devon Football League (SDFL) Clubs (1st teams only). Below is a receipt for participation in the year 1924/25.
In the season 1928/29 the team reached the semi-final of the Herald Cup against Paignton St Michaels at Baker’s Park, Newton Abbot, but unfortunately had a heavy loss of 8-1.
In the Western Morning News dated Wed Jun 24th 1931 it was recorded that:
‘Bishopsteignton Football Club at the annual meeting on Monday, Mr B Nilsen presiding, decided to enter the First Division of the South Devon League. Mr R J Fey was re-elected secretary, Mr B Nilsen chairman and Mr M Ledger treasurer.’
It was also recorded that a good deed by the club was made on the 10/01/31 when they sent 10 shillings towards the fund being raised for the Rasson Rovers player who broke his leg in a match at Newton against Newton Corinthians.
Not so Good – In the season 1930/31 Bishopsteignton (who before this game had an unbroken record and SD League points were at stake) travelled to Baker’s Park to play Newton Corinthians; however, this game came to an untidy conclusion to the fault of Bishopsteignton players. Bishopsteignton players protested and then were cautioned when The Corinthians were awarded a penalty, this then resulted in a Bishop player lunging at the ball sending it into the adjoining river which was rapidly carried away and hence the game was abandoned. Bishopsteignton Football Club and three players were cautioned as to their future conduct; which also resulted in the loss of the next match against Paignton St Margaret’s as they could not field an eligible team, they were also being thrown out of the Cup competition.
Also at the AGM of the club 27/06/31 it was reported by Mr B Nilsen, chairman, that the balance sheet had reduced from the previous year with only 1s.9/d in hand, which was due to the lack of subscriptions and poor gates. The financial stability was very much in question, which resulted in an increase of membership fee to 2s.6d.
The club continued to play throughout the following years even in spite of many fears and concerns about fielding a team together with the difficulties with regards to the pitch in season 1936/37. These difficulties were overcome and success prevailed with the 2nd round Herald Cup game which was played against Furzeham on 19/12/36, resulting in a 3-1 win for the Bishops. Success in this season continued and ended their league programme with a total of 106 goals from 21 games.
However, on the 09/08/1939 it was reported nationally that all games were cancelled for the time being; hence the war years. The first game played after this time was dated 13/01/44 against the Royal Navy XI.
1944/45 season saw an enjoyed dance held at the Parish Hall to the benefit of the newly formed Bishopsteignton United Club, which had been agreed by all, the previous week at a meeting held in the Parish Hall. This season also saw the Bishopsteignton Juniors play their first match dated 24/02/45 against Teignmouth Scouts and winning 4-0.
The season 1945/46 started with promising prospects with a meeting held at Tapley for the requirement of drawing up a set of rules for the new club (which had been agreed previously), acknowledge the arrangements for the full fixture list, consider a reserve team and the request for volunteers to prepare the field at home matches. The Old Club were also approached, who offered to lend the nets, a shed and a marker for use for the new club. The decision of a reserve team was finally left to be decided by the committee (however I can’t seem to find exactly when the reserves started playing). Success, 09/03/46 saw Bishopsteignton United reaching the final of the Herald Cup for the first time after playing Paignton Villa and winning 4-1. However, they were defeated heavily in the final dated 27/04/46 against Newton Spurs but still managed to ensure their participation in the 1st Division of the South Devon League for next season.
Names of players for the season 45/46 are identified in the picture below.
08/03/1947 saw the debate from a Parish Council meeting with regards to the provision of a Recreation Ground. Complaints by villagers resulted in a suggestion that play could take place again back at Murley Grange Fields.
The season 1949/50 saw Bishopsteignton United upset several teams in Division 1 by attacking and providing top defence and mastering conditions better than their opponents. It also saw proper changing rooms provided for at Murley Fields, (whereas in previous years players changed in the Old Scouts Hut, Ring of Bells and the Manor Inn) and then dismantled and re-created to future home pitches, Colway Cross in 1961 and Humber Park in 1969. The following shows the cost to the club for the use of a dressing room for the season 1924/25:
In the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette dated Fri Sept 15, 1950 the following announcement was made:
‘Passed On’ – The supporters of Bishopsteignton Club are sorry to hear of the death of Jimmy Blackler, who for three seasons captained Bishopsteignton. He was a fine sportsman, a good friend, and liked by all. After leaving Bishopsteignton he played for Totnes; he also played for Newton ‘Corries’. To Mrs Blacker the supporters send heartfelt sympathy. 
Not so Good – Season 1956/57 showed the worst record of games played with the below results highlighted in the book ‘Decades of Pride’  and finished in the bottom of the league as the extract below shows:
Extract from the Final League Tables
Played Won Drawn Lost For Against Pts
28 3 1 24 36 173 7
Bishopsteignton United Football Club, after becoming part of the Bishopsteignton Sports and Social Club 26/09/58, was reformed on a sound basis, with a strong working committee chaired by Mr K Mildren. There was a lot of work to do in the season 1958/59 to ensure that the club thrived, obtaining new equipment, have a sound financial footing, and requesting much needed support from the village. D J Back commented in his book ‘Decades of Pride’ that there were severe financial difficulties during this time and that if the villagers had not rallied around, the club would have ceased to exist. D J Back also noted that social gatherings organised by the ladies’ support were successful and that the club were lucky to have them and that they aided the club, together with local companies, to pay all the debts that they had taken over from the beginning of the season 58/59.
Much needed income, included subs from players and other miscellaneous donations, can be seen in the document below:
Bishopsteignton United played a very successful semi-final of the Devon Junior Cup, winning 5-4 to Kingskerwell season 1960/61 but unfortunately lost against Centrax in the final. Also on the 21/01/61 Bishops beat Liverton United 5-1 in the Herald Cup and continued their success to the 5th round. During this season the club made goalposts and transferred the dressing hut from Murley Field (Colway Cross) to a larger and better pitch at Wolf’s Grove Farm.
At the AGM season 1962/63 the need was highlighted to still curtail expenditure and increase funds, although the finances had improved during this season due to donations from vice-presidents, players paying their fees promptly and support again from the Ladies Support Club. The financial situation, reported at the 1964 AGM, was said to have reached a sound position and funds were at their highest since 1951. The club had struggled to increase their funds since 58/59 when the club had been faced with quite a debt, however, this had now been settled and the financial future looked promising.
In ‘Decade of Pride’ it is stated that the AGM dated 30/07/65, discussion took place in regards to a playing pitch, (as up to the time of the meeting the club did not have a home pitch to play on) as Mr W Discombe of Wolf’s Grove Farm wanted the team to leave his field as he wanted to use the field; however, after further discussions with the committee Mr W Discombe, reconsidered and consented for the club to reuse the field and a debt of gratitude would be repaid at a later date. The debt of promise was repaid on the morning of Oct 17th when football players turned farm workers, digging and filling buckets and bags with potatoes. What a sight it must have been!
Play continued over the next few years, with highs and lows; with a win against West Pafford 8-0 and ensuring Bishop kept 2nd place in the Junior Division 1 (1966/1967 season) and the heartache of a goal difference preventing the Club from promotion to the Premier Division in the 1968/69 season.
Season 1972/73 Bishopsteignton Reserves played in Division 5 of the league while Bishopsteignton United played in Division 2 at the new home pitch at Lindridge.
At the 52nd AGM held 22/07/1973 it was announced that the Sunday team, Bishops Spurs had been taken over by the United Team with the club colours still being tangerine, and the Sunday side playing in red and white stripes. Also mentioned was the retirement of Henry Paget who had undertaken the post of secretary for 14 years without a break.
What a successful season was 1978/79! After playing at home at Lindrige 05/05/79 Bishop United draw 2-2 against WBB Reserves and were promoted to Division 1; they didn’t have to wait long to become champions of Division 2 when it was settled on 22/05/79 winning against Marldon 4-0.
September 1983 saw Bishop United back down to Division 4, but they gained valuable points when they had an away win over Kellaton (3-0) with the satisfaction of being the first team to beat Kellaton on their own ground in two years. With a succession of good wins they climbed to 3rd place in the division, and season 1988/89 they opened their Division 3 campaign.
At the start of the 1990’s Bishop were looking for a change of luck and their first win since Oct 1989, as a result of long-term injuries and the loss of the previous 6 games. They started this campaign with a successful 4-2 win over Chudleigh Athletic and eventually reached Division one. The reserves continued their climb up Division 4 in the 1994/95 season.
We will continue the story of Bishopsteignton Football Club in the 1990’s and 2000’s in our next edition titled ‘Bishopsteignton Football Club-into the new millennium’.
Individual Player’s successes
In the season 1930/31 R F Davey who played his younger days at Bishopsteignton and played associations football for the village was selected to play for England against Wales at Twickenham.
Season 1978/79 was very successful and saw Bishopsteignton United trounce Babbacombe Ranges 8-1 with a personal success for Adrian Boult, Bishop’s striker, who scored six glorious goals. He also had another personal triumph when he not only added another hat-trick to his credit on the 22/05/79 for the Championship game against Marldon winning 4-0 but also becoming the leading scorer in Division 2.
Also, Bishop Reserves created a new club record in 1991 with a 16 -0 win against Thurlstone Reserves.
See our next article in this series here: www.bishopsteigntonheritage.co.uk/people/organisations/bishopsteignton-football-club/bishopsteignton-football-club-into-the-new-millenium/
References and credits
1 Newspaper Clippings from the Teignmouth Gazette Post dated 11/10/74
2 Western Morning News dated Wednesday June 24th 1931, www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
3 Exeter and Plymouth Gazette dated Friday 15th Sept 1950, www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
4‘Decade of Pride‘ by D J Back
Artefacts held by the Bishopsteignton Heritage Archive