Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Newton Heath 1878-1902

Whatever happened to Newton Heath? The Heathens were established in 1878 by employees of the Carriage and Wagon Works department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR) company based in Newton Heath, Manchester. 

After establishing their superiority as the best side in the company, Heath became the top Manchester side before joining the Football Alliance, a rival to the Football League (FL), in the inaugural season, 1889/90. 

When the Alliance was merged with the FL for the start of the 1892/93 season, Newton Heath, which by this time had become independent of the railway company and dropped the ‘LYR’ from its name, became part of the First Division. It was not a happy experience and at the end of the 1893-94 season bottom-placed Newton Heath dropped down into the Second Division.

Newton Heath had moved to Bank Street, Clayton in June 1893. The ground, which was employed until the move to Old Trafford in February 1910, was squeezed in among densely populated, cheaply constructed terraced housing, from which many of the club’s working-class supporters would have been drawn. Children of all ages would kick a makeshift ball around on cobbled streets where the arrival of a motorcar would have been a cause of great fascination.

The ground, with its pitch notable for having no grass, was set among factories with belching chimneys. Charles Dickens had used Manchester as the scene for his 1854 novels Hard Times and over the next fifty years numerous writers commented on Manchester’s ‘smoky holes’ with a mixture of fear and fascination.

The Bank Street site is now occupied by the car park of the Manchester Veledrome, with a plaque on a nearby home wall indicating the presence of the former ground.

In the spring of 1896, Newton Heath signed Harry Stafford from Crewe Alexandra. In 1896-97, Heath narrowly missed out on promotion and in 1898 the club captured the much sought after Lancashire Senior Cup for the first time. However, by the beginning of the new century Newton Heath were in serious financial trouble. Modest fund raising attempts were unsuccessful. At the start of 1902 Newton Heath were already out of the race for promotion. 

It was then that Stafford persuaded five local businessman, including local brewery owner John Henry Davies, to come forward to clear the debts of £2,670. Stafford himself put up £200 of his own money. 

Clearly all those involved must have been well aware that a successful football club would reflect well on themselves and possibly increase future business opportunities. Newton Heath was rebranded as Manchester United in April 1902. 

With Davies providing new manager Ernest Mangnall with £3,000 to invest on new players the new club almost won promotion in 1903/04 and 1904/05, before making the leap up in 1905-06. Manchester United then won the First Division title in 1907-08 and the following season won the FA Cup. They’ve done well ever since. 

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