The ancient abbey town and fishing port of Barking has been represented by a football team since at least 1880 and we are the longest established football club and possibly sports club in the borough. We have played in the FA Cup since 1895/6. Barking's colours of Royal Blue are said to originate from the Short Blue fishing fleet which plied the oceans from Barking Creek for many years.
In 1880 the Barking Rovers club was formed, playing on Eastbury Field, and is known to have existed until at least 1890. The Vicarage Field ground was opened in 1884 with a match against IIford which Rovers won 2-0 but in 1889 Barking Rovers were accused of damaging the Vicarage Field cricket pitch and were forced to return to Eastbury Field. In 1892/3 a South Essex League existed for one season and included Barking Excelsior and Barking Working Men’s Institute. Excelsior, playing at Holland’s Field, were champions and by 1895/6 were known as Barking Town, then playing at Eastbury Field. They won the Essex Junior Cup, defeating Saffron Walden 3-0 but disbanded in 1896 when it has been suggested that they were integrated into Barking Woodville.
Woodville from Forest Gate became known as Barking Woodville and moved to the Vicarage Field in 1896. This club was in existence by 1882 as Woodville (Upton), in which year a Woodville club formed in Barnet had to distinguish itself as Barnet Woodville, and was affiliated to the London Football Association in 1886. The club played in the Essex Senior Cup from at least 1886 and the FA Amateur Cup from at least 1894 but appears to have disbanded in 1900 when the Vicarage Field lease expired. An unconfirmed suggestion was published in the Grays and Tilbury Gazette at the time that Barking Woodville became West Ham United’s reserve team. Although there was no connection London Caledonians also occupied the Vicarage Field for a period.
The Vicarage Field was then occupied by Barking Institute, formed in at least 1896 as Barking Working Lads’ Institute, originally playing at the Recreation Ground (Barking Park), or earlier as Barking Working Men’s Institute. They won the London Minor Medals in 1896/7 and the London Institutes Federation Cup in 1897/8. The link between Rovers, Woodville and the present club is unclear. One authority states that the Rovers club was the precursor to the present club, the local Church Institute being involved in running it with the name being changed to Barking Institute. What is certain is that each club was regarded as representing the town and played on the Vicarage Field, which was the prime sporting venue in the town for many years. There was also a Barking FC affiliated to the Essex FA in 1886 and playing in 1895/6 and Barking Victoria in the early twentieth century but no links with these clubs have been found. In fact we played against them. Interestingly two of our predecessors, Barking Rovers and Woodville, played each other in 1888/9.
Barking Institute's name changed to Barking in 1902 and in 1908 Barking Ferndale became Barking Reserves. The name was changed again to Barking Town from 1919 to 1932, reverting to Barking until changing to Barking and East Ham United in 2001/2 for five seasons. The club developed the Vicarage Field to Football League standard. Barking had early experience of floodlit football, playing in the Borough Charter celebrations in Barking Park in 1939. Floodlights were installed at the Vicarage Field in 1958 and Barking was the first club to play an Isthmian League match under its own lights. In 1973 Barking were required to leave the Vicarage Field by the council and were leased the present ground in Mayesbrook Park.
As far as is known our first women’s team was Barking Belles in the 1970s. Our current Ladies team was founded in 1989 as Hornchurch Ladies. After a while as Collier Row Ladies they became Barking Ladies in 1998. Following amalgamation with Leyton Orient we played in the FA Women’s Premier League Division 1 South for five seasons. We have won the Essex FA Women’s Cup three times and the Herfulsham Tournament in Denmark. We are currently in the Eastern Region Women’s League Premier Division.
There is no evidence of Rovers having played league football but we could have been founder members of the Southern League as, when Arsenal FC convened a meeting in 1892 to form a league in the south, the clubs attending included Woodville, who were however not elected to the new league when it started in 1894/5. In 1896 Barking Woodville was included in a proposed new London Amateur League which failed to materialise but Barking Woodville played in the London League from 1896/7 followed by the South Essex League from 1898/9, winning the latter in 1898-99. Barking Working Lads’ Institute/Barking started in the Leyton and District League, winning it in 1899/1900 and possibly in 1898/9 although no final table has been found. The club progressed to the South Essex League from 1900/1 and the London League from 1909/10, playing in both for several seasons (leagues were smaller then). In 1912 their application to join the Isthmian League was rejected but they had been founder members of the Athenian League in 1911, resigning after only 2 matches, having been fined for not fielding the strongest possible team, and not rejoining until 1923. During the second World War matches in the South Essex Combination were played at the Merry Fiddlers Ground, Dagenham as the Vicarage Field was converted to an anti aircraft site and all matches in 1945/6 had to be played away.
Barking were invited to join the Isthmian League in 1952 and won the championship in 1978/9, managed by Eddie McCluskey. In 1991, after 39 years at Premier Division level, the club suffered the first relegation in its history which was followed by the drop into Division 2 in 1996. Promotion back to Division 1 was won in 2000/1 under the management of Craig Edwards, Paul Downes and Alan Marson. Following restructuring Barking played in the Southern League Division 1 East in 2004/5 and 2005/6, reaching the play offs in both seasons. In 2006/7, following the tragic death of chairman Peter Webster and the subsequent liquidation of the parent company, the club was transferred to the Essex Senior League.
Our experienced management team is led by manager Mick O’Shea, who has a long and wide experience of management and coaching, with coaches Rob O’Brien (who is also our chairman) and Jeff Sears - who managed our Reserves to the Essex Senior League Reserve Division championship in 2011/12 with an unbeaten league record - and continues to fill this role. They are ably supported by sports therapist Alan Richards, We have a number teams altogether including Ladies, a men’s Sunday team and a thriving academy for girls, youths and boys.
Barking have been champions of every league they have played in except the Southern League and the Essex Senior League (yet), culminating in the Isthmian League championship in 1978/79 and in that year the club was awarded the title of FA Non League Team of the Year. In addition to league championships the club has been very successful in cup competitions and over 100 titles have been won at all levels. The greatest success in national cups came in 1926/27 when the final of the FA Amateur Cup was reached and lost 3-1 to Leyton at Millwall, the ground staff having dug holes to clear the waterlogged pitch. A total of ten appearances in the last eight of the Amateur Cup was completed by three semi finals and six quarter finals. The second round of the FA Cup has been reached four times including the defeat of Football League opponents Oxford United in 1980. In the FA Vase in 1996/7 Barking reached the fifth round (last 16) and were narrowly defeated by a single goal at Mossley. The Essex Senior Cup final has been reached 14 times, of which seven were won, and the London Senior Cup has been won four times in seven finals. Other cups won include the Essex Thameside, Essex Elizabethan, East Anglian, London Charity, Mithras, Eastern Floodlit, Premier Midweek, Essex Intermediate, London Intermediate, Essex Junior, London Junior, London Under 18, Isthmian League Dylan Shield, Athenian Reserves, Essex, Hertfordshire & Neighbouring Counties, Fred Budden Trophy, Isthmian Youth, Eastern Junior Alliance Under 16, Hornchurch Charity, Ilford Hospital, Romford Charity, South Essex Charity, Stepney Charity, Waltham Forest Hospital, West Ham Charity, Addenbrooke Hospital, Barking Carnival, Collins Druce, Sugden, Ron Murrant, Peter Webster and Paul Winn, Dagenham & District Sunday League’s Bellamy and Nicholls cups. A memorable success came in 1996/7 when the Essex Thameside Trophy was won with the 22nd kick of the deciding kicks from the penalty spot against Canvey Island, which Barking won 8-7. The final kick was successfully taken by Uzodimma Agbasonu
Barking's team in the Amateur Cup final in 1927 included at inside left Mickey Guyton, who continued to play for the club until he was nearly 40 years old. Guyton once scored all Barking's goals in a London Senior Cup tie against Catford South End which was abandoned with the score at 6-6. Although only one professional club's (Oxford United) first team has been defeated during the club’s history, in 1922 a 2-0 half time lead was held over the full Arsenal side in the London Challenge Cup. However the Gunners scored five times in the second half. Also in two FA Cup ties against Gillingham separated by 55 years the professionals required two matches on each occasion to progress to the next round.
We have links with both the Olympic Games and the World Cup. The 1900 Olympic gold medal winning Great Britain football team (actually Upton Park FC) included former Barking Woodville player William Quash, Peter Deadman was a regular member of the Great Britain Olympic football team in the 1960s and our 2002/3 team included Rene Regis who captained and scored for St Lucia in the World Cup.
Over 30 Barking players have gone on to the professional ranks and the most recently famous old boys are Kevin Hitchcock, the Chelsea goalkeeper and substitute in the 1996-97 FA Cup winning team, and Darren Purse. In their time Arthur Featherstone (West Ham United) ,Jack Leslie (Plymouth Argyle), probably Barking’s first black player, John Dillimore (Millwall), Harold Halse (Aston Villa, Chelsea and Manchester United where he partnered the great Billy Meredith on the right wing, twice an FA Cup winner in three finals and capped by England in 1909), Jack Tresarden (West Ham United and capped in 1923), Len Casey (Chelsea), Peter Carey (Leyton Orient), Mark Lazarus (Queens Park Rangers), Laurie Abrahams (Charlton Athletic). Joe Hawkins (Millwall) were equally famous. Tresarden played for West Ham United in the first Wembley cup final in 1923. England amateur caps were won by Charles Bradley (1913), A. Evans (1928) and Johnny Wilson (1948).
Our most famous ex player is of course Bobby Moore, the West Ham United and World Cup winning England captain. He never played for our first team but research by Terry Gilbert, our website editor, supported by the memories of our president, Ron Debenham, has indicated that he played for our A (third) team before being signed by West ham at a young age. The programme for a charity match in 1969 states Bobby “decided to play on the pitch where he had previously appeared as a member of Barking’s ‘A’ team.”
Bobby’s parents had been active members of Barking FC Supporters’ Club and organised the transport, comprising fleets of coaches and even a special train in those days, to away matches.
Another player to reach the highest level in business is David Gold, currently co-Chairman of West Ham United FC while John Still, successful manager of Barnet, Peterborough, Dagenham & Redbridge and now Luton Town also played for us as a young man and was one of our youngest ever senior players at the age of 16.
We went to The Netherlands in 1929/30. We lost 3-0 to A.D.O and drew 2-2 with Quick (Nijmegen) . Quick FC was founded in 1888 and still exists as does A.D.O. (Den Haag,whose greatest success was a quarter-final game against West Ham United in the European Cup Winners Cup in 1976. They won 4–2 in The Hague but lost 3–1 away and were eliminated on the away goals rule.
Among the club records is an unbeaten run of 18 games in 1968/9 which was almost matched by a run of 15 matches in 1996/7.In the light of modern complaints about fixture congestion it is of interest to note that Barking played 14 games in April 1927, losing only four of them. The club record run of unbeaten league games is 22 set by the reserves in 2011/12 which comprised the whole league season.
We have a long history of youth football with one of our predecessors being Barking Working Lads Institute and we have had various youth teams over the years, culminating in our current academy of which includes s scholarship scheme and youth teams at various age levels.
As a closing note, in 1895/6 Thames Ironworks needed three games to win a cup tie against Barking Woodville. It would be interesting to see if their successors, West Ham United, would find it so difficult today.
Compiled by Derek Pedder with acknowledgements to Gavin Ellis, Fay Pedder, Les Wilson, Terry Gilbert, Nathalie Hoodless, Mark Harris,Colm Kerrigan, Phil Sammons, Fred Hawthorn and Ronald Price
Amended and updated by Derek Pedder 2nd August 2013