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WE ARE nUnHEAD The non-league legend of Nunhead Football Club (1888-1949)

''TO ASSIST OLD SOUTH LONDON BOYS IN THE FOOTBALL WORLD ON LEAVING SCHOOL.''

C.A Stein founded the club with the goal of providing opportunities to school leavers and local lads through football.

WINGFIELD HOUSE

In 1888, a group of stock exchange workers founded Wingfield House; a home for working boys in Blackfriars. In its early years, the club would compete in friendly matches as Wingfield House, with the team consisting mostly of young locals.

One of the founding members of the club, C.A. Stein

Wingfield House made its FA Amateur Cup debut in 1904, before merging with Honor Oak F.C and relocating to South East London. Following the merger, the team would change its name to Nunhead Football Club, entering the Isthmian League in the 1908/09 season and beginning a new chapter in the club's history.

BROWN'S GROUND

Nunhead moved to Brown's Ground (now known as Haberdashers' Aske's Sports Grounds) in 1907, serving as the clubs home for over thirty years.

Located on St. Asaphs Road, a short walk from Nunhead Railway Station, spectators turned out to watch the team in their thousands. Crowds exceeding 5,000 were a regular sight in derby games between Nunhead and local rivals, Dulwich Hamlet. Over the years, Brown's Ground hosted matches against some of the game's top sides including Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford.

Off-season at Brown's Ground, Nunhead in 1905. Photo provided by Hamlet Historian

Familiar for its tough playing surface, waterlogged pitches and postponements were commonplace during the winter months. Despite this, Brown's Ground also hosted local baseball matches. Nunhead Baseball Club and Catford Saints were a regular fixture at Brown's Ground – at least football wasn't being played.

A 1937 Nunhead Baseball Club programme

NUNHEAD'S GOLDEN GENERATION

Continuing the traditions of Nunhead founder, C.A Stein, the club launched the careers of a number of young players who would go on to play professionally at the highest level, including Albert Cadwell (West Ham) and Sidney Pugh (Arsenal).

Denis Compton; Arsenal winger, England batsman and Brylcreem poster boy.

In the 1933/34 season, a 16-year-old, Denis Compton made his first team debut, stealing headlines and taking the Isthmian League by storm. Just two years later, aged 18, he would join Arsenal alongside his brother Les.

Denis Compton lines up on the outside left for Nunhead in the Surrey Senior Cup

Despite winning the First Division and FA Cup with the Gunners, football would take a backseat to cricket, as Compton split his time between captaining Middlesex and touring with England.

A true all-rounder, who began his career on the playing fields of Nunhead, Compton earned international caps for his country in football and cricket respectively. He is still regarded as one of the country's greatest ever sportsmen.

A LOCAL RIVALRY

Throughout the club's history, Nunhead enjoyed a competitive rivalry with their nearby neighbours. Based just two miles away, Dulwich Hamlet's Champion Hill Ground was one of the largest in amateur football, hosting international matches with attendances often reaching 20,000.

Dulwich joined the Isthmian League in 1907 and claimed their first Isthmian League title in 1919/20, winning the league on goal average against Nunhead. During this period, The Hamlet produced England internationals Bert Coleman and local legend, Edgar Kail, who became the last non-league player to play for the full England team.

Derby day programmes from the 1939/1940 season

Between 1908 and 1939 Nunhead claimed two Isthmian League title victories, only bettered by Dulwich's three (1919/20, 1925/26 and 1932/32). The two clubs would clash in the Isthmian League on 52 occasions with Nunhead winning 11, drawing 18 and losing 23.

Since joining the Isthmian League in 1908, Nunhead and Dulwich met 52 times in the league.

Despite their rivalry on the pitch, a mutual respect was formed. It became a Boxing Day tradition for the two clubs to compete in an annual friendly, providing festive entertainment to local residents. During their later years, Nunhead would even spend a short time as tenants at their rival's Champion Hill ground.

ISTHMIAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONS

Having finished as runners up on three previous occasions, Nunhead supporters would have to wait until the 1928/29 season – 17 years after joining the Isthmian League – to see the team lift its first league title. Despite scoring relatively few goals (47 from 26 games), Nunhead lost only one game away from home all season, snatching the title on the final day ahead of London Caledonians and neighbours, Dulwich Hamlet.

04/05/1929 – Nunhead snatch the title on the final day of the season with victory at Oxford City

Nunhead would repeat their title success the following the season, once again seeing off the challenge of Dulwich Hamlet, who finished five points behind in second place. Winning 19 games and scoring 69 goals, Nunhead retained the Isthmian League title in style – going 11 games unbeaten over a four month stretch. This period of league dominance would be considered the club's greatest triumph.

Nunhead's 1928/29 and 1929/30 Isthmian League title triumphs in numbers

A NON-LEAGUE TRAILBLAZER

Yuno Kalemba Dimmock was the first East African to play first class English football. A pacy Ugandan winger, Dimmock played for the club from 1927 and 1930, while studying at University. Winning consecutive Isthmian League titles, Dimmock was a true trailblazer in the men's amateur game.

A CLUB IN CRISIS

Following up on their title triumph would prove tough, as Nunhead ran into problems on and off the pitch. The nineteen-thirties saw the team struggle recapture their league form with a runners up spot in the 1935/36 season being their highest placing of the decade.

30/11/1935 – The amateurs of Nunhead battle the professionals of Watford at Brown's Ground

That didn’t deter the Nunhead faithful, who turned out in their thousands to watch their side’s FA Cup clash with Third Division side, Watford. Billed as ‘the amateurs versus the professionals’, the South-East Londoners took the game to their opponents. 4,200 locals watched on as Nunhead were narrowly beaten despite goals from Read and Alflatt.

Off the field, doubt was growing about the club’s stay at Brown’s Ground. Although a dispute between the club and its landlord, the Haberdashers Company, was temporarily resolved, the future of Nunhead Football Club was uncertain with the threat of war and financial problems looming.

A 1940 newspaper report on the financial crisis facing the club

THE FINAL YEARS

Following the expiration of their lease at Brown's Ground, Nunhead agreed to a temporary ground share at Champion Hill – the home of their local rivals. The team managed to fulfill the remainder of its fixtures during the 1940/41 season, finishing second from bottom in seventh place in a league that had been depleted by war.

The last fixture in which a Nunhead team was recorded – away at their home from home

Despite the efforts of long-serving goalkeeper turned secretary, Eric Mulley (pictured), it became clear that with no home or financial backing, the club could no longer compete.

A letter from the Football Association confirming Nunhead's resignation

Following the war and several years of inactivity, Mulley finally resigned the club from the Football Association in 1949, bringing to an end the proud 50 year history of Nunhead Football Club.

A LOCAL LEGEND

Today, Nunhead are considered one of the great amateur sides of football's formative years. While the team did not survive beyond its 50th anniversary, many of its former Isthmian League opponents including Dulwich Hamlet, Wimbledon and Wycombe Wanderers continue to achieve success in non-league and professional football alike.

The Nunhead side of the early 1920s immortalised as Pinnace cigarette cards

Sporting events still take place at Nunhead's beloved former ground, while a photo of the title-winning team of 1928/29 sits proudly on the wall at the Waverley Arms public house, just a short walk away.

A Nunhead footballer by local illustrator, Alice Feaver

A FUTURE WORTHY OF ITS PAST

Continuing the legacy of Nunhead Football Club and its founder, C.A Stein, we are supporting another organisation founded in 1888 to support young people within the local community.

From pin badges and patches to football scarves, you can now celebrate the legacy of Nunhead's famed footballers, while raising vital funds for Westminster House Youth Club.

WITH SPECIAL THANKS

Emmanuel Olalaye, Mark Doyle, Mick Blakeman, the Hamlet Historian, Richard Lambert, Southwark Local Histories Archive, Tim Lucraft and Westminster House Youth Club.

Illustration by Alice Feaver