Fry Club FC celebrates past and future after century on the pitch

Published on: 05 May 2017

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Fry Club FC is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month, with more than 200 people set to attend a celebration dinner with speaker Geoff Twentyman. Dave Noble, one of the organisers, looks back on a century of football, from ‘disastrous’ beginnings to today’s ‘beautiful game’.

The early days

JS Fry & Sons Ltd AFC, as the first football teams were named, was formed in 1916, and the first official game was believed to be played in September of that year on the company’s own ground JS Fry & Sons Ltd Athletic Ground at Ashley Down in Bristol (now the Gloucestershire County Cricket Ground).

The ground provided facilities for all the JS Fry sporting activities, including cricket and hockey.  Football, bowls, tennis and athletics were all introduced during the First World War in 1916. 

Around this time, so limited was the enthusiasm for football that only one playing team could be put onto the field, and then often only with the help of one or two “outsiders”. After a couple of years, however, when the First World War was over, things changed and enthusiasm was such that four teams were soon playing, three in the Bristol and District Football League, and the other playing friendly games.

It was quoted in the Fry’s Works Magazine of 1922 that “the early days of football (1916) in connection with the firm were disastrous, even though at that early date one of the directors, Mr Claude B Fry, had shown his interest in this ‘pastime of the men’”.

Interest in football gradually grew and with much enthusiasm. Whether the teams lost or won, it made no difference as the players were enjoying the games.

The first football team manager was Mr HNF Abbott, who was the driving force behind the football activities. Its first chairman was Mr TW Saunders; vice chairmen were Mr H Parsons and Mr G Bennett and the secretary Mr WE Green.

The war years between 1916 and 1918 had some effect and sadly some playing members did not return from the war.

A playing member of one of those football teams was Major Egbert Cadbury, who as many will know became the company managing director and who was very much instrumental in the factory move from the centre of Bristol to Somerdale, which took 11 years, from 1921 to 1932.

It was in the late 1920s early 1930s that both sporting activities and sections expanded. The football section extended its activities with the formation of the “Cocoa Tree Boys’ Club” and the introduction of inter-departmental football games, a tradition that remained at Somerdale up until the early 1990s.

The move to Somerdale                 

All sections of sports and activities of JS Fry & Sons Ltd were transferred from the athletic ground in Ashley Down and the first football matches at Somerdale were played in September 1932 on land in front of the factory. Today games are being played on the fields viewed from the new Somerdale Pavilion.

Football in the future   

Fry Club FC has progressed significantly over the years, both in terms of the number of teams and the advancement in youth development. Continually throughout these years the club has also achieved a very high standard of performances in local football. Everyone from company directors, officers, players, managers, coaches, helpers, supporters and anyone who has made a contribution to this great club should be all congratulated.

Years of dedication and commitment has been made by many loyal servants over the years, many sadly now passed on, but to those now retired from the game and to those still involved, a very big thank you for all your efforts on reaching this unique landmark of 100 years of football with Fry’s.  May it long continue with much success, but above all for everyone to enjoy this great game of ours to the full, in the correct spirit it should be played.

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