Club History 1897-1949

Jarvis Brook Football Club was first established in 1897.  The club history has been preserved in various photos and documents which have been maintained by former President Harold Wilmshurst, whose family kindly passed these on to Brian ‘Bunny’ Hunnisett and to whom we are very grateful for keeping these so well and passing them back to the club.

 The origins of the club start in a day where the chance to play organised football on decent grounds was a joy that could not be overvalued.  It was a time when players wore jerseys (shirts), knickers (shorts) and stockings (socks) and where clubs played in black and white or sepia!

 Football is still a wonderful game, but how much more wonderful is it to know of the tradition on which it is built.  We are but custodians of the club to hand it on to future generations of footballers in the Jarvis Brook and Crowborough district.  Please enjoy your stroll down the many memory lanes in these archives and please do get in touch if you have any information to add to our archives, or any questions to ask.

Graham Hodges – Club Historian

(jbhistory@jbjfc.org.uk / 07769 904765)

Outside the Railway Hotel around 1900
Outside the Railway Hotel around 1900

Where it all started – the early years

For many years it has been believed that the club was founded in 1888. However, there is no evidence that this is true and it possible that this has been confused with the establishment of Jarvis Brook Cricket Club which was founded in 1888, and with which the club shared a ground for many years with many players & officals representing both clubs.  The earliest record of the Football Club can be found in 1897 with the first ever recorded match being a 1-1 draw at home to Rotherfield St Denys on 25 September 1897 as reported by the Kent & Sussex Courier.  At the outset the team seems to have been named Jarvis Brook United, but had changed to simply Jarvis Brook FC by the turn of the century.  Further evidence is provided in other newspaper reports from that time which state “a club which has only lately been formed” (Nov 1897), “the football club formed here at the beginning of the winter” (Feb 1898),  and at the AGM held in July 1898 it was noted that they were “highly pleased with their first year’s success”.

For the 1898 season it was decided to establish two teams. The team’s HQ and changing facility was the Railway Hotel (later to become the Welcome Stranger), with early matches being played wherever they could find a field nearby.

1900-1909

The early part of the 20th century saw the club without a permanent ground for the first few years, apparently playing in several different fields in the Jarvis Brook area, and in 1900 had to resign from the Crowborough League before the end of the season as they only had 14 registered players and were only able to field a full team on one occasion that season.

However, better things were in store, and in the 1904/5 season the club won its first trophy securing the Crowborough & District League title.  The team then went on to win it again in 1905/6  and 1906/7 seasons which led to the club being awarded the cup in perpetuity.  The 1906/7 season also saw the club win the Tunbridge Wells & District Football League Shield.  In 1908/9 we were the runners up in the Crowborough & District League having finished the season level on points with Mount Pleasant, but despite a superior goal average a play-off final was held between the two teams as a title decider, with Mount Pleasant coming out on top 3-2 after extra time.

1905/6 cup winners pictured with Sir Lindsay Lindsay-Hogg of Rotherfield Hall on his coach
1911/12Tunbridge Wells District League Winners

(left to right)

Back Row: T Buck, W Cooper (vice captain), Reg Mitchell, man in cap ??????

Middle Row: Ernest Fry, Bill Sivers, F Hoath (Captain), Bill Parrett

Front: WC Englefield, J Cousens, J Buck, E Paterson

1910-1919

The success of the previous decade continued into the next when once again Jarvis Brook won the Crowborough & District League three seasons in succession and were awarded the trophy outright. In addition they also brought home the Tun Wells District League Shield for the 1911/12 season (see picture).  The club appears to have gone through some financial difficulties shortly thereafter, amid reports that the unidentified gentlemen in the cap was reputed to have run off with the club funds! An anonymous cheque was received from a gentleman to clear club debts in Oct 1912 and other fundraising/donations appear to have kept the club afloat. A newspaper report in June 1913 suggested an amalgamation with Crowborough Athletic, but the intervention of The Great War put paid to any moves in that direction.  No football was played from 1914 until September 1919, and the war claimed the life of at least one JBFC player – Frank Middleton, who played outside left for the Brook, was killed in action in July 1916.

1920-1929

The resumption of football after the War was keenly taken up again, and the “Little Brookers” as they were colloquially known at the time soon found success again by winning both the Humble Crofts Challenge Cup in 1920/21 season beating Punnetts Town in the final after a replay, and claiming the Crowborough League Div II Cup in a 2-0 win against Hadlow Down.  Further successes followed winning the Tun Wells League Div II Cup in 1923/24 and Crowborough League Div I Cup in 1925/26. 

By this time the club was playing its matches at the Rosehill Ground (a steeply sloping ground behind Rosehill Gardens), but was also utilising the Gasworks Ground alongside the railway line (where Servomex is today). A lot of teams at that time seemed to suffer with a shortage of players, and one match report shows JB fielded a team of 5 against a team of 8 from Mount Pleasant Tun Wells, with the game abandoned after 30 mins at only 1-0 down due to waterlogged pitch!

1925-26 Cup Winners

(left to right)

Back Row: G Hobden, W Cooper, W Page,  Mr Hawkins (landlord Railway Hotel), W Woodrow (President), E Heasman, F Pollington, P Harman

Middle Row: P Hill, S Bell, R Hoadley, T Taylor, ??????, F Cottington, W Pagden, ??????, H Hill

Front Row: H Jennings, G Downes,  ??????,  A Knowles

Humble Crofts Challenge Cup Winners 1935

1930-1939

The 1930s was a golden era for the club when the Brook achieved unprecedented success with a run of 7 trophies between 1931 and 1939.  The Tun Wells League Div II Championship in 1931/32 was followed by winning the Humble Crofts Challenge Cup three years in succession in 1933 (beating Crowborough Athletic 2-0 in the final), 1934 & 1935.  Enthusiasm for the game and the club had never been greater, and a newspaper report from 1935 states “just on a thousand spectators saw the final between Jarvis Brook and Uckfield at Rotherfield on Easter Monday” – the result was 2-2 after 90 mins, with the Brook winning 4-3 in extra time and the cup being awarded to the club to retain permanently. The Brook were also runners up in 1936.

In the 1936/37 season the club left the Tun Wells League and joined the East Hoathly League for the first time, doing the “double” by winning both the League Division 1 Championship and the  Senior Charity Cup , beating Buxted 2-1 in the final. They then capped off the 1930s by winning the Crowborough League Div II in 1938/39 season.

1940-1949

Following the outbreak of war in September 1939, ‘organised’ football was officially suspended and did not resume again until the 1946/47 season.  All men aged between 18 and 41 were conscripted, but despite this the club managed to host 11 friendly matches in the 1939/40 season, mostly against the Royal Fusiliers who were likely stationed at Crowborough Army Camp at that time. 

On 14th September 1946 Jarvis Brook played its first competitive match in 7 years. A good number of players signed up for that season, and eager to get things up and running again the club soon had teams entered into 3 local leagues.  The club then enjoyed its most successful season in 1948/49, when it brought home 5 trophies in one season (pictured right), being (from left to right) the Tun Wells Div 3 League Cup, Crowb League Div 1 League Cup, Tun Wells Senior Charity Cup, Crowb League Div 2 League Cup, & the Tun Wells Div 3 Knock-out Cup.

Back Row: W Parrett, W Parker, W Bassett, V Hoath, E Wilmshurst, W Howell, A Heasman, W Mercer, W Hoath, M Frazer, A Sellings, H Hill, H Wilmshurst

Middle Row: R Wilmshurst, E Handford, V Wickens, S Kirk, P Isted, H Stanley, B Lambert, S Cooper, J Barlow, J Isted, D Isted, P Cornford, P Gray, C Packham, T Kinston

Front Row: A Griffen, W Birdsie, S Hinson, G Hawkins (Captain 1st XI), A Wynter (Chairman), J Kitchener (Captain 2nd XI),  T James, W Perkins (Secretary), W Heasman (Treasurer)

To be continued…..