IN the latest in Kerry Miller’s series looking back at the sporting scene in and around Bridgwater, he reaches the spring of 1906, where rugby was making way for cricket and there was still little or no interest in football.

The brick town had an embarrassment of sporting riches in Edwardian times, with both Bridgwater RFC and Bridgwater Albion RFC in fine fettle.

Albion enjoyed the loyalty of Bob Dibble, a local-born forward whose impressive showings for Somerset had led to area and national trials and finally a well-earned first cap for England against Scotland at Inverleith at the age of 24.

His success was celebrated with his Albion friends with a smoking concert and later with a meat tea at the Golden Ball, provided by Liberal MP Henry Montgomery, among many well-connected officials at the club.

Meanwhile, the two football clubs vying for space in the town on Thursdays and Saturdays were themselves meeting in lesser circles to decide where, if anywhere, their future lay.

The Albion Thursday AFC were still playing at Taunton Road or Westonzoyland Road, while the Saturday side were staying in the Weston & District League and Somerset Junior Cup on the same grounds.

The Thursday side had some success, albeit completely ignored by the local press, and their celebrations were somewhat less spectacular, with medals distributed at the Commercial Hotel.

The Saturday side AGM was days later at the Railway Hotel, and they began their season with a good draw at Wedmore, but it did not take long for the wheels to come off, as two men missed the train to Clevedon two weeks later and they were well beaten.

Wedmore had similar problems when the return game was played, and Bridgwater scored 10 - with Bill Tidy netting four - but in the next game against Street, there were virtually no spectators as they once again played with just 10 men.

It was refereed by Philip Headford, the former centre forward who swapped scoring goals for disallowing them while still young.

County cup football arrived the following week, when there were no such problems with fielding 11 men and Shepton Mallet were sent packing after a game described as “brimming full of exciting incidents which should enhance the growing popularity of the game”.

It was suggested in the editorial that soccer was “taking root”, with Bridgwater AFC’s young team led by Bert Jones on the “picturesque ground” at Redgate.

The reality hit within days, as Newtons from Taunton arrived with just six men and were forced to borrow several home reserve players, which was not taken well by the few followers who had paid to be entertained.

Elsewhere, both Burnham Albion and Highbridge Rovers were strong, and the neighbours were battling for the Division 1 title for most of the season.

Burnham’s ground was situated in Oxford Street, shared with cricket and various fetes and social attractions, and was later the site of the town gasworks before Aldi came calling.

Highbridge Rovers played on the Rectory Ground, which is believed to have been in Church Road in West Huntspill.

Bridgwater's town side found themselves in the Junior Cup semi-final against Yeovil Casuals on Boxing Day for a fine game full of incident, but a goal from Reg Davis was not enough as they lost 2-1.

The season once again faded after that, despite a third place finish and seven wins from 14 games, by which time sporting thoughts had already turned to cricket.

The town cricket club continued to enjoy player riches, with the likes of the great Sammy Woods, Humphrey Burrington, Toby Bowerman, Massey Poyntz, Collie Brown and Jack Pippin all available.

Two men left town that spring having both pulled on soccer jerseys for Bridgwater AFC in Hugh Poyntz and the Rev Harry Banks Watts.

Poyntz, the county cricketer, footballer and rugby player was selected to serve in the Bedfordshire Reg, 2nd Batt and was off to Gibraltar while the good Reverend took a curacy in Shildon, near Darlington.

While the Albion enjoyed on field success, their rivals over on the Malt Shovel Ground staged what was described as “one of the most exciting sports events ever seen in the town” in June, with their fourth annual sporting and military tournament, which was an unqualified success.

Despite stormy weather more than 3,000 lined the ropes or paid for a dry grandstand seat to watch 11 events during the Saturday afternoon.

Previous events had been run by the National Cycling Union and were dominated by the cycling, almost all of which was won by Bristolians and were “tame and uninteresting”, which led to small crowds, but in 1907, 1,500 were sold in advance.

The Glastonbury Town Band heroically played selections all day at the ground, which was lined with flags, and the highlight was the 10-mile walk - that event being immensely popular at the time - won by C Brewer from F Peppard by 60 yards, having begun some hours earlier in Highbridge.

He took the £4 first prize, with the runner-up collecting a very useful £2, all made possible by the Bridgwater Mercury, which reported on the event in full.

Many other smaller but similar events were staged in various villages around the region, including Moorland, Nether Stowey, North Newton and Catcott, with horse and cycle racing vying for attention and often blessed with the presence of the local gentry, clergy and businessmen.

Cricket continued to be a crowd puller, especially with Woods guesting all round the area when not required by Bridgwater CC, as he would pass up few chances of assembling an XI under his name which would guarantee coverage in the paper and faces around the boundary.

Meanwhile, Bridgwater AFC convened once more at the Railway Hotel on July 4, 1907, where a “fair number” heard about the moderate success which became the club, which had the financial balance on the right side - and they decided to stay in the Weston & District Saturday League and Somerset Junior Cup.

Bridgwater Mercury:

MEETING POINT: The Railway Hotel in Bridgwater

By mid-September there was yet another soccer club on the scene, as Bridgwater Athletic AFC were also playing on Westonzoyland Road, although Wembdon AFC had joined the Weston & District League and were soon to become, arguably, the top club in the area.

In truth they had little in the way of competition, as Bridgwater AFC stuttered into life in late September and after a handful of matches had a marathon in November against Christ Church OB Reserves from Weston-super-Mare in both the Churchill Cup and Somerset Junior Cup, both of which went to replays.

Once again the first game was seen as disappointing, on a flooded and vastly overused pitch at Redgate.

An alternative venue was needed for the replay but a week later it began to look as if it might be too late.

There was almost no support at all for the league game with Wells City and the press feared the worst, and said so.

No more first team games were reported on, and just before Christmas a general meeting was called at the Railway Hotel and a good number of members were asked whether they wanted to continue.

After a vote, the 1st XI was scrapped, leaving the Reserves to play a few league games and friendlies.

New secretaries and committee were voted in and other clubs were offered the chance to play at Redgate, with the new Bridgwater Athletic AFC taking prime position.

Yet again the season had petered out and the town was no nearer establishing a firm base for a football club, while Bridgwater RFC and Albion RFC ended years of not playing each other with four matches in all - a campaign which ended with Tommy Woods joining Dibble in the England side against Scotland.

Should any readers have relatives mentioned here or have any pictures or memorabilia from around that era, they are encouraged to get in touch by emailing