KERRY Miller continues his look at the footballing and sporting scene in Bridgwater, where the town team appeared to have only just survived.

In the late spring of 1908, Bridgwater AFC had somehow managed to keep going despite the 1st XI folding and the reserves carrying on in the lower reaches of the Weston & District League.

Proof that the club still existed only came when the AGM was adjourned in July, although the second attempt was not reported.

Bridgwater Albion AFC had joined the Weston & District Thursday League, while a number of ex-Bridgwater AFC men had moved across to Wembdon FC, who were playing on Moggs Field.

In October there was reason to celebrate for many, as a new nine-hole golf club and course opened on the Durleigh Road with a members’ pavilion attached.

The entrance was opposite the Bridgwater vicarage and was seen as a real boon to the area, which only had links at Burnham or Cannington prior to that.

Opening a month later was the new Bridgwater Bowling Club, the green for which had been laid by Somerset County Cricket Club man and former Bridgwater AFC player Ernie Robson.

It was immediately popular and also provided a lucrative financial line for the cricket club, which had provided the space next door.

More than 110 years later the green and the club are still thriving on that site.

That autumn there were a number of charity events including a soccer match to raise funds for the town hospital on the Albion rugby ground, between a Mid-Somerset XI put together by Robert Duckett and Bridgwater Albion AFC.

It being Carnival Day, there was a good selection of punters with various notaries in fancy dress collecting for the cause.

Soon after, the town’s benevolent nature was again stretched as a Borough Police XV took on a team from the Fire Brigade on a Thursday afternoon at the Malt Shovel, again for hospital funds.

With the police in the blue and white of the Bridgwater club and the firemen in Albion’s amber and blue, it was another excuse to show gratitude and socialise.

The firemen, having more men who had played the game before, won 8-0.

The two sides were: Police - H Burge, PCs Hodge, Williams, Edwards and Parsons, Bill Culverwell, J Kierle, H Smith, J Hawkins, PSs Storey and Fowler, and PCs Lewis, Norman, Chinn and Payne; Firemen - H Nicholls, Capt Goodman, S Hook, J Hobbs, H Hill, A Goodman, H Goodman, C Payne, C Hoyal, A Preece, J Stacey, G Temlett, H Holding, H Bake and R Harden.

Bridgwater Mercury:

WINNERS: The Fire Brigade team

Just before Christmas, in the news in brief in the Mercury, there was a short piece which showed that not every club was thriving - as a ‘for sale’ notice offered a practice net, two screens, heavy roller, two lawn mowers, club bag, bats, gloves, wickets, wicket keeper gloves, pads etc.

It heralded the end of Northgate Brewery Cricket Club .

Meanwhile the town soccer team had enjoyed a reasonable season, and just before the new year they beat Highbridge to go top of Weston League Division 2, with a hat-trick from Eddy Thomas.

Then they beat Division 1 side Burnham on Boxing Day in the semi-final of the Churchill Cup.

In goal was the well-known all-round sportsman Sid Hook, who had a game when he fancied one, as his job as a fund distributor for the Poor Law workhouse made him a very recognisable face.

A couple of years later his life would implode with huge consequences and be splashed across the news pages, after a dramatic police chase on a ship to the United States.

A poor winter had played havoc with most of the pitches in the town and the Malt Shovel and Taunton Road Grounds were in a terrible state as they were used every Thursday and Saturday by either rugby or soccer, with no chance to recover.

They were not alone, as Bridgwater’s Churchill Cup final with Street was rained off at Burnham’s Coronation Field and rescheduled for Easter Saturday, but before then Bridgwater RFC had reached the Somerset County Cup final against Bath RFC, which was staged at the Recreation Ground in Weston-super-Mare.

While the town’s soccer clubs were generally struggling to get a few dozen to watch their matches, the rugby final was described as “a great day in Somerset”.

A huge crowd waited patiently as Bath were half an hour late in arriving, but the Bridgwater fans watched their side win with three unanswered tries, and at the end they swarmed onto the pitch in front of the grandstand.

The cup - the club’s first ever - was presented to local favourite ‘Rattler Roman’, with 1,200 travelling to Weston by train, all with blue and white favours on their suits.

There was unbridled joy in the town later that evening, as thousands lined the streets on their return to the GWR station.

While all that had been going on, Bridgwater AFC had played Weston College in the same town and a handful watched them win with the last kick, meaning the league title was still a possibility as they then beat Clevedon to go joint top with a game in hand.

In the end the league was forgotten as the season ended with the rescheduled Churchill Cup final against all-conquering Street.

That club had already won the East Somerset League and Weston & District League, and were runners-up in the Somerset Senior League, so it was no real surprise when they beat Bridgwater 9-0 in front of 900 fans.

In the end the club’s title win in the depths of the Weston & District League was not deemed important enough to report, but the medals were awarded at a smoking concert in the Cranleigh Rooms next to the Beaufort Arms in St John Street.

The main guest was another cricketer who played for the first town club a decade earlier in Collie Brown, who had by then become a councillor, assisted by landlord and occasional footballer Bill Culverwell.

Another Bridgwater rugby player, meanwhile, followed on from the likes of Tommy Woods, Sammy Woods and Bob Dibble in being selected by England.

Herbert Archer made his debut for the Anglo-Welsh against New Zealand at Dunedin, before gaining caps for England.

A former Blundells School and Guys Hospital man, he played for Bridgwater Albion and was later a GP in Nether Stowey before becoming a Medic in the Royal Artillery Medical Corps.

He died in the village on Boxing Day 1946.