A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
Preston football team in the 1920s - my uncle, Jack Wray, is circled
After The Great War, Preston Football Club was established in the early 1920s. The team wanted to play at the village’s recreation ground, but its owner, Douglas Vickers, was reluctant to allow this. However, some games were played there and the top picture below shows the team in front of the pavilion which was built in 1921. After a season or so, the pitch was relocated to the meadow behind the pavilion (see below). Here the team enjoyed success winning cup, shield and league honours including holding the ‘mighty Letchworth Town’ to a draw in a cup tie at Letchworth. Preston FC played against Kimpton, Union Jacks, Woolmer Green and Walsworth. They were ‘lively affairs and sparks used to fly not only amongst the players but also very often from the supporters’.
It may be surprising to learn that the first known footballer who lived in Preston was the Lord of the Manor, Thomas Harwood Darton. He played for Hitchin FC in 1871 and was associated with other sporting activities at Hitchin at the time. The first mention of football at Preston found so far was on 11 October 1911. The newspaper listing of fixtures for the following day shown below, provides information about the local teams that had been formed and that there three competitions: a Senior League, a Junior League (probably not for younger players but for those who were not so proficient) and a Junior Cup.
The local team was called Temple Dinsley and the match was at home, which suggests that it was played on the estate. Most probably, the same field was used where cricket was played in the summer, beside the chestnut drive that led from St Albans Highway - although one report states that the ‘home team won the toss and kicked downhill’. Temple Dinsley won this game and played either Walden Rangers or Stagenhoe Park in the next round. The first match report was dated 2 February 1912:
Ewarts won the return fixture in March 1912. The following season in October 1912, Temple Dinsley, playing at home, were knocked out of the Junior Cup in the first round by Phoenix Athletic. They had matches against Hayes Athletic (15 Feb and 12 April 1913) and Ewarts (9 Nov 1912 and 5 April 1913). Unfortunately, no players were named in reports, although one said they were ‘a sturdy lot of players’. However, it appears that there wasn’t too much of a competition for places at Preston in February 1913:
After playing Kimpton home and away in December 1920, Preston FC seem to have played only now and again during the 1920s and 1930s - they had known matches in 1925 and 1927, when they lost out on promotion from the North Herts Division 3. Two names stood out during this time, W Darton and J Garner, the ‘well-known goalkeeper’ and a ‘comfortable custodian’, who went on to play for Hitchin Blue Cross from August 1926. Both were sporting all-rounders, also playing cricket for Preston CC. In September 1925, Preston FC competed in the Benevolent Shield:
I knew my father, Sam Wray, had played football for Preston and he always walked with a slight limp, which was the result of a kick while footballing. The team beat Walkern by a remarkable score of 18 - 2 in January 1927
There was then an interval until 1936 to 1939 - S J Garner of 10 Council Cottages, Preston advertised that Preston needed fixtures in October 1936. That month, they beat Pirton in the Herts Junior Cup, when Garner was ‘back in the fold’ and J Grimes was a goal-scoring centre-forward.
The Preston team that day was:
In December 1939, the lost to their old rivals, Kimpton, 1-6 in the Greggs Cup. During the 1930s, Jimmy Garner played in goal for Hertfordshire. Willie Chalkley and Harry Jenkins ‘were also strongly fancied for County honours’. Other players included Charlie Cumper, Harry Maltby and George Jeeves. After several successful seasons, the Club closed down and until 1939 the pattern was for the club to flourish for a few years and then fold. After WW2, under chairman, Harry Boxall, the club was run more efficiently. There was far more continuity and the team enjoyed further success. Funds were raised by raffles at the Red Lion organized by its hosts, the Massey’s, and dances at Princess Helena College in 1951 and 1954.
Preston football team in the 1950s - with Mrs Seebohm (far left)
Preston FC were playing competitive football from 1951 until 1956 - and at a higher level: the North Herts Premier League. They had an outstanding goalkeeper, Jimmy Garner, who had a trial for the professional club, Luton Town. ‘Curley’ Pateman was another who played for various clubs There was one comment in1954 that Preston had ‘a small pitch’. Another report listed the team in November 1956:
December 1956
November 1956
23 December 1954
Although the football club was described as ‘flourishing’ in 1953, seventeen years later Derrick Seebohm bemoaned, ‘‘At the present time we can't raise enough people for our cricket and football teams. Outsiders have to help us out”. The club folded shortly afterwards. It had operated intermittently for sixty years.