Category: Early Years

1899 – 1910 : Organised Leagues in West Sussex

In the early 1900s football was beginning to take off as an organized sport in West Sussex after the formation of the Football League in 1888.

The West Sussex League, which was formed in 1896, consisted of two leagues a Senior and Junior League. In the West Sussex Gazette January 18th 1900 edition (page 2), the leagues tables are listed and were made up of the following teams:

West Sussex Senior League 1899-1900 Season:
Shoreham, Chichester, Horsham, Steyning, Worthing Athletic, Worthing, Petworth, Littlehampton, Bognor and Arundel.

West Sussex Junior League 1899-1900 Season:
Southwick Swifts, Crawley, Shoreham Reserves, Portfield, Worthing Reserves, Littlehampton Swifts, Wick, St Philips (Arundel), Worthing Athletic Reserves, and Amberley.

In the West Sussex Gazette September 20th 1900 edition page 9, the league tables for the following season are listed and the Senior League was reduced by two teams to eight. Shoreham and Worthing Athletic dropped out of the league, with Arundel being relegated and Southwick Swifts being promoted from the Junior Division. In the Junior League St Philips (Arundel), Worthing Athletic Reserves, Amberley and Littlehampton Swifts dropped out of the league and were replaced by Chichester Garrison, Midhurst and Bersted.

During the first decade of the 1900’s football in West Sussex developed rapidly with many local teams and clubs being formed.  Although there was now a league representing the whole of West Sussex many village teams still tended to belong to other local junior leagues all of which changed and evolved over time as teams moved leagues frequently in order to suit their locality and also ambitions.

In the West Sussex Gazette October 8th 1908 edition page 3, there are some fixtures printed for the Bognor & Chichester League.

Chichester Reserves vs Singleton
Portfield vs Bognor Reserves
Selsey vs Midhurst
St John’s (Bognor) vs Arundel II

Also in the West Sussex Gazette February 18th 1909 edition page 3, there is an interesting report about Referees.  Even in those days refereeing standards were being discussed and were an issue.  Nothing appears to have changed more than 100 years on!

Importance of Good Referees

The fact that matches may be lost or won on bad decisions of the referee, makes it important that these officials should be thoroughly tested before being appointed, and they shall not undertake their duties when not fit and able to keep up with play.  So important do I consider this appointing of referees that I would like a small committee selected, whose duty it should be to watch all the important local matches with a view to weeding out the good from the bad or indifferent.  I feel a ruthless cutting out would follow.

In the West Sussex Gazette November 18th 1909 edition page 3, the Chichester & Bognor & District Leagues are listed as being made up of the following teams:

Midhurst, Selsey, Portfield, St John’s (Bognor), Chichester Reserves, Arundel Reserves and Bosham.

Also listed was the Midhurst & District League, which was made up of Easebourne, Tillington, Lodsworth, Midhurst II, Sanatorium and Stedham.

In further issues of the West Sussex Gazette between December 9th 1909 and January 13th 1910 there are also a limited number of fixtures published for the Chichester & Bognor & District League Division II.

North Bersted vs Singleton (9th December 1909 edition, page 3)
Eastergate vs North Bersted (30th December 1909 edition, page 3)
Felpham vs Slindon (6th January 1910, page 3)
Singleton vs Chichester III
Slindon vs St John’s II(13 January 1910, page 3)

Up to this point there had been no mention of Lavant football club in any of sports sections of the West Sussex Gazette or Chichester Observers editions from 1900 up to 1910.

In the Chichester Observer January 12th 1910 edition page 5, the league table of the Chichester and District League are published.  The Junior League had a Senior (8 teams) and Junior (6 teams) Division and they consisted of the following:

Chichester & District Senior League 1909-1910 Season:
Midhurst, Chichester II, Selsey, St Johns, Portfield, Arundel II and Bosham.  Bognor II also played in this league but were omitted in the published tables, but they appeared in numerous league fixtures in later editions of the West Sussex Gazette.

Chichester & District Junior League 1909-1910 Season:
North Bersted, Felpham, Eastergate, Chichester III, Singleton and Slindon.

1910 : Lavant FC Formed

Lavant Football club from our research was formed around the year 1910.

Below is the first photo (we currently have on record) of Lavant Football Club, dated Boxing Day 1910.  The team is pictured in front of the old village wooden pavilion, which was originally situated at the far end of the village green where the tall trees now reside next to the war memorial.


Unfortunately we do not have the names of the team members.
Can anyone help?

Another point to note is that in these photos Lavant do not appear to be wearing the modern day team colours of yellow tops, blue shorts and yellow socks commonly associated with Lavant F.C.

In those days it maybe that a team colours were selected on the basis of whatever coloured tops were the easiest available, as it was likely that each person would have provided their own kit.

1910 – 1911 : Lavant Friendly Matches

In the West Sussex Gazette December 29th 1910 edition page 5, the Chichester & Bognor League are listed as being made up of the following teams:

Chichester & Bognor League 1910-1911 Season:
Felpham, Chichester Reserves, Selsey, North Bersted, Littlehampton Silverdale, Bognor II, Bosham, Midhurst and Eastergate.

It appears the previous seasons league had now been combined into one league.

Also this season the senior West Sussex League had now expanded and had split into Sections Eastern and Western.

In the West Sussex Gazette October 27th 1910 edition page 3 the West Sussex League Western Section are listed as being made up of the following teams:

The West Sussex League Western Section 1910-1911 Season:
Bognor, Chichester II, Wick II, 35th Reg + Dis, Arundel, Petworth, Pulborough, Amberley and Littlehampton II.

Up to this point apart from the photo of the Lavant football team dated Boxing day 1910 highlighted at the beginning of this Chapter, there was still no written evidence in the local papers that Lavant had a football team in 1910.  Then finally in two editions of the Chichester Observer in November 1910 there were two match reports of friendly games played by Lavant.

Firstly in the Chichester Observer November 23rd 1910 edition page 6 there is a match report of a friendly between Chichester III vs Lavant.




Chichester III v Lavant

This “friendly” was played in the Priory Park on Saturday, and resulted in an easy win for the “3rds” by five clear goals.  In the first half Lavant managed to prevent the homesters from scoring, although the City forwards missed many chances.  After the interval the visitors rarely got over the half-way line.  Jones netted thrice for the homesters and Goldie twice, and if the forwards had shot oftener instead of hesitating the score would have been heavier.  Woodman, in the Lavant goal, was in tip-top form, bringing off some fine clearances.  He had no chance with any of the goals scored.  The only other Lavant player worthy of mention is Locke, who shone in the forward line, was a thorough trier throughout the game.  For the homesters, Buss played a great game at back, Bennett (a new recruit) was the best of the halves, and in the forward line Jones was very clever, but should shoot oftener.  Knight (another new forward) should be of service to the team in the near future.  

The league table was also published for the Chichester & District League 1910-1911 season, which had now expanded to nine teams and consisted of North Bersted, Felpham, Eastergate, Chichester III, Bognor II, Selsey, Eastergate, Littlehampton Silverdale and Bosham.

The league was made up of a mixture of teams from the previous seasons senior and junior divisions so it seems to suggest that during this season the league had amalgamated into one division.   Again demonstrating how fluid the local league structure was during the early 1900’s.

In the West Sussex Gazette March 23rd 1911 edition page 3 the Chichester & Bognor League and Midhurst & District League tables were published:

Chichester & District League 1910-1911 season 










16 12 2 2 46 13 26

Chichester III

15 11 4 0 46 30 22


15 10 4 1 35 13 21

Littlehampton Silverdale

16 8 6 2 34 33 18


16 6 9 1 42 46 13


15 8 7 0 43 33 12

North Bersted

16 4 8 3 20 44 11

Bognor II

14 2 10 2 16 44 6


14 1 12 1 8 32 3


Midhurst & District League 1910-1911 season 










12 10 2 0 43 11 20


11 7 2 2 24 11 16


12 7 4 1 31 11 15


11 6 5 0 16 28 12


12 3 8 1 12 51 7


12 2 9 1 16 15 5

Midhurst Wed

12 3 8 1 10 25 5 

In the Chichester Observer November 30th 1910 edition page 6 there is a match report of a friendly between Lavant vs Boxgrove.




Lavant v Boxgrove 

On Saturday the “Canaries” paid a visit to Lavant and suffered their first defeat this season by one goal to nil.  The score at half time was a blank, but should have been 1-0 in favour of the “Canaries” for a clinking shot by McAthy, the centre forward, hit the underside of the crossbar, and from the rebound, went fully two feet inside the top of the net, and from here the goalie punched out.  But the referee disallowed a goal.  Even the goalie was satisfied it was a goal.  After this the game became rather rough on both sides, and just after the interval Lavant scored the winning goal.  

Players names such as Locke and Woodman are mentioned in these match reports and they are familiar names of families who have had a very long association with the village right through to the modern day.

Also significantly in the first report the friendly is against Chichester III who were playing in the Junior Division of the Chichester & District League.  Therefore it can be assumed that the 1910-1911 season the village football team had been formed and that they were actively playing regularly, but only friendlies at this stage with other local established teams.

It seems that following this season the club then officially entered a team in the local junior league as highlighted in the Chichester Observer April 24th 1912 edition page 6 where the Chichester & District League tables were published and Lavant were now part of this league.

1911 – 1914 : Lavant’s First League Appearances

Chichester & District League 1911-1912 season  










12 12 0 0 61 11 24


12 7 4 1 28 22 15

Bognor II

12 7 5 0 31 19 14

North Bersted

12 6 5 1 21 21 13

Chichester III

12 4 7 1 30 44 9


12 2 9 1 14 46 5


12 1 9 2 9 31 4


The last match of the season was at North Bersted and they hosted Lavant and the match report notes that North Bersted won easily by 8 goals to 2.

The following season 1912-1913 Lavant remained in the same league as published in the West Sussex Gazette October 17th 1912 edition page 3. The league was expanded by a further two teams and so now included Boxgrove and Chichester North End.

Due to the numbers in the league and the cup competitions available to teams locally typically the football season in the 1900’s did not start until late September and was usually completed by early the following April.

Below is another team photo taken possibly around the same period.  This photo was taken on the village green facing the flint houses located on the eastern side of the green, which are still there today. Interestingly the pitch in those days was laid out across the village green running East to West.



Again unfortunately we do not have any of the names of team members.
Can you help?

The 1913-14 season was the final season before the start of the First World War and Lavant were still playing in the Chichester & District League.

In the West Sussex Gazette November 27th 1913 edition page? the tables are published showing Lavant firmly seated at the bottom of the league, having played 3 games, lost 3 games, goals for 0 and goals against 21.

1914 – 1919: First World War

On the 6th August 1914 Prime Minister Herbert Asquith announced that Britain had entered the war against Germany in defense of Belgium.  

Asquith, recounted the background to the outbreak of general war in Europe in July/August 1914, placing great emphasis on the efforts of the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey to secure continued peace in the face of German aggression.

Asquith finished his speech by stating that Britain would throw her entire Empire’s resources into the struggle against Germany in order to ensure victory.

The Government then passed a number of acts over the four years of the war in order to enlist the men into the army.

January 1916 The first Military Service Act was passed.  This Act called for the compulsory enlistment of unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 41.

May 1916 The 2ndamendment of theMilitary Service Act was introduced, which brought all men regardless of marital status between the ages of 18 and 41, under the provisions of the existing Military Service Act.  It also allowed the War Office to extend the service of time-expired men whilst there was a war and to re-examine men rejected as physically unfit.

Near the end of the war in April 1918 the 5th amendment to the Military Service Act was introduced.  This was the most drastic act yet, increasing the eligibility of male civilians even further.  It lowered the minimum age of liability to 17 and increased the maximum age to 55.

As a result of the war the various leagues and football clubs around Britain were suspended as the whole country went through this awful period in history in which we saw 885,138 military deaths, 109,000 civilian deaths and 1,663,435 military wounded.

A plaque mounted on the wall in St Mary’s Church in Lavant commemorates the 27 soldier’s from the village that were killed in the first world war. It reads:

To the Glory of God and in grateful memory of the men of the village who laid down their lives, in the Great War 1914 to 1919.

M.Ring, W.Pescott, H.Morton, J.Hayler, W.Tupper, F.Stubbs, A.Stapley, E.Kerley, H.Smith, L.Small, C.Bleach, H.Hutchings, C.Dowling, W.Pratt, E.Newport, P.Sawtell, W.Howard, P.Bleach, F.Ifould, C.Pannell, R.Denman, D.Makeson, H.Norrell, F.Squires, A.Tupper, F.Shepherd, G.Irish.  

Although we can not be sure it is very likely that a number of these brave soldier’s who gave their lives for their country may well have played football locally and maybe even for Lavant.

On the 11th November 1918, at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month the Armistice was signed.

A formal state of war between the two sides persisted for another seven months until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles with Germany on the 28th June 1919.

Demobilization of the British Army followed and a scheme developed by Churchill the new War Secretary based on age, length of service and number of times a man has been wounded in battle was introduced, which generally ensured the longest serving soldiers were demobilized first.

Despite some flash points demobilization was a relatively trouble free process.  In November 1918 the British Army had numbered almost 3.8 million.  Twelve months later, it had been reduced to slightly less than 900,000 and by 1922 it was just over 230,000.

Demobilization, nonetheless, remained a difficult undertaking.  Many servicemen, promised a ‘land fit for heroes’ by the Lloyd George government, suffered when unemployment rose rapidly and the ambitious wartime programme of reconstruction was shelved during 1921 economic slump.

In the Chichester Observer September 17th 1919 edition page? there is an article regarding the return to local football leagues after the end of the first world war.


After five years of war I am again able to sit down and write some “notes” on the pastime in this district for readers of the “Observer.”  We have all had our ups and downs during the past five years of bloodshed, and we all mourn the loss of some good old friends of both players and officials.  We shall always treasure their memory whilst engaged in the League and friendly matches, and also from around the table whilst holding meetings.  Others have also been maimed and unable to again become a “mudded oaf” but have to be content to watch their favourites, annex the cups and honours on the play-ing fields.  To the youngsters I sincerely say “play the game and be British,” take a loss in the same spirit as you would a win. 


I shall always be pleased to receive reports of matches, meetings, etc by the first post or second post on Monday mornings for insertion the following Wednesday in these columns, but at any other time they will appear in the next issue.


Now for a short backwards glance over the five years that have elapsed since the termination of the game in 1914.  Nearly all of us have tales to tell of different places we have seen and been stationed at, some sad and some hilarious, but our thoughts have always strayed to South West Sussex, and as you have watched your favourite Regimental team, company team or otherwise, you have thought “Well that is just like Bosham used to bundle through.” Or “That is just like Felpham’s ‘nippy’ forwards,” and then you “wake up” and find it is time to see about something more serious, but it has been the “memories” of days of long ago.


I have a list of some 500 players who played, or at least were registered, in the Chichester and Bognor and West Sussex League for the last season of active football, i.e., 1913-1914 season, and I am indeed very glad to observe that 90 per cent have done their little bit in one way or other arm of H.M. Forces.  Of this number something like 90 or 95 have made the supreme sacrifice, and about the same number wounded.  To these lost, and those left behind, I tender my sincerest sympathy, and hope that there are better days in store for us all.  Some there are who, we are glad to see, have escaped the Huns’ vengeance and are fit and well, and have, whilst serving, played for their regiment, company or ship, and these are the men who will “coach” the youngsters, who are the players of tomorrow.  What better men could we have to be their instructors.


Some of the clubs have already had practice matches, and things are beginning to look rosy for them.  I was very pleased indeed to see that both Felpham and North Bersted have entered for the West Sussex League.  These are two of the old original village teams, and I wish them both success, and when these two old rivals meet in the league, it will be a match worth watching.  They have both got business-like Secretaries, and I am sure that they will soon get their fixture list filled up.  Both Clubs have lost several good players during the war, whilst they have been on active service, but I from experience that they have good men ready to take their places.

The article goes on to mention reformation of teams such as Singleton, Westbourne (newly formed club), Ashling, Yapton (Chichester & Bognor League 1913-1914 Champions), Chichester and Bognor.

There is a further paragraph relating to Lavant and it reads as follows:

The Midhurst and District League are applying to the Sussex County Football Association to extend their radius so as to include Lavant in it.  I hope that this will be granted to them, so that the villagers may get some good matches on their delightful little ground.  I am sure that Mr Whale works hard for the Club, and they should all be thankful that they have such a hardworking Secretary.  

The book, West Sussex League 100 Years 1896-1996 page 48, mentions in the minutes of the Midhurst & District meeting of 16th September 1919, Lavant were represented Mr R.Whale and in the draw for the first round of the Charity Cup, they were drawn away to Stedham.

In that season 1919-1920 Lavant were eventual Runners-Up in the league and in the District Charity Cup.

In the Chichester Observer October 22nd 1919 edition page 4 there is a match report of Lavant vs Graffham.

Lavant vs Graffham 

Lavant were at home on Saturday to Graffham in a Midhurst and District League game, and were victorious by three goals to two.  The homesters were soon one up with a good shot by H.Lock, the ball hitting the cross-bar, curving in and coming out again, but the point was allowed.  The play was then very even, Graffham having a look in at times, but Southin kept his goal intact.  H.Lock found the net again before half-time.  The score at the interval was unaltered. 

Restarting, Lavant took up the running, but were beaten back, and after some smart playing in the Lavant goal mouth, Graffham scored with a shot that Southin could not see.  Still keeping up the pressure, the visitors forced a couple of corners, but Lavant kept them out, Millier and Ede playing a fine game at full back.  At length the homesters got going, Penfold centering finely, enabled H.Lock to put them still further ahead.  The play afterwards fell off a bit, but Graffham still meant business and tried to pull the game off, and it was after another ten minutes play that they were able to find the net, a long, high shot completely beating Southin.  This was the extent of the scoring , and the game ended with Graffham trying hard for the equalizer. 

The homesters have a good goalie in Fred Southin, who on Saturday, played a very cool game; the backs are a good pair and Millier wants a lot of beating.  The centre half, R.Penfold, was the best half, the wing halves letting Graffham men have too much rope, and therin lay the danger.

1919 – 1920 : Lavant Stripes

Below is a photo of the Lavant team taken during the 1919-1920 season.

Lavant FC1929 1


Note that Lavant now have a full football kit and are playing in striped tops.

From the previous match report and information regarding the club secretary we can now assume that it is very likely that Secretary Mr R Whale, goalie Fred Southin, centre half R.Penfold, forward H.Lock, and full backs Millier and Ede are all in the picture.

Lavant FC1929 2

1920 – 1921 : Lavant Reserves Emerge

The book, West Sussex League 100 Years 1896-1996 page 8, notes this as significant season as the structure of League changed with the forming of the Sussex County Football League by the Sussex County Football Association.

The West Sussex League remained with a Senior and Junior Division as did a number of local Junior Leagues such as the Chichester and District League and Midhurst and District League.

In the West Sussex Gazette January 13th 1921 edition page 2, the Sussex County League is printed along with the West Sussex League (Senior and Junior Divisions) and the Midhurst and District League.  Additionally there are some results published for the Chichester and District League of the previous week games.

Sussex County league 1920-1921 










Vernon Athletic

11 9 1 1 38 18 19


9 7 0 2 35 8 14


8 6 1 1 31 12 13


12 4 4 4 23 21 12

B’tn H Am

11 5 1 5 22 23 11

R.R Signals

6 4 1 1 20 10 9


10 4 1 5 20 21 9


10 4 1 5 17 24 9

Rock-*- **** ?

9 4 0 5 16 28 8


10 2 3 5 16 21 7


10 3 0 7 12 31 6

East Grinstead

12 0 1 11 11 50 1


West Sussex League (Senior Division) 1920-1921 season










Bognor Town

9 8 0 1 31 13 16


10 4 4 2 29 15 18


9 4 3 2 14 16 11


8 4 2 2 32 18 10


10 4 1 5 17 29 9









Chichester II









7 2 0 5 11 18 4


9 1 1 7 13 44 3


West Sussex League (Junior Division) 1920-1921 season  











15 13 2 0 70 17 28


13 10 1 2 54 15 21


13 8 3 2 40 23 19

Arundel II

11 7 3 1 37 9 17

Wick II

14 7 3 4 32 23 17

Singleton & West Dean Utd

12 8 0 4 39 16 16

Shipphams Utd

14 6 4 4 52 27 16


14 8 0 6 55 29 16

Bognor Town II

14 6 1 7 25 32 13


13 3 1 9 23 66 7


15 1 3 11 22 53 6


12 3 0 9 21 50 6

Selsey II

13 2 0 11 14 49 4

Felpham II

13 0 1 12 6 83 1


Chichester and District Junior League Results:
Postal Comrades beat Red Triangle 1-0
Westbourne beat Lavant Reserves 9-0
Ashling won at Eastergate 5-0
And Boxgrove overcame Fishbourne 3-2

Midhurst and District League 1920-1921 season  











13 10 2 1 48 7 22


11 9 1 1 49 8 19


9 8 0 1 36 13 16


11 6 3 2 37 16 13


14 6 1 7 34 33 13

Midhurst Reserves

13 4 4 5 26 28 12

Singleton & W.Dean Res

10 4 1 5 21 27 9

Petworth Reserves

10 3 2 5 21 26 8


11 3 1 7 18 13 7

East Dean

12 0 2 10 9 58 2


10 0 1 9 5 43 1


The book, West Sussex League 100 Years 1896-1996 page 11, shows the league table for the Chichester and District Junior League is published taken from the Portsmouth Football Mail on the 26th March 1921.

Chichester and District Junior League 1920-1921 season 











14 13 0 1 89 14 26


17 10 2 5 39 39 22


16 9 3 4 37 18 21


15 8 3 4 29 15 19

Red Triangle

16 7 3 6 36 36 17

Postal Crusaders

10 5 3 2 25 21 13

Lavant II

13 4 1 8 26 44 9

Chichester B

15 3 0 12 32 74 6


18 2 1 15 20 59 5


12 3 2 7 27 41 0


From the various league tables and results above it can be seen that Lavant now had two teams in the 1920-1921 Season and for the first time in their history the first team was now playing in newly revamped West Sussex League, with the second team playing in the Chichester and District Junior League.

The next photo was taken outside the village hall by the eastern face and is of the Lavant second team in 1920-1921 Season who were then playing in the Chichester and District Junior Football League.

LAVANT FC 1920-1921

Back Row (l to r): Mr Holdaway (Station Master), Sid ‘Putty’ Bridle, Wilf Ide, Bert Squires, Mr Brodie, Kruger Chalk, Jack Clements, Mr C.Foster, Mr Melling (Landlord of the Royal Oak).

FrontRow (l to r): Charlie ‘Bustler’ Horn, Ron Fielder, Fred Southern, Ron Macarthy, George Southern.

From this photo it can be seen that the pitch’s orientation has now changed running North to South, which is the way most people remember the pitch being set out on the village green right up to modern times, until recently when it was again tweaked in 2005 to run Northeast to Southwest along side the adjacent road, in order to try and minimize the effect that the football pitch had on the cricket square.

In the West Sussex Gazette October 20th 1921 edition page 10, the West Sussex League Senior and Junior Divisions are published for the 1921-1922 season, with 5 league matches played Lavant first team were 4th in the Junior Division with 8 points, having won 4, drawn 0 and lost 1.

Goals for 20 and 8 against.

Singleton and West Dean Utd were currently top of the league with 12 points.