With 2019/20 marking 120 years since Torquay United AFC’s opening campaign, we continue charting the history of the club, following its formation at the Torre Abbey Hotel on Monday 1st May, 1899.
Following an inaugural season which consisted entirely of friendlies, things were about to get a little more serious during the next 12 months, as the former Torquay Public College pupils set about finding a competitive league for their new club to play in.
By now, support for the team had grown, and with attendances beginning to edge towards the three-figure mark, it was felt there was enough interest in the town to make a worthwhile application to join a local league.
After applying, and duly being accepted, to join the East Devon League, Torquay’s fledgling side went in search of a new kit, with their now pink colour scheme deemed unsuitable for a forward-thinking football club.
A more impressive light/dark blue kit meant that United at least looked the part, even if things didn’t go their way out on the pitch.
An opening day 5-1 defeat at Dawlish set the tone, although Peerman’s consolation strike did at least get them off the mark in the goalscoring charts. Further heavy defeats at Newton YMCA (1-4), Exeter United (0-3 at home and 0-7 away) and 120th R.A. Battery (2-6) served as further wake-up calls, and by the end of the season Torquay were left firmly rooted to the bottom of the table with just two wins and one draw.
With the East Devon League only comprising of only a handful of teams, United’s 1900/01 fixture list was still heavily supplemented by friendlies, however a need for a more professional approach to matches prompted the club to seek a new home.
Farmer John Wright’s field was only ever likely to be a temporary measure for a club with lofty ambitions, and with the only onsite facility being a storage hut, teams were forced to get changed at the Clarence Hotel some distance away. Not ideal by any means, particularly during periods of bad weather.
Their next ground provided quite a step up in terms of facilities. With its previous owners folding, the availability of Torquay Recreation Ground was ideal timing for United. Although it had seen better days, a grandstand that housed 250 spectators, along with a bathroom and changing rooms, were luxuries that the club’s first committee could only have dreamed of.
Residents of Torbay will note that the Recreation Ground, based on the seafront, is still in use today, by Torquay Athletic RFC.
More about that arrangement a little later…