Sports of all kinds were taking off in the second half of the nineteenth century. Competitive shooting (a Grimsby man won the big prize at Wimbledon when shooting was a much bigger sport than tennis in the 1880s), the town had its own professional quoits players, racing cyclists, athletics, tug of war, ice skating, and reigning above all .... cricket. With men having spare time in the evenings and Saturday afternoons, practising cricket had boomed in every town and village in Lincolnshire, where the local landowners, farmers, tradesmen and labourers would spend hours between the end of work and the last light of the day. And of course, then play matches at weekends. Great crowds assembled for many of these sports, and transport was organised along, and across the Humber, as well as by train, which had come to the town in 1848.
Grimsby had four major cricket teams, one of those being the Worsley.
The Worsley Cricket Club hosted a historic match at their ground in 1876, when the local teams combined to put out a 22-strong Grimsby team against a "United South of England" eleven. Leading the southerners was none other than WG Grace. The Worsley ground had been prepared with a short cut of grass for about 40 yards square, but after that the grass was left long, much to the chagrin of the Grimsby captain and WG Grace himself. WG opened, and with the score at just 6 was lbw right in front of his wickets, according to virtually everyone. However, the umpire didn't raise his finger, as he thought it unwise. Grace was not averse to telling umpires that he was not out due to "the public have come to see me, not you!" From there, he continued scoring runs through the 22 fielders, all through the first day, and the second - during which Grace was told that his wife had borne him a second sun, so play stopped whilst he produced champagne for all the players and officials in celebration .... and then he continued batting well into the 3rd day. On the third day, the people of Grimsby decided that as the match was clearly going to yield no result, they wouldn't pay their hard-earned cash for yet another day of Grace calling the shots. There was no scoreboard, so when it was decided that the southerners had amassed sufficient runs, everyone retired to the pavilion only to be told that WG had scored 399. "Just add another one," ordered Grace, and so he officially scored a record 400!
The match was quite a coup for the local cricket scene, and especially as the man who is almost certainly the most famous cricketer of all time, set a record for a (dubious) 4 century innings! But how was momentum to be maintained during the long winter months when cricket and most of the above sports were defeated by the weather and the daylight?
Many cricket clubs across the country decided that a good answer to that problem was to play football to maintain fitness and team spirit once cricket was impossible.
And so it was that two years after the Grace match, Worsley CC held a Friday meeting at the Wellington arms, to start-up their own football team. As the Earl of Yarborough had agreed to be the Club President, the team was named "Grimsby Pelham" in his honour. An advert was placed in the Grimsby News informing the populace that the club had been formed and a practice match would be held in Clee Park on Saturday 5th October. Just four weeks later, the first competitive match took place away to Brigg and Britannia.
And this is where we meet the first Town strip.
It was one of blue and white hooped shirts, with white shorts (rather too long to be called shorts!) and blue socks. From photographs, it appears that the blue and white hooped shirts weren't necessarily all from the same stock, with most being narrow and having as many as a dozen hoops of each colour, whilst others wore shirts with just half that number of hoops. Town .... or rather "Pelham" .... could have played 12 players, as was the norm under the "Sheffield" rules, but fielded only 11 as this was as many as they could muster, so a 2-0 defeat was regarded as a great start to the 140 years and counting of Lincolnshire's most successful club.
Next time ........... Stripes and a half