5 October 1889: Arsenal play their first FA Cup match – but against who?

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal played its first ever FA Cup match on 5 October 1889 against Lyndhurst at home in the first qualifying round.  It was played at the Manor Ground.

But against whom did they play?

Following a lead from a BBC article from 2002 I reached the view that they played Lyndhurst FC who were set up a year before Arsenal.  They are still in existence, playing in the village of Lyndhurst in the New Forest.  But although they have a web site this tends to focus only on more recent times.

But as you will read below, I am now having problems with this view.

Andy Kelly has already set out in detail on this site the history of Arsenal in early Cup competitions and as he notes…

In 1887-88, Royal Arsenal entered the London Senior Cup and in 1888-89 they reached the semi-final and played in the Kent Senior Cup.

By 1889-90 Arsenal entered four competitions: the FA Cup, the London Senior Cup, the London Charity Cup and the Kent Senior Cup. The reserves were entered into the Kent Junior Cup.

The first ever FA Cup game resulted in an 11-0 win Lyndhurst in the 1st Qualifying Round.

Now in taking those details from Andy’s earlier article I suddenly got a bit stuck, because there is a reference to Lyndhurst being Surrey Champions.  But looking on the map (I was planning an Arsenal History Society day out), I can’t find a Lyndhurst in Surrey, although there is one in Hampshire.  What’s more the Hants Lyndhurst makes claims to a football team pre-dating the Royal Arsenal.

If it is that Lyndhurst, then it is the administrative centre of the New Forest, near Southampton.  Population about 3000.   The village still has a football club with a web site, but its web site makes nothing of its history, starting only in 2004.

But here’s a nice twist, Alice Liddell, the inspiration for  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is buried in the village.

However back to football.

On consulting Andy, he told me that Lyndhurst played at Denmark Hill which was part of Surrey before being swallowed up by London in the late 19th century. Although, as Andy admits, there is no place called Lyndhurst in the area.

They won the Surrey Senior Cup in 1888 and were runners up in 1889 as confirmed by Wiki.

So we can proceed to the match, although I would love to see some proof that shows that it was the Denmark Hill club and not the one that the BBC identified in 2002 (and which by the looks of it, the New Forest club were willing to accept)

The record books for the first preliminary round show October 5 1889, Royal Arsenal 11, Lyndhurst 0.

In the second round we played Thorpe (Norwich)  and drew 2-2 on 26 October with Thorpe then pulling out and not taking part in the replay – something that was fairly common in the FA Cup during the early years.

Crusaders were beaten next on 16 November when Arsenal won 5-2 after extra time before going out in the fourth qualifying round on 7 December at home 1-5.

Swifts were based in Slough and had reached the semi-final stage of the FA Cup three times previously and had provided England with 8 players.

The BBC review of the Lyndhurst club from 2002 states that Lyndhurst was founded in 1885, at the same time as Southampton FC.   The BBC site speaks of them playing the likes of  Brockenhurst, Cadnam and Burley in the New Forest League.



There is, we are told, a club house, which has a plaque from the FA congratulating the club on 100 years of existence.   The picture of the sign above appears to be quite recent.  The Lyndhurst on the Surrey FC site appears to be no longer existent, and there are no records I can find.  What does appear to be in its favour is that in the 19th century the early round matches of the FA Cup were very much on a regional basis, and it seems unlikely that Lyndhurst from Hampshire would have wanted to come to Kent.

So to the team.   This is the data I have so far – Andy might well want to correct some of this:

  • Goal: Frederick William Beardsley
  • 2: Peter Connolly
  • 3: John Davidson McBean
  • 4: Joseph Morris Bates
  • 5: David Howat
  • 6: John William Julian
  • 7: William Scott (3 goals)
  • 8: Richard Thomas Horsington (1 goal)
  • 9: Hope Ramsay Robertson (2 goals)
  • 10: Humphrey Barbour (3 goals)
  • 11: James William Meggs (2 goals)

The attendance was noted as 2,500.

As to a newspaper report, there I fail, and have to hope that Andy or Mark may find something.

The books…




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