Wanderers’ home

A photo of the team taken in 1863A photo of the team taken in 1863

History and football enthusiast Davis Watson tells the story of one of London's most influential – yet least recognised – football clubs: Wanderers FC, which was formed 160 years ago in Snaresbrook.

East London has given a lot to football over the years: West Ham United supplied three of England's World Cup winning team in 1966 and the professional club closest to Wanstead, Leyton Orient, nurtured a young Laurie Cunningham, who helped pave the way for professional black footballers. The latter were also instrumental in the formation of the Footballers' Battalion during WWI – three Orientals lost their lives during the Somme.

However, the story of one of east London's most influential clubs does not get a lot of recognition in the history books and their story is very close to home.

In 1859, Foresters FC were founded and took their name from Forest School – several former students played for the team. The only games the team played in the early years were among themselves and these were played in the Snaresbrook area of Epping Forest. Some games were also played on the grounds of the Infant Orphan Asylum (now Snaresbrook Crown Court). The year 1863 brought the club's first ever competitive match, which was against Crystal Palace (nothing to do with the modern-day club). Then, in the following year, they changed their name to Wanderers FC, due to the fact they had no permanent home ground and 'wandered' from place to place.

During the 1864/65 season, the club operated two teams, one under the name of Wanderers and a reserve-like team that kept the name Foresters FC, but that idea soon ended and only the first team was kept in place. It was at that time Wanderers FC began to play in west London, at grounds in Battersea and Middlesex. In 1869, the Kennington Oval (known as The Oval, which is most famous for cricket) became their permanent home.

They also have the honour of being the first ever FA Cup winners after winning in 1872 and then again in 1873. Two quarter-final losses followed, but the team regained their flair and won the tournament in 1876, 1877 and 1878 – considering they last competed in the cup in 1882, it is a very interesting statistic that they are joint ninth for the most ever FA Cup wins alongside Manchester City, Everton and West Brom.

A great part of football history ended when the team dissolved in 1887.

In 2009, a new Wanderers FC was formed and they entered a Counties League in 2011, so their legacy lives on. In May 2010, the team recreated the first ever FA Cup final when they played Royal Engineers at The Oval, unfortunately losing 7–1.

So, the legacy of the first ever FA Cup winners, who also assisted in forming the Football Association, still lives on in 2019 – and to think, they came from just down the road.

For more information on the modern Wanderers FC team, visit wavidi.co/wfc

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