History - Pre-World War 1

Nearly five thousand teams currently participate in the Beautiful Game in the County of Essex, therefore it’s hard to believe the beginnings of the Essex County FA began at a modest public house in Chelmsford.

Tens of thousands of footballers from all edges of the County continue to enjoy the sport which became subject to increased organisation when, on the 30th September 1882, members of several local football clubs discussed the formation of a “Football Association” at the White Hart Hotel, which was still in existence in Colchester Road until its demolition in December 2010.

AC Durrant of Chelmsford FC, being in the chair at the time, proposed the name the “Essex County Football Association,” which was seconded by JL Nickisson from Brentwood FC and carried unanimously.

From these unsophisticated beginnings a provisional committee was elected with one member from each club for the purpose of framing the necessary rules. This committee would act until a permanent one was appointed. Mr Nickisson proposed “any club playing or having its headquarters in Essex should be eligible for membership.”

Eleven years later a full executive committee was finally formed, consisting of three members from north Essex and three from the south, who would be elected annually at the general meeting. Later, the number was increased to eight, then to twelve, and now a 30-strong council unite as evidence of the rapidly-expanding game.

By the time the committee started to enlarge, the famous Essex Senior Cup competition had been inaugurated, with the first final seeing Colchester defeat Braintree. Over 100 contests later, Ilford have proved the most prolific winners of the coveted silverware, emerging victorious no less than 13 times.

One of the most prominent names in the Association’s history is Jas T Clark (pictured), whose involvement began at the turn of the 20th century when he was appointed Secretary of the new Referees Committee and his first important task was to draft a set of rules for their guidance.

His prime emergence, though, came in 1908. To the deep regret of every sportsman in the County, Honorary Secretary Robert Cook passed away with tragic suddenness and Clark was appointed in his place. It was the commencement of his secretarial duties which would span 50 years.

He will have faced fewer challenges during his service than the outbreak of the Great War, imminent during 1914. A message in that year’s County Handbook read: “The Council sees no reason to interfere at present with games that Competitions and Clubs may see fit to arrange; but trusts that so far as possible teams will be confined to players precluded through physical unfitness or home ties from serving their King and Country.”

The Council decided to institute a roll of honour of all players and officials who enlisted from Essex clubs. Operations were suspended at the Association the following year as the conflict began to reach its heights and, pending the return to normal conditions, all available funds were donated to war charities. The clubs in existence at the start were retained in membership without payment of further subscription.

If you've got any relevant documents, information or artefacts you think are relevant to the history of the Essex County FA, or local football in general, please get in contact and share the memories by calling (01245) 393085 or via E-Mail at info@essexfa.com.

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