HISTORY OF THE LEAGUE
A football reporter first suggested the formation of a Downs Football League and his idea appealed to Mr.Sidney Stratford, the Secretary of Clifton Athletic, who had been playing friendly matches on the Downs.
The first meeting was held on March 27th 1905, but it was not until Mr. J.B. Issacs and Mr. F.M. Giles called the first Annual General Meeting at the Kingsdown Guild on the 6th July 1905, that the League was inaugurated. Arthur Chappelle who along with Sidney Stratford served for the League for over 50 years, proposed there should be three divisions of ten teams, which was accepted.
The Downs League prospered and between the two World Wars several well known names emerged. One of them was Norman Hardy, who played for St.Andrews and was also a fast bowler for Somerset.
His tragic death occured during a GFA Cup replay against Fishponds. He was taken ill and collapsed in the dressing rooms. Money was raised by the St.Andrews players for a cup in his memory. It was appropiate that St. Andrews were the first winners in 1925-1926.
Downs League Fans
The other personalities who have enjoyed Downs League football include Test Cricketers; Wally Hammond, Jack Crapp and David Allen for England, while Charlie Drace was a Gloucestershire player who represented New Zealand. Tony Brown, Colin Mitchell, Dennis A’Court, Harold Jarman and David Graveney have all played County Cricket.
Three Goalkeepers, Syd Morgan, Con Sullivan and Tony Cook went onto play for Bristol City. Kenny Stephens left Phildown Rovers for West Bromwich Albion where he played First Division Football before returning to Bristol Rovers. Roger Kirby who played over 1,000 Downs League games, captained the Gloucestershire FA County side and on three occassions a FA eleven.
Downs League Treasurer, Dave Josham, who refereed the first FA Cup semi-final to be shown on live TV, has died aged 60 on June 2007.
Dave, who had been treasurer for many seasons, first refereed on the Downs in the 1970s and quickly rose through the ranks on to the Western League, before progressing on to the Football League. One of the highlights of his refereeing career came when he officiated at the first FA Cup semi final to be shown live on television in 1990.
The match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Villa Park ended up as a famous 4-3 win for the Eagles after extra time. Apart from looking after the league’s finances, Dave took an active part in helping the younger referees on the Downs to develop.
The Downs League is in mourning after the death of president Peter Gault in 2003. Mr Gault, affectionately known as “Jock” by the many members of the league who knew and admired him, had been ill for some time.
Peter Gault came to Bristol in the 1940s to work in a hospital after leaving the RAF.
A big football fan he soon joined the Downs League as a goalie and outside left for the Twyford House team.
According to current vice president and life member Mervyn Baker, he was not the best of players, but soon became an invaluable member of the league.
“I remember him as a goalie when I played against him,” said Mr Baker.
“He was an average goalie, but became a top class administrator.
Mr Gault remained with the league, in a variety of roles, throughout his life. He was chairman between 1973 and 1991 and in 1980 was awarded the highly prized Henry Newman Trophy for referees within the league.
He was vice president of the Clifton St Vincent and Sneyd Park teams and also helped with youth teams. His work was crowned by his appointment as president of the Downs League in 1996.
“He was a very popular man at league meetings, though being Scots we often had a job to understand him,” said Mr Baker.
“He served football very well indeed and we were very fortunate to get his support.
“He will be very sorely missed.”
A statement from the league added: “The league sends its condolences to his widow, Hilda, as well as their children and grandchildren.”