BY Vince Cooper

WHITE Cottage is where it all started. From this came Tottenham Hotspur FC, the name ‘White Hart Lane’ and the club’s first key man

The full address was White Cottage 7 White Hart Lane and it was the home of one Robert (Bobby) Buckle.

Buckle, born in 1868 in Stamford Street just off White Hart Lane, was one of the founders, along with schoolmates John Anderson and Hamilton (Ham) Casey, of The Hotspur Football Club.

The trio, aged 13 and 14 had already been members of Hotspur Cricket Club (the name came from Shakespeare’s ‘Harry Hotspur’), formed two years before and, wanting something to do when the weather got too bad to play the summer sport they decided to set up the football club in 1882 and recruited classmates from Tottenham Grammar School and elsewhere including brothers John and Jim Randall, and Charlie Denyer.

The lamppost and the clock

Legend has it that this group held their initial meeting under a lamppost on Tottenham High Road and the post, which stands in the shadows of the sparkling new Tottenham Hotspur stadium, is now decorated with a clock, along with a plaque commemorating the occasion.

They proposed that the 21 members (including themselves) pay an annual subscriptions of 6d commencing in September of that first year. Augmented by a donation from the cricket club, the first money was used to buy wood for goal and corner posts.

Buckle, a left-winger, was chosen as the new team’s first-ever captain and fittingly scored their first-ever goal. This came in a 3-1 loss to Grange Park on 20 October 1883 a week after the first match, a 2-0 loss to Radicals. By this time they were already being referred to as Spurs in local press reports.

1885 saw a number of major changes. Then-Secretary Sam Casey had been receiving correspondence intended for another club, London Hotspur, so it was decided, for clarity to differentiate the club from their near-namesakes by adding Tottenham to the start of their name and thus Hotspur became Tottenham Hotspur.

Next was the kit colour. The team had originally worn navy blue shirts with a scarlet ‘H’ and white breeches but they changed to blue and white halves, influenced by Blackburn Rovers who wore those colours for their FA Cup final win over Queen’s Park at Kennington Oval, a match attended by a number of the Spurs players.

They would change again frequently before the turn of the century, first back to dark blue, then to red, then to chocolate and gold stripes before finally, and permanently, settling on white shirts and navy blue shorts in 1900 after an FA Cup game against Preston.

The club were also evicted from their original HQ, the basement of a YMCA, after a member had been struck by a soot-covered ball. The Tottenham Hotspur club chairman was a man called John Ripsher, a church warden, and he organised a move to a new base, a church-owned property. But the club were also evicted from there when some of the members were caught playing cards. They then settled on a third premises, The Red House on Tottenham High Road.

1885. Buckle is second from left in the front row

Having started out as a schoolboy team competing in friendlies where results were often disputed, teams often played without a full XI and matches were sometimes only an hour long, Ripsher and the club gradually formalised things and added older players and in 1885 they played their first-ever competitive match, beating St Albans (a City of London ‘Beer House’ team) 5-2 in the London Association Cup in front of an estimated 400 spectators on Buckle’s 17th birthday. They then travelled to Wandsworth to play Casuals in the next round. Their opponents were probably the best team in London at the time and it was hardly surprising that they suffered an 8-0 humbling, Still, the club’s overall record for that season was a healthy P37 W22 D4 L11.

Soon after came what would prove to be a momentous decision and one with long-term consequences.

Buckle was acting as secretary in 1886 and as correspondence sent from him was from his home address of White Cottage, White Hart Lane this soon became the recognised ‘home’ of the club.

Back to the football and in 1886-87 the team reached their first cup final, seeing off Phoenix Park, St Lukes and Enfield Lock to reach the final of the East End Cup which they hosted at their then-home ground at Tottenham Marshes. The opponents were Caledonians, a team made up of exiled Scots who hailed from Holloway. Spurs suffered a single-goal defeat but the early round successes boded well for the future.

The Marshes was home for another two seasons but this was a public ground meaning they were unable to charge for admission. This also led to fans sometimes encroaching on the pitch and there were cases of opposition players being pelted with ‘rotten turnips and other vegetable refuse’.

To combat this and to increase revenue by being able to charge for admission they rented a ground in 1888 which Buckle along with teammates Sam Casey and Jack Jull had identified at Northumberland Park for £17 per annum. This would lead to a considerable upturn in the club’s financial fortunes and in that year they recorded a healthy profit of £6.

The 1889-90 season saw the club join the Football Association. They continued to do ok in local matches but found it tough when coming up against better opposition and suffered early defeats in the Middlesex Cup and London Cup to Clapton and Old St Stephens from Denmark Hill respectively.

It was in 1892-93 that Spurs first played in a competitive league. Friendly matches were becoming repetitive and were failing to attract decent crowds so the club became one of seven founder-members of the Southern Alliance League. Spurs performed creditably and finished 3rd five points behind old rivals Old St Stephens. Sadly, after a number of problems the Alliance was disbanded at the end of its one and only season.

The next major change at the club came in 1895 when Buckle, who had stopped playing for the 1st team earlier that year and was now in the role of secretary and also working as a solicitor’s clerk, suggested that they turn professional, a proposal which was passed by the membership. After an attempt to join the Football League failed they applied to join the Southern League for the 1896-97 season and were given immediate 1st Division status. Spurs finished a creditable 4th, 13 points behind runaway winners Southampton St Mary’s in their first season. They also reached the 5th Qualifying Round of the FA Cup (the last before the 1st Round proper) where they suffered a 3-0 loss to Luton Town.

The 1897-98 campaign saw a slight improvement in league form with the club progressing to 3rd behind defending champions Southampton whilst it was the same Luton team who ended FA Cup hopes with a 4-3 win at Northumberland Park.

Tottenham Hotspur Football Club Limited came into existence in 1898 with Buckle as one of the first directors and with the document forming the legal company bearing the name and address ‘Robert Buckle, Tottenham Hotspur, White Hart Lane’ in reference to his home address.

Bobby as secretary, standing far right

On Good Friday 1898 a game against Woolwich Arsenal attracted a record crowd of 14,000 and the refreshment stand collapsed under the crush of people. Although no serious injuries were sustained it was becoming clear that Northumberland Park was no longer big enough for the ambitious Spurs and in 1899 they moved a short distance to a plot of land called Beckwith’s Nursery which was owned by Charringtons Brewers and was behind the White Hart pub.

Buckle and his fellow directors had heard rumours that another team was planning to lease the land and set up home there so they moved quickly, guaranteeing the landlords crowds of 1,000 on matchdays.

Hat-trick hero David Copeland.

The first game at the new home was a friendly against Notts County on Monday 4th September 1899. With the weather said to be ‘of a most pleasant description’ a crowd reported in some places as ‘between 6,000 and 7,000’ was in attendance. The Sporting Life correspondent was suitably impressed, writing that ‘Few grounds in the neighbourhood of London can compare’.

In the match Spurs fell behind early on but prolific goalscorer Tom Pratt quickly equalised to claim the club’s first-ever goal at White Hart Lane. Scot David Copeland then fired in a hat-trick as Spurs recorded a resounding 4-1 win to kick off life in their new home.

The tenants built a stand on the west side of their new home almost immediately but they wouldn’t remain tenants for long,  buying the freehold of the ground £8,900 in 1905, along with a further piece of land at the north end for £2,600.

Although the new ground wasn’t officially called ‘White Hart Lane’ the name soon became synonymous with the club and the team now dubbed ‘The Flower of the South’ in the press quickly settled into their new home winning the Southern League in their first season there and, famously, the FA Cup in 1901.

1901. Cup winners

In 1900, after being one of the club founders, playing in the first match, scoring the first goal, moving to accept the name change to Tottenham Hotspur, being part of two relocations, being the first secretary of the limited company, giving the club their home address, overseeing the transformation to professionalism and serving as player, secretary, treasurer and director, Bobby Buckle resigned from the board of Tottenham Hotspur Ltd after moving to South London.

Aside from the fact that he was a regular, and regular scorer from the left wing for the team and often captain, little is known of Bobby Buckle in terms of football ability. But his credentials as a Tottenham great are undoubted. He was awarded the club’s first testimonial in 1892, would be a regular on the pitch for 12 years, and was there to propose the toast to the 1901 FA Cup winners at a celebration banquet in the King’s Hall in Holborn. A far cry from the 13-year-old playing with his fellow pupils from Tottenham Grammar School!

Bobby in later life

But playing was just part of his role in the development of the club. Buckle, who passed away in 1959 at the grand old age of 91 was clearly the key figure in the formation and growth of Tottenham Hotspur both on and off the pitch and he clearly deserves the ‘Father of Spurs’. It’s fair to say that, without Bobby there would be no Spurs and no ‘Glory, Glory’.