BY Vince Cooper

WHITE Cottage is where it all started. From this came Hotspur FC (the prefix ‘Tottenham’ would come later) 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 – and to keep together – 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 with Jim the captain, original vice-captain William Harston who would go on to serve the club for over 60 years, and Charlie Denyer.

The lamppost and the clock

Legend has it that this group held some of their initial meetings under a lamppost on Tottenham High Road, the light being used in order to take notes, 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 its place in the club’s history.

They proposed that the 21 members (including themselves) pay 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.

One of those press reports, from The Herald, praises the team for an easy 9-0 win over local foes Brownlow Rovers but the return between the pair was disappointing as the match had to be abandoned when the ball burst ten minutes from time and no replacement was available.

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 shield with the letter ‘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. Third from the right in the front row is William Harston who would later go on to work as steward in the press box at White Hart Lane until the late 1940s.

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 partly through an amalgamation with another local team, ‘The Stars’. In 1885 they played their first-ever competitive match, beating St Albans (a City of London ‘Business 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, a team made up of old boys from Universities and Public Schools, were probably the best team in London at the time and it was hardly surprising that the new boys suffered an 8-0 humbling, Still, the club’s overall record for that season, first-team and reserves combined, was a healthy P37 W22 D4 L11.

Soon after came what would prove to be the first in a string of momentous decisions, all of which would have with long-term consequences and all involving Bobby.

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. Thus the WHL address quickly became ingrained in the club’s history.

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 of 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 again bade well for the future.

The 1887-88 season saw another memorable moment in Spurs’ history when they hosted Royal Arsenal for the first-ever time. Spurs fell behind early on in the match but dominated and only a fine performance from ‘keeper F. W. Beardsley kept the visitors in the game until the home team equalised then took the lead. An exciting finish looked on the cards before darkness descended forcing the match to be abandoned before it could reach its conclusion.

The Marshes was home for another two seasons but this was a public ground meaning they were unable to charge for admission. With the good quality of football on offer an increasing number of fans attended, sometimes encroaching on the pitch and there were cases of opposition players being pelted with ‘rotten turnips and other vegetable refuse’ as well as regular instances of verbal abuse with spectators using what one report called ‘non-Parliamentary language’.

To combat this and to create revenue by being able to charge for admission a move was needed. In 1888 Buckle along with teammates Sam Casey and Jack Jull identified a pitch they could rent at Northumberland Park, for £17 per annum, playing alongside another senior local team, Foxes F. C. who had rented the pitch next door.

The first match at the new ground, against Oriel Gymnasium, brought in healthy gate receipts of seventeen shillings and by the end of the season the club were able to report a profit of £6, a figure which increased to £11 in year two.

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 suffering early defeats in the Middlesex Cup and London Cup to Clapton and Old St Stephens from Denmark Hill respectively. An improvement in the 1890-91 campaign saw Spurs beat Queens Park Rangers, Barking and Barnes in the early rounds of the London-wide competition before losing to a strong Millwall Athletic side.

It was in 1892-93 that Spurs first played in a competitive league. Friendly matches were becoming repetitive, the novelty had worn off and they 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.

In 1894 the club built their first stand at Northumberland Park with seating for around 100 spectators but it was a flimsy structure and within weeks of it being erected the club were forced to rebuild after part collapsed during gale force winds. There was no banking elsewhere in the ground and spectators who weren’t at the front were forced to peer over the shoulders of others to watch the action.

Advances on the pitch were shown in Spurs’ performances in the two major cup competitions in 1894-95.

Spurs made their debut in the FA Cup and were drawn to meet West Herts in the First qualifying round. After a 3-2 victory there, the next two qualifying rounds brought victories over Wolverton and Clapton (a surprisingly easy 4-0 win at the home of the Southern League team). The barrier to Tottenham making further progress were the professionals of Luton Town and, after a 2-2 home draw, the amateurs ran out of steam in the replay, falling to a 4-0 defeat.

In the Amateur Cup, Old Harrovians, City Ramblers and Romford were beaten in style, with 23 goals scored in the three matches which saw Spurs reach the regional final where they met and beat London Welsh, coming out on top after a replay.

In to the competition proper Spurs saw off Beeston before succumbing to the strong Old Carthusians side. This was to be the club’s last chance to win the amateur competition.

That’s because early on in 1895-96 season Buckle, who had stopped playing for the first team earlier that year and was now in the role of secretary whilst working as a solicitor’s clerk, put forward a proposal that Spurs turn professional which was passed overwhelmingly by the committee and then by the club membership.

After an attempt to join the Football League failed they applied for the Southern League 1896-97 season and were given immediate 1st Division status. The debut season went well with a creditable 4th-placed finish albeit 13 points behind unbeaten winners Southampton St Mary’s.

In the Cup Spurs were given the opportunity for revenge over Luton Town, their conquerors from the season before. The Bedfordshire team were again heavily favoured but Spurs gained a 2-1 win at Town’s Dallow Lane ground.

Spurs secured fortunate progress in the 2nd qualifying round where they suffered a 4-2 defeat away to Vampires only for the match to be declared void after it was found that the pitch didn’t meet FA regulations. The governing body ordered that the game be played again at Northumberland Park where the home team turned the tables, winning 2-1.

Victories over Ilford and Old St Stephen’s in the next two qualifying rounds saw the team reach the 1st round proper and a clash with Football League side Stoke The match took place just after the vote to turn pro had taken place and the 5-0 defeat Spurs suffered underlined the need to join the paid ranks if further progress was to be achieved.

The first wave of professionals arrived before the 1897-98 campaign with many coming down from Scotland, thus beginning a long association with players from north of the border. The season saw a slight improvement in league form with the club progressing to 3rd behind defending champions Southampton whilst it was old foes Luton, described at the time as being to Spurs ‘What the Old Man of the Sea was to Sinbad’, who ended FA Cup hopes with a 4-3 win at Northumberland Park.

The next logical move for the club was to form a limited company in order to raise funds for new recruits and to put the club on a sound financial footing. To this end, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club Limited, with a capital of 8,000 shares at £1 each, came into existence in March 1898 with Buckle as one of the first directors and with the document forming the legal entity bearing the name and address ‘Robert Buckle, Tottenham Hotspur, White Hart Lane’.

Frank Brettell

At around the same time as the limited company was formed it was announced that Frank Brettell, formerly in charge of Bolton Wanderers, would be appointed as the club’s first-ever manager.

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 after a number of fans had gone on to the roof to try to obtain a better view. Although no serious injuries were sustained it was becoming clear that Northumberland Park was no longer big enough for the ambitious club and it was time to start scouting the area for a new home.

The 1898-99 FA Cup saw wins over Wolverton and Clapton set up yet another encounter with Luton Town. After a pair of drawn matches Spurs managed to see off their nemesis in a second replay at neutral Tufnell Park. Then followed a long trip north to face Newton Heath, later of course to become Manchester United. The pair fought out a 1-1 draw with the Londoners getting the better of a free-scoring replay 5-3.

That win brought the mighty Sunderland to London and a crowd of 12,371 witnessed a 2-1 home victory which saw Spurs reach the heady heights of the quarter-final.

Here, it was Stoke who again stood in their way. Tottenham, now with ten of their team having had league experience and with former Everton man John Cameron leading the attack, were expected to put up a much better fight against their Division One rivals than they had a year before but they succumbed to another heavy loss, this time 4-1, to their hosts.

The big news of the year, however, came in the summer when the club 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.

A week later, a crowd estimated at 15,000 were present to see the new ground’s first Southern League match and they witnessed a single-goal victory over Queen’s Park Rangers for the team now led by John Cameron who had taken over from Frank Brettell as Secretary-Manager during the summer.

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.

The Cup winners

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

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’ tag. It’s fair to say that, without Bobby there would be no Spurs and no ‘Glory, Glory’.