The Club was founded in 1899 by a group of young men from Clifton.
In those days they picked the team on a seat near St. Vincent’s Rock, close to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and played friendly matches with coats for goal posts on a pitch they created near Bristol Zoo.
From those humble beginnings they decided to choose a rather unusual name for a football club – Clifton St. Vincent's AFC.
After a while they were given a set of goal posts but without crossbars! So, they used tape. Every Saturday the posts were carried to the Downs.
The team then received an unexpected boost during a meeting under a street lamp, which was to have a significant bearing on the Club’s future.
A young Clifton College master, R.W.J. Pavey, greatly admired the team’s enthusiasm and invited them to hold their weekly selection meetings in the comfort of his home.
Mr. Pavey became the first President of Clifton St. Vincent's and held the post for more than 50 years.
The Club joined the Bristol Downs League’s third division in 1907, two years after the League was formed, and played in black and white stripes. Promotions in 1907 and 1911 saw the Club reach the first division.
Several well-known names began to figure in the list of Club Officers, including brothers Harold, Percy, Francis and Monty Hook, and the hard-working Billy Shapland.
Harold Hook later became Club President, a leading officer with the Gloucestershire Football Association and was its representative on the Football Association.
Billy Shapland captained the Club in the early days, and was actively involved with the Club for 44 years, including 2 years as Chairman and 25 years as Hon. Secretary. A trophy in his memory is awarded annually to the Club Member who has shown outstanding sportsmanship as well as giving loyal service to the Club.
Just before the First World War the Club enrolled a well-known Bristol solicitor, Jimmy Counsell, who became a tower of strength. He later played for Gloucestershire and also served as a Gloucestershire Football Association councillor.
When the Great War started in 1914 the Club was in a healthy position with 26 registered players. Sadly 11 failed to return from active service.
They were Arnold Boxwell, Dick Bryant, Alfred Chivers, Maurice Johnstone, Archie Cottrell, Frank Shapland, George Buick, Charles Purches, Leonard Broadribb, Clifford Dearlove and E. Welch.
The Club had to be virtually relaunched after the hostilities were over. Fortunately, membership grew and a team was produced, under the captaincy of Jimmy Counsell, strong enough to win the Downs Division 1 title for the very first time in 1921.
The Club prospered and the spirit was exceptional high when another dynamic personality, Bob Musselwhite, joined in 1932.
When the Second World War started in 1939 organised football was suspended. Regrettably three Club Members did not return from Active service.
They were Eddie Young, Kenneth Seaman and Dudley Westcott Bob Musselwhite held the unusual record of playing in 10 Norman Hardy Cup and Inter-League finals without ever being on the winning side. However, Bob eventually broke his duck in the 1946-47 season, the first after the Second World War, when he skippered the First Team to the Downs League Division 1 Championship.
Bob was then elected Chairman, and with the ever-popular Derek “Podge” Rogers, Dick Edbrooke, Don Hart and Dick Cobbett formed a formidable committee during the Club’s most successful years in the 1950s and 60s.
“Podge” Rogers probably did as much for the Club as anyone since the War. Those who remember his genial nature still find it difficult to realise he survived as a glider pilot during the Battle of Arnheim, the Normandy landings and crossing the Rhine, where he was taken prisoner.
During the 50s and 60s, it was always possible to tell where Clifton St. Vincent’s were playing by the size of the crowd which regularly rose above the 1,000 mark.
The First Team were crowned kings of Bristol amateur football in both the 1958-59 and 1961-62 seasons, when they twice completed the treble by winning the G.F.A. Senior Amateur Cup, the Downs League Division 1 Championship and the Norman Hardy Cup.
Arguably, the Club’s most outstanding achievement came in the 1966-67 season when the Club’s four teams finished champions of the Downs League’s four divisions, with the youth team also winning the Church of England Under-17 title.
A number of players associated with the Club have achieved success.
Freddie Loader was Bristol’s first England schoolboy international before starting his long association with the Club.
Colin Mitchell captained the First Team and also the Gloucestershire FA and Downs League sides, and was good enough to play for the Army during his National Service in a team packed with some of the country’s top young professionals. Nottingham Forest were quick to notice his pace and fierce left foot and offered him the chance to play in a fifth round FA Cup-tie against West Ham if he signed professional. Instead he opted to play county cricket as an amateur for Somerset as medium pace bowler.
Colin played more than 1,000 games for the Club, and received the Harry Bamford Trophy which was awarded to Bristolians who upheld the high sporting traditions of the former Bristol Rovers player.
Roger Kirby also passed the 1,000 game mark for the Club, and skippered the First Team to many League, GFA Senior Amateur and Norman Hardy Cup successes.
He also captained the Gloucestershire FA and Downs League representative sides as well as an FA X1 on three occasions while building a reputation as one of the hardest tackling full-backs in local football. Roger was also awarded the Harry Bamford Trophy.
Like Colin Mitchell, Roger had an exemplary disciplinary record. Both completed their long-playing careers without ever being cautioned or sent off.
Dick Cobbett, Dick Edbrooke, Peter Vowles, Albert Ricketts, Tony Gray and Terry Lyddon, amongst others, joined the Club shortly after the Second World War. Following lengthy loyal service n the pitch they made significant contributions to the rebuilding of the Club, as did John Reid who was a lifelong supporter of the Club, never once kicking a ball for any of the sides, and spent 20 years as Treasurer.
The proud traditions passed down over the years are still upheld to this day.
Contact Mike Wride at: