Women’s football in the 18th century
Following on from our post celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Women’s FA Cup Final, this post delves back further into the history of the women’s game.
I was surprised to find a newspaper report of a women’s football match at Bath in October 1726. ‘Yesterday a new and extraordinary Entertainment was set on Foot for the Divertion of our polite Gentry; and what should it be but a Match at Foot-Ball, play’d by six young Women of a Side, at the Bowling Green.’
Report of women’s football match- Ipswich Journal 8 October 1726 British Newspaper Archive
Women’s football featured at the birthday celebrations held in 1790 at Brighton for the Prince of Wales and his brother the Duke of York. There was a cricket match played by the Duke and ‘many gentlemen of rank and fashion’. Other amusements included two 11-a-side football matches, one for the inhabitants of Brighton and the other for young women. Each game had a prize of 5 guineas for the winning team. There was also a ‘jingle-match’ won by John Baker who dressed up in bells and escaped capture by ten blindfolded people for half an hour. Baker won a jacket, waistcoat, and gold-laced hat.
Another story which caught my eye was a report of a football match held at Walton near Wetherby in Yorkshire in 1773. The married gentlemen of Walton played the bachelors for a prize of 20 guineas. A fiercely fought contest was waged for over an hour ‘with many falls and broken shinns given on each side’. The wife of one of the married men was watching her husband being hard-pressed and decided to go to help him. She was not intimidated by seeing him brought down by the superior strength of his antagonist, but went after the ball and secured victory for her husband’s team.
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
British Newspaper Archive (also available via Findmypast) - Ipswich Journal 8 October 1726; Chester Chronicle 3 September 1790; Leeds Intelligencer 2 March 1773.