History of Wivenhoe Town Football Club

The club was originally formed in 1925 as Wivenhoe Rangers by Frank Slaughter and half a dozen students from Colchester Grammar School, but did not enter competitive football until 1929 when they became members of the Brightlingsea & District League, finishing 3rd in their inaugural season. Runners-Up in 1931/32, they gained their first honours the following season by winning the League Championship after going the entire campaign undefeated. Rangers remained a force in local Junior football throughout the thirties with their most successful season being the 1936/37 campaign when, boasting the most formidable forward line ever seen in the area, they retained the Brightlingsea & District League Championship, won the League Challenge Cup, the League Knock-Out Cup and the Amos Charity Cup (defeating Tollesbury 8-1 in the final before a record crowd of 1,500). After the War they were section ‘A’ Champions in 1947/48 and also won the League Knock-Out Cup the same season.

Another successful period was enjoyed by the club during the early fifties and in 1952/53 they won five trophies in the shape of the Colchester & East Essex League Premier Division Championship, the League Challenge Cup, The Stopes Cup, the Wivenhoe Charity Cup and the Amos Charity Cup. Indeed Rangers won the latter trophy on five consecutive occasions from 1951/52 to 1955/56. Wivenhoe also managed to reach the final of the Essex Junior Cup in 1955/56 where they unfortunately lost 2-3 to Heybridge Swifts. Consolation was gained however as, in addition to the Amos Charity Cup, the Club also won the Colchester & East Essex League Premier Division Championship and the League Knock-out Cup the same season. Wivenhoe went into a decline during the late fifties, but appeared to be on their way back in 1959/60 when they won the Colchester & East Essex League Division One title but, alas, it was not to be as they were relegated from the Premier Division again the following season. The Club’s fortunes did not improve as they entered the sixties as they eventually slipped into the Second Division.

The turning point came in 1968/69 when Rangers were promoted back into the First Division as Runners-Up to Colchester Minors. The following season they won the Division One Title to regain their place back in the top flight of Colchester & East Essex League football. By this time, having had many homes around the village, Rangers were playing at the neighbouring University of Essex. Runners-Up in the Premier Division to Mersea Island at the end of the 1970/71 campaign, Rangers took the opportunity to move up into Intermediate Football by joining the Essex & Suffolk Border League Second Division. The club had originally attempted a move into the Border League back in 1936 but had seen their application rejected on that occasion.

Two successive titles in their first two seasons in the competition saw Wivenhoe Rangers gain promotion to the Premier Division, while at the same time enjoying a great deal of success in local cups. The club ended their first term in the top flight in a creditable 3rd place, however, followed this with a disappointing 12th position, their first season under the new title of Wivenhoe Town Football Club. 1977/78 was an important campaign for the Club as they purchased a carrot field on the outskirts of the village for £2,500 and, with the aid of grants, built a clubhouse and dressing rooms on the site. The next season Wivenhoe won the Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier Division Championship and were granted Senior status, which enabled them to join the Essex Senior League.

The Dragons ended their first season as Runners-Up to Basildon United and followed this up by finishing 3rd in 1980/81. Runners-Up again in 1981/82, Wivenhoe reached the fifth round of the F.A. Vase the following season before going down 1-2 away to Burnham. The club won the Harry Fisher Memorial Trophy for the first time in 1983/84, a feat they repeated again in 1985/86, for the third time, they finished Runners-Up in the Essex Senior League and thus gained entry into the Vauxhall Opel (Isthmian) League Division Two North after making further improvements to Broad Lane.

Finishing their inaugural season in 12th place, the Dragons went on to win the Division Two North Championship in 1987/88 and capped a fine season by also winning the Essex Senior Trophy after defeating Rainham Town 2-1. Having finished their first term in Division One in 5th place, Wivenhoe Gained promotion to the Premier Division by winning the First Division Championship with 100 points in 1989/90, a season that also saw them establish a new attendance record for Broad Lane when 1,992 people saw them draw 1-1 with Conference League outfit Runcorn in the F.A. Trophy. Having ended their initial season in the top flight in 10th place and played neighbours Colchester United in the F.A. trophy at Layer Road in front of 4,923 spectators, the Dragons hit financial problems and virtually all the players and Football Management deserted the club. For the next two seasons the Dragons did well to maintain their Premier status and, against the odds, managed to reach the Final of the Essex Senior Cup in 1992/93 where they finished Runners-Up to Chelmsford City after suffering a narrow 0-1 defeat.

With another mass departure of players and Football Management, the 1993/94 campaign was one of severe struggle and, with the Club’s Committee also resigning, the Supporters were forced to take over the running of the club to avoid Wivenhoe Town’s immediate death. Just before Christmas came the bombshell that the ground would be closed down on January 2nd 1994 unless a purchaser could be found. 

Unable to find the £150,000 asking price, some frantic negotiations enabled the Club to finish the season, which, with many players drafted in from the Under-18’s, not surprisingly ended in relegation from the Premier Division. With the main aim being the purchase of Broad Lane, very little money was available for players, therefore the Dragons found themselves relegated from the First Division at the end of the 1994/95 campaign. 

1995/96 saw the Dragons check their freefall as they finished 6th in the Second Division table. In addition, the Club also equalled their best ever run in the F.A. Vase before going out in a 5th Round Replay at Mangotsfield United but, more importantly than that, Wivenhoe Town’s future at Broad Lane was finally secured when the purchase of the site went through at last on 15th February 1996. 

For the next five seasons, the Dragons remained stabilised in the Second Division despite operating on a tight budget and Julian Hazel, at the age of 24,became possibly the youngest Player/Manager in Senior Football when he was appointed in the summer of 1998. Finishing 17th in his first season in charge and 6th in the following season. 

In the 2001/02 season, the Club narrowly missed out on promotion in the final week of the season, ending in 5th position, but due to a re-organisation of the Ryman League found themselves playing in the First Division (Northern Division) for the 2002/03 season.   

  • Click here for a memory of Wivenhoe Rangers, contributed by Noel Clark (Mar03) who played for Rangers in the 1960s.