Crystal Palace 1861-76

The first Crystal Palace FC was a legendary football club that helped create and establish the game of football.

It was established in 1861 when some members of Crystal Palace Cricket Club assembled one of the world’s earliest football teams. The club disbanded in 1876.

It was an independently run sports club typical of the time and had between 60 and 70 members.

The players were generally affluent upper-middle-class businessmen and had the leisure time to take part in sport.

They played their initial matches on a portion of the cricket field in Crystal Palace Park.

The first match documented at Crystal Palace was on April 5, 1862 against Forest Football Club (who later became Wanderers FC).

Formation of the FA

Back then, there were no unified rules for football with the schools, universities and teams playing the game their own way.

So in 1863, members from CPFC were present at the first meetings of the Football Association to help form the first laws of Association Football in central London.

FA founder members Palace were described by long-serving FA secretary Charles Alcock as among four clubs that were “the backbone of the Association game.”

Ground moves

The team, nicknamed the Palatians, had a spell between 1864-66 playing in Penge behind the Crooked Billet pub.

For 1866/67, they were homeless and made a return to Crystal Palace Park the following year.

A match report from December 1867 in Bell’s Life states that the club “last year appeared likely to become extinct, in consequence of the loss of their ground at Penge and the seeming impossibility of obtaining another to suit them.”

FA Cup – inaugural participants

They participated in the first season of the FA Cup in 1871 where they reached the semi-finals, where they lost to the Royal Engineers after a replay.

Palace captain and secretary Douglas Allport proposed the formation of a committee to produce the rules required for the competition and was part of the delegation which selected the original trophy.

England internationals

In 1872, Palace forward Charles Chenery was selected for England in the world’s first football international against Scotland.

The club later provided three further England international players.

Goalkeeper Alexander Morten played in the second-ever fixture in 1873 and was named captain. Aged 41, he remains the oldest player to make a debut for England.

Forward Charles Eastlake Smith and goalie Arthur Savage appeared in England’s clash with Scotland in 1876.

The end of the club

The last fixture played at the Crystal Palace came against Reigate Priory FC on January 9, 1875. All the matches for the rest of the campaign and in 1875/76 were played away from home.

In December 1875, Palace played their last recorded match against Barnes. The club disbanded at the end of the season. Its last entry listing in the Football Annual appeared in the 1875 edition and no more results can be found.

Losing their home ground for a second occasion culminated in the club folding in 1876. Local footballers had a failed attempt to restart the club in January 1883.

A team calling themselves “Crystal Palace Rovers” competed against Pilgrims FC in Walthamstow.

The Athletic News match report said this was an effort to revive “the past glories of the old Crystal Palace Club which, in its day, was one of the strongest metropolitan societies, but eventually came to grief owing to a misunderstanding with the Palace authorities about their ground.”

The second CPFC

The current Crystal Palace FC was formed in 1905 and rented the FA Cup Final venue on the other side of the park. It claims to be a continuation of the original club.

This claim has been disputed by football historians and also rejected by the Football Association after a detailed review by the National Football Museum.

The FA told The Times in April 2022: “Amongst those historians, the broad consensus is that there is not a clear, substantial and continuous link from the Crystal Palace club founded in 1861 to that founded in 1905. Therefore, we will continue to recognise both the 1861 and 1905 foundation dates of the clubs named Crystal Palace.”