I was fascinated to see the photograph of the mystery football team printed in your July 12 issue. There is no doubt it portrays the team of Shelley United Football Club who played in the Horsham and District League from its inception in 1899 until their demise in 1905. Football in the town was given a massive boost by the creation of the West Sussex Football League in 1896 - with the Horsham club being one of the leading competitors - and a whole host of new clubs were founded, meeting in the summer of 1899 to form their own competition.
The league commenced with eight clubs in membership: YMCA, Shelley United, Horsham Volunteers, Blue Star Harriers, Horsham Reserves, Carfax United, Warnham and CETS.
Shelley were very much fancied to take the inaugural title, but were pipped at the post by the YMCA, largely due to their star player Roger Etheridge often being unavailable. The half-back had been considered good enough to turn out for the town’s senior club on a number of occasions over the preceding years.
Indeed, it was not unusual for the Horsham team’s players to feature in matches for District League clubs when they were not selected for Horsham duty and one or two faces in the photograph are certainly recognisable from Horsham FC team photos from that period. Unfortunately, most of these fail to name the players as well.
The Horsham and District League varied in size over the years in which Shelley competed, ranging from just six clubs in membership in 1902-03 to nine in 1904-05.
Other teams Shelley would have played against over the years were the Horsham Working Men’s Club, Billingshurst, Handcross, Roffey, Roffey North End, Warnham, Storrington United and Bishopric Wanderers.
I have seen team photographs of Carfax United before, but this is the first one of Shelley United that has come to light.
Archivist, Horsham FC, Gorings Mead, Horsham