How Chichester is linked to the first FA Cup final 150 seasons ago

It’s two years since Chichester City made club history by playing in the second round of the FA Cup for the first time.

The Royal Engineers team of 1872 pictured on the front cover of James Bancroft's book
The Royal Engineers team of 1872 pictured on the front cover of James Bancroft's book

But what few know is the city has a link to the famous old competition that goes back much further – all the way, in fact, to the first final, exactly 150 seasons ago.

A new book by James Bancroft has been published exploring the early years of the competition – and includes news of a military man who played in the first final, between Royal Engineers and Wanderers in 1872, who later settled in Chichester.

Author Bancroft says: “At the time of the first FA Cup final in 1872, football matches containing teams with more than 11 players still frequently took place.

“Players did not have names or numbers on their backs and the only way individual players could be recognised by referees ot newspaper reporters was by the colour of the cap they wore.

“The way members of teams were recorded relied heavily on reports in the national newspapers such as The Field and The Morning Post.

“The Morning Post report on the 1872 final records 12 players in the Royal Engineers squad – the 12th being G Barker.

“This was Lt George Barker who played regularly for the Royal Engineers but for some reason has never been included in the RE team in books throughout the years.

“In my opinion his involvement is confirmed in the team photograph taken after the match, which includes George Barker in his RE kit.

“In the picture, which is on the front of the book, George is seated second right of picture.”

Barker had a distinguished military career.

He saw active service in the Egyptian Campaign of 1882, for which he received the Egypt Medal, 1882-89, the Khedives Bronze Star, and the Order of Medjidie 4th class.

In an account of Royal Engineers football, Sir Richard Ruck, who played in the 1875 final, while describing the dribbling ability of a player named Pelham Von Donop, pointed out that he produced many moves with other wing men such as George Barker.

Ruck recorded how, in 1873, the Engineers were displeased with the rough play of an opponent – “Our fellows being by this time fairly well disgusted began to peg into them pretty sharp, and ‘little George’ (now Major-General Sir George Barker...) very soon sent a man to grass with a very sweet but fair hack, which was heard all over the ground; the individual was afterwards seen standing in goal on one leg like a stork.”

On his retirement, Barker lived at Salthill House in Chichester.

He died in the Stockbridge Nursing Home on March 5, 1930, aged 80, and his funeral took place at St Mary’s Church, East Lavant.

Bancroft said: “I believe it can’t be denied that George Barker took some part in the first FA Cup final and it is time he was given recognition for having done so.”

The book is available on Amazon, from the publishers Pen and Sword and the usual outlets.