Catford Southend have been mentioned once or twice in passing in Running Past, notably in relation to their almost takeover of Charlton Athletic and the latter’s brief stay at Southend’s then ground in Mountsfield Park, The Mount. Their story is worth telling in its own right as it became a salutary lesson of what happens when there is over-ambition within football clubs.
The club seems to have had its roots in a forerunner club, Catford Rovers, which played from around the 1898/99 season against teams from around Deptford, Lewisham and Greenwich, including Greenwich Pupil Teachers (1). The first reference to Catford Southend was at the beginning of the 1900/01 season with a newspaper report (2) inviting friendly opponents and a trial on playing fields on what is now Canadian Avenue – possibly a rear entrance to what are now St Dunstan’s School playing fields . The secretary lived in a house built a few years before by the Catford builder James Watt.
The name Catford Southend suggests a specific location – Southend – around what is currently the junction of Whitefoot Lane and Bromley Road. Press reports for its early years often described their ground as ‘Bromley Road,’ while not absolutely certain this would suggest a ground within the estate of Park House which was at the southern end of what is now Conisborough Crescent.
Certainly it was a location used later as a sportsground by the fantastically named Waygood Athletic (sometimes called Waygood’s) who seem to have played in the long since defunct Southern Suburban League and Dulwich Amateur League along with running cricket teams. They were certainly there in 1914 when the Ordnance Survey visited what was still a largely rural area. (Map image on a creative commons from the National Library of Scotland). The main on-line press references for the Waygood’s are in the years from around 1905 to the outbreak of World War 1. The name was almost certainly a reference to a business name rather than any suggestions of sporting excellence, probably R Waygood and Co Ltd -Manufacturers of lifts, hoists and hydraulic presses who were based in Borough and later merged with Otis.
Back to Catford Southend or the ‘Kittens’ as they were affectionately nicknamed, they played in the Bromley & District League 1st Division in their first campaign – the season included home victories against Langdale (3); Bromley St Johns (4); and a 2-1 away victory in Kidbrooke against Anchor, with both goals scored by Boarer (5).
By November that season the seeming success meant that they were able to put out a 3rd team which trounced St Laurence 14-1 (6).
The Kittens first XI joined the London League for the 1903/04 season, although they kept their team in Bromley League. The London League had been set up in 1896; it was made up of three divisions when Catford joined. The Premier Division was mainly teams that were to become the leading teams of London football – Spurs, Arsenal, QPR, Fulham, Brentford, West Ham and Millwall, who won the League that year. The First Division was in the main the reserve teams of those in the Premier League. The Second Division was a mixture of teams, some still in existence, playing non-League football, others, lost over the years. Catford won the Second Division comfortably – winning all but one of their games. They seem to have had to play games behind closed doors for six weeks after a referee was surrounded and abused by fans (7).
Despite winning the League, there was no automatic promotion and the team (below – see notes for picture copyright) played elsewhere in 1904/05, seemingly just in in West Kent League. There were problems with the ground measurement that season with Kent Senior Cup and London Cup matches against Tunbridge Wells and Dulwich Hamlet respectively having to be replayed (8)
By the 1905/06 campaign most of the Premier League clubs had moved on either to the Southern League or the newly extended Football League. Catford entered at the equivalent level, now Division 1, which they again won, ensuring that Chelsea’s reserves came second. The Kittens lost away the away fixture to Chelsea in February 1906 – but won 1-0 at home. The team sheet for the away game still survives.
The 1906/07 campaign was less successful finishing only 4th; the following year Catford Southend just lost out on winning the title on goal difference to another lost local club – Deptford Invicta. The 1907/08 team (pictured below – see notes for picture credit) nearly saw the Kittens as Champions – losing out to local rivals Deptford Invicta by a single goal’s difference. The next seasons though was were more of a struggle with a relegation battle in 1908/09.
The move to The Mount was seems to have been for the 1909/10 season; it isn’t entirely certain because both Bromley Road and The Mount were referred to as Catford in press reports. The difference is that some games started to be referred to as being played at Ringstead Road (9). The ground was in the far south east corner of the park (map image on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland)’
It wasn’t the first time Catford Southend had played in Mountsfield Park, since around 1899 it had been home to Lewisham Montrose (Greenwich Montrose in 1899/1900) who seem to have continued in existence until at least 1907. Lewisham Montrose had an ‘interesting’ pricing policy which allowed the ‘ladies’ of Catford free entry but expected no girls, as the press cutting from September 1904 indicates (10). This would have been about a year before the Park opened to the public after the acquisition of the former home and grounds of Henry Stainton in 1905.
Fortunes in the London League were little better with the move to Mountsfield Park (pictured below), finishing three from bottom in the first campaign there. Rules were changed 1910/11 and allowed promotion to the Premier Division – it was more of a struggle for the amateur outfit playing against professional team’s reserve sides – including Millwall, Clapton Orient and West Ham – the Kittens were 7th from 8, with the bottom team Deptford Invicta. The Kittens only won 4/14 games. The 1911/12 season was little better, but the 1912/13 campaign saw a splitting of the league into two smaller sections, with Catford 3rd from 6 teams.
The Kittens were founder members of the Athenian League, which was formed in 1912 and, for the next 70 years was one of the strongest amateur leagues in the South East. Catford Southend won the league in its first season in 1912/13 winning eleven of the sixteen matches played, running teams in both Athenian and London Leagues. Their form was less good in the following season with mid table mediocrity in a slightly expanded league (although no team was run in the London League)
They returned to the London League in 1914/15, finishing 3rd in the Amateur section, but football was curtailed during the war. This is where we will leave Catford Southend, for now, a solid non-League team with a relatively new ground in early 20th century suburbia, in a similar position to many non-League teams that are still around almost 100 years later. Life was to change considerably for the Kittens when hostilities ceased and football resumed in 1919, we will return to their story in a future post.
- Kentish Mercury 27 January 1899
- Kentish Mercury 24 August 1900
- Kentish Mercury 26 October 1900
- Kentish Mercury 21 December 1900
- Kentish Mercury 23 November 1900
- Kentish Mercury 9 November 1900
- Sporting Life 14 January 1903
- Kent & Sussex Courier 24 February 1905
- South London Press 22 October 1909
- Kentish Mercury 09 September 1904
Much of the information for the post has come from the fantastic non-League resource Non-League Matters, which, if you have a penchant for league tables past, could keep you occupied for days.
Sadly, the owner of the site looked as though they are planning to mothball the site in May 2017, if anyone reading this has any time on their hands and wants to take it over there are contact details on all the pages on the site other than the home page.
Picture credits – the team photographs are courtesy of the always helpful Lewisham Archives.