The Polytechnic Football Club was founded by Quintin Hogg in 1875 under the name Hanover United Athletic Club. Named after Hanover Street where Hogg’s Youth’s Christian Institute was located at the time, Hanover United encompassed four sports clubs – rowing, swimming, cricket and football. Hogg received help in establishing a football club from some of his fellow Old Etonians, including the Hon. Arthur Kinnaird. As keen footballers themselves, they played matches for their newly formed club. Hogg also played internationally for Scotland. Arthur Kinnaird became the President of the Football Association from 1890-1923 and his record of competing in nine FA Cup finals stands unbeaten to this day.
Hanover United initially met at Primrose Hill but in 1878 Quintin Hogg paid for their own facilities at The Limes in Barnes. After a brief period at Merton Hall in Wimbledon and Paddington Recreation Ground, in 1906 the Club moved to the newly opened Quintin Hogg Memorial Sports Ground in Chiswick where it remained.
When Quintin Hogg’s Institute moved into its Regent Street premises in 1882 and became known as the Regent Street Polytechnic, the football club was renamed the Polytechnic Football Club.
In its first seasons, three sides were fielded. A club history written in 1952 claims that in 1881/82 the Club played six more matches than any other side in the country, making a total of 50 matches of which they won 28, lost 12 and drew 10. By the 1887/8 season, the number of teams had increased to six and by the 1930s ten sides were fielded every Saturday playing between 20-30 matches each during the season.
The Club and its 1st XI saw mixed success over the years. In 1883, it reached the third rounds of the English and London Senior Cups. In 1884, the 1st XI reached the semi-final of the London Senior Cup. They played at Kennington Oval in front of a 1,000 strong crowd but were beaten by Old Foresters 6-0. They were regularly playing matches against a wide variety of teams. These included church teams, university and polytechnic teams, local teams as well as workplace teams such as the Metropolitan Police and the Civil Service. In the 1890/91 season Tottenham Hotspur, Queen’s Park Rangers and Royal Arsenal (now Arsenal) were among the 1st XI’s fixtures. In 1951, the 1st XI saw an exceptional season in which they lost only one match, scoring 95 goals in 30 matches.
‘In 1891, so great had become the influence of the national game, that changes became necessary in legislation. A meeting of clubs was held in London to form a league or alliance to arrange fixtures.’ (Fifty Years of Amateur Soccer… PFC/2/1)
Thus, in 1892/93 Polytechnic FC became a founder member of the Southern Football Alliance. In the early 20th century, this Alliance split into various other local leagues. In 1902 the Club entered the Southern Suburban League, in 1908 the Olympian League, and in 1911 it became a member of the Spartan League.
As a member of the Spartan League, Polytechnic FC were playing fixtures across the South. In addition to league matches, during the 1893/94 season a tour of Belgium was arranged. Brussels were beaten 2-0 and Liege 5-0. The Club toured Belgium again in 1894/95 and 1895/96. At Easter 1913, a tour of France was also arranged with matches in Rouen and Le Havre. By the 1950s, members decided that the travelling involved in being in the Spartan League was too expensive, so they opted to join the Southern Amateur League with other London-based clubs.
War of course had an impact on the Club. In 1914, football was the largest of the Poly’s sports clubs and saw the majority of its members enlist. However, it was reformed in 1919 and by the end of this first post-war season, its membership was at 116. During WW2 the Club continued to play friendly fixtures. For example, in 1943/44 the 1st XI played 38 matches.
1925/26 marked the Club’s Golden Jubilee and a celebration dinner was held in London. Members of Club attended along with officials from professional clubs including Chelsea, Fulham, West Ham, Tottenham and Arsenal.
The Club’s colours started as light blue and white. In 1929 they changed to red with green hoops and in 1948 they changed to red and green halves.
Although no longer affiliated to the University, the Club is still in existence today and continues to use the Quintin Hogg Memorial Sports Ground at Chiswick as its home. 2013 saw Polytechnic FC play on the lawn of Buckingham Palace at a special match arranged to mark the 150th anniversaries of the Civil Service FC and the Football Association.
For more information about the Polytechnic Football Club and its history visit https://polytechnicfc.co.uk/
You can learn more about the history of sport at the University in Mark Clapson’s book An Education in Sport available digitally for free via the University of Westminster Press or for purchase via our online store.
The Westminster Menswear Archive holds various official football shirts and football inspired garments. Find out more on our catalogue.
Claire Brunnen, June 2021