Four Acres

The Four Acres – 1882 – 1885

In September 1882 move to more comfortable surroundings was made when an invitation from Dartmouth Cricket Club was taken up by the committee. The cricket club which had been formed in 1834 played at The Four Acres which is now Park Crescent off Seagar Street near to Dartmouth Park.

The Four Acres was well known at the time also for local athletics. This area along with Dartmouth Park was originally dedicated to the local inhabitants for recreation purposes by William The Fourth Earl Of Dartmouth. 

Conditions where imposed by The Cricket Club that football matched could only be played there on only two days of the week Saturdays and Mondays. The opening fixture played at The Four Acres was 10 – 0 victory against Stourbridge Standard on 7th October 1882.

Improvements were made during the summer when the playing pitch was enclosed by rubber tubing instead of ropes. and wooden racks were laid around a portion of the ground so supporters could stand on them. At the AGM in July 1883 it was announced that Dartmouth Cricket Club had agreed that The Four Acres could be let to the Albion for a further two years.

At a rental of £15 per annum and to pay a third of the cost of a new ticket office and pavilion. The biggest game at The Four Acres was against Blackburn Rovers in the Sixth round of the FA Cup 21st February 1885 when a crowd of 16,393.

The optimistic crowd of Albion fans had special funeral cards printed prior to the game inscribed with the words “In memoriam Blackburn Rovers defeated in the English Cup Competition West Bromwich February 21 1885”.

This may have had the wrong effect on Rovers as they went in half time 1 – 0. At half time pigeons were dispatched to various Black Country locations announcing the score (was this the first sports News from the Sky , Sports News imagine Jeff Steling waiting for the updates from around the country covered with little messages from pigeons) the largest crowd seen at The Four Acres thrilling game, which saw the Albion lose 2 – 0.

The local news paper even reported the defeat as if a member of royalty had died with black edging around the front cover. The last senior match to be played at The Four Acres was against Wednesbury Old Athletic 6th April 1885 The Albion yet again victorious 3 – 2.

While they were based at The Four Acres The Albion entered the Staffordshire Cup for The First time beating Bloxwich Strollers 4 – 0 at home after drawing 2 – 2 at Bloxwich in the first round in front of 1,200 fans .

The second round gave us the first ever meeting between Albion and Villa, following a 3 – 3 draw at Perry Barr ( Villa at this time like the Albion had not settled at the current ground) in front of 13,900. On the way to the game both Albion’s players and supporters were attacked by the Villa fans who were throwing stones and clumps of earth at them, however backed by 3,000 away support the Albion forced a draw.

The Replay took place at The Four Acres and thanks to a goal by George Timmins the Albion went through 1 – 0 . The game against Mitchell St Georges from Stafford  the 3rd round opponent’s caused a protest after another draw 2 -2 at home in front of 2,000 .

St Georges had played two ineligible players, one of whom was Tom Green was subsequently signed for the Albion. The Albion had now reached the Semi Final were Leek White Star were waiting for them at The Four Acres a crowd of 2,00 again waiting to see if Albion could reach their first ever final. They were not to be disappointed Albion running out 8 – 0 winners.

So to the Final against the holders Stoke City. Stoke had scored 42 goals on their way to the Final at The Athletic ground which latter became The Victoria ground (the home of Stoke City for 119 years) Albion wore red and white hoops for the final Stoke blue and black hoops.

A cheap  day excursion was run from West Bromwich station which more than 1,500 fans took up the chance for a day out, Although this was the first football match between these two teams local rivalries was fierce due to bare knuckle prize fighting bouts which had taken place in previous years between prize boxers such as William Perry “The Tipton Slasher”.

stoke v west bromwich albions 1883

When due to huge bets not being settled, the contests very often spilled over in to the crowd. 

On the 21st April 1883 a crowd 6,150 waited to see a great final and were not disappointed with both sides creating chances in the first 15 minutes.

Two goals from Timmins and Bunn had kept the Albion in the Final, but at 2 – 2 it looked like another draw was beckoning.

When in went a deep cross into the Stoke area, both Stokes goalkeeper Wilden and Albion’s George Bell came for it. Wilden missed but George Bell didn’t a powerful header sent the ball crashing in between the sticks and Albion’s name was on their first trophy.

The next season

The following season Albion again reached the Final, beating Stoke side Cocknage 1 – 0 at  The Four Acres. In the Second round a 4 – 0 victory over Walsall Town then in a semi final, played at Wednesbury Oval, home to Wednesbury Athletic.

A 2 – 0 win over the previous seasons finalists Stoke in front of 3,000 fans. Albion lost he final to the team who played two ineligible players against them the season before St Georges.

10th November 1883 Albion took part in the Fa cup for the Fist time losing at home to Wednesbury Town 2 – 0  in the first round in front of a crowd of 5,129.

Jem Baylis

Born: Tipton, 1863
Died: West Bromwich, 1936

Jem was a  nickname taken from his three Christian names: Edward James Matthias. Made his Albion Debut against Derby Junction in the FA Cup 25th October 1884 scoring twice in a 7 – 1 victory.

League debut at Stoke 8th September 1888 Albions first league game. He played wing half , inside right, centre forward for Albion He played centre forward fo Albion in 1886, 1887, 1888 FA Cup finals scoring in the 1888 final against Preston.

His last apperance for Albion was 5th March 1892 against Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup final semi final replay at a game which finished 1 – 1. at Molineux. Jem read his own obituary notice in a local newspaper in 1897.

He had been on his holidays in Gibralter a while away from his Great Bridge home rumours started about his death. He returned home to live for another 36 years.

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