Bedford Town F.C.
|Full name||Bedford Town Football Club|
|Founded||31 July 1908, 1989|
|Ground||The Eyrie, Cardington, Bedford|
|Capacity||3,000 (300 seated)|
|League||Southern League Division One Central|
|2015–16||Southern League Division One Central, 14th|
Bedford Town Football Club is a football club based in the Borough of Bedford, England. The club are currently members of the Southern League Division One Central and play at the Eyrie in Cardington, a village on the outskirts of Bedford. They are full members of the Football Association and affiliated to the Bedfordshire County Football Association.
A Bedford Town Football Club was in existence by 1884, although it changed its name to Bedford Association in 1887. As there were no leagues at the time, the club played friendly matches in cups, including the Kettering Charity Cup and the Luton Charity Cup, before disappearing in 1891. The name Bedford Town reappeared in 1894 when Swifts, a club founded in 1890, were renamed. They absorbed Bedford Rovers in 1896, and although local leagues had been formed, the club continued to play only cup matches and friendlies. However, the club disappeared around the turn of the century.
On 31 July 1908 a new Bedford Town was formed at the Association Rooms on Harpur Street. They joined Division One of the Northamptonshire League, finishing bottom of the table in their first two seasons, but avoiding relegation to Division Two. They went on to finish as runners-up for three consecutive seasons between 1911–12 and 1913–14 before the league closed down due to World War I. They also won the Northamptonshire Senior Cup in 1912–13.
After the war the club continued in the league, finishing as Division One runners-up in 1929–30 before winning the title in 1930–31. The following season saw them finish in second place again, after which they won back-to-back titles in 1932–33 and 1933–34. The league was then renamed the United Counties League, with Bedford finishing as runners-up in 1934–35 and reaching the first round of the FA Cup for the first time, losing 3–2 at home to Dartford. They finished as runners-up again in 1936–37, remaining in the league until World War II.
Southern League and cup success
In 1945 Bedford joined the Southern League. They reached the first round of the FA Cup several times in the early 1950s, losing 2–0 at Swindon Town in 1951–52, 4–0 at Weymouth in 1953–54 and 2–0 at Dorchester Town in 1954–55. In 1955 they applied for election to the Football League after finishing eighteenth in the Southern League, but received no votes.
The 1955–56 season saw them reach the first round of the FA Cup again, and for the first time they progressed to the next round after beating Leyton 3–0. The second round saw them defeat Football League opposition for the first time as they won 3–2 against Watford, before being drawn against Arsenal in the third round. The first match at Highbury ended 2–2, with Arsenal winning the replay 2–1. They applied for election to the Football League again following a third-place finish in the Southern League, but again failed to received a vote.
In the following season the club again beat Football League opposition in the FA Cup, defeating Norwich City 4–2 at Carrow Road before losing 1–0 at Reading. They finished as runners-up in both 1956–57 and 1957–58, again applying unsuccessfully for Football League membership, although they received one vote in 1957 and two in 1958. The Southern League was split into North-West and South-East divisions for the 1958–59 season, with Bedford winning the South-East section and going on to lose 3–0 to North-West champions Hereford United in a championship play-off. Despite winning their division, they failed to receive a single vote in the 1959 Football League elections.
The following season saw further league re-organisation, with Bedford placed in the new Premier Division; their FA Cup campaign ended with a 4–0 first round defeat at Gillingham. However, the mid-1960s was an extremely successful period for the club in the cup; in 1962–63 they reached the second round where they were again beaten by Gillingham. The following season saw them beat non-League opposition in the first and second round before being drawn against Second Division Newcastle United in the third round. A trip to St James' Park resulted in a 2–1 win for Bedford, before they were defeated 3–0 by Carlisle United in the fourth round in front of a then-record crowd of 17,858. The club were prevented from applying for Football League membership that year as they had signed players from the league without paying transfer fees. The 1965–66 season saw them reach the fourth round again, beating Exeter City 2–1 in the first round, Brighton & Hove Albion 2–1 in a second replay in the second round. Hereford United were then defeated 2–1 in the third round, before a fourth round tie saw them lose 3–0 at home to Everton in front of a record crowd of 18,407. Another cup run in 1966–67 resulted in a second round win over Oxford United before a 6–2 defeat at home to Peterborough United in the third round.
However, that season saw them finish second-from-bottom in the league, resulting in relegation to Division One. The following season saw them promoted in third place, but they were relegated again in 1966–69. However, a second immediate return to the top division was secured when they won Division One in 1969–70. Bedford were relegated again at the end of the 1973–74 season, but won Division One North at the first attempt to return to the Premier Division, also reaching the semi-finals of the FA Trophy, eventually losing 6–2 on aggregate to Scarborough. The club had continued to apply for Football League membership every season between 1965 and 1973, and after a hiatus in 1974, made their eighteenth and final bid for Football League membership in 1975, but were again unsuccessful, leaving them with the second-highest number of unsuccessful applications after Yeovil Town. An FA Cup first round appearance in 1975–76 resulted in defeat to Wycombe Wanderers in a second replay. The 1977–78 season resulted in another relegation to Division One North. League reorganisation in 1979 saw them placed in the Midland Division. They reached the first round of the FA Cup for a thirteenth time in 1981–82, losing 2–0 at Wimbledon. However, the club was disbanded at the end of the season after their lease at Queens Park was terminated and a planned new stadium at Barkers Lane fell through.
The club were reformed in 1989, and joined Division One of the South Midlands League for the 1991–92 season. After finishing fourth in their first season, they won Division One in 1992–93, before going on to win the Premier Division the following season, earning promotion to Division Three of the Isthmian League. A third-place finish in their first season in the league saw them promoted to Division Two. In 1998–99 they were Division Two champions, earning promotion to Division One, and after finishing as runners-up in 2000–01, were promoted to the Premier Division. The following season saw their first appearance in the FA Cup first round since reforming and resulted in a 2–1 defeat at Peterborough United in a replay.
After finishing fifteenth in 2003–04 Bedford entered the play-offs for the final positions in the newly created Conference North and South. They beat Hitchin Town 3–1 in the semi-finals, but lost the final 5–4 to St Albans City. Instead, the club was transferred to the Premier Division of the Southern League for the 2004–05 season. A fifth-place finish in 2005–06 saw them qualify for the promotion play-offs. Following a 1–0 win at Bath City in the semi-finals, they beat Chippenham Town 3–2 in the final to earn promotion to the Conference South. However, they lasted only one season, finishing bottom of the division, and were relegated back to the Southern League.
After being reformed in 1908, the club started playing at a site off London Road, before moving to Queens Park in October. The pitch was originally between Havelock Stret and Lawrence Street, before they moved to one at the end of Nelson Street. There were initially no spectator facilities, with duckboards only put down in November 2011. During World War I the ground was used by the Army, and it was still in use in 1919 when the club started playing again. As a result, they played on the playing fields of County School until being able to return to Queens Park in December 1919.
The club started to develop the ground in the 1920s, with banking created and a new 300-seat stand installed on the western side of the ground in 1922 at a cost of £250. With the extension of the roof, the seating capacity was later increased to about 400. However, players still changed in the nearby Horse and Groom pub. A covered terrace was installed in 1930 and dressing rooms built the following year. Another covered stand was installed at the Ford End Road end of the ground in 1935, which was replaced by a more modern stand in 1953. The capacity had reached at least 6,000, and a new record attendance of 5,667 was set for the FA Cup match against Dartford in 1934–35. The roof of the stand built in 1930 was destroyed in late 1938 and was replaced by the start of the 1939–40 season. Further ground developments in the 1950s raised the capacity to 18,500, with the record attendance of 18,407 set for an FA Cup game against Everton in 1965–66.
In 1982 the club's lease on Queens Park was terminated and after a proposed new ground in the Barkers Lane area failed to come to fruition, the club folded. When the club re-formed in 1989, they initially played on public pitches in Queens Park, before finding a site in Cardington to build a new ground. The New Eyrie opened on 6 August 1993 with a friendly match against Peterborough United attracting what remains the ground's record attendance of 3,000. It has a capacity of 3,000, of which 300 is seated and 1,000 covered. The ground is located next to McMullen Park, the home ground of local rivals Bedford.
- Southern League
- South East Division champions 1958–59
- Division One champions 1969–70
- Division One North champions 1974–75
- League Cup winners 1980–81
- Isthmian League
- Division Two champions 1998–99
- Vandanel Trophy winners 1997–98
- South Midlands League
- Premier Division champions 1993–94
- Division One champions 1992–93
- United Counties League
- Division One champions 1930–31, 1932–33, 1933–34
- War League champions 1939–40
- Eastern Professional Floodlit Competition
- Champions 1970–71
- Northamptonshire Senior Cup
- Winners 1912–13
- Bedfordshire Premier Cup
- Winners 1924–25, 1926–27, 1928–29
- Bedfordshire Professional Cup
- Winners 1962–63, 1963–64, 1964–65, 1965–66
- Huntingdonshire Premier Cup
- Winners 1951–52, 1958–59, 1959–60, 1963–64, 1966–67
- Bedfordshire Invitation Cup
- Winners 1938–39, 1953–54
- North Bedfordshire Charity Cup
- Winners 1910–11
- Best FA Cup performance: Fourth round, 1963–64, 1965–66
- Best FA Trophy performance: Semi-finals, 1974–75
- Best FA Vase performance: Fifth round, 1998–99
- Most appearances: David Skinn
- Most goals in a match: Joe Chamberlain, 9 goals vs Rushden Fosse, December 1911
- Biggest win: 9–0 vs Weymouth, Southern League, 1954–55; vs Poole, 1958–59; vs Ickleford, vs Cardington
- Heaviest defeat: 10–0 vs Merthyr Tydfil, 1950–51; vs Yeovil Town, 1960–61
- Record attendance:
- Bedford Town Non-League Club Directory
- Earliest days, before 1908 Bedford Old Eagles
- Northamptonshire League 1895-1934 Non-League Matters
- Records, 1908-82 Bedford Old Eagles
- Bedford Town at the Football Club History Database
- United Counties League 1934-1970 Non-League Matters
- Dave Twydell (2001) Denied F.C.: The Football League election struggles, Yore Publications, pp42–43, 182
- History of Bedford Town FC Bedford Town F.C.
- Bedford Town Grounds, 1908-39 Bedford Old Eagles
- The Eyrie in photographs Bedford Old Eagles
- Mike Williams & Tony Williams (2012) Non-League Club Directory 2013, p452 ISBN 978-1-869833-77-0