My feature published in the BCAFC programme vs Charlton Athletic on 21 October, 2017.
Among the various relics in my collection of Bradford City memorabilia, one of my favourites is a book published in 1927 to accompany the grand fund-raising bazaar in October of that year.
It is an evocative publication with illustrated adverts of long gone Bradford businesses that are equally fascinating as the editorial content. The rear cover features the FA Cup trophy adorned with claret and amber ribbons and the wistful epitaph ‘Glorious 1911’, a reminder of a former era of glory. In addition to a statistical record it includes a history of Bradford City written by the journalist William Sawyer. The edition was updated in 1953 to mark the club’s jubilee but incredibly, it remained the only account of the history of the club until 1988.
Organised by the Bradford City Supporters’ and Shareholders’ Association, the bazaar was an initiative to restore the finances of the parent football club which had been relegated to Division Three (North) after a calamitous season in 1926/27 during which the team had won only 7 of its 42 league games. New money was desperately needed to provide a degree of stability and recruit players. In May, 1927 supporters had been told that the club desperately needed £5,000 to remain solvent and there had been concerted effort during the summer to promote the sale of season tickets.
Lottery legislation restricted options and bazaars were therefore a common response to a financial crisis. Halifax Town had had one in 1923 and the supporters club at Park Avenue likewise in November, 1925 which raised £1,000. The Bradford City bazaar took place between 26-29 October, 1927 at Church House on North Parade and would have been recognisable as a typical community fete with various stalls selling home produce and refreshments as well as attractions such as tombolas. What is notable is that everyone associated with the club was involved including players, officials and their wives. It was a genuine collective effort.
In the nineteenth century bazaars had been a traditional response by members of sports clubs in Bradford to raise funds and in November, 1896 Manningham FC had organised a fund raising bazaar in the Belle Vue drill hall. On that occasion the Manningham committee invited a celebrity Indian cricketer, Prince KS Ranjitainhji (an undergraduate at Cambridge University) to be guest of honour but regrettably he sent a telegram at short notice to apologise for his non-attendance.
Typically bazaars were more significant for galvanising support and common purpose than the amounts they raised. However, they allowed supporters of a club to feel that they were doing something to safeguard its future and hence they had a benefit to morale. Although the proceeds of the bazaar in 1927 helped the club, the amount was immaterial in terms of transforming the finances and there was general disappointment that only £1,150 was raised.
Nonetheless I can’t help but feel that it must have been a unique event. It is one that I believe is deserving of commemoration on its centenary as a reminder that Bradford City has invariably relied upon the support of volunteers to survive. For that matter, it might be quite amusing to restage the bazaar as a ‘Roaring Twenties weekend’ so make a note in your diaries as a reminder for 2027.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Thanks for visiting my blog. Scroll down for details about my books in the BANTAMSPAST History Revisited series which tell the history of sport in Bradford – and in particular football. The books seek to explain why things happened as they did instead of simply recording what occurred and readers may be surprised at the extent to which they contradict many of the myths and superficial narratives that have circulated previously.
If you are interested in Bradford sport history visit VINCIT: http://www.bradfordsporthistory.com