Emblematically Speaking - Abbey Hey

Tue 1st May 2018 | Abbey Hey
By Stewart Taylor

Abbey Hey FC

Throughout this series we have looked at what we can discover about a football club and/or where it is based by looking closely at the emblem that club uses.

Often this has taken us right back to the origins of football clubs and, if you’ll allow me a small digression, we can look at that specific subject in just a little detail.

The origins of football clubs can be conveniently split into six groups.

Workers – in 1878, workers at the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company formed a football club at Newton Heath. As many will know, this is the origin of Manchester United.

Sports Clubs – in 1882, Burnley Rugby Club decided to turn their hand to the round ball game and Burnley FC was founded.

Pubs – sometime in the 1880s, drinkers in the Stanley Arms in Accrington formed a football club and called it Stanley Villa. In 1893/4 the name was changed to Accrington Stanley.

Schools – normally founded as Old Boys teams which made facility for former pupils of a particular school to continue to play football with friends they had made at school. The Hallmark Security League has a couple of representatives of exactly this type of club.

Fans – a somewhat more recent phenomenon where often, but not always, supporters of an existing club form their own club as a protest against some aspect of the running of their original club. There are many examples now, and we have several in the Hallmark Security League.

Churches – in the 1880s St Mark’s Church in West Gorton (Manchester) formed a football club which, in due course, became Manchester City.

It is this latter group, churches, which takes our attention this week as we tell the story behind the emblem of Abbey Hey FC and surmise just a little as to what might have been.

The overall description of the Abbey Hey emblem is a roundel within a quartered shield featuring a narrow chief.

We can quickly deal with most of this, by reference to the name of the club in the narrow chief with the quartered shield representing aspects of the club’s playing colours.

The main focus of the emblem is the device in the centre of the roundel, and further study of this aspect brings into focus the origins of the club.

Given that the club resides in Abbey Hey, which for many gets somewhat confused with nearby Gorton in this heavily populated area of East Manchester, and given that Gorton Monastery is a very well known, Pugin designed, former Franciscan friary, we could think that is what is represented.

However, close study suggests various significant design differences which forces us to look elsewhere.

If we go back to the origins of the football club, reference is made to a connection with St George’s Church on Abbey Hey Lane.

This church was founded in 1882 and closed in 2007, which is fine for the integrity of our story but old photos of the church again show differences in design from the image on the club emblem.

This leads us to believe that the device on the club emblem is somewhat stylised – a bit of poetic licence if you will. This may, of course, not be the case and please get in touch if you have any additional information.

And now a bit of what if. Above, we made reference to Manchester City FC and indicated that the football club was formed as a church team.

The church in question in the case of Manchester City was St Mark’s Church in West Gorton, which lies within 3 miles of the site of St George’s Church, Abbey Hey.

It could be speculated that given different circumstances it might have been the side representing St George’s which entered the Football League when the second division was established in 1892 rather than the side representing St Mark’s.

Regular readers of these weekly wanderings may recognise something of a parallel here involving Bootle FC and Liverpool FC and the historical references tell us a lot more about that one.

Pure speculation of course but we can all dream that it might have been Abbey Hey FC who became Premier League Champions recently and Manchester City FC who ply their trade in the Hallmark Security League!

Our thanks to Gordon Lester of Abbey Hey FC for his help in compiling this article.

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