Book Review: Play Up, Higher Walton! – Football in a Lancashire village from 1882 to 2005 by Peter Holme
Higher Walton is a village 16 miles south-east of Preston, which developed around the cotton mill built there as the textile industry boomed in the 19th Century within Lancashire. The introduction to this booklet starts with some basic information about the development of the village and the growth of football in the late Victorian era and then moves onto the first team in the village Higher Walton.
Details about their establishment in 1882, being founder members and Champions of the Lancashire League in 1889/90 and years in the FA Cup (1887/88 through to 1889/90), dominate the publication as it proved to be the highlight of the villages various teams down the years. During that time, the village side was competing with the leading Lancashire clubs including some who were in the Football League. This original club came to an end in 1894/95 with the side not playing league football. Holme detailed the folding of the Club as follows: “With little preparation or practice they travelled to Oswaldtwistle in January 1895 to play in the Lancashire Junior Cup. They inevitably lost the game 9-1…this was probably the final game of the first and greatest, Higher Walton team.”
Holme then switches his attention to Higher Walton Albion (1894 – 1914), who established themselves as the main team in the village. Whilst not hitting the heights of the Higher Walton side before them, Albion had some success notably becoming champions of the West Lancashire League in 1911/12. Holme states that in 1913, “the demise of the team is unclear, but whatever the reason, all football was soon to be seriously disrupted by the First World War.”
After the resumption of football, Higher Walton United emerged in the Preston & District League in 1920/21. Here the booklet details the sides time as it drops to the YMCA league and its cup successes up to 1940, before once again football ceased due to the outbreak of the Second World War.
The final chapter in the story then sees United back in the YMCA league in 1953/54 with a move back to the Preston & District League in the following season. The fifties were a high point for the team, winning the ‘A Division’ in 1955/56 and 1958/59 and as the decade closed out took the Guildhall Cup in 1959/60 at Deepdale, home of Preston North End in front of a 2,194 crowd. The sixties saw the club move to the Blackburn & District Combination league, but with little success they returned to the Preston & District League in 1972/73. The final thirty years of the team is dealt with in the final 3-4 pages by Holme, with the side withdrawing from the league in 2004/05 as United struggled to find a replacement manager.
As a reader the most interesting part of the story is that dedicated to the first Higher Walton team and their status amongst the Lancashire elite during the early years of organised Victorian football both in the County Cups and Leagues. A fabulous peak into the early days of what is now the Global Game.
(Landy Publishing Co. April 2006. Paperback 80 pages)