May as well start at the beginning… or as close as we are likely to get in the long shirt history of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
I don’t mind admitting that I was genuinely excited to receive these – images of the earliest shirt Wolves found to date.
The 1899–1900 season was only the twelfth season of competitive league football in the history of the Wolverhampton Wanderers. and this shirt now holds the record of being the oldest found to date.
These photos were kindly provided to us by Brad Gwilliam and are of his Great-Grandfather R.E Gwilliam’s playing shirt. He has kindly asked they be shared for fellow Wolves supporters to enjoy.
Finished: Football League Division 1; 8th/13th/14th.
Honours: FA Cup runners up (lost to Preston), FA Cup Semi Final
Worn by: R.E Gwilliam
He describes the shirt as being made of cotton but of a flannelette quality and considering its age it is in fantastic condition!
It has traditional ‘dress’ shirt buttons and is (unsurprisingly) hand-stitched although of excellent quality/craftsmanship as seen in these close-ups.
About R.E Gwilliam
Mr Gwilliam played for Wolves between 1899 and 1902. Prior to that he had played for Shrewsbury Town for several years as a goal-scoring left-winger. Due to close geography between the two clubs there have been many examples of synergies over the years with players and managers representing both.
It is not known the full total of games Mr Gwilliam played for Shrewsbury or Wolves although reports have survived including the London Football Evening News’s reporting of Shrewsbury’s 2-0 loss to PORTSMOUTH ROYAL ARTILLERY at the Reading F.C. Ground at Caversham on March 21 1896. Source. Military teams were initially the leading teams in the UK and this loss for the “enthusiasts” (as non-military teams were referred to) wasn’t necessarily a surprise as the Artillerymen had won the Hants Cup and the Portsmouth Cup that season and batted in the Army Cup (which they won in 1895). R. E. Gwilliam played left-wing that day and also on a brighter day on Saturday Nov 23 1895 when the Wrexham Advertiser reported him scoring two goals in a 0-10 demolition of Oswestry United. Source. The best quote of that piece surely being “…Gwilliam did the needful, the leather being lodged in the net for the seventh time“. A couple of seasons later and now with Wolves, here is an image of Mr Gwilliam’s rule book, provided by the secretary and one of the founders of Wolves, JH Addenbrooke:
…and here is an image of him as part of the the Birmingham League Championship winning Wolves side of 1900-1901 (second from the right, first row).
This is his hand-annotated copy of the fixtures list.
Finally, his season handbook which is now reflecting the Molineux Hotel as the Registered Office.
Thank you again to Brad Gwilliam for sharing part of Wolves’s history with us.