The 1900s

DATE FORMED: 10 March 1905, WHERE: The Rising Sun Pub, Fulham Road

FIRST GAME: 2 September 1905, RESULT: Stockport 1-0 Chelsea

On the evening of 10 March 1905 in an upstairs room at the Rising Sun pub, Chelsea FC was formed. Among the founding directors were millionaire owner Henry Augustus ‘Gus’ Mears, his brother Joseph, their brother-in-law Henry Boyer, publican Alfred Janes and his nephew Edwin, who ran the Rising Sun.

The club, the brainchild of another founder, Frederick Parker, would be started from scratch to fill Gus Mears’s ambitious stadium, being built across the road at Stamford Bridge by the famous architect Archibald Leitch. Scotland international Jacky Robertson was engaged as the fledgling club’s player-manager. In collaboration with Parker, who also engineered Chelsea’s admission to Football League Division Two, Robertson constructed a squad including larger-than-life Willie Foulke: the club hired football’s first ball-boys to emphasise the 23-stone goalkeeper's presence.


John Tait Robertson

photo of Manager: 1905-06 Manager: 1905-06

William Lewis

photo of Manager: 1906-07 Manager: 1906-07

David Calderhead

photo of Manager: 1907-33 Manager: 1907-33

The huge new arena debuted with a 4-0 friendly win against Liverpool in September 1905, supported by London’s first 4-page matchday football programme, which cleverly fed the metropolis’s growing hunger for the professional game. Success came spectacularly fast: the table-top clash with Manchester United on Good Friday 1906 attracted a staggering attendance of 67,000. Promotion to the First Division was achieved in 1907 and over the ensuing campaign the newly nicknamed ‘Pensioners’ attracted the biggest crowds ever known in Britain. The most popular entertainer of the day, George Robey, even signed up as a player.

For the first few seasons the players wore Eton Blue, the horse racing colours of club President Lord Cadogan, a much lighter hue than the shirts of today. Other aspects are more enduring: the first top-flight London derby, a 2-1 Chelsea win against Arsenal, was contested on 9 November 1907. A similar outcome settled the first ever encounter with Tottenham Hotspur on 18 December 1909.


William Foulke

photo of Player: 1905-06 Player: 1905-06

George Hilsdon

photo of Player: 1906-12 Player: 1906-12

Jimmy Windridge

photo of Player: 1905-11 Player: 1905-11

And, of course, Chelsea have never moved away from the famous stadium on Fulham Road. New star names started to establish themselves at the Bridge, including centre-forward George Hilsdon, the first Pensioner to hit a century of goals (immortalised in a weathervane likeness on top of the current East Stand).

In just a few short years the personality of Chelsea FC was being established: wealthy, ambitious, fashionable and with immense drawing power.

Spirit Of The Age
The horse and carriage is on the way out as a mode of transport after the 1903 Motor Car Act, which introduced vehicle registration and penalties for reckless driving, while raising the speed limit from 14 miles per hour to a top hat-dislodging 20 mph.



Just five months after the foundation of Chelsea Football Club, and four after our acceptance into the Football League, we were ready to play our first match. READ MORE>>


‘Chelsea are really a better side than the United – at least, so some of the best of the Northern critics tell me,’ wrote ‘Citizen’ of the Daily Mirror on Good Friday 1906. READ MORE>>


Chelsea’s second season opened with the visit of Glossop on a baking hot late summer day on the Fulham Road. The Derbyshire side wilted in the heat but all the talk afterwards. READ MORE>>

1900s Matchday Programme Cover