Founder member of the Football League 1888
circa 1880 a
1892-1900 a h
1900-1907 f n p
1908-1911 h p
1911-1921 c g h q
1933-1936 g k p
1938-1939 k p
1939-1944 c p
circa 1944-1946 g
1946-1949 d g k
1949-1950 k p
1956-1962 c g p
1966-1969 d g
1972-1975 g i j
Aug-Dec 1975 c g
January 1976 l
1976-1977 late 2 l
1977-1980 b g
1982-1983 e g
2002 anniversary e
The Wanderers were formed in 1874 by Thomas Ogden, a schoolmaster and were originally called Christ Church FC. After a dispute with the vicar, who objected to meetings being held in the school without his presence, the club moved its base to a local public house in 1877 and adopted the name of Bolton Wanderers. Four years later the club moved to a new ground and entered the FA Cup for the first time. Season tickets were made available at a guinea (£1.05) apiece. Although eclipsed by local rivals Blackburn Rovers, Bolton built a strong reputation within the county and in 1886 they won the Lancashire Cup, as well as the Bolton and Derbyshire Charity Cups. On the strength of their achievements, Bolton were invited to join the Football League in 1888. That same year, the club adopted what became their traditional plain white shirts and dark blue knickers. Previously the club had turned out in a motley collection including a unique white jersey with red spots as well as red, navy and white stripes (illustrated).
Bolton performed well in the League and in 1894 reached their first FA Cup final. Relegation became a regular event in the Edwardian period but on each occasion the club bounced back more or less immediately. The 1920's were a golden era for the club which brought three FA Cup wins in 1923 (the famous "Wembley white horse final") 1926 and 1929. The team adopted a simplified version of Bolton's coat of arms in 1921. Although absent in some team photographs it was always worn in competitive games after that. The reason for the inclusion of an elephant in the design is obscure but it dates from around 1799 and elephants appear on buildings all over the town.
During the Thirties Bolton spent two seasons in Division Two but otherwise they continued as a reliable if unambitious side, with an unbroken spell in the First Division from 1935 to 1964.
Immediately after the Second World War, black knickers were worn, possibly because post-war austerity meant these were easier to obtain than the traditional navy ones. It appears that the traditional colours were restored in 1951 when the club also adopted their own crest, a design that took its inspiration from the older version but which now incorporated the club's initials as well as a Lancashire rose. This was dropped in 1966, when crests were considered old-fashioned.
What success they had continued to be in the FA Cup rather than the League and after defeat in the 1953 "Stanley Matthews Final", Bolton won the cup again in 1958. In these finals a special crest was worn, based on the old design but placed against a large Lancashire rose.
The club's career since then has been a remarkable story of repeated decline and recovery. After losing their First Division place in 1964, Wanderers dropped into the Third Division in 1971. Two years later they were promoted as champions and in 1978 they won the Second Division to return to the top flight.
The crest adopted in 1975 (right) proved popular and was used for 26 years before it was replaced. Several variations appeared: the colours of the lettering and the scroll were sometimes reversed, for example, while for some seasons it was placed on a shield.
Bolton briefly wore Admiral kits for the latter part of the 1976-77 season. Admiral seem to have had problems with consistency of production and at least three different versions appeared.
Unable to sustain their success, the club were relegated again in 1980 and over the next seven years they dropped all the way down to Division Four. At this, the club's lowest point, a partnership was forged with the international sports goods manufacturer, Reebok which has proved to be one of the most enduring in the game. With Reebok's support, the club acquired a brand new stadium adjacent to the M61 and began a steady climb back up the leagues that would lead them all the way back to the Premier Division in 1995.
Although the club were relegated again the following season, they have remained in the top flight since 2001. That year an updated version of the crest introduced, retaining the instantly recognisable BWFC motif and replacing the scroll with a pair of ribbons in red and dark blue. This, like its predecessor was sometimes placed within a shield or lozenge.
After a remarkable 19 seasons, Bolton switched kit supplier from Reebok to Adidas although the former continued to sponsor the club and hold naming rights over their stadium.
- (a) Club Colours (Bob Bickerton 1998)
- (b) Sporting Heroes
- (c) BWFC Official Website
- (d) Football Focus
- (e) True Colours (John Devlin 2005)
- (f) Picture the Past
- (g) Pete's Picture Palace
- (h) Association of Football Statisticians - provided by Pete Wyatt
- (i) Football League Review provided by Simon Monks
- (j) Alick Milne
- (k) Simon Monks
- (l) Christopher Worrall
- (m) Peter Ferrette
- (n) British Film Institute archive (Youtube)
- (o) Steve Flanagan
- (p) Keith Ellis (HFK Research Associate)
- (q) Jonathon Russell
- (r) Burnley Express July 11 1891 researched by Kjell Hanssen
- (s) Tony Sealey
Photograph courtesy of Bolton Wanderers website. Crests are the property of Bolton Wanderers FC.