The home to Snaresbrook Football Club is the picturesque Nutter Field in Nutter Lane, Wanstead which was left to the local community early last century.
One of the oldest roads in Wanstead, Nutter Lane, had previously been called George Lane – due to its closeness to The George public house – but it was renamed after the deaths of the three Nutter sisters Mary, Jesse and Gertrude.
They were daughters of a wealthy cheese merchant in the City living opposite in a house named “Applegarth”, which was originally built in around 1730.
In 1921 the sisters generously bequeathed the ground, which extends to around five acres, to the parishioners of Wanstead for the use of the people of Wanstead for their recreation and leisure.
They stipulated that the land was to be administered as a Charitable Trust by the Rector and Churchwardens of St. Mary’s and Christ Church, Wanstead.
Apart from Snaresbrook Football Club it is currently used by the Wanstead Cricket Club, Wanstead Central Bowls Club, and the Drummond Lawn Tennis Club.
Even these days a fenced-off section with a fir tree remains at the top end of the ground which marks the area where horses and carriages used to turn around to drop off and pick up their passengers for their sporting activities.
The early days:
Originally called RAFARNO (standing for Royal Air Force Army Royal Navy Officers), Snaresbrook Football Club, was established just after the end of the war in 1948 and, playing in red shirts and either black or white shorts, did excellently from the very beginning.
The side proved extremely popular amongst local players and so it began running both first team and reserve sides appearing in local leagues.
In 1963 it changed its name to Snaresbrook for both football and cricket to truly reflect the locality and the fact that it was thought to sound better and the name represented an area.
It couldn’t be called Wanstead as that name was already used for football and cricket.
Brilliant first achievements:
• 1960-61 – Ilford and District League Premier Division runners-up.
• 1964-65 – Reserves were Division 5 runners-up
• 1965-66 – The First Team were League Cup winners whilst the Reserves were St. Mary’s Cup winners. These were incredible achievements and the first Cup successes in the Club’s history.
• 1966-67 – Ilford and District League Premier Division winners.
• 1968-69 – The First Team did the double – winning the Ilford and District League Premier Division – as well as the League Cup. In the same season the Reserves won the Ilford and District League Division 3.
• 1969-70 – Ilford and District League Premier Division winners.
In the early 1980s the first team was entered into the Greene King South Essex Football League, winning the league in the 1982-1983 season and coming runners up in the League Cup the same season.
They then joined the Essex Business Houses League joining the Senior Intermediate Division in the 1983-1984 season.
Current Team Manager and Honorary Secretary Paul Staniford said: “At first we found it quite hard, but finished a credible mid-table and also won the Sportsmanship Trophy for the season”.
The Club spent the next 30 years in the same Essex Business Houses League – most of that time in the top division winning the Premier Division in 2001-2002 and the Premier Cup three seasons in a row, 2000-2001, 2001-2002 and 2002-2003.
And the Club’s reserves even picked up both Division 4 runners-up and cup winners in the 2008-2009 season.
The fight for a Club Bar:
Discussions regarding the installation of a new bar in the Clubhouse commenced in late 1973 and carried on for several years.
At one point current Chairman John Sankey visited the local vicarage where he spoke to Rector Paul Bowen with a view to formalise the existing Clubhouse arrangement into a proper bar by obtaining an official licence.
Said John: “He told me we wouldn’t be able to drink on Sundays or at Easter. I told him that would be very difficult as many of our cricket fixtures were played on a Sunday. We went to away grounds and expected to drink in their bars and our opponents would expect the same when they came to ours.
“Football was only played on Saturdays in the early days until the new youth section started in 1998.
“The Rector told me, if the bar licence was granted, one of the considerations would be that we played between 12 midday and 6pm so that we didn’t conflict with church times, so we had to agree to it. We had no choice. I told the League that we had to play Sunday cricket between 12 and six.
“Eventually it was agreed we could have the licence, but could not open the bar on Good Friday and Christmas Day”, added John.
Before the bar actually opened all Club meetings and after game entertainment had to be held at the local Nightingale Pub which has a particularly interesting history.
In the early 18th century the immediate area was known as Mob’s Hole and was characterised by a pantomime of vice and crime. It is even believed to have been frequented by one of England’s most feared villains the legendary Dick Turpin.
Snaresbrook FC’s colours:
Snaresbrook FC’s home colours are these days red and black. In the early days the shirts were all red and provided by the team, whilst the players had the choice of wearing either white or black shorts and socks.
Back then players had to wash their own kit including the club-provided football shirt.
More other sides wore white shorts and that is why, in about 1963-1964, it was decided that all Snaresbrook players should play in black shorts.
A new youth section for Snaresbrook:
Whilst the adult side was still going strong in the Essex Business Houses League, a new youth team was started up in 1998 – and amazingly most of those then newcomers are still playing for Snaresbrook, obviously now as adults.
Paul Staniford’s son Sam was born in 1990 and to cater for him and his pals an Under-8s side was set up playing just friendlies in their first season.
The following season (1999-2000) the boys entered into the East London and Essex League Under-9s which, incredibly, they won that same year. Snaresbrook Youth then carried on in that league for the next two seasons, in the second of which they won the League again as Under-11s (2001-2002), also adding the League Cup to complete the double.
When they were Under-12s Snaresbrook Youth then progressed to the Echo League from which they won promotion to the Echo Premier League in 2003-2004 where the Under-16s later gained runners-up honour in 2006-2007.
Mr. Staniford said: “Generally in our junior football we were always known as a good footballing side, but sometimes fell short in the physical side of football”.
By this time, from the age of 16 as the boys reached adulthood, some had been fed into the Snaresbrook adult team filling in gaps of older players retiring. The adults had by now been competing on the Nutter Field for many years and were still playing in the Essex Business Houses League.
In 2007-2008, as Under-17s, Snaresbrook Youth joined the tough Chelmsford League for the first time amazingly winning it that initial season and becoming runners-up in the League Cup and also winning the Fair Play Award.
Then in the 2008-2009 season, as Under-18s, the team joined the Eastern Alliance Football League which they thoroughly enjoyed, playing on some lovely pitches such as Bishops Stortford and Burnham Ramblers.
On rejoining the Chelmsford League in the 2009-2010 season as an Under-21s side Snaresbrook won the League in that first season becoming League Cup runners-up as well. They also reached the Essex Trophy Final, sadly losing 2-0.
In the 2010-2011 season still as Under-21s – though they were mainly only 18-year-olds – Snaresbrook performed well despite still being a young side.
In the following season, still as an Under-21s side, Snaresbrook became runners-up in the League and won the League Cup. They also reached the Essex Junior Cup Final where they lost a close game in extra time.
Most of the youth section were in the main adult team by the age of 21 and good majority of the same players today still represent Snaresbrook’s first team.
The side remained with the Essex Business Houses until 2013, when it was accepted into the Essex Olympian Football League commencing in the Senior Division 3 League.
Incredibly, Snaresbrook won promotion in two consecutive years and are currently playing in Senior Division One, where they finished third last season.
Loyalty and allegiance to Snaresbrook FC never seems to wane:
Many of the players who started their Snaresbrook careers as young teenage players in the early days of Snaresbrook are still with the club – these days working out as officials, helpers or attending as regular spectators.
And most of those who started up as children in the 1990s now form the current adult team.
Treasurer Keith Lloyd, now aged 72, joined as an 18-year-old football enthusiast back in 1962.
Said Keith: “My first season started in the summer of 1962 after I saw an advertisement in the Ilford Recorder for men to play for a team known in those days as RAFARNO. I just turned up one day here at the Nutter Field and started playing.
“A lot of former Royal Air Force, Army and Naval officers were already there and were by then veterans. We played in local leagues, mainly the Ilford and Manor Park Leagues.
“The team changed its name the following season in 1963 – we were suddenly just playing as Snaresbrook and have been called that ever since”, added Keith.
Even current Chairman John Sankey, 84, who still lives locally joined as a seasoned professional after moving from Liverpool in 1962 – and these days he watches all the games he can.
He said: “I have always loved it here. I joined in 1962 as a centre forward playing for RAFARNO. I have seen all the changes and watched the club form and transform.
“I still really enjoy coming down here and have simply loved watching it transform from a shed to a double garage and now a proper brick-built building.
“I had a major legal fight with the church to get a bar installed. In those days we weren’t allowed to play on Good Friday or even on a Sunday. Then during the sixties, seventies and eighties we could play football on a Sunday but not open the bar!”, he added.
The brick-built clubhouse was finished by 1987. It was designed by architect Jim Norris and built by current Team Manager Paul Staniford, now aged 57, who was amazingly recently awarded Essex Olympian Football League Linesman of the Year 2016.
Paul said: “I joined the club as a 17-year-old and became Secretary in 1988, a post I am pleased and proud to have held continuously to the present day.
“I have also been first team manager, second team manager and youth team manager at various points throughout my time at Snaresbrook”, he added.
Support from football superstar Alan Curbshley:
Former football player and manager Alan Curbishley has got strong links with the Nutter Field going back many decades.
Midfielder Alan, who was on the books of West Ham, Birmingham City, Aston Villa, Charlton Athletic and Brighton & Hove Albion and also managed West Ham and Charlton, both played at the ground and visited regularly to watch when staying with relatives nearby.
Said Alan: “It is a unique little sports ground and perhaps a dying breed if you like.
“We are losing playing fields and sports grounds to a great degree at the moment and somewhere like the Nutter Field caters for both youngsters and other age-groups in Wanstead.
“The other great thing is that the pitch doubles up for both football and cricket”, he added.
Alan said he played on the Nutter Field in charity matches on several occasions – many about 20 years ago – and when he wasn’t playing there he enjoyed watching the Snaresbrook teams in their games.
“It is certainly a unique situation down at the Nutter Field – people wouldn’t even know the ground was there if they weren’t told in the first place. It is simply a lovely sports ground catering for people of all ages”, said Alan.
Quirky facts about Snaresbrook Football Club:
• Team Manager Paul Staniford has now been granted the prestigious title of Linesman of the Year three times to date. He gained the award twice from the Essex Business Houses League and the season just gone (2015-16) scooped the same award from the Essex Olympian League.
• One Snaresbrook Youth player even progressed to representing England at international schoolboy level. From 2006-2009 goalkeeper Toby Smyth played for the Independent Schools Football Association (ISFA) – a position which involved his travelling to Krakow in Poland where he played against their national youth side. With ISFA Toby previously played against a number of representative UK club teams including Blackburn Rovers Under-18s.
• On July 10th 1950 it was agreed that a donation of a pound and one shilling (£1.1.-d) be granted to the Leytonstone and District League Benevolent Fund. At around the same time the cost of a full team of football shirts and a set of goal nets came to just £25 and the prize in the Christmas draw was a chicken, bottles of whisky, gin and sherry, and 200 cigarettes.
• In the summer of 1990 the existing lawnmower was reported to be on its “last legs” and needed replacing. These days a tractor turns up to tend to the grass.
Written by Millicent Brown