Amongst the collection of old publications we were sent some years ago was a copy of another long-running periodical, The Astonian Chronicles. The following excerpt is from vol 4, no. 8, which came out in April 1913, and is entitled The Capital’s Shame.
Let me start by stating clearly that I am no shrinking violet, neither am I a man who is easily shocked. Indeed, I can state quite categorically that I can profess to be a widely travelled man of the world. Why, it was a mere few months ago that I partook of an excursion to Bradford in order to see the Villa play in the third round of the FA Cup, despite the fact that this Yorkshire mill town had only recently experienced its first sight of a horseless carriage, whose driver they took to be a German spy and pulled from his seat, before tarring and feathering the poor man. The reason given was that he was betrayed by a strange accent and manners, and in explanation could only reply that he hailed from Wigan, which to these simple northern folk was far enough away to be under the influence of foreign powers.
No, sir, I do not shock easily. And yet I blanched at the experience of travelling to the Crystal Palace stadium to witness our fine fellows’ victory in the FA Cup Final. I was disgusted at the condition of our capital city. At the sights and sounds I witnessed, and the shocking prices charged by purveyors of those goods and serviced necessary for the enjoyment of a game of football. But most of all, by the squalid appearance of a site which has pretensions to being the finest sporting venue in the country.
London has all the charm of a Corporation rubbish tip. Perfumed doxies shamelessly proposition the most innocent visitor, and are most persuasive in proposing their affectations. The taverns are full of the lowest ruffians, and the ale which they produce has the appearance and taste of having been recycled from the waste products of said ne’erdowells. In addition, the nightly entertainment, such as it is, comprises the lowest forms of carnal conviviality, provided by several gentlemen by the name of Gold and Sullivan. These names appeared familiar to me, and I later realised that it was none other than the owners of a football club, whose name escapes me, situated in the lower areas of our own fair city.
But these distractions, unlikely to appeal to a person of my own refined tastes, were of insignificance when compared to the inconveniences suffered by those of us who were in attendance at the Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace, it is called? Crystal Privvy, more like. Public transport to such a place is scarce, omnibuses and hackney carriages in short supply. eventually I arrived at the stadium, and after paying the scandalous admission price of two shillings, gained address onto the terrace. Such was the crush of bodies that obtaining a clear view of the play was impossible and I was forced into the hiring of a common fellow, whose shoulders I sat upon for the duration of the match at a cost of a further sixpence. Such chaps have time and again proved their worth at sporting contests and I can only thank the farsightedness of the FA and the government for ensuring that an adequate supply of poor people is always available. Should their numbers ever dwindle due to such unforeseen circumstances as an outbreak of war or epidemic then I cannot imagine how fellows such as myself would be able to witness football matches in the future.
The refreshments available during the half time interval were both of poor quality and difficult to obtain. Again, I was lucky that my man had a plentiful supply of offspring who would, upon payment of a further farthing, retire to the catering facilities and I was able to obtain a modest repast of something described as a ‘hamburger,’ another example of the way in which foreign influences are invading our fine, upstanding British traditions. Are ‘Birminghamers’ sold at the German Cup Final? No, sir, I think not.
At the termination of the afternoon’s proceedings I made my way to the railway station, anxious to be back at my hotel in order to see the first house of the music hall. Unfortunately, the railway companies did not see fit to add extra carriages onto the Brighton service and so it was standing room only to Victoria.
All in all, a most unsatisfactory conclusion to a day which should have been one of the utmost jollity. Roll on the day when Mr Rinder’s plans are executed and Villa Park can hold 130,000. Then we will be able to stroll to the Cup Final and be home for tea.