A brief history
The history of the current Canterbury City football club can only be traced back as far as 2007 when a club carrying the City prefix were formed. However a club with the same name actually began life in local football in 1904 before joining the Kent League at the start of the 1910/11 season. In 1910 the local Kentish Gazette newspaper had been trying to encourage senior football in the town but there were fears that because of the stranglehold cricket had in Canterbury a football club just couldn’t flourish. Sadly this was to ring true as the club were given notice to withdraw before the end of their very first season after playing just seven league games and two cup games, losing them all. Bizarrely in their seventh and final league game against Folkestone the match was abandoned due to a Folkestone player refusing to leave the pitch after being sent off.
Canterbury Alliance were another club having success in local football football during the early 1900’s but on changing their name to Canterbury City during the 1921/22 season folded due to financial problems. A military unit based in Canterbury known as the Carabiniers joined the Kent league Division 2 East for the 1913/14 season and finished 7th in a league of ten clubs. That was the Carabiniers one and only season in the Kent League. Meanwhile another amateur Canterbury based football club, Canterbury Waverley, were also having some success in local midweek football and joined the Kent League Division 2 Mid-kent section at the start of the 1924/25 season some thirteen years after Canterbury City had folded. Waverley played their home games at Wincheap Grove, which was one of three grounds located near the river stour in Canterbury that had football played on them. The Grove was also used for Bat and Trap and cricket whilst it was in existence. Canterbury Waverley began life in the Mid-Kent section of the Kent League and opened their first ever season with a 5-4 win over Royal Naval Depot reserves on the 13th September 1924.
That win in their first game was one of only four wins that season as the Waverley finished bottom. The Kent League however didn’t manage to complete its full set of fixtures that season with Waverley only playing twenty one of their twenty six fixtures. The Waverley nevertheless had remained around longer than the seven games City lasted, and their first notable success in the Mid-Kent section came in their fourth season as a senior club when they finished second. Whitstable were Champions that season but lost 5-3 to the Waverley at the Grove. That same game was notable for supporters lighting paper torches due to the match being played in a blanket of fog! The club also reached the semi finals of the Kent Amateur cup during the 1926/27 season but lost out to 2-1 to Dover United in extra time during a replay.
The club kept their amateur status despite promotion and that second place finish at the end of the 1927/28 season meant the Waverley were promoted into the main Kent League. In a strange coincidence they played their first game as a top division club against Royal Naval Depot, four years after beating the R.N reserves team 5-3 in their first game in the Mid-Kent section. It was another high scoring game with the Waverley triumphing 3-2. The club eventually became semi professional after a AGM in 1931. The next notable achievement for the Waverley came at the end 1935/36 season when they finished 4th in the Kent League, their highest place finish to date. The Kent League was notable for lots of high scoring games in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and during the 1936/37 season the Waverley scored 27 goals in just three games winning 10-0 against Folkestone, 9-0 against Erith and Belvedere and finally 8-0 against Aylesford Paper Mill. What made this even more remarkable was all three wins came in a week! The club’s average attendance was around 800 during this period, but when the club were drawn to play Tunbridge Wells Rangers in the FA Cup in 1930 the attendance was recorded as 2747 at Wincheap Grove.
During the late 1920’s Waverley entered a reserve team into Division Two of kent League. However in 1934 the FA informed clubs that teams wishing to enter amateur cup competitions couldn’t be reserve teams. The Waverley decided to change the name of the reserve team to Canterbury Amateurs and they were run as a separate club from Waverley but also played their matches at Wincheap Grove. The amateurs played just two seasons in Division Two before the Kent League closed it down at the end of the 1934/35 season. A second division of the Kent League was re-instated for 1937/38 season and the Waverley re-entered its reserve team back into it. After the height of the first team finishing in 3rd place at the end of the 1935/36 season, the club continued along in a nondescript fashion for the next four seasons before World War 2 took hold in Europe causing the league to abandon its programme early during the start of the 1939/40 season. The Waverley had played just the one game. The following season the Kent League was spilt up into an Eastern and Western section. The Waverley finished eight in the Eastern section which consisted of twelve teams, but most clubs didn’t complete all their fixtures due to the war raging on and these results are not recorded in the official kent League records.
The Kent League completed its first full season again at the end of the 1944/45 campaign but the league only ran with ten and eleven clubs between 1944 and 1946. The 1946/47 season saw Town clubs enter the league on mass again by which time Canterbury Waverley were in trouble. The lost of their Wincheap Grove ground spelled the beginning of the end for the club, and they were gone by the time the 1946/47 season got underway, never to return. All was not lost for the people of Canterbury though as a local company by the name of Robert Brett and Sons allowed a newly formed Canterbury City to use their Bretts’ corner ground, because Bretts’ Sports, a Canterbury based club playing amateur football, had also folded at the same time as the Waverley. The company also helped City out by allowing the club to play at Bretts’ Corner rent free for the first two years, whilst also undertaking improvement works to ground. The newly formed Canterbury City began life in the Kent League at the start of the 1947/48 season and attracted four figures crowds on a regular basis. The match against Margate that season attracted a season’s best of 3779, and the following season the Bretts’ Sports ground was bursting at the seems as 4998 watched their clash against Dover. To date it’s still the highest attendance recorded for a match played in Canterbury. The crowds kept on coming to Bretts’ Corner and they were rewarded when their reserve team won the Kent League Division One cup in the 1948/49 season on their home patch beating Faversham Town 2-0. The first team then won the Kent League Cup at the end of the 1949/50 season with a 1-0 win over Snowdown Colliery Welfare, then followed that up by winning the Kent Senior Cup at the end of the 1953/54 season with a 1-0 win over Tunbridge Wells United at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium.
However, despite the crowds flocking to Bretts’ Corner to watch City, the owners Robert Brett and Sons asked City to vacate the ground leaving the club potentially homeless. The club looked into the possibility of ground-sharing at the cricket ground at St Lawrence in Canterbury but there was insufficient space to create a football pitch. Canterbury council eventually allowed a stadium to built on a former rubbish dump in Kingsmead Road. The ground opened in August 1958 and also went on to host athletics and speedway during its history. The football club played its first game at the KIngsmead Stadium on Saturday 30th August 1958 against Ashford Town, winning 3-2. The team finished their first two season playing at their new home in 6th and 9th place in the Kent league. At the start of the 1959/60 season the club found itself playing in the Metropolitan League as the Kent League had disbanded. They spent just one season in the Metropolitian League finishing 3rd and being promoted to the Southern League Division One for the start of the 1960/61. The 1960’s were good period for the club with team reaching the first round proper of the FA Cup during the 1964/65 and 19687/69 season. A record attendance was set at Kingsmead stadium for the first of the them FA Cup ties when 3001 came through the turnstiles to see City clash with Torquay United. The Devon club won 6-1. In the league the club remained in the Southern League Division One for the next eleven seasons with a record finish of 7th at the end of the 1965/6 being the highest place finish ever for a club from Canterbury.
The following seasons however saw the club finishing mainly in the lower reaches of the table at the end of each campaign, before they eventually finishing bottom of the division at the end of the 1970/71 season. Despite finishing bottom the club remained in the Southern League for the 1971/72 season when the league was spilt into three leagues with a Premier Division, a Division One North and a Division One South. City were placed in the South. Only Woodford Town kept them off bottom spot at the end of their first season in the South section before they finished in a more comfortable 12th place the following season. Playing in the South division was proving a more rewarding experience with their highest finished coming at the end of the 1974/75 season when the team finished 9th in a division of twenty teams. That was a good as it got for City supporters in the 1970’s though, and the 1977/78 and 1978/79 season were best forgotten when the club finished with the wooden spoon award on both occasions with the team conceding two hundred and eleven goals over the course of those just two seasons. Whilst the 1970’s weren’t particularly successful in the league, cup competitions proved more fruitful with the club reaching the semi finals of the Kent Senior Cup in 1971/72, 1973/74 and 1975/76 before finally winning it at the end of the 1980/81 season. During the 1970’s the club also reached 1st round and the 2nd round proper of the FA Trophy in 1973/74 and 1974/75 respectively, and then semi finals of the Kent Floodlight Cup in 1975/76.
The current national Conference was created at the start of the 1979/80 season which meant the Southern League lost the majority of its Premier Division clubs and saw the rest of the Southern League member clubs spilt into a Midland and Southern Section. The Southern League ran with just two divisions for three seasons before a Premier Division was created again for the 1982/83 season to run along side the Southern and Midland Sections. During this period Canterbury City remained in the South. The club managed to keep its head above for water for the first half of the 1980’s but with each passing season the club’s fortunes on the pitch declined resulting in the club finishing last again at the end of the 1986/87 season, and second to last the following season. As the decade came to a close the club prospects were not looking too good . The 1993/94 season was eventually the club’s last season in the Southern League. The club finished third from bottom that final season and dropped back to the Kent League. The club continued in the Kent League until the new millennium before folding altogether at the end of the 2000/01 season with the team finishing bottom without winning a game.
The club’s Kingmead stadium was bulldozed around the same time and senior football didn’t return to Canterbury until a new club with the City name began life in the Kent County League Division two East in 2007. The newly formed club won the Championship and promotion that season and followed it up with another Championship and promotion winning campaign in the Kent County League Division One East the following season. Two quick promotions saw the club playing the 2009/2010 season in the Kent County Premier Division. It didn’t take the club long to find their feet at their new level and within two seasons they had won promotion back to the Kent League, now renamed the Kent Premier, the level the previous City club had been playing at when they folded in 2001. The current Canterbury City have remained at this level since with two 9th place finishes in 2011/12 and 2012/13 respectively and then 12th at the end of the 2013/14 season. Since 2007 the club have played at Broomfield FC, Hersden, Herne Bay and now Ashford United. A site for new ground has yet to be found in Canterbury since the demise of Kingsmead.