In the third part of his series, Bridgwater Town club secretary Kerry Miller looks at the sporting scene from early 1902 and some of the characters of the time.

The spring of 1902 saw the end of the Boer War, fought between the British Empire and the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, which had cost around 50,000 lives, while the footballing world was digesting the horror of the first Ibrox disaster, when rickety wooden terracing collapsed, killing 25 and injuring hundreds, as thoughts changed to cricket and preparing for another season of soccer alongside the all-embracing rugby fraternity.

Bridgwater AFC held an AGM at the Cross Rifles on June 19 that year, but they were swallowed by several new clubs which had sprung up and appear to have folded.

Trinity United, St John Stars and Wembdon Evening School had men who had played for the town club before, while Eastover Night School FC were attracting good crowds to the new Recreation Ground, which had been partly laid out on reclaimed clay pits and had been refilled using material dredged from the Docks and the Parrett.

Residents at the newly built properties in Cranleigh Gardens were forced to endure the unpleasant stench from the land itself and the noise of dozens of children playing on the Rec, which was used by at least three different football clubs at that time.

Burnham Town and Highbridge Rovers were busy, as were Nether Stowey FC, who included in their ranks two brothers from a gentrified family who lived in Stowey Court and who had occasionally turned out for Bridgwater Thursday FC, when not required by the town’s cricket or rugby clubs.

Edward Stephen Massey Poyntz and one of his brothers, Hugh Stainton Poyntz, were both already well respected in sporting circles by that time - with the youngest, known as Massey, captaining Bridgwater Albion RFC and the town cricket club before both played for Somerset CCC as amateurs three years later.

Massey Poyntz’s status was such that he tended to play sport wherever he liked (with the advantage that his godfather was none other than the great international all-round sportsman Sammy Woods), often alongside Hugh, and they had long careers at the County Ground.

Massey captained the county from 1910 and, at the outbreak of the Great War, he joined the Bedfordshire Regiment, quickly being elevated to Lieutenant and then Captain.

He and Major Hugh fought together at the Battle of the Somme, which they both survived, and Massey ended the conflict as a Major alongside his brother.

This is The West Country:

SPORTING ALL-ROUNDER: Hugh Stainton Poyntz

After a year with no town club of any description, August 1903 saw a meeting at the Golden Ball Hotel hear a proposal to form a new club in connection with Bridgwater Albion RFC to play on Thursdays (early closing in the town), in the Taunton & District Thursday League.

The large attendance took up the proposal “heartily” alongside chairman Edwin Bryant and elected captain Jack Body, who had played for the Saturday club already.

The rugby club came to a financial agreement through secretary Scott McAulay, who played rugby for Albion and Taunton RFC when not acting as a pub landlord.

The two clubs existed alongside each other amicably although few men played for both, as rugby and cricket came first.

The Albion FC adopted the same colours as the rugby club, amber and blue, and subs were fixed at a half crown a year as the two clubs played each other in a practice game.

With little or no fanfare a new Saturday club limped along, playing the likes of Brent Knoll, Creech St Michael and Spaxton, and with the Bath Road ground seemingly having gone with the old club, they were playing occasional games at the rugby ground in Taunton Road.

It was a far cry from the likes of Street, Paulton Rovers and Wells City which was the case a year earlier and the first few games were played in awful weather on virtually unplayable pitches.

Remarkably, the club occasionally fielded a reserve XI, which was a feat itself as the men were forced to take time off work and any away games in Taunton meant catching the 2.07 train from Bridgwater, followed by a long walk at the other end.

There were the occasional highlights, with Wembdon-based Philip Headford hitting hat-tricks against Highbridge Rovers and Burnham Athletic and, in February, Brent Knoll were beaten 14-0 away, with Headford again one of three hat-trick men.

He was another in a long list of all-rounders, playing cricket for Bridgwater Mariners CC when not working as a railway clerk.

Just 21 years old, Philip was the son of a solicitor’s clerk and had three brothers and sisters who were all teachers and lived in Church Street.

A friendly against Dr Morgans was switched from their school grounds which was too wet, and after they staged a smoking concert at the Railway Hotel HQ in the evening which was ‘very successful’ with around 80 attending.

There many entertainers, as harmony singing was always very popular, and chairman Edwin Bryant played gramophone selections accompanied by club secretary Harry Read.

It was a far cry from the rugby club annual concert which was held in the Town Hall but with soccer primarily existing as a social enterprise at that time, and with no club showing any signs of a growing support, it would appear that they knew their place.

Easter came with both Bridgwater and the Albion Rugby Clubs having impressive fixture lists which would guarantee huge crowds at both Taunton Road and the Malt Shovel Ground; it would seem the football club accepted that situation and there was little or no action, save yet another friendly which Massey Poyntz graced, before turning out for the Albion a day later in front of thousands.

The season petered out in April, with cricket dominating as it did everywhere, but Headford was given the captaincy and it was unanimously agreed to find a league to join as soon as possible... yet, a week later, tragedy struck.

Prominent cricketer and footballer Bill Cooksley succumbed to the effects of sunstroke, which he had sustained when playing cricket against Walton three weeks earlier.

Aged 24, he was well known as the captain and secretary of Bridgwater Amateurs CC, where he was a prolific batsman and a quick bowler.

He had also made a name for himself as a goalkeeper or full-back for Bridgwater AFC and was an auctioneer for Horace Hurman, father of Harry, who was a colleague at the football and cricket clubs.

Having been taken by the sun’s rays it was with painful irony that Bill Cooksley’s funeral was held in pouring rain.