125 years ago today we lost a football club.

Watford St Mary’s were sacrificed for the greater good of football in the town.

Since then, they’ve been the forgotten branch of Watford FC’s history.

It’s time to put things right and remember them.

Below is an early team photo of St Mary’s, not long after they formed in 1885. 

They started out playing their home games on the Little Cassiobury estate.

In their first season, they didn’t lose a game.

For the first four seasons, St Mary’s only played friendlies.

In 1888/89 they had their first fixture against Watford Rovers (below), who were the major team in the town. (We’re pretty sure Henry Grover, the original founder, is third from the left in the back row.)

The next year, 1889/90, St Mary’s entered cup competitions for the first time. 

They went out of the Junior Cup at the hands of Watford Rovers.

A rivalry was beginning.

The following season, 1890/91, St Mary’s won their first silverware.

They won the St Mary’s Cup, winning 12-1 in the final.

Their centre-forward Charles ‘Bangy’ Harrison (below) scored eight.

In 1891, they added to their trophy cabinet with the Herts Junior Cup (below).

They also got to the semi-final of the Herts Senior Cup.

But they lost to Watford Rovers — who were the cup holders and would go on to retain it.

It looked like St Mary’s couldn’t compete with their neighbours.

A low point came in 1893. 

St Mary’s folded because they ran out of money.

But only for a year.

In 1894 they re-formed, calling themselves Watford St Mary’s. Here’s a photo of them in 1894.

They were back stronger.

That season, they reached the final of the Herts Senior Cup.

They lost to Hitchin, but they were making waves.

In 1895/96, they reached the semi-final of the Herts Senior Cup.

They also played Tottenham Hotspur in a friendly at the new Watford St Mary’s home ground on Wiggenhall Road.

Their stature was rising. 

Here’s a photo from 1896.

By now, they’d already started entering the FA Amateur Cup. 

But the next year, 1896/97, they played four games in the FA Cup.

In 1897/98 they played in the Amateur Cup and FA Cup again. 

And they beat Watford Rovers (now called West Herts) 2-1 in a friendly in front of 2,500 people.

In the autumn of 1897, they adopted professionalism. 

So did West Herts (Watford Rovers, as was).

This meant the rivalry between the town’s two main teams was getting expensive.

So, in the Spring of 1898, West Herts and Watford St Mary’s came to an agreement.

Watford St Mary’s would wind up their affairs (on May 7th 1898) and join forces with West Herts.

The club became known as Watford FC.

The best Watford St Mary’s players joined the newly named club. (You can see St Mary’s players Jack Cother and Bobbie Slaughter in the 1898 Watford FC photo below – as well as the 1896 St Mary’s picture.)

Bangy Harrison joined the committee of Watford FC. 

Watford FC’s first match was a 15-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers in September 1898.

The town rivals were now one club.

So, 125 years on, spare a thought for the forgotten team of Watford FC’s early history.

They gave up their club so that the town could have a single team to get behind.

(That’s Bangy Harrison, holding the ball, in the below photo from 1895. Jack Cother is on the far right of the back row.)

And that’s it.

Thanks for reading about Watford St Mary’s.

A great site for learning more about Watford FC history is WatfordGold.org.uk – who have unearthed fixtures, results, scorers and attendances for Watford St Mary’s games. Go take a look.

And if you’d like to hear an entertaining re-telling of how the town’s rivals came together to form Watford FC in 1898, have a listen to Series 20 of Hornet Heaven.

It’s on Spotify, YouTube, all podcast platforms, and at HornetHeaven.com.

The season finale is out tomorrow (May 8th). We can guarantee you’ll find it more pleasing and satisfying than Watford’s season finale against Stoke in the afternoon!