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There's no place like home

2 October 2012

The loss of player and secretary Frank Jennings in the summer of 1893 was a real blow to the club.

It was one of the most important decisions in the clubs’ history. Born in Hereford, Harper moved to High Wycombe in 1880 to teach at the Priory Road School. He played for a number of clubs in the town before joining the Wanderers in 1892.   Jim Ray took on the role temporarily before right-back Charley Harper was appointed as his permanent successor. 
Harper was a real go-getter and he moved quickly to rent Spring Meadow for £5 a year. It meant the club could escape the Rye and the associated hooliganism and entice a better class of team to the town. 

It wasn’t ideal, however, as it was adjacent to the High Wycombe-to-Maidenhead railway line and the pitch sloped upwards at either end. There was also a public footpath to Tylers Green which crossed through it but that was soon moved behind one of the goals. 

Harper arranged almost twice as many friendly matches that season and over 2,000 fans saw a friendly with Wolverton on 28th December 1893.  

The Chairboys did the cup double that season, beating Marlow Reserves 3-1 in the High Wycombe Challenge Cup and then thrashing Windsor and Eton Victoria 5-1 in the final of the Maidenhead Norfolkian Cup. 

The biggest game of the season however was a friendly, arranged by Harper, against professional side Middlesbrough Ironopolis, who beat the Blues 3-0 in front of a crowd of 1,600. The gate receipts covered the visitors’ costs and helped spread the name of Wycombe Wanderers across the country.   

The summer of 1894 saw the club seek senior status. It might seem an obvious step now but the players wanted to win the Berks and Bucks Junior Cup first and Harper needed to do a lot of persuading. After a heated second meeting the decision was made to enter the East Berks and South Bucks Junior League, Berks and Bucks Senior Cup and the FA Amateur Cup.   

The Blues were drawn away to West Herts in the Amateur Cup and were beaten 5-1 in a tie played in heavy rain. Right-half Albert Turner even lost his job after taking time off work to play in the second-round tie. 

The first team played in the opening five games in the East Berks and South Bucks Junior League before the reserves were fielded instead. The 1894/95 season saw the High Wycombe Challenge Cup won for a third successive season.  

After two seasons the club was forced to leave Spring Meadow in the summer of 1895. The land was sold and the club had to seek alternative arrangements. They approached Lord Carrington, who owned Wycombe Abbey, and were given permission to rent Loakes Park on the proviso that no annoyance was given to the tenants of Wycombe Abbey or Loakes Park. 

The first game on the new ground was played on a hot September day and Bill Buchanan became the first man to score on the new ground in a 1-0 friendly win against Park Grove.    

The 1895/96 season saw the club enter the English FA Cup for the first time and they were drawn at home to Wolverton London and North Western Railway in a first qualifying round tie. It was to be the first competitive game to be played at Loakes Park, which was in the pink of condition, and the visitors were rather fortunate to hold on for a 3-2 victory in front of a crowd of 1,500.    It was an exciting season for the club with FA Amateur Cup holders Middlesbrough following in their local rivals’ footsteps by playing a friendly whilst on a southern tour.

The first female football match was played in November with the North beating the South 4-0. 

The club made it through to the first round proper of the FA Amateur Cup where they were drawn away to local rivals Marlow. The tie was played at the Crown Ground and some of the 1,500 Wycombe fans even walked the five miles to be part of a record crowd of 2,700.  

The visitors were still the young pretenders and it soon made for an intense rivalry that was to extend into the next century. It was a feisty encounter and there were even a few occasions where the players came to blows. 

Frank Jennings put the Wanderers ahead in the 28th minute but the home side levelled inside two minutes. Bill Buchanan restored Wycombe’s lead five minutes before half-time but sadly Marlow equalised early in the second half and then won it with a goal four minutes from time.   

On a wet afternoon in March 1896 there was a glamour friendly with West Bromwich Albion, who won 4-1 in front of 2,000 spectators at Loakes Park. For the third season in a row, striker Bill Buchanan finished the season having scored more than a goal a game. 

Datchet Webb played his final game for the club at the end of the season and it was fitting as the club which he played such a crucial role in establishing had just enjoyed its most successful season in its new home. Yet greater successes were still to come. 

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