In 1904 Exeter United F.C., which had been formed in 1894 and were therefore the city’s premier club, disbanded. Another club, St Sidwell’s United, who played in green and white quartered shirts, and had also formerly been known as St Sidwell’s Wesleyans and St Sidwell’s Old Boys, renamed themselves Exeter City and adopted Bradford’s Field as their home ground. St Sidwell’s United were formed by old boys from St. Sidwell’s School and members of the local Wesleyan Church.
Bradford’s Field was sold to Exeter City in 1906 by a local butcher by the name of Bradford, perhaps obviously, and the ground was renamed St James’ Park. Back in 1654, when Lady Anne Clifford owned the site of the present St James’ Park, she rented it out for fattening pigs. No doubt the expression: “what a bunch of oinkers!”, commonly heard, or slightly misheard at the ground in our own time, has a history dating back centuries, probably originating in the parlance of local pig-fanciers in Cromwell’s day.
We can also digress further with a quiz question: which team provided the opposition for the first-ever truly national Brazilian team? The answer is of course, as you all knew, Exeter City. State sides had played a variety of fixtures, but it was not until the formation of the Confederacao Brasileira Desportes that a truly national side was picked – for the game on 21 July 1914 against our local heroes. The result? 3-3.
Exeter City abondoned their unfavourable green-and-white quartered shirts in favour of today’s red-and-white striped shirts in 1910. It was the insular character of the region that had inspired them to sport the same colours as local rivals Plymouth Argyle. Were the original colours too close to Plymouth Argyle for comfort, or in common with many teams did they view the green as being unlucky?
However, speaking of colourful. In July 1726 there was a fair on Southernhay in which the Siege of Troy was enacted. For some not entirely stupid reason the inhabitants of St Sidwell’s, outside the city walls, identified themselves with the attacking Greeks, or Grecians. A century later the name Greeks had given way entirely to “Grecians”. Residents of St Sidwell’s described themselves as Grecians in letters to the local paper and the term was familiar in local parlance. It was not at all surprising that the football ground just off the end of Sidwell Street should acquire a “Grecian Gate”. And when the team who played there, St Sidwell’s Old Boys, changed its name to Exeter City, it must have seemed almost natural that it would be given the nickname “Grecians”.
Exeter City Football Club’s first emblem was the shield of the City of Exeter coat of arms. The present one is a full version of the arms. The club also had a short fling with a quartered shield ECFC badge in the late Sixties and sported an elegant ECFC monogram at the start of the Eighties.
Exeter received confirmation of the City’s Arms from William Hervey, Clarenceux King of Arms during a visit to Devon in 1564. The original draft in the actual handwriting of Hervey is preserved at the College of Arms. The motto “Semper Fidelis meaning “Ever Faithful” was suggested by Elizabeth I herself in a letter addressed to the citizens of Exeter in 1588 in recognition of a gift of money towards the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada.
In the badge we see a triple-towered castle, called Rougemont and possibly the red field is an illusion to its name. The half lion in red in the crest with blue tongue and claws, supporting an orb, a cross thereon. is that of Richard, Earl of Cornwall. He was elected King of the Romans, in token of which the lion bears the orb. The shield is flanked by two silver Pegasus, the waves in their wings probably referring to the River Exe. Quite a different menagerie from the creatures that once used to live on the site of St. James’ Park…..