One of the twelve founder members of the Football League, the Wanderers were originally known as Christ Church when they were formed in 1874 by Sunday School teacher, Thomas Ogden. The present name was adopted in 1877 by a breakaway group when the Christ Church president began to stress too many rules about the use of the church premises. The suffix Wanderers was added to commemorate their long search for a permanent headquarters.
During their first years the Wanderers, living up to their name, switched home quite frequently. Rather than thinking of properly enclosed grounds, imagine yourself on little more than open fields. The first game played by the club, in July 1874, was a trial match which was held at Bob Woods field on what is now the east side of Heaton Cemetery. This was followed by an encounter at Smithfield. After spells at The Park Recreation Ground, Dick Cockles Field and Pikes Lane, the Wanderers finally settled at Burnden Park which was to be their home for 102 years until Bolton Wanderers moved to The Reebok Stadium as the 1996-97 first division champions.
Bolton may have wandered to find a permanent home, and the same can be said about their sartorial endeavours. Bolton’s club colour history is colourful indeed. The first “costume” was red and black, followed by red and white quarters, giving way to salmon pink jerseys, only to be replaced by white shirts covered with red spots in 1884. The sight of this was too much for the Bolton correspondent of the local Football Field paper. We quote: “I have seen a great variety of shirts and jerseys as most folks, but must award the palm of uniqueness to the new fangled dress of the Wanderers. It is something like you would expect in a circus ring”. Incidentally, the nickname “The Spots” remained with the Wanderers for many years afterwards.
Bolton acquired white shirts from the former Turton Club in 1885. Apart from the one exception of blue and white stripes in 1890, they have remained white since, with blue shorts. How appropriate that it was a white horse that cleared the Wembley pitch in 1923 prior to the FA Cup final…..
Bolton Wanderers are referred to as ‘The Trotters’, trotter being a local name for a practical joker. Although pigs’ trotters were a local delicacy, and although there was a butchers close to Bolton’s former ground at Burnden Park where the players used to go and eat pigs’ trotters before matches and although this pre-match routine stopped- certainly after the team moved to the Reebok Stadium-, it did not account for the illustrious nickname.
Bolton have had a string of emblems, appropiate for a club with the suffix Wanderers. Today’s crest is not the most appealing affair, as seems to be the case with so many other computer animated designs. It is in sharp contrast to older emblems that one way or another were always inspired by the old Bolton County Borough Council coat of arms.
On the first insignia we see two gold and diagonal bendlets to represent the shoulder-belt of a soldier; this was in use before the arms were officially granted. For appropiate difference were added an arrow, in reference to the part played by the Bolton Archers at Flodden in 1513, a shuttle and Samuel Compton’s mule spindle for the textile industry, introduced by the Flemish weavers who settled in the area in the 14th century. Finally, we see the red rose, symbolic of Lancashire.
Another version of Bolton Wanderers’ emblems shows an elephant on top of a shield with, not surprisingly, the letters ‘B’ and ‘W’, on a blue blackground. The elephant, together with a castle, now also appears in the crest of the present Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council coat of arms and is said to be the evidence of Bolton’s historic connection with Coventry. The link goes back to the middle of the 13th century when Bolton Church was annexed as a prebend to the Cathedral Church of Lichfield and came under the authority of the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, suggested by the mitre on the tapping, which bears the Coventry civic colours of red and green.