Unlike so many other English clubs, Charlton Athletic are the creation of the community. The club was formed on 5 June 1906 by a group of lads living in the streets by the Thames in an area, which now borders the Thames Barrier. If you think the nomadic endeavours of Charlton Athletic occurred only in the last fifteen years in the club’s history you’d be wrong. Siemen’s Meadow, Woolwich Common, Pound Park, the Angerstein Athletic ground in Horne Lane and the first spell at The Valley in 1920 all saw the red and white colours of the club.
A proposed amalgamation with Catford Southend ignited a move to The Mount in Catford in 1923, coinciding with the introduction of light and dark blue striped shirts. Charlton Athletic returned to The Valley, wearing red shirts again, in 1924.
The ground saga of course reignited in 1985 when Charlton took up residence at Selhurst Park, moving on to Upton Park in 1991, only to welcome with fanfares and fan acclaim a return to the Valley in 1992.
Red has stayed as the predominant colour of the shirts throughout all of these moves, with just one flight in the early Sixties when white shirts with a red yoke were worn. In their old days badges were not regularly worn on shirts, except for special occasions. From the 1930s Charlton Athletic adopted a badge that appears to be a “club”, as in playing cards with the letters CAF. After the war, the design changed to include a robin perched on a football, placed on top of a quartered shield. It was used for only a brief period, including the 1946 FA Cup final.
Again, for a very brief time- late 1940s till early 1950s- Charlton adopted the arms of the old borough of Greenwich. It never appeared on shirts, only on club blazers. Having regard to the unique position occupied by Greenwich as the place from which the standard of time is taken, and the point from which nautical and astronomical calculations are made, the former council considered that the arms should as far as possible be emblematic of these subjects. The result is manifestly exemplified.
In the centre of the shield, an hourglass in silver on a blue background typifies time. Above it is the radiated silver star symbolising astronomical science in reference to the observatory. The six blue stars on a silver ground represent the nautical side of the observatory’s activities. The arms’ crest, consisting of a black ship with golden anchors, is a symbol of the shipbuilding industry with which Greenwich was so closely associated.
The sword image was introduced in the early 1960s, arguably taken from the Spencer-Percival family crest. The Percivals were leading social figures in Charlton Village in the late 19th century. This icon has been used in various guises- with a circle, without a circle, with the name circled around it as we see it today, and the same badge but placed on a shield. The sword emblem was dropped from the shirts for a short while in the 1970s when the initials CAFC were used at a time stylish monograms were very much in favour.
Although Charlton Athletic may have been valiant in battle, proudly wearing a sword on their shirts, it was the club’s location at The Valley that give rise to the nickname ‘The Valiants’. It came about after a competition among supporters in 1963-64.
Charlton Athletic are known as ‘Addicks’. There are a number of rumours and suggestions as to how this name came about. It is thought that Charlton’s “Addicks” nickname derives from South London slang for the haddock fish, although there are conflicting versions of the exact derivation. The most popular has it that in pre-league days the players would treat the visiting team to a post-match meal of haddock and chips. The fishmonger who supplied them was Arthur Bryan, trading from a shop at 77 East Street and who held the catering concession during the club’s first season at The Valley and by repute attended matches with a haddock nailed to a stick as an advertising stunt. In speech haddock developed into ‘addicks’ in South London dialect, where the ‘h’ would in any case be dropped as a matter of course and the ’o’ has become corrupted to ‘i’ with lazy usage, the most common form of language development.
Another suggestion is that the fans would watch the team in all sorts of weather and travel all over to see them, becoming know as Addicts. The simplest explanation is that “Addick” is just a derivation of “Athletic”, similar to Oldham and Wigan being called the “Latics”. It was also suggested that “Addick” comes from the Spencer Percival family motto “addique” allegedly meaning sharp, ready. By the way, the “Addicks” tag fell into disuse for many years when they were more commonly known as “The Robins” in the 1950s, inspired by the bird’s image on the red shirts. The historic label of Addicks was reinstated by public demand in the 1980s and the alternatives are no longer in use, even though the team still runs out to Billy Cotton’s Red, Red Robin at home matches.
Whatever the truth, there’s something fishy going on….