Rugby dominated the winter sporting scene in Leicester during the late 19th century. Nevertheless football had its followers of several minor teams, including clubs formed by pupils at Wyggeston and Mill House schools. Leicester City were formed in 1884, principally by a number of old Wyggestonians, who wanted to formalise outside academic jurisdiction, choosing to meet in a garden shed behind the current Fosse Road South.
The club’s initial name of Leicester Fosse, Fosse colloquially meaning moat or ditch, was an apt choice since the team were able to rent a field that lay off of the Fosse Road South, the name taken from a Roman road in England, running from Exeter via Bath, Cirencester and Leicester to Lincoln. After just one game the club moved away and continued to play at Victoria Park. By the end of 1887 it was decided that gate money should be taken at matches for which an enclosed ground was necessary. It was found at the Belgrave Cycle Track, which was located north of the town. There were no dressing rooms at the ground and for this facility the players used the White Hart Hotel, one mile away!
A couple of years later Leicester Fosse’s standing was not enough to outbid the Leicester Rugby Club for the further use of the Belgrave Ground and a move was made back to Victoria Park. It was to last for less than one season since this ground was still not enclosed so another move was made, this time to Mill Lane. Leicester Fosse prospered at this venue but the end of the 1890/91 ended in trauma when the club was informed to vacate the ground, as it was required for building purposes.
A certain Miss Westland was instrumental in the choice of yet another ground. One day walking with her uncle she spotted a patch of land off Walnut Street she considered to be a good venue for the Fosse. Where would Leicester City have been today if she hadn’t taken her uncle for a walk? Anyway, her idea was taken up and work was put in hand to enclose and develop the site. No surprise the work wasn’t finished by the start of the 1891/92 season and so the Aylestone Road Cricket Ground had to be used. Only a few matches were played at this short-lived venue. By late October 1891 Leicester Fosse finally settled at the ground Miss Westland found and it was to become known as Filbert Street. Here the suffix ‘Fosse’ was dropped for the larger appeal of ‘City’ in 1920. The new century has of course seen a new move to the Walker Stadium.
We do not know whether Miss Westland also played a pivotal role in the choice of the first club colours or not. Blue has always been worn on part of their outfit, but there was no regular pattern. First there was a blue sash on black shirts, followed by chocolate and blue halves. Approaching the turn of the twentieth century, white shirts and blue shorts were tried, as were various combinations of light and dark blue. The famous royal blue version arrived soon after and was there to stay with just one variation in the early Seventies when an all white kit was tried and soon discarded.
Leicester City were unpromisingly nicknamed The Fossils in their Fosse years. They became known as The Filberts after their move to the ground at Walnut Street, today known as Filbert Street. Finding a new nickname evoked suggestions in the local Mercury such as The Royal Knuts (from a filbert nut) while The Nottingham Post came up with suggestions ranging across ‘Hunters’, ‘Sockers’ and ‘Tanners’.
Eventually, the famous Leicestershire foxhunting not only inspired the nickname ‘Foxes’ but also the choice for the club’s emblem. A simple fox design appeared on City shirts for the first time in the 1948/49 season. Two whips were added to the shield for the following decades, whilst the early Eighties saw the introduction of a fox in a roundel.
The current Leicester City badge was adopted in 1991 with the launch of a new corporate identity. It was revamped late in 1999. It incorporates a fox’s head surrounded by a cinquefoil crest. This device from the Leicester arms was confirmed at the Heraldic Visitation of 1619, but had been used long before then as the personal insignia of the first Earl of Leicester, Robert de Bellomonte.
The fox image has been associated with the strong hunting traditions in the area for centuries. The golden fox head in today’s badge harkens back to the old Leicester Fosse team badges from before the Great War. Those were the days when we saw our fox depicted on a shield with two whips, encircled with the name Leicester City Football Club or plain LCFC.
Since this book looks at the historical soul of each club we like to think that this chapter cannot be complete without the Post Horn Gallop. For decades the Foxes have run onto the pitch to the emotive strains of the Post Horn Gallop. The tune, now recorded by the Band of Royal Marines, was originally used to herald the arrival of mail coaches in the 19th century. It would be played as the horse drawn coaches travelled across the county warning passers-by of the approaching vehicle. The tune dates back at Filbert Street to at least the 1930s when a lone man stood at the tunnel dressed in a blue and white flock coat with a top hat to match. It was suggested a few years ago that the Foxes should replace the sound of the lone bugle with something a bit louder, brasher and up-to-date but there was an immediate backlash from the majority of the Filbert Street faithful. Of all clubs Leicester City has the oldest and most traditional entrance tune. No longer at Filbert Street, but at the magnificent new Walkers Stadium, just a few hundred yards from the old ground.