The first local club, which also played under the name of Rochdale AFC, was founded in 1896. They played at the Athletic Grounds until they were offered the use of St Clements Playing Fields which would eventually evolve into today’s Spotland. Poor crowds forced Rochdale AFC to disband in 1900. At the same time a club called Rochdale Town had been formed in 1900, playing at nearby Dane Street. When Rochdale AFC folded, Town were invited to use St Clements. Alas, their stay lasted barely more than a year.
The owner of St Clements, Harvey Rigg, a former secretary of a defunct rugby club, desperately needed an attraction to pay the ground’s rent. In 1907 he called a meeting and proposed reviving the Rochdale AFC name for a new club.
During the first three decades of the Dale, the nickname obviously taken from the club’s name, the club colours varied between two different formats; either blue shirts or a black and white version. After the War, Dale sported a blue-shirted team , only to be replaced by a black and white strip for a short spell in the early Sixties.
Blue has remained at Spotland ever since. The sartorial saga of Rochdale cannot particularly be called exciting, which unfortunately also goes for their nickname.
Their crest is another story. It has been their initial insignia from their inception in 1907 and reflects the area’s characteristic local industrial roots. The original Rochdale arms were taken from family arms. A statement has frequently been made that at an early period a member of the Saville family acquired the Manor of Rochdale by marriage with the daughter of a then lord of the manor, whose name was Rachdale. Although there is no foundation for this statement, as the manor never belonged to either of these families, it is a fact that some of the Savilles quartered the arms, which have been usually assigned to the family of Rachdale. These arms were a ‘sable’ inescutcheon within an orle of silver martlets. (An ‘inescutcheon’, is a shield within a shield, sable is “black” to you and us and an orle is a border).
The martlets in the shield are mythical little birds, similar to house martins, but always depicted with their legs terminating in two tufts of feathers without feet or claws. In mediaeval times it was believed that these birds lived their whole lives in the air, even that they slept whilst still on the wing. It is said that martlets in a man’s arms signify a position of nobility by his own endeavours, rather than that he had any inheritance, the martlet’s lack of feet being symbolic of one having no foundation on which to stand. Similarly the martlet is used as a cadency mark for the fourth son; one who would not be likely to enjoy a great inheritance and would need to make his own way in the world. So a martlet may be borne for cadency by the fourth son on his paternal arms. The Rochdale lands were once given to the fourth son of the well-established Saville family…
The textile industries, wool and cotton, are represented by the sack of wool and the cotton plant on the shield. For the crest we have the closed helmet – proper to civic arms, with its crest, wreath and decorative mantling. We also see the iron centre of the old millstone, technically called a mill-rind, indicating the engineering industry. Above it is a fleece of wool suspended by a gold band. The fleece is also the emblem of Milnrow and the cotton is also seen in Middleton’s arms. The motto ‘Crede Signo’ means Believe in the Sign.