Stoke City became one of the founder members of the Football League in 1888. The fairy-tale of this illustrious club starts with former pupils of the Charterhouse School forming a football club in 1863 while serving an apprenticeship at the North Staffordshire Railway Company. Little evidence exists of any matches taking place, even though at that time some form of soccer may have already existed in the area as the headmaster of Stoke St Peter’s School, J.Thomas, was an active sportsman and secretary of the local Victoria Athletic Club.
Five years later a report in “The Field Magazine” of September 1868 makes things much clearer. It stated that a new Association Football club had been formed in Stoke-on-Trent…and its founder member was ex-Charterhouse School pupil Henry Almond. So it’s possible that soccer had been played in the area during the previous five years, although in terms of official records the first game played by Almond’s team, known as Stoke Ramblers and consisting largely of railway employees, was in October 1868, played at the Victoria Cricket Club ground. Stoke continued to play their home fixtures here until 1875, when they moved to nearby Sweeting’s Field, where crowds of 200-250 flocked to watch games against the likes of Wednesbury Old Boys and West Bromwich Strollers…the top clubs of their era.
In September 1878 Stoke amalgamated with the Stoke Victoria Club to become plain Stoke FC and moved to the new athletic ground across the road, which would assume its legendary title because of the presence of the nearby Victoria Hotel. Since 1997 Stoke City rule at the showcase Britannia Stadium.
The first evidence of Stoke’s kit appeared shortly after the appendage Ramblers disappeared – black and blue striped jerseys and white knickerbockers. Stoke City adopted the red-and-white striped shirt in 1883, and it has been the official strip until today.
The club’s first badge was the shield of the city’s coat of arms. These were granted in 1912 after the amalgamation of Stoke-on-Trent, Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton and Tunstall into one borough. The insignia of the former separate boroughs are on display in Stoke’s arms.
The frets on the red cross in the shield are from the arms of Burslem, commemorating the family of Audley. The Portland vase was also taken from the arms of Burslem. The kneeling camel, which incidentally looks more like a dromedary to us, is from the device of Hanley and was taken from the crest of John Ridgway, first Mayor of that borough. Ridgway adopted this animal in honour of the land of origin of the pottery industry, Egypt. The scythe, or sned, from the Burslem arms and Tunstall’s device stands for the family of Sneyd. The ermine eagle represents Longton and originates from the crest of the Mosely family. The Stafford knots accompanying a boar’s head in the top panel are accounted for in Port Vale’s history. The boar’s head is a device from the arms of the Sandford family who resided in the Longton area.
Stoke City’s second badge was a much simpler affair and was introduced in the Seventies. The top panel of the shield show the club’s initials, whilst the Stafford knot and a “pot bank” or kiln are set against the club colours. In 1992 Stoke City unusually reverted back to the city’s arms, this time to the full version, including an Egyptian potter at his wheel in the crest, representing the pottery industry. The motto “Vis Unita Fortior” translates as “United Strength is Stronger”.
In 2001 it was time for a corporate change and its own identity. Stoke City have paid great attention to today’s badge, a strong corporate design with a big commercial potential. The plain, simple, yet very effective badge was introduced at the start of the 2000/2001 campaign. The club’s name, the nickname, the year of foundation, the club colours; it’s all there. Somehow though, an English football badge with a Portland vase and a camel does have a little more excitement.