By the late 1870’s the local football scene was dominated by Walsall Town, founded in 1874 as an off-spring of the local cricket club, and by Walsall Swifts, formed as Victoria Swifts in 1875. In 1888 the two teams decided to pool their resources and amalgamated. It was decided that the new team colours would be a combination of the merging clubs, blue from Town and maroon from Swifts. Alas, this potentially wonderful striped pattern never materialised. The first matches under the new guise of Walsall Town Swifts were played at The Chuckery, just to the east of the town centre.
The club was elected to help form the Football League’s Second Divison from its inaugural season of 1892/93. It made Town Swifts’ support rise to such an extent that local residents started to complain about the noise from The Chuckery on matchdays. This resulted in their (first) move to the purpose built fully enclosed West Bromwich Road Ground. Unfortunately now the club’s support dwindled as they struggled in the League, ending in a failed re-election bid for the 1895/96 campaign. During their one season as a non-league club ‘Town Swifts’ was dropped from the name.
Walsall’s initial occupation of the West Bromwich Road Ground was shortlived. The re-acquaintance with the Football League was celebrated by moving to the Hilary Street enclosure. Confusingly, this venue was also known as the Pleck Ground but vacated in 1900 in favour of…..West Bromwich Road. One may wonder why, because the pitch was still poorly drained and access to the ground was extremely difficult.
To add to their misery, for the second time running playing at this venue the club were not re-elected. During the close season of 1903 arrangements were made to move back to Hillary Street. After rejoining the League in 1921, it was decided around 1930 to rename the ground Fellows Park in honour of the then chairman H.L. Fellows, Walsall left the ground in 1990 in favour of the Bescot Stadium, leaving Cardiff’s Ninian Park as the only surviving league ground named after an individual.
As said, blue and maroon never materialised. The team colours became red and white, striped in the beginnings, followed by halves and a later all-red shirt was adorned with a rare white yoke. Apart from you Walsall supporters, to everyone else who reads this book in alphabetical order it will come as no surprise that a change to claret and blue, by 1933, was yet another attempt to carbon-copy the likes of mighty neighbours Aston Villa. After the Second World War red and white was reintroduced. In 1998 Walsall wore a rare (in English football at least) design of red and black chequered shirts, but soon returned to a more conservative red.
In their earliest days Walsall were called ‘The Swifts’ but the sobriquet ‘Saddlers’, after the leather manufacturing industry in the area nearby, has stuck to the present day. In contrast, a swift in full flight, rather than the image of a saddler, has been the symbol of the club ever since 1888. In 1995 Walsall broke with a long tradition when the club badge was altered so that the bird no longer pointed down, but up.