Playing Record : P29, W26, D1, L2, Pts for 419, Pts against 71.
Club Captain :< William Bowen
Leading Try Scorer : David James 20
Leading Points Scorer : Billy Bancroft 72
Club Honours : ‘Premiers’
Capped v England : Billy Bancroft, Dai Gwynn, William Bowen, Walter Rice Evans
Capped v Scotland :Billy Bancroft, Dai Gwynn, William Bowen, Billy McCutcheon (d), Walter Rice Evans
Capped v Ireland : Billy Bancroft, David James (d), Evan James, John Samuel (d), David Samuel (d), Thomas Deacon (d)
(d) = International debut, (c) = captain of international side.
In the 1890-91 season Swansea, captained by William Bowen, were the ‘Premier’ Club in England and Wales.
Swansea RFC 1st XV 1890-91 season.
Played: 29, Won: 26, Drawn: 1, Lost: 2. Pts for: 419, Ag: 71.
Honours: ‘Premier Team’ of Wales.
back Row (L to R): E Charles, D samuel, Tom Williams, T Deacon, Jack Samuel, E Copus (official).
2nd Row (L to R): Charlie Coke, W Williams, W Bowen (Captain), W J Bancroft, Harry Bevan, Ted Thorogood.
Front Row (L to R): Arthur Whapham, Evan James, Jack Davies, David James.
This image was taken from a pull out suppliment to the Herald Of Wales May 16th 1891 celebrating Swansea being crowned Premier Club of Wales this season. It was kindly made available for copying to the Digital Archive by Howard Kent who is directly descended through his mother Ethel Thomas to former All White and Wales forward Bob Thomas (qv).
(now in Club Archive)
William Bowen was again persuaded to stand as captain at the AGM of September 1890 and needed all his powers of leadership as opposition teams strove to lower the colours of Swansea in the 1890-91 season following their previous successful campaign. Neath were beaten away in a close game but by October, further successes had dispelled any anxieties supporters had held that Swansea would suffer a dip in form and 9,000 saw Llanelli beaten by 3 goals, 1 try and 2 minors to nil at St Helens despite rough treatment dished out to the James Brothers David and Evan. A win against Newport in front of 7,000 was followed by another over Cardiff in the mud of Cardiff Arms Park and an away win over Llanelli in November. Over the Christmas holiday period, the London opposition of The Civil Service and St Thomas Hospital proved no match for a Swansea team getting into its stride. However the unbeaten run was finally ended in the New Year by Gloucester and was followed by a further defeat away at Cardiff. So when Cardiff arrived on a run of fine form at St Helens with a large number of supporters, the fixture was viewed as a ‘decider’ for the Premiership of Wales. Swansea soundly beat the visitors in front of a crowd of 14,000. In March Newport were beaten at Rodney Parade in a very rough game and Swansea faced the last game of the season unbeaten and acknowledged as ‘Wales’ Premier side’.
An indication of the Swansea club’s standing at this time is illustrated by an entry in the Citizen newspaper in Gloucester from 7 April 1891:
FOOTBALL. – GLOUCESTER v. SWANSEA “A correspondent, who signs himself “Sport,” communicates to us the fact that he has heard from friends in Swansea that the football club of the latter town invited Gloucester to play another match this season, which “our men” would not accept, expresses surprise at this, and asks why a match cannot be arranged. We may inform him that Swansea offered the Gloucester Club £50 to play on the former’s ground; that the Gloucester executive, knowing that the team must be in some measure unrepresentative if the match took place on Welsh soil, and that it would be courting defeat to accept the invitation, declined the offer; and that in order to give Swansea the opportunity to play again if they wished the Gloucester Club expressed their willingness to play on the Spa, Swansea to take half the gate, which, taking that at the last meeting of the clubs as a criterion, would be no insignificant sum. Swansea refused to play away from home, and Gloucester adhering to their decision, “Sport” will understand why a match cannot be arranged.”
The players were awarded medals for their achievements in the 1890/91 season. This belonged to C. S. (Charlie) Coke who was a three-quarter.
He had made his Swansea debut in 1890 and went on to captain the club in 1892/93.
This clock was awarded to William Arnold Bowen as the captain in 1890/91. He was a highly influential club captain for 3 consecutive seasons (1889/90 – 1891/92) who was reputedly liked and admired by the whole team. The impressive playing record during his 3 seasons in charge was played 90, won 70, drawn 9, lost 11. The team was the premier team in Wales for the 1st two of those seasons and runners up in the third. The clock is now on display at the club.
This is a watch presented to Harry Bevan who was a forward who had made his Swansea debut in 1886. Each of the players was presented with a watch by the club President to commemorate their efforts in 1890/91 when Swansea was the premier team in Wales. (Club Archive)
This photograph shows 4 generations of the Bancroft family outside the ‘groundsman’s cottage’ which was situated on the south west corner of the ground. The Bancroft’s resided at the cottage until it was demolished as part of a ground redevelopment in the close season of 1891. The 3 standing (from left) are William Bancroft (grandfather), William Bancroft (father) and Billy Bancroft. The small boy in the front is W.J. Bancroft junior – this has been superimposed onto the main picture. (Club Archive)
On Easter Monday 1991,Swansea played the English Champions Blackheath at St Helens in front of 18,000 and won by 1 goal, 1 try and 5 minors to 1 try. Minors were only recorded now as a nod to the past but in this case the minor ‘touch-downs’ in defence by Blackheath served to illustrate Swansea’s dominance and the supporters claimed the unofficial title of Champions of Britain having beaten the best team in England.
This advertisement for the Blackheath game was of special significance as it was regarded as the unofficial championship match between the ‘premier’ teams of England and Wales at that time.
The match took place on Easter Monday (30 March) 1891 and a crowd of 18,000 crammed into the ground to witness a magnificent Swansea victory by 1 goal, 1 try and 5 minors to 1 try.
(Courtesy Bleddyn Hopkins)
On the International front, Swansea provided 5 players for the matches against England and Scotland and 6 against Ireland. Billy Bancroft continued his domination of the full back position that was to see him end with 33 consecutive caps. Swansea captain William Bowen rounded up an International career of 6 caps by leading Wales as captain against England. Distinguished back David Gwynne played his first Welsh International in 1882! He now bowed out with a final (13th) cap against Ireland. David James gained his first cap as half back partner to his brother Evan against Ireland. More was to come from these two dynamic crowd pleasers for both Swansea and Wales.
Back Row L to R: TW Pearson (Cardiff), Harry Packer (Newport), J Hannen (Newport), A Duncan (Umpire), W Rice Evans (Swansea & London Welsh), E V Pegge (Neath), P Bennett (Cardiff Harlequins).
Middle Row L to R: D Gwynne (Swansea & Oldham), D W Evans (Cardiff), C S Arthur (Cardiff), W Bowen [Captain] (Swansea), R L Thomas (Llanelli & London Welsh), W J Bancroft (Swansea).
Front Row L to R: C J Thomas (Newport), D P M Lloyd ((Llanelli), H M Ingledew (Cardiff).
Four players represented Swansea with Billy Bowen as captain in this International played at Rodney parade which was lost by 3pts to 7pts. (Club Archive)
Scotland (15) v Wales (0) (1G, 2DG, 6T) at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, 7th February 1891.
Back Row standing (L to R): W E Rees(Neath Match Com.), R Mullock(Newport Hon Sec.), W H Treatt(Cardiff Match Com.).
2nd Row standing(L to R): D J Daniel(Llanelli), T C Graham(Newport).
3rd Row standing(L to R): S H Nicholls(Cardiff), R L Thomas(London Welsh & Llanelli), M McCutcheon(Swansea), W Bowen(Swansea).
4th Row sitting(L to R): W Rice Evans(Swansea), D Gwynne(Swansea), W H Thomas[Captain] (London Welsh & Llanelli), W J Bancroft(Swansea), P Bennett(Cardiff Harlequins).
Front Row sitting(L to R): H M Ingledew(Cardiff), G Thomas(Newport), R B Sweet Escott(Cardiff), G Garett(Penarth).
Among five players representing Swansea in this side was Billy McCutcheon on the wing gaining his first of seven caps for Wales.