theyflysohigh : Steve Marsh

Welcome to the West Ham United Memorabilia Collection featuring everything Claret and Blue

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Banner Hammers Logo theyflysohigh 1950-51 Team Group

A castle was added to the official match day programmes from the start of the 1921-22 season and the two main features of the West Ham United club crest before its latest evolution were a pair of crossed hammers and a castle. The hammers on the crest were symbolic of the tools used in shipbuilding and the castle a representation of the tower that fronted onto Green Street adjacent to the Boleyn Ground.

















The most noticeable change on the Boleyn Ground landscape came in 1955 with the demolition of the Boleyn Castle Tower as the structure began to crumble through neglect having been vacated decades before.


A combination of factors lead to its demise. The Club at that time were tenants to the Archdiocese of Westminster who actually owned the land, with materials in short supply since the end of the Second World War The Ministry of Works were not forthcoming with granting permission to carry out improvements to any part of the ground including re-roofing the clubs stands which were bombed in August 1944, the biggest factor however was the estimated £10,000 needed for its repair.

Myths and Legends ...

Second wife to Henry VIII and

Queen of England from 1533 to 1536

Depending on which version you read, the story goes something like this...


Thames Ironworks right-half Charlie Dove received the Aston Villa kit 'cheap' from his father William Dove who was a professional sprinter of national repute, as well as being involved with the coaching at Thames Ironworks. William had been at a fayre in Birmingham in 1899, close to Villa Park, the home ground of Aston Villa and was challenged to a race against four Villa players, who wagered money that one of them would win.


William Dove defeated them, and when they were unable to honour the bet, one of the Villa players who was responsible for washing the team's kit offered a complete set of the Villans kit to Dove in payment. The Aston Villa player subsequently reported to his club that the kit was "missing."  


Hmm.. I wonder if that's why they are called the Villans. And what would the high principles held by Arnold Hills have made of it all?


Even the author who originated the 'race story' took his grandfathers tale to be just 'local colour', that was until many years later, when he was told by a former 1930s West Ham player, that the uniforms were won in a race.


If this account were true, then why did the Hammers wait 3 years to unveil this same combination of the claret and blue colours in their home strip?


Eminent historians of Thames Ironworks and West Ham United (including myself) are taking this one with a pinch of salt. Word of mouth from grandfather to grandson is just hearsay. Judge for yourself....

Playing Kit Facts: Thames Ironworks

Evolution of the Hammers' Playing kit:

Aston Villa kit West Ham kit


1899 - 1900


1899 - 1900

1899-1900 Thames Ironworks 1899 Title winners

Season 1895-1896

Shirts:   Shorts:   Socks:   All Oxford Blue

All Oxford blue, There's no primary source for Oxford blue other than black & white photographs and the fact that Arnold Hills played for both Harrow School and Oxford University in Oxford blue kit.

Season 1896-1897

Shirts: Light blue,   Shorts: White,   Socks: Scarlet

There are conflicting reports for this season, some saying Oxford blue, some saying light blue shirt, white shorts, scarlet socks. There are no photographs from 1896-97 and to date we are unable to locate any written reports, but we do know that the light blue shirt kit was worn in season 1897-98 so it's the time of change from Oxford blue to light blue that's in doubt.

1896 1895 1897

Season 1897-1898

Shirts: Light blue,   Shorts: White,   Socks: Scarlet,   Cap & Sash: Scarlet

A report of an away match against Novocastrians in November 1897 states that because of heavy rain causing muddy conditions after half-time.

“The Ironworks appeared on the field with brand new white spotless clean knickers and light blue shirts, but before they had been playing long they were covered in mud, to the huge delight of the Novo’s spectators”.

This appears to be the first actual reference in print to the Ironworks’ colours, and a team photo from 1897-98 below seems to confirm this.

Season 1898-1899

Shirts: Light blue,   Shorts: White,   Socks: Scarlet

A second reference to club colours comes at the end of February 1899 when, the club arranged a friendly at Eastbourne FC, who paid professional clubs a fee to visit their Sussex ground. The local newspaper correspondent was full of praise for Ironworks, declaring, after their 3-1 victory.

“A prettier and more distinctive costume than theirs I have never yet seen on a football ground. Light blue shirts, white knickers and scarlet stockings were their colours".


Season 1899-1900

Shirts: Castle blue,   Shorts: White,   Socks: Vermillion

A reference to club colours for the 1899-1900 season comes from the Essex County Chronical dated 16 March 1900. The local newspaper correspondent (K.F.) states:

“Thames Ironworks have turned out in the British colours - their socks being red, the knickers white, and the shirts blue. This costume, it is understood, has been designed by Mr. A.F. Hills".

Season 1900-1901

Shirts: Castle blue,   Shorts: White with Red side stripes,   Socks: Black

Source: The West Ham Guardian dated Wednesday September 5, 1900

"The committee have wisely decided not to have such a conspicuous display of red, white and blue this year. The vermilion stockings have been replaced by black and a red stripe is run down the leg of the trousers"


Source: The West Ham Guardian dated Saturday January 12, 1901 for the West Ham United v. Liverpool English Cup game reported

"It was just upon time that the light blue shirted Hammers took the field, followed by Liverpool in salmon pink."

Another reference to colours also by the West Ham Guardian dated February 13, 1901 for the Southern League home game against Luton Town for the previous week stated

"West Ham did not play in their colours red, white and blue but in white"


By the turn of the century and the final season of Thames Ironworks FC’s existence as a team linked to it’s parent company, records reveal that the team colours were red, white and blue with Cambridge blue shorts.


Around the period Arnold Hills was forced to finance a takeover bid by issuing 4,000 - 10 shilling shares that turned his private family owned company into a public one which meant that he could no longer fund the club from Ironworks coffers... The club was renamed West Ham United Football Club. The club played at the Ironworks sport ground (The Memorial Grounds) and Hills became the president of West Ham United.


Season 1901-1902   and   1902-1903

Shirts: Light blue with single claret chest hoop,  

Shorts: White with claret side stripes,   Socks: Claret

When Brentford came to Canning Town for the opening home game of the 1901-02 season on 14th September, the West Ham Guardian again proved to be an invaluable source of information stating

"United wore their new uniforms for the first time, blue jerseys with a red band and white knickers and looked conspicuous to say the least"



Season 1903-1904

Shirts: Claret and Blue,   Shorts: White,   Socks Claret

By the time of the next available photograph of the team, taken in 1903-04, the more familiar colours of claret shirts with light blue trim around the neck and light blue sleeves, white shorts and claret stockings appear to have been adopted. These have become the predominant colours of the Hammers ever since and remained so throughout the remainder of the 20th Century and into the New Millennium.


West Ham United

1903 - 1905


West Ham United

1905 - 1907


Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

(1501 - 1536)

We would all like this one to be true....

Current unrest amongst the various Hammers' supporter groups and the board of directors at West Ham United has highlighted on social media channels aspects of the club’s history which can only be categorised as either a myth or a legend which has wrongly been handed down through the mists of time.



Amalgamation Myth:

Castle Swifts Football Club, was formed by ship-owner Donald Currie in September 1892 as a works team for his ship repair yard The Castle Shipping Line. The Swifts as they were known were the first professional football club in Essex and their home ground was located in West Ham Lane, and named Dunottar Park, after the Castle Line company's ship Dunottar Castle.


At the end of the 1893–94 season, Castle Swifts amalgamated with Old St Luke's. The amalgamation of the two outfits saw the new club competing, unsurprisingly, under the name of Old Castle Swifts in 1894-95. At the time of the amalgamation, Old St Luke's honorary secretary was Mr. A.C. Davis, who was later to become Director of West Ham United. The newly  formed team continued to use Old St Luke's Hermit Road ground in Canning Town


A season later in March 1895 the Old Castle Swifts club was wound up. Although Dave Taylor, a foreman in the Thames Iron Works shipbuilding department, undertook the task of forming a football club in the summer of 1895, the idea was not his alone nor was it a 'spur of the moment' decision. With the demise of the Old Castle Swifts there were a number of its former players who were employed at the Ironworks and now found themselves without a club. Thames Ironworks FC took over the tenancy of the Hermit Road ground and played their opening game against Royal Ordnance September 7, 1895.

TIW Gazette Mr Taylor

Announcement in the Thames Iron Works Gazette (June 1900)

Anne Boleyn Legend:

Legend has it that King Henry VIII and his mistress Anne Boleyn, later to become his Queen met at the original Green Street House (situated at the site of the Telephone Exchange and the former St. Edwards Junior School) both of which fronted onto Green Street.


Green Street House is understood to have been built by Giles Breame in the early 16th Century, around 1544. On the edge of the grounds to Green Street House was an impressive boundary wall which contained a parapet and turret tower.


The story of the lovers' meeting here is an erroneous one, there is no evidence that Anne Boleyn the second of Henry VIII’s six wives ever stayed at, or even near, what became known as the ‘Boleyn Castle Tower’


Being built in 1544 – this is eight years after Anne Boleyn was beheaded on 19 May 1536 at the Tower of London. Henry VIII died in 1547, after 38 years on the throne of England.


The most probable explanation to the name 'Boleyn' being used was that Anne Boleyn’s brother Giles is said to have rented Green Street House sometime during this period.

The house was rebuilt in the late 17th Century and from around 1869 the building was associated with Cardinal Manning, who purchased it for use as a Roman Catholic Reformatory School, and later a church, St. Edward's, was added.


The West Ham United football ground was built on a plot of land adjacent to the house. The field in which the pitch was to be laid was originally used to grow potatoes and cabbages. The pitch was often referred to by the locals as 'the potato field' or 'the cabbage patch', and the new ground was originally named "The Castle", for the 1904-05 season.



Boleyn Castle Tower Green Street House

Green Street House 1904

The Boleyn Castle Tower : circa 1912

Up until the 1950s the players often trained in the grounds of Green Street House and many team photographs between 1910 and 1953 were taken in the leafy surroundings of its gardens with the Boleyn Castle Tower or part of the main house in the background.

2000 1940 Blazier Vn1

Aston Villa

Claret and Blue


1895 Team Group Thames Ironworks (Blue)

Thames Ironworks 1895-96

1897-98 1898-99



1900-01 Minutes Shorts

Source: West Ham United minutes of Board meeting August 20, 1900

Pro(posed) by Mr. Smith Sec(onded) by Sims that the players wear Black Stockings & that a piece of Red ribbon be stitched on to waist band of knicks

Recap: Old St Luke's amalgamated with Castle Swifts to become Old Castle Swifts. They played their games at Hermit Road. The same ground the Thames Ironworks took over after the formers demise.

West Ham Charity Cup Winners

Articles Millers Grounded Next Article being Prepared

History lesson over ... COYI

The four myths which have attracted most social media debate over the last few weeks are:  

The Amalgamation Myth - this questions our heritage, was the Thames Ironworks FC really formed in an amalgamation with Old Castle Swifts Football Club?  

Crossed Hammer Crossed Hammer Crossed Hammer Crossed Hammer

Anne Boleyn Legend - was the Boleyn Ground really named after Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII?  

Castle on Club Badge - what are the origins behind placing the castle on the club crest?

Evolution of the Hammers' Playing kit

A race against Aston Villa - is there any substance behind the story that West Ham United play in claret and blue because they won a running race against Aston Villa and as a forfeit the Villa Park club handed over their claret and blue shirts as payment?

Thames Ironworks Colour Palette

Oxford Blue (dark blue) v. Castle Blue (light blue) and Scarlet v. Vermillion (Claret), over the years historians and authors have used these names to describe the colours worn by the Thames Ironworks Football Club. For the purposes of this article I'm not going to be any different.

Castle on Club Badge:

1921-22 WHU Programme

Matchday Programme 1921-22

Castle Crest

Players Blazer

Fans' Favourite

WHU 1901-02 Colour

Please note:  This is a representation of what the colours might have looked like

Thames Ironworks


Extracts from:-

"WHY CLARET & BLUE" by John Helliar - WHU Club Historian,


Two excellent books written by John Powles "IRON in the BLOOD" and "IRONS of the SOUTH" and also research undertaken by John Northcutt, Grant Hole and Peter Hamersley.

Home Strip Graphic Illustrations: Copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission.