Victorian Football


"After exercise - Howard Spencer indulges in a hot bath," is the caption for this photo, from the Book of Football. England full-back Howard Spencer won four league titles and the FA Cup with Aston Villa. "Hot baths are a great luxury," the book explains. "In the old days at the Pike Lane ground at Bolton the players were content to wash themselves down in the mud round a great waterbutt."

The photo was taken by Spencer's Villa and England team-mate Albert Wilkes, who later set up a photographic agency specialising in football team shots and portraits for postcards and cigarette cards. More of Wilkes' photos can be seen here.

Wilkes also took the photo below of another team-mate, captioned: "The plunge bath at Aston Lower Grounds - Garraty enjoys a dip." "Elaborate and costly plunge baths are fitted at many of the best-equipped football enclosures, and are greatly appreciated by the players," explains the book. "It is luxuries such as these that swell the list of expenses of a big football club."

If Billy Garraty looks unhappy, that's because he was. "I may tell you privately," the caption writer reveals, "that poor Garraty, who had been induced to go into the big plunge bath that Aston Villa have for the purpose of the photograph, is saying pitifully, 'For goodness sake, Albert, be quick! It's jolly cold in here!'"


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