The London Welsh Football Club was founded on Saturday 16th August 1890 at a meeting at the Old Rodney Head, Old Street. The North Wales Chronicle described this meeting as a crowded meeting of Welsh football players which was held at the request of a large number of Welshmen resident in London. Evan Owen (Caernarfon) was elected chairman, T. J Williams (Bangor) became the first club secretary, J.C Rae was the match secretary and G Symonds was treasurer.
There had been several attempts in the preceding years to establish a Welsh football club in the capital, and matches had been played on an informal basis with a degree of success. A number of Welsh players had been playing for other prominent London clubs, and several of them committed to play for the new London Welsh club.
A general meeting of the newly formed club was then held at the Salutation Tavern on Newgate Street on Thursday 28th August at which Sir John Puleston MP was appointed as president. Lord Penrhyn and Dr Isambard Owen were amongst the club's first patrons. There was a discussion about the name to be chosen for the new club and, although "The London Welsh Wanderers" was in the frame, it was ultimately decided to name the club "The London Welsh Association Football Club" to help distinguish it from the London Welsh Rugby Football Club that was already up and running. It was also decided at this meeting that the colours of the club would be "black nickers with white jerseys" and the club's first badge was "a pretty combination of the red dragon surrounded by the leek, the whole being worked on a green ground". The club's first home ground was The Farm, Dulwich.
Back in Wales there is considerable interest in this new club, if the number of articles written in Welsh newspapers around this time is anything to go by. The Wrexham & Denbighshire Advertiser reported that former Bolton Wanderers and Welsh international goalkeeper Sam Gillam has left Wrexham for London, and that the fixture card of the new club is about equal to any they have seen.
To celebrate the launch of the new club, a smoking concert was held on Thursday 20th November 1890, described by the Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald as follows:
"Between three and four hundred assembled at the Egyptian Hall of the Monico. in Regent-street. The programme was an unusually good one, and included flute solos by Mr. Fred. Griffith, songs by Mr. Dyfed Lewis, Messrs. Evan Owen and Sackville Evans, Rev. Killin Roberts, and others. The Welsh Vocal Union, under the conductorship of Mr. Evan Owen (Carnarvon), contributed with great effect to the pleasure of the evening. Mr. Haydn Parry presided at the piano. Sir John Puleston was received with immense enthusiasm. Having given a brief sketch of the history of football, Sir John congratulated the association on the position now taken by them, as by Welsh young men in Wales, in the game which developed courage and endurance, and engendered discipline and a sense of fair play, at the same time serving to unite young Welshmen in a spirit of friendly brotherhood. Mr. Vincent Evans acted as vice-chairman, and Major Jones, U. S Consul at Cardiff, made a speech which was greatly applauded. The gathering throughout was a great success."
The new club's players gathered for the first time on Saturday 4th October, and their first reported match was on 17th October 1890 at home in Dulwich against Blackheath's Unity FC (the works side of the William Tarn & Co department store), which the Welsh won 1-0. The reserve team then lose 3-1 against Bowes Park on 25th October, the first team lose 5-1 against Illford in the London Senior Cup on 1st November, and the club's first big result comes when they draw 3-3 against the more seasoned Polytechnic FC away at their Paddington ground on 8th November.
Notable fixtures in the early days included a 0–12 defeat to Millwall Athletic the 1891–92 season and a 1-0 defeat and 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in 1894. At this time the Club had 90 members who were all, exclusively, Welsh.
The year 1895 was a remarkable year for the club as they beat Bristol City, Swansea City, and Newport County and drew with Cardiff City on their easter tour.
In 1895 London Welsh AFC also played a significant part in the history of the London Welsh Rugby Club. The original rugby club, which had been established in 1885, had disbanded by the end of the 1894-95 season. On 27th March 1895 the Sportsman newspaper reports that the London Welsh AFC committee "recently decided to start a rugby section for next year".
On 12th October 1895 the London Kelt reported:
"Time was when representatives of gallant little Wales displayed a little of the skill acquired at home, in London, and many a heart must have grieved for the gradual disappearance from the football arena of the once famous London Welsh. With the scrummagers' descent, representatives of North Wales appeared in a modest way, with their Association code, and so successful they have been, that, in addition to developing their own game, they have now extended a helping hand to raise a Rugby branch, phoenix-like from the ashes of the old club."
The rugby and football sections of London Welsh AFC shared a ground at Tufnell Park for a season, before the rugby section left to play at Nightingale Lane, Hornsey, and they have stayed apart ever since.
Perhaps the club's most famous player was goalkeeper Leigh Richmond Roose, who played for London Welsh in the 1900-01 season. Roose was a well-known player and celebrity in his day, and went on to keep goal for a long list of professional clubs including Stoke, Everton, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Celtic and Arsenal.
Whilst a number of our rivals developed into professional clubs London Welsh retained its amateur status and when the Amateur Football Alliance reconstituted the Southern Olympian League in 1921 following the First World War we were one of 15 clubs admitted to membership. In 2002 the SOL and the Old Boys’ Football League merged to form the Amateur Football Combination, one of the largest amateur football leagues in Europe. Of the original SOL clubs only London Welsh and Witan remain as members of the AFC.
A number of our current players are Welsh or have an affiliation to Wales in one form or another, but we also continue to welcome players from all over these shores and beyond. Everyone is welcome - mae croeso cynnes i bob un!
North Wales Chronicle and Advertiser, 23 August 1890
Western Mail, 30 August 1890
The London Kelt, 26 January 1895
The Sportsman, 2 December 1895
South Wales Daily News, 9 December 1895
The London Kelt, 12 October 1895
The London Kelt, 17 March 1896