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NEW ARTICLE: CAFC, Boldon CA FC, and a man called Bartram

Michael Hudson looks at the link between the two clubs, and the troubles Boldon have faced of late.


Until the 1980s there was a pit wheel overlooking Boldon Villa's football ground. Both would have been familiar sights to Sam Bartram. On Saturdays he would start his early shift down the mine at four in the morning, then turn out for the football team at three in the afternoon.

Born in South Shields in 1914, Bartram's family moved the few miles to Boldon Colliery at the end of the Great War. He played for Sunderland and Durham Schoolboys, started out at Boldon Villa playing wing-half, then switched to centre-forward while at North Shields where, partnering his uncle in attack, he scored 33 goals in just 25 games, including six in a single match against Wallsend. In 1934, aged 20 and back with Villa following an unsuccessful trial match with Reading, he volunteered to play in goal when Boldon's regular keeper was injured before a cup final replay. In the crowd that day was Angus Seed, whose brother Jimmy, once of Tottenham Hotspur and England, had recently been appointed manager of Charlton Athletic.

Bartram signed for the Addicks in September 1934. Despite conceding eight goals in his opening two reserve games, he soon broke into the first team as Charlton finished eight points clear of Reading at the top of the Third Division South. He would remain Charlton's first-choice goalkeeper for the twenty-two years which followed, his 623 games encompassing all three divisions of the Football League, second, third and fourth place finishes in Division One and two successive FA Cup Finals. "Sam is to Charlton what Matthews was to Blackpool or Milburn to Newcastle," says Mike Blake, author of Sam Bartram: The Story of a Goalkeeping Legend. Today, within a goalkick of the Valley you'll find Bartram's Restaurant, Sam Bartram Close, the Sam Bartram Gates and a nine-foot bronze statue of "Charlton's greatest ever goalkeeper", balancing a ball in the outstretched fingers of his right hand, sleeves rolled back, and polo-neck shirt tucked in to his shorts. Supporters raised £60,000 in a mere nine months to pay for it: "Charlton without Sam is like Laurel without Hardy" as the inscription on the 1950s bubblegum card went.

Although he was never capped, Bartram achieved international renown. "With his polo-neck woolly sweater, voluminous bloomers, hulking boots and Desperate Dan chin," wrote The Daily Telegraph in 2004, "Bartram has come to represent his generation of footballers; his brooding sepia image adorns the window of a photographic shop in Paris while, even more curiously, his life-sized cut-out is on display in Marshall Fields, the biggest department store in Chicago, for the simple reason that the manager of 50 years ago (who knew nothing about 'soccer') decided Bartram's presence would lend a certain charm."

And yet he isn't the only link between Boldon Villa and Charlton Athletic. Four months after signing their goalkeeper, Jimmy Seed - born in nearby Consett and an ex-Wearside League player himself - returned for Villa's 17-year-old full-back, Jack Shreeve. Both Shreeve and Bartram played in the FA Cup Finals of 1946 and 1947, Charlton emphatically losing the first to Derby County but winning the second 1-0 against Burnley in front of 98,215 fans.

Later that year, the two men paraded the Cup around the streets of Boldon Colliery after Charlton had played at Sunderland. Another Boldon goalkeeper, Harry Smith, signed for the London club at the same time as Shreeve. A decade later, Ron and Jack Vitty followed them south; Jack would go on to make almost 250 appearances for Brighton & Hove Albion and Workington Town. In 2008, Boldon hosted the inaugural Sam Bartram Cup. Charlton Athletic donated a signed goalkeeper's shirt, which still hangs in the clubhouse.

Sited between a social club carpark and a bridle path, Villa share an entrance gate with the Boldon C.A. Sports Ground, home of Northern League club Jarrow Roofing. Our arrival, right on kick-off, swells the crowd to twenty-four. There are a couple of green portakabins, a loudspeaker tacked to a corrugated roof and an all-brick clubhouse, painted red, with Villa in white capitals on the chimney.

One of the Wearside League's eleven founding members, Boldon CA are a club whose current ambitions match the size of their history. Despite their lowly league position, the club plan to apply for a place in the Northern League within the next two years, having raised over £24,000 in grants and donations over the last five years to improve the facilities at Boldon Colliery Welfare. Hard standing now rings the touchline, and work to install floodlights began earlier in the year.


Less than a day later, though, copper thieves removed 185 metres of cable costing £4,500 from under the sides of the pitch, digging trenches three-feet deep before dragging the cable out through a hole in the perimeter fence. “Devastated is probably the only word that’s printable to describe how we’re feeling at the moment," club secretary Bryn Griffiths told The Shields Gazette. "For five years we’ve fundraised and applied for grants. The lads have given up their free time at weekends and after work to dig out the trenches for the cable, and just as everything was coming together, someone has gone and done this."

On13th April, the delayed floodlights were officially opened with a friendly between Boldon and York City, who Bartram played 75 times for and managed between 1956-60. The new light are named 'The Sam Bartram Floodlights'.

Check out Michael's blog linked to the right - The Accidental Groundhopper


  • Another good article.
  • Great article, thanks AFKA.

    It seems that us and the Sunderland area have quite a history; mainly due to this lot!

  • Great reading from a time that today's youngsters will never understand. I was lucky enough to see Sam at the end of his career, and brings back memories of being passed over the heads to the front of the crowd and watching the Band marching around the pitch while we all waited for the guy at the front to drop his baton. I remember being taken by my Dad who was a Referee into the QPR Dressing Room at half time, and walking into a cloud of smoke. happy days.
  • edited July 2011


    Local community, youth workers and parents who were victorious against a team of Boldon youngsters share the Sam Bartram Cup with Sam's daughter Moira who made the trip from Canada to Tyneside to join in the presentations.
  • We have recently been contacted by the manager of Boldon CA FC -
    We hope you can help, We are a non league club based in the north east. Sam Bartram played for us ( Boldon villa) before moving on to play for Charlton. We remember Sam every year playing the Sam Bartram cup against South Shields.  
    The chairman and committee have been down to the valley as guests for a game and shown around. It was a fantastic day for all involved. 

    Unfortunately we have lost all the pictures of our memorabilia that’s in and around the ground. As well as our contact to your club. 
    Is there anyway we would get some photos of the Boldon Ca Fc memorabilia so we can display it proudly at our ground. 

    We look forward to hearing back from you. 

    Up the Villa 

    We have sent a couple of Sam Bartram books to the club and next time we are able to get in the museum we will see what else we can find to send them.
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