The club was officially formed on March 5th 1883, Gloucester AFC, as they were then known, did not play their first game until 9th February 1884 when a match was advertised as the first in the city under Association Rules, losing 1-3 to Warmley. Unfortunately, the first venture was to last only three seasons and folded in 1886.
A group of players keen to have a major team in Gloucester played eight fixtures in 1888-89, after two games they were known as ‘Gloucester Nomads’ due to the lack of a home venue. It was these players who passed the baton on to two enthusiasts of the game who re-formed the club in September 1889, they being the Reverend Henry Lloyd Brereton, a local Headmaster, and Charles Poole, assistant Headmaster at a local Grammar school.
The club became members of the Bristol and District League, which became the Western League. Although Gloucester AFC did not participate in the inaugural season of 1892-93, the historic first league match was the following season away to Bedminster on Saturday 30 September 1893, losing 2-3.
In 1934-35, after winning both the Cup and League, City turned semi-professional, joined the Birmingham Combination and moved to a new stadium in Longlevens in which the club stayed for the next 26 years.
They won the Tillotson Cup for being the best club in the Combination, and then had former Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Reg Weaver blow away all records with his stunning tally of 67 goals in the 1937-38 season.
Southern League entry and Cup success
In 1939 the club participated in the Southern Football League for the very first time, albeit in a restricted wartime competition as they took part in the west section, a league they would spend the next 70 years in, becoming the longest serving members.
For three consecutive seasons, 1948–51, the club reached the First Round Proper of the FA Cup, each time losing to League opponents: Mansfield Town, Norwich City and Bristol City. The attendance record was set at Longlevens in 1952 when Stan Myers scored both goals to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in front of 10,500 spectators, a side which included the superstars of the day such as Alf Ramsey, Ted Ditchburn, Charlie Withers and Les Medley.
It took until the 1955-56 season for Gloucester to taste success, a famous Southern League Cup final win against Yeovil Town in which City had lost the first leg 4-1, only to beat Yeovil 5-1 in the second leg to win their first Southern League honour.
Horton Road Stadium era
In 1964 the club moved grounds again, from Longlevens to the massive Horton Road stadium, closer to the centre of Gloucester. City were promoted to the Southern Football League Premier Division in the 1968-69 season.
In the 1981-82 season a sixth place finish was enough to clinch a place in the reformed Premier Division. They were also runners-up in the League Cup, going down 1-2 to Wealdstone, who included future England captain Stuart Pearce in their ranks.Despite Kim Kasey scoring 40 goals, the club were relegated to the Midland Division in 1984-85, after three seasons in the Premier Division. It is generally seen as one of the lowest moments in the club’s history.
In 1986 the club moved grounds again, this time to the Hempstead area and Meadow Park.
In 1988 chairman Geoff Hester wanted to appoint a new manager and after an exhaustive search found his man: former Aston Villa and Wales player Brian Godfrey.Players such as Lance Morrison, Steve Talboys, Wayne Noble and Brian Hughes were among those who walked to the Championship title, but the most important signing came just before Christmas when Chris Townsend joined from Cheltenham Town. It was a very competitive league and was actually the penultimate game of the season at King’s Lynn’s The Walks Stadium that saw City crowned Champions.
The next big achievement of the Godfrey years was the famous FA Cup run to Cardiff City. The Tigers suffered heartbreak in the replay after being 2-0 up at Ninian Park with just five minutes to go and beaten 1-0 in the replay at Meadow Park.
Promotion heartbreak and debt
The 1990-91 season was one of the most exciting ever seen at the club. On the final day, despite premature celebrations from the thousands of City fans that had travelled to see a victory at Bromsgrove Rovers, Farnborough had scored a winner three minutes from time to be promoted to the Conference instead.
Into the 1991-92 season, one that promised to start where the previous one had left off, and the bombshell hit City that Les Alderman had left the club. The squad was ripped apart: major players were released for derisory sums, some went unpaid and took the club to the FA and forced a transfer embargo. The club survived the next few seasons under the guidance of Chairman George Irvine but had crippling debts and were about to fold when Keith Gardner stepped in.
The glory years and FA Trophy run
West Ham United and Bristol City striker Leroy Rosenior took over the club and had to virtually rebuild the team from scratch after most of the players had walked out. Dale Watkins was signed from Rushden and Diamonds for the 1996-7 season, with Adie Mings from Bath City and record signing David Holmes being persuaded back. This formed one of the most potent front lines in non-league football and it was no surprise to see the Tigers beat all comers. Despite having to play manager Leroy Rosenior in goal against Kingstonian in their first game in the FA Trophy, City managed to reach the semi-final before being beaten by Dagenham & Redbridge after a dramatic replay.
The cup run proved to be a thorn in the side for City as they had to play three games a week to claw back games in hand and eventually lost out to Cheltenham Town in the race for second spot, after champions Gresley Rovers had been denied promotion due to the state of their ground. It would prove to be the last time the club played their great rivals, Cheltenham, in the league to date.
City struggled to keep their heads above water and the club’s weekly playing budget was slashed. Managers came and went until club legend Chris Burns came in and steadied the ship. He was tempted back to Meadow Park from Forest Green Rovers and brought with him a largely untried bunch of young players. It took the side a while to find its feet, and they had some real setbacks too (namely the 1-7 home defeat at the hands of Bedworth United), but gradually began to look the part.
Just before Christmas 2000 Meadow Park was struck another hammer blow when the River Severn burst its banks for the second time in a decade. The club was unable to hold matches at the ground for six weeks as the environmental health inspector ruled that Meadow Park wasn’t fit for public population. The lack of revenue for the club almost saw it go under and it meant that due to non-payment of players several walked out on the club. This was added to a contract dispute with ex-squad members, and meant that the club couldn’t offer contracts to players.
However, in November 2001 ex-director Colin Gardner returned to the club to take over the chairmanship. Working hand in hand with the Supporters’ Club, together they settled with ex-players and lifted the contract restraints imposed by the FA. On the pitch things were looking up with Burns moulding his former City youth team into a force to be reckoned with. A mid table finish surprised many.
The Burns era
If ever the feeling that the club was bouncing back, then the 2002-03 season proved it. Off the field, a deal was struck between the club and Eamonn McGurk, where the latter bought the ground and took on the majority of the clubs debts. Financially, the club made a trading profit for the first time and were within reach of wiping out all of the historical debts. On the field Burns’ young team upset a lot of the more fancied challengers, brought on some of the younger players and reached the quarter finals of the FA Trophy.
The 2003-04 season saw further progress with the Tigers finishing second in the Western Division and gaining promotion to the Premier Division. At the end of the season, Colin Gardner stepped down as the highly respected chairman. Chris Burns resigned as manager in January 2006, Neil Mustoe took over as caretaker-manager until the permanent appointment of Tim Harris from Merthyr Tydfil was made.
Flooding, promotion and exile
In July 2007, Meadow Park was affected by the Gloucestershire flooding that engulfed the county. The club was hit with almost eight feet of water, almost submerging the crossbar; this forced the club to move away from Gloucester for the first time in its history. City were scheduled to play a pre-season friendly against Bath City at home just days later and it looked like this local derby fixture would not be played. However in a fantastic gesture of good will, Bath offered to play the match at their home stadium Twerton Park, with all the money from gate receipts going to Gloucester City.
The club’s first season of exile was at Forest Green Rovers’ New Lawn Stadium, despite the loss of a stadium and revenue stream the club finished a creditable 6th in the league, just outside the play-off places.Bristol Rovers legend David “Boris” Mehew took over the club reigns in 2008 with Tim Harris moving ‘upstairs.’ Mehew preceded over one of the greatest season’s in the club’s history. City finished 3rd in the Southern Premier League thus qualifying for the play-offs, in the Southern League play-off semi-final Cambridge City were beaten 3-1. They went on to play Farnborough in the final at Cherrywood Road and won 1-0 with Matt Rose scoring the crucial goal, ending a 70 year continuous association with the Southern Football League, and gaining promotion to Conference Football for the first time.
In a controversial decision, the F.A. placed the club in the Conference North for the 2009-10 season, they finished 18th in its maiden Conference season. Near the end of the club’s first Conference North campaign, new F.A. ground regulations meant that Cirencester Town’s Corinium Stadium would not be suitable for use in the following season meaning if the club failed to find a suitable new home, it would be forcibly relegated. It was announced in March 2010 that the club would be groundsharing with major rivals Cheltenham Town for the foreseeable future.
On November 21st, 2010 against Chelmsford City, Midfielder Tom Webb became the club’s all time appearance holder, beating Stan Myers who had broken the record 50 years previously. The club has retained its Conference North place ever since, with increasingly elevated positions in the final league table. The Tigers also saw success in cup competitions, succumbing to a last minute goal against Luton Town in the FA Trophy 4th Round in 2011 and in the FA Cup, qualifying for the First Round proper for the first time since 1989, losing 2-0 at home to League One outfit Leyton Orient in 2013. The club repeated the success for a second year running, losing 2-0 once again, this time to League Two Fleetwood Town.
On February 22nd 2014, the club announced they had parted company with manager David Mehew following a 1-1 draw with North Ferriby United with his Tigers’ side second from bottom in the Conference North and seven points adrift from safety. Five days later it was announced that former City goalkeeper and Newport County Director of Football Tim Harris had rejoined the club to take over as manager for a second time. Harris’ second spell at the club got off to a flying start with a 2-0 win over Histon. This kickstarted an excellent run of six games undefeated, including a dominant 2-0 home win over Stockport County, which helped to see City retain Conference North status for another season. The club finished the season in 17th position, some 12 points clear of the drop zone.
The club finished the 2015/16 National League North in 15th position with one of the best defensive records in the league, having only conceded 49 goals across the season.