Ground: The Oval
Capacity: 3400 (252 seated)
Nickname: The Canaries
Admission: £6 adults, £4 students/OAP, £2 other
Caernarfon (the original Welsh spelling is now almost always used in preference to the anglicised forms, “Caernarvon” or “Carnarvon”) is a royal town in north-west Wales. The name comes from Welsh Caer yn Arfon = “castle in Arfon”, referring to the Roman fort named Segontium.
Caernarfon is the traditional county town of the traditional county of Caernarfonshire and was a county corporate in its own right. The town is best known for its great stone castle, built by Edward I of England and consequently sometimes seen as a symbol of English domination. Edward’s architect, James of St. George, modelled the castle on the walls of Constantinople, possibly being aware of the alternative Welsh name Caer Gystennin; in addition, Edward was a supporter of the Crusader cause. On higher ground on the outskirts of the town are the remains of an earlier occupation, the Segontium Roman Fort.
The population of Caernarfon is largely Welsh-speaking (92% of the population reported some level of Welsh ability in the 2001 census) and the town is nowadays a rallying-point for the Welsh nationalist cause. In 1911, David Lloyd George, then Member of Parliament for the borough, conceived the idea of holding the investiture of the new Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle, believing that this would help pacify nationalist opinion whilst arousing a more British patriotic feeling. The ceremony took place on July 13, with the royal family paying a rare visit to the principality, and the future King Edward VIII was duly invested.
On July 1, 1969, the investiture ceremony was again held at Caernarfon Castle, the recipient on this occasion being Charles, Prince of Wales. Despite nationalist threats and protests, the ceremony went ahead without incident, except that two members of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (Welsh Defence Movement), Alwyn Jones and George Taylor, were killed when their bomb – intended for the railway line at Abergele in order to stop the Royal Train – exploded prematurely.
Caernarfon is also home to the regimental museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers (archaic English spelling of the word Welsh).
Caernarfon railway station in St. Helen’s Road is the northern terminus of the narrow gauge Welsh Highland Railway. Caernarfon was at one time an important port, exporting slate from the Nantlle Valley quarries. Caernarfon Airport is 4.5 miles to the south west, and offers pleasure flights and an aviation museum.
Caernarfon hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1862, 1894, 1906, 1921, 1935, 1959 and 1979. Unofficial National Eisteddfod events were also held there in 1877 and 1880.
Caernarfon residents are known colloquially as “Cofis” (pronounced as IPA ˈkɒvi). The word “Cofi” is also used locally in Caernarfon to describe the local dialect, which is a rather peculiar mixture of Welsh and English, swapping words and grammatical constructs somewhat haphazardly.
Caernarfon has a small harbour and a Blue Flag beach at Victoria Harbour.
How to Get There
From Bangor follow signs for Porthmadog and Beddgelert across roundabout and flyover, then keep left for Beddgelert. Within 200 yards of coming off flyover turn right at top of hill, ground visible ahead. From Porthmadog turn right at Eagles Pub before flyover.
map to The Oval
Parking: Car park at ground
Nearest railway station: Bangor
Rivals: Bangor City, Porthmadog, Holyhead Hotspur, Rhyl
The club’s nickname “The Canaries” dates back to the yellow and green colours worn in Victorian times. In 1876, an athletics club was formed in Caernarfon to take part in football and cricket, although as early as 1787 Old Karnarvon reported that “the Sunday amusements of the people were football, c*ckfighting and other similar games”.
The Carnarvon Athletic Club, as it was known, played the first match on 18th November 1876 against the North Wales Training College – the formation was an adventurous 1-2-8 and surprisingly finished a draw. Carnarvon Athletic’s second match was against Bangor, Athletic lost 1-0 and buoyed by this success the Bangor club were officially formed two days later. (Unusually this first game was 14 a-side!) During the existence of the Athletic Club various other teams sprang up in the town, ‘Young Heroes’, ‘Colts’ and ‘United’.
A highlight of these early years were the medal competitions which attracted teams from all over Wales and England, in 1885 Liverpool Cambrians defeated Heroes by 3 goals and three corners to 1 goal and 1 corner. In the same year Athletic lost 2-1 to Aston Villa.
Carnarvon Athletic played at various grounds before moving to the Oval in 1888. In 1893 the club went out of existence but two years later several former players began a new club known as Caernarvon Ironopolis. The ‘Nops’ made their league debut in November 1895 losing 2-0 at Holywell and it was not until January that they recorded their first win 4-0 over Llandudno Swifts. The season ended with the ‘Nops’ finishing third (of 6) winning 4 and drawing two of their 10 league games. They continued competing in the North Wales Coast League, winning the Championship on two occasions and reaching the semi-final of the Welsh Cup in 1900 and 1902. However following a dispute with the League the Club folded in 1903.
The demise of the ‘Nops’ resulted in some players forming the Caernarvon Colts, while others affiliated in the Caernarvon RWF. Both clubs played at the Oval. In 1906 the clubs amalgamated to form Caernarvon United and in 1909 the new club won both the Welsh and North Wales Amateur Cups.
FA Cup Run
After the Great War the demobbed United players got together to form a new Caernarvon Club which until 1926 played in the North Wales Coast League and then the Welsh National League Division 2, enjoying mixed fortune. A limited company was formed in 1926, and a full time manager and professional team were engaged. Caernarvon Athletic as they were known were Welsh National League Division One Champions in 1927 and 1930 and were still well remembered for the FA Cup run of 1929 in which they defeated Darlington before going out to Bournemouth in a second round replay. In 1930 the Club went into liquidation but two years later a reformed team won the Welsh Combination before quitting over problems in using the Oval.
In 1937 a group of enthusiasts began Caernarfon Town FC and entered a team in the Welsh League (North) Division One. A 39 year unbroken membership of the League was begun and the Championship was won in 1947 and 1966.
In 1976 internal problems led to the Club’s withdrawal from the League but in a matter of months Caernarfon Town were reformed and bounced back. After taking the League title in 1978 and 1979, and the runners up spot on 1980 the Club was granted permission by the Welsh FA to join the Lancashire Combination League.
The Combination was won in 1981 and the Championship the following year – the last in the League’s existence. Caernarfon Town moved to the newly formed North West Counties League and were promoted to Division 1 in the first season.
More FA Cup Heroics
In 1985 Town were runners up in the First Division and were elected to the Northern Premier League. After a poor start manager John King turned things around and in the 1986/87 season the Club enjoyed its most successful FA Cup run, defeating Stockport County and York City before losing in the Third Round to Second Division Barnsley in a replay. Caernarfon finished third in the Northern Premier League and in May 1987 King departed to become manager of Tranmere Rovers.
Former Liverpool player Tommy Smith was appointed Manager but left in December 1987 after a series of poor results. Phil Wilson, a player with the club in the 1986/87 season, returned from Northwich Victoria to become player-coach. A revival in the second half of the season lifted Caernarfon to third spot in the Northern Premier League and they reached the semi-final of the Welsh Cup, losing 2-1 on aggregate to Cardiff City.
Return to Wales
Season 1988/89 saw the club relegated to the First Division. In the summer of 1995 the board of directors decided that Caernarfon Town should return to play in Wales and the Club was welcomed into the National League by the FAW.
Season 1995/96, the club’s first in the National League, was very successful, finishing sixth in the league and reaching both semi-finals of the League of Wales Cup and the North Wales Coast Challenge Cup.
Season 1996/97 turned out to be even more successful, finishing joint third in the League, missing out on a European place on goal difference, after topping the table over the Christmas period. Progress was also made in the NWCFA Challenge Cup, reaching the final, only to lose 2-1 to Porthmadog. Eifion Williams, the club’s top marksman, also gave the club proud recognition, being capped twice for Wales at Under 21 level, as well as being in the U21 squad against Belgium. Eifion joined League of Wales Champions Barry Town for a transfer record £25,000.
Fourth Time Lucky
Season 1997/98 proved to be a very difficult season. Marked by the failure to replace Eifion Williams up front, the club languished at the wrong end of the table for most of the season, only pulling out of the relegation zone in the last month of the season. This was due mainly to new key signings coupled with a renewed enthusiasm thanks to the efforts of the Club’s fourth manager of the season, Paul Rowlands. His personal enthusiasm proved contagious, and it eventually earned him a share of the final Manager of the Month award for the season. Town finally finished the season in 13th position, reached the quarter-final of the Gilbert League Cup and lost 1-0 to Colwyn Bay in the final of the North Wales Coast FA Challenge Cup.
At the end of season 1998/99 Town finished in the top 5 in the league, missing Europe by a single place, and at the same time reaching the final of the Gilbert Cup losing to league champions Barry Town at Aberystwyth.
A poor start to season 1999/00 and an even worse financial position saw the Club part company with all the players and staff to go “local”. Dixie McNeill, former Wrexham player and manager of Flint Town United, was appointed manager to attempt to avert the increasingly inevitable relegation. After a valiant attempt, using mainly local players and reserve team players, the Club was relegated to the Huws Gray Fitlock Cymru Alliance. The one bright period saw the Club beat Swansea City 1-0 in the Premier Cup quarter final, but lose to Cardiff City on aggregate in the semi-final.
The Club had a very successful and eventful season in 2000/01, winning the Cymru Alliance League Championship and the League Cup, in addition to the North Wales Coast Challenge Cup. Manger Adrian Jones guided the Club through this unprecedented period of success, even though they had to play their first 13 league matches away due to the erection of the new stand and changing facilities which were finished in early 2001. Foot and mouth disease and the atrocious weather compounded the Club’s problematic season, but all’s well that ends well.
Season 2001/02 saw Caernarfon Town finishing a creditable 11th in their first season back in the League of Wales and they also won the North Wales Coast FA Challenge Cup again, this time beating Connah’s Quay Nomads by 2-1 in the Final.
Season 2002/03 saw problems both on and off the field, with financial difficulties taking centre stage. The team’s form in the League also took a dive and at one stage relegation seemed a near certainty. However they finished the season in 13th place.
Season 2003/04 saw the departure of manager Adrian Jones in February after a string of lacklustre performances. Wayne Phillips was appointed caretaker manager and managed to end the season in 9th place, qualifying for the Premier Cup.
Season 2004/05 the club experienced mixed fortunes in the League and Cup competitions. The threat of relegation was very real until the final weeks of the season, and the club finally ended the season in 15th place with 28 points. However, in the Cup competitions they fared much better; losing out in the quarter finals of FAW Premier Cup at home to Swansea City, losing to Rhyl in the quarter finals of the League Challenge Cup and narrowly lost to Aberystwyth in the fourth round of the Welsh Cup.
Welsh Amateur Cup winners: 1908-09 (as Caernarfon United)
Welsh Intermediate Cup winners: 1977-78
Cymru Alliance champions: 2000-01
Cymru Alliance League Cup winners: 2000-01
Welsh National League North champions: 1926-27, 1929-30
Welsh League North champions: 1939-40 1946-47, 1965-66, 1977-78, 1978-79
Welsh Combination League champions: 1932-33
North Wales Coast League champions: 1898-99, 1901-02, 1911-12
North Wales Coast Challenge Cup winners: 1939-40, 1945-46, 1946-47, 1956-57, 1965-66, 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82, 2000-01, 2001-02
North Wales Coast Challenge Cup Youth Cup winners: 1995-96
The Oval, Marcus Street, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL55 2HT
Tel: 01286 676885