Situated in the small market town six miles west of Swindon, Royal Wootton Bassett Town have been playing football since being established in November 1882, making the club one of the oldest in the county of Wiltshire.
The club plays its game at the New Gerard Buxton Sports Ground, which was opened in the summer of 2015.
The club had previously spent the majority of its existence – between 1930, when the club was reformed after a two decade hiatus, and 2014 – playing at the original Gerard Buxton Sports Ground at Rylands Way. The ground was donated by local dignitary Major Gerard Buxton for sporting activities within the town and opened in May 1930.
A quick rise and fall
After its formation the club initially played friendly fixtures before entering its first competition, the Vale of the White Horse League, in 1898-99. Following a season in that division, Bassett entered the Swindon & District League in 1899. Progress made there culminated in the side entering the Wiltshire County League in 1903-04, a year after the club made the finals of both the Advertiser Cup and the Wiltshire Senior Cup, losing the latter in a replay against Warminster Town.
Bassett made the final of the Wiltshire Senior Cup again during its first year playing at county level, but lost to Swindon Town Reserves.
At the time, the prestigious County League featured clubs such as Melksham Town, Devizes Town and Chippenham Town as well as – from further afield – Bath City and Yeovil Casuals (now Yeovil Town). Bassett had mixed fortunes during its spell in this division, coming last in 1904-05 before finishing runners-up a year later. During this period, the club’s home games took place at ‘The Close’, upon which Tanners Close now stands, whilst they were based at ‘The Royal Oak’ public house.
Bassett resigned from the Wiltshire County League in the summer of 1908 after failing to comply with league regulations which insisted players must reside within a specific radius of the town – the majority of the Bassett side at the time lived in Swindon, while financial pressures meant the club folded.
Years in the wilderness followed, thanks partly to the First World War – during which The Royal Oak was used as a barracks for German prisoners of war – and the presence of the 1920=21 FA Amateur Cup finalists Swindon Victoria, who for many years played in the town.
However, owing to the opening of the Gerard Buxton Sports Ground in May 1930 and the desire for it to have tenants alongside the town cricket club, the football club was revived.
Starting in the Calne & District League, Bassett had much early success, finishing runners-up in 1930-31 before going on to win the league on three occasions. The division featured teams from numerous surrounding villages such as Clyffe Pypard, Bushton and Lyneham– a stark contrast to the sides Bassett competed against three decades earlier.
Return to the County League
Bassett finally re-entered County football in 1935-36, playing in Wiltshire League Division Two, before gaining re-election to the now expanded Wiltshire League Division One a year later, where Bassett struggled to compete with the likes of Westbury United, Devizes and Purton.
Fortunes began to change following the Second World War, and Bassett twice came close to reaching the First Round Proper of the FA Amateur Cup – in the 1946-47 season it was the last Wiltshire club standing, but was beaten 9–0 by Cornish side St. Austell in the final qualifying round.
Bassett steadily rose up the Wiltshire League Division One table during the 1950s. After narrowly missing out on the title two seasons earlier, they were crowned as champions in 1958-59. A year later, now playing in the Wiltshire Premier Division, Bassett enjoyed another successful season, embarking on a nine game FA Amateur Cup run that saw them again fall one game short of reaching the First Round Proper.
The club generally found the going tough in its new league surroundings. However, they were up against strong opposition, which included numerous clubs from outside the county, namely Somerset sides Paulton Rovers, Radstock Town, Frome Town, Clandown and Peasedown Athletic, as well as Stonehouse Town from Gloucestershire.
Restructuring of the County League at the end of the 1960s then saw Bassett enter the Wiltshire Combination and pitted them against more local sides. During the eight years of this competition, Bassett’s best finish was fifth in 1969-70.
In 1976 the Wiltshire County Football League was established after another reorganisation of the game in the county. Bassett were placed in Division One, but were relegated after two seasons. They secured promotion a year later, but immediately went back down in 1979-80.
The glory years
Steady progress eventually led to Bassett winning the Division Two title in 1984-85. In Division One, under the stewardship of Mick Woolford, Bassett won the league and promotion to the Hellenic League in 1987-88. That same year they again finished runners-up in the final of the Wiltshire Senior Cup, losing 1–0 to Purton.
Woolford remained manager until 1995, overseeing a spell in which Bassett established themselves in Hellenic League Division One. During this period Bassett reached the final of the Hellenic League Division One Cup three times, winning it twice in 1989-90 and 1993-94.
Bassett’s success continued at the turn of the century. In 1998-99, 99 years after its first participation in the competition, Bassett won its first County Cup title, beating Pewsey Vale 3–2 after extra time in the final held at the County Ground. A year later, thanks to the installation of floodlights at the Rylands Way ground, they were able to gain promotion to the Hellenic League Premier Division having finished third in Division One.
In its first season in the Premier Division, Bassett secured a mid-table position, finishing 13th and also won the Wiltshire Senior Cup for a second time by defeating Shrewton United 2–0. A year later the club reached the First Round of the FA Vase for the first time, losing at home to Cornish side St. Blazey.
A new Millennium, a new challenge
However, in the league Bassett became involved in numerous relegation battles, eventually falling back to Division One West after finishing 21st in the 2004-05 season.
Bassett came close to securing an immediate return to the Hellenic Premier Division in 2005-06, following a three month unbeaten spell from the end of January. However, a 1–0 defeat at Trowbridge Town in the penultimate game of the year saw Bassett finish fifth, one point shy of third place and a promotion spot.
Underachievement followed during the next two years, although 2007-08 saw Bassett advance to the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup after wins over local rivals Highworth Town and then-Southern League side Bracknell Town. A 15th place finish in that season was Bassett’s lowest ever in the Hellenic League.
But a year later Bassett were again battling for promotion and having cup success. Bassett went further than ever before in the FA Vase, reaching the Second Round Proper, where they were defeated 4–0 at 1992 winners Wimborne Town. Throughout the year, Bassett were promotion candidates, but defeat at Trowbridge late in the season meant they finished fourth.
A return to the Hellenic Premier Division was finally achieved in 2009-10 as Bassett finished runners-up to Slimbridge in Division One West on goal difference after losing just three league games all season.
The club enjoyed another FA Cup run in the 2010-11 season, making it to the First Qualifyng Round where Bassett were eventually knocked out by Hamble ASSC. In the league Bassett enjoyed a good start, but soon became engaged in a battle against relegation though before finishing 15th. The club were eventually demoted after Rylands Way was deemed not to have met ground grading criteria.
Back in Division One West for the 2011-12 season, Bassett challenge for promotion through the year before they wound up fifth.
2012-13, Bassett’s final season at Rylands Way, would see them secure a return to the Hellenic League Premier Division though, as they came runners-up behind Brimscombe & Thrupp in Division One West. Manager Dave Turner, who stood down at the end of the campaign after five years at the helm, also led the team to the Second Qualifying round of the FA Cup, where Bassett were defeated by Conference South side Dorchester Town.
With plans for the club’s and Sports Association’s new facility finally moving ahead, the first team began a two year groundshare with Cirencester Town in 2013-14, a year in which Bassett finished a comfortable 14th in the Hellenic Premier Division. That performance was bettered in 2014-15, Bassett’s final year playing its games in Cirencester, with an 11th place finish – the club’s highest ever in the non-league pyramid – and record points haul in the division.
Since the onset of the new Millennium the club has expanded significantly, with the establishment of a large Youth Section and a Ladies Section. The club now operates 23 teams from under 7s upwards. This growth led to the club being awarded Charter Development Club status by the FA before this was upgraded to Community Club status. Bassett were the first club in Wiltshire to achieve this. International ties have also been established, with three youth section teams touring Holland annually since 2001. This has led to a relationship with amateur side FC ‘s-Gravenzande, who are based near The Hague.
- FA Cup, FA Vase, Hellenic Premier League, Wiltshire Shield
- Sustain Stadium