The first mention of forming a football club in Hungerford was in the parish magazine of November 1873 when those interested were invited to send their in their names but it wasn’t until October 1886 that Hungerford Town Football Club was officially founded. The club has come a long way since its formation with a vast number of volunteers, supporters and players contributing to its 134 year history. The original name of the team was Hungerford Swifts and this link with the club’s heritage is maintained to this day with a community team now playing under that name in the Hellenic League. Matches were originally played on “the Downs” (now Hungerford Common) and then subsequently on the western edge of the town before the club moved to its present ground in Bulpit Lane shortly after WW1. Initially, with no organised leagues or cup competitions in existence, the club played only friendly matches but soon became a powerful force in local football and won its first recorded trophy in 1905, beating Newbury Union Jack in the final of the Newbury Challenge (Graystone) Cup. They first entered the Hungerford League and later the Newbury & District League, winning their first league title in 1912/13, before all competitive football ceased during WW1. The club was immediately successful when the league restarted in 1919 and picked up where they had left off. An influx of new players produced a successful 1st team and Reserve XI and the club won the Newbury League in both 1920 and 1921. That era saw the emergence of Reverend Denning, known locally as “the old man”, as a driving force and benefactor of the club and the team included many names still familiar in the town to this day. Hungerford Town continued playing at intermediate level with mixed fortunes in the Newbury & District and the Swindon & District Leagues before senior status was finally achieved in 1958 when joining the ranks of the Hellenic League. The history of those formative years and the period up until the 1960s is neatly captured in a small booklet called “75 years of Football” written by Frank Horwood in 1961.
After a period of team rebuilding in the 1960’s Hungerford began the new decade in fine form and won the Hellenic League Division One and League Cup double in the 1970/71 season. The 1970's were a “golden” decade for the club and memorable times. We entered the F.A. Cup for the first time in 1973 and the facilities were improved with the opening of a new clubhouse in 1974 and new changing rooms and floodlights added in 1975. The club reached three Berks & Bucks Senior Cup Finals in four years and although defeats by Chesham United, Slough Town and Wycombe Wanderers were disappointing it was a sign that the club was making significant progress on and off the field. In 1974 Don Revie brought his England side, featuring the likes of Kevin Keegan, Mick Channon, Trevor Brooking and Ray Clemence, to Bulpit Lane for a training session. The 1977/78 season saw Hungerford finish third in the Hellenic League, win the League Cup and produce a fairy tale run in the F.A. Vase eventually losing out to Barton Rovers in a semi-final replay. These achievements enabled the club to gain election to the Isthmian League in 1978. Hungerford Town soon established themselves as a force in the higher level and just missed out on promotion by finishing third in 1979 and 1980 and created history in 1979 by reaching the 1st round proper of the FA Cup for the first and to date only time, losing 3-1 away to Slough Town. That same season they reached their second FA Vase semi-final but were again denied a place at Wembley when losing to Guisborough Town 5-3 on aggregate.
Season 1980/81 brought more disappointment with yet another 3rd place finish in the league but there was some consolation when the club was invited to compete in the prestigious Anglo Italian Semi-Pro tournament. 1982 finally brought a major trophy when Hungerford defeated Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 at Wokingham Town to win the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup. Promotion was again narrowly missed in 1984/85 however the club were about to enter a turbulent period for the club when after 9 successful years as manager Jim Kelman left the club. 1988/89 saw a return to prominence under joint managers Gary Goodwin and David Dodds who guided the club to sixth place in the table and a third FA Vase Semi Final appearance. This time it was Sudbury Town who denied Hungerford its much deserved trip to Wembley.
The club finished in the top ten of the league table 1991, 1992 and 1993 under Gary Goodwin and later ex-Manchester United player Wilf Tranter before a dismal start to the 1992/93 season saw the departure of Tranter at Christmas. Former Hungerford goalkeeper Jimmy Greenwood briefly returned to the club as manager and achieved Division 2 safety before two ex-players, Gerald (Cabbie) Smith and his assistant Norman Matthews combined to keep the club ticking over in the Isthmian League for the next two seasons. 1996/97 brought the club its highest finish for several seasons but the club entered a transition phase in the late 1990s and although former Swindon Town legend Don Rogers took over as manager, and despite a good run to the 3rd qualifying round of the FA Cup, the league form was disappointing and Rogers resigned just after the start of the 1999/00 season.
Gary Ackling took over as manager and sought to change the emphasis of the club by looking for local youth talent and produced a strong mid table finish in 2002. Unfortunately for the club, the deadline for ground improvements was not met at the end of the 2001/02 season, and a relegation to the newly restructured Isthmian Division 2 followed. Despite still holding their own the decision was taken for the long term benefit of the club to re-join the Hellenic League for the 2003/04 season and the club stabilised once more and began the process of rebuilding on and off the pitch. Alan Clark was appointed manager in 2006 and the league and cup form gradually improved and a push for promotion was mounted once again. The election of Nigel Warrick as Chairman in 2008 kick started a refurbishment program for the club’s facilities and fresh impetus for the team. Despite a sticky start in the league the team went on a 22 match unbeaten run and won the Hellenic League title and promotion to the Southern League.
2010/11 began with a new man in charge, Bobby Wilkinson, and so began the club’s most successful decade in its 125 year history. Undeterred by a play-off defeat in 2012 the team finished as runners-up to Poole Town in the league in 2013 and this time there was to be no heartache in the play-offs as Hungerford beat Paulton Rovers and Merthyr Town to win promotion to the Southern League Premier Division, their highest ever level. Wilkinson steadily improved his squad and the team settled into Premier League life well. A run of ten wins on the bounce between March and April 2014 took the club to within a point of the play-offs and a magical run to the last 16 of the F.A. Trophy evoked memories of the wonderful F.A. Vase runs of the 70s and 80s. The 2014/15 season saw another strong challenge in the league and the side hit form in the second half of the season to eventually finish 4th and this time a play-off place. Despite losing to the eventual promotion winners Truro City Bobby Wilkinson and his team were not finished there and vowed to come back stronger than ever. The 2015/16 season began indifferently with an early F.A. Cup exit and some inconsistent performances in the league but a run to the 2nd Round of the F.A. Trophy, losing to National League side Chester, augured well for the season. A powerful second half of the season produced a 4th place finish and yet another crack at the play-offs. Things looked bleak in the semi-final when the team were two goals down at Hitchin Town on the hour but came back to win 3-2 and on a never-to-be forgotten rainy Bank Holiday Monday at Bulpit Lane another great comeback saw Hungerford beat Leamington FC 2-1 to achieve promotion to the Vanarama National League South. Hungerford’s first season in the National League proved that the team could survive at this level despite “punching well above their weight” as a club. At one stage the side was in the play-off positions but eventually finished in 6th position and the team reached the final of the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup for the first time in 35 years, losing to National League South champions Maidenhead United. The 2017/18 season began with thoughts that the side could improve on their position in the League but in August long serving manager Bobby Wilkinson resigned along with his entire backroom staff. Senior players Jon Boardman and Ian Herring stepped up to the plate as joint managers and steadied the ship before the departure of Chairman Nigel Warrick and necessary cuts in the club’s playing budget forced a re-structure and Herring being handed sole charge of the team. Two seasons of fighting relegation on and off the field ensued but despite the financial struggles Herring and his players kept the club in the National League with successive final day results against East Thurrock United in 2018 and 2019 avoiding relegation. In March 2019, following the announcement that several key club personnel would be stepping down, Patrick Chambers stepped forward to become the new Chairman and provide a welcome boost to the club. Things on the pitch however looked bleak with the team struggling at the bottom of the league. But, just as results picked up, and with an albeit slim but mathematical chance of staying up yet again, the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic struck and all football in the UK was suspended. In unprecedented circumstances Hungerford were handed a reprieve and live to fight another day at their hard earned high level of football. The story continues ……!