871: The original legal agreement between Chelsea Footb
The original legal agreement between Chelsea Football Club and Mr Gus Mears to acquire the lease of the premises at Stamford Bridge, thereby chronicling the very moment the football club acquired its historic home on 18th April 1905, the manuscript document reading: AGREEMENT Dated 18th April 1905 Between Henry Augustus Mears Esq and Mr J.H. Maltby The agreement made the eighteenth day of April one thousand nine hundred and five between Henry Augustus Mears of 444 Fulham Road in the County of London, Contractor hereinafter called the Landlord" of the one part and John Henry Maltby as trustee for and on behalf of the Company below mentioned and which is hereinafter referred to as the "Company" of the other part whereas a company to be called The Chelsea Football and Athletic Company Limited is about to be formed under the Companies Acts 1862 to 1900 having for its objects among other things the acquisition of a lease of the premises hereinafter mentioned and whereas the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company have with the privity of the Landlord been already prepared and whereas the nominal capital of the Company is to be five thousand pounds divided into five thousand shares of one pound each. Now it is hereby agreed as follows:- The said Landlord hereby agrees that he will forthwith erect and complete upon the premises hereinafter mentioned the stands and other permanent buildings more particularly indicated in the plans which have already been proposed and for purposes of identification are signed by him and the said John Henry Maltby. As soon as the said buildings are complete the said Landlord will grant the company a lease for the term of twenty one years determinable at the expiration of the first seven or fourteen years by notice as prescribed in the said lease of the said premises at the rent and upon the terms covenants and conditions set out in the draft of a lease which has already been prepared and is annexed hereto and the said Landlord will execute such lease and the said John Henry Maltby will promise the said lease to be executed by the said company. Unless before the twenty fourth day of June next at least two thousand five hundred shares of the Company's capital shall have been taken up and a deposit of five shillings per share paid up thereon the said Landlord may by notice in writing to the said John Henry Maltby determine this Agreement which shall be discharged from all liability in respect of this agreement. As witness the hands of the said parties John H. Maltby Witness:- William J. Anslin Clerk to Messrs. Powell & Rogers Solicitors 17 Essex Street, Strand, WC The Stamford Bridge Athletic Ground had opened in 1877 and was used primarily by the London Athletic Club. In 1904 the London-based building contractor Henry Augustus ("Gus") Mears acquired the ground in partnership with his brother together with a large area of market garden at the north end of the property. The Mears' business objective was to develop Stamford Bridge into a multi-purpose sporting stadium capable of accommodating 100,000 spectators. The immediate plan was to offer use of the ground to nearby Fulham FC who had turned professional in 1898 and become a Limited Company in 1903. The rent was to be £1,500 per season. However, Fulham declined the offer of a tenancy and continued to play their football at Craven Cottage. For a brief moment Mears contemplated abandoning his plans for the ground and accepting an offer he had received from the Great Western Railway who would have demolished the old athletic ground and turned it into a coal yard. However Frederick Parker, a friend of Gus Mears, persuaded him otherwise with the suggestion that he should form his own football club. Chelsea Football Club was thereby born on 14th March 1905 following a meeting at "The Rising Sun" public house (now the "Butcher's Hook"). The first act in establishing the new club was to commission the building of Stamford Bridge's East Stand as well as other permanent buildings. This is confirmed in the agreement as a condition of the lease by the Landlord Gus Mears. The remainder of the ground was to be terraced with earth excavated during the construction of the London Underground system. The agreement is signed on behalf of Chelsea FC by John Henry Maltby. Maltby was the Clerk to the firm of solicitors acting on behalf of the football club when it capitalised itself through an issue of 5,000 £1 shares, again specifically referred to in the agreement. Chelsea FC retained Maltby's services and he became one of the founding directors and served on the board until 1926. The original lease agreement was for a period of 21 years. The agreement also states that Chelsea FC has imminent plans to become a Limited Company - The Chelsea Football and Athletic Company Limited. The agreement additionally sets out the financial arrangements between the club and the landlord. In summary, for the lease to go ahead the football club by 24th June 1905 must have sold at least half the 5,000 shares that had been issued and a deposit of five shillings per share (i.e. 25%) must be paid to the Landlord Mr Mears.