FOR years Turton Football Club has been regarded as the oldest in the county.

But new research has found a long-forgotten Manchester club with roots as far back as 1863.

Researcher Gary James, author of ‘Manchester A Football History’, said Hulme Athenaeum was the first club in the old county of Lancashire, predating Turton by eight years.

However, the Hulme club only lasted a decade and folded in the 1870s.

But Peter Gray, chairman of West Lancashire Football League Division One side Turton, said he was unconcerned at the findings.

He said: “Our history is the one thing that keeps us going at the moment.

“But if we weren’t the first club in the county we are definitely still the oldest as we have survived all these years.

“Things are becoming more and more difficult with all the financial constraints so we really do cling to our history at Turton FC.”

The historic club, formed before anyone had heard of Blackburn Rovers, Burnley or Accrington Stanley, lost one of its big claims to fame in 1952.

It was then that they gave their Chapeltown football ground – the oldest ground still in use in the world – to Old Boltonians AFC.

Mr James, who carried out his research at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Exercise and Sport Science department in Crewe, made the discovery while researching football in Manchester between 1840 and 1884.

He uncovered the story of the club through extensive research in archives.

Because they were the only club in the area in the 1860s, Hulme Athenaeum were forced to travel to find opposition in Sheffield and elsewhere.

Mr James said: “In the 1870s several prominent clubs, most notably Turton, were developing in Lancashire and there was a very vibrant football culture, with lots of teams playing against each other, but in the 1860s that didn’t exist yet.

“With a lack of local competition Hulme couldn’t survive and rugby remained the dominant sport in Manchester.”