TURTON FC could no longer be the region's oldest football club - after academics discovered what is believed to be an older club in Manchester.

Previously it was believed that Turton FC, founded in 1871, was the oldest club in Lancashire, as well as claiming to have the oldest football ground in the world.

Now researcher Gary James has discovered a long-forgotten side, Hulme Athenaeum, whose roots go all the way back to November 1863.

The club was founded more than a decade before it was previously thought there were any formally organised football clubs in Manchester – in the same year that the London FA was set up, 150 seasons ago.

Mr James, who carried out his research at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Exercise and Sport Science department in Crewe, said: “The club was very much aimed at ordinary Mancunians, which was unusual for the time.

“While football now might be thought of as a predominantly working class sport, typically football clubs in the 1860s were founded by public schools who also set the rules.

"The re-discovery of Hulme Athenaeum challenges that perception.”

The findings of Mr James' research have been published in the latest edition of Sport in History in a paper titled: The Emergence of an Association Football Culture in Manchester 1840-1884.

Mr James, a member of the Sports & Leisure History Group at Manchester Metropolitan University, has been actively researching this period for over twenty years.

He uncovered the story of the club through extensive research at archives across the country.

He says that in some ways we now know more about the nine years of Hulme Athenaeum’s existence than we do about the formative years of Manchester City and United.

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 – and it was this position as trailblazers that may have ultimately led to their collapse in the early 1870s.

Sheffield FC claims to be the oldest football club in the world still in existence.

Mr James said: “In the 1870s several prominent football 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.”

Although their existence was short-lived, the side did contribute towards the growth of football culture in Manchester.

Many Hulme members went on to help form the second club, Manchester Association FC, and remained involved in football via subsequent teams in Manchester.

And in the mid 1880s, one of the Hulme Athenaeum founders, John Nall, was a key figure in the development of the Manchester FA who made a huge difference to the growth of the game in the region.

As for Turton, the side previously known as the first in Lancashire, Mr James said: “Hulme’s story should not reduce the significance of Turton.

"Turton may not actually have been the first club, but they do remain very important pioneers in the development of the game.”

Mr James will be talking about the formation of Hulme Athenaeum and the early years of Manchester football at the National Football Museum on Friday 28th March at 1pm.

The talk is free but tickets must be booked in advance. Details here.