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FROM THE ARCHIVE: Donated objects tell story of Pompey director WC Kiln

Each week the Pompey History Society takes a delve into the club’s archive and pulls out a document or artefact and tells the story behind it. This week we have two commemorative order of ceremonies donated to the archive in 2019 by Pompey fan Roger Johnson, which were the property of his great uncle, who turns out is still the longest-serving director of the club... 

EFL Banquet Sounds intriguing. What are they and what are they for?
They are a couple of suede leather and embossed folders celebrating the 50th anniversary banquet of The Football League (Left Below) held at the Dorchester Hotel, London on May 30, 1938, and the 75th anniversary banquet of the Football Association (Right) at the King’s Hall, Holborn Restaurant, London, on October 26,1938.  WC Kiln, Roger's great-uncle, was there as the club’s representative. Each contains the order of ceremonies, menu, toast list and entertainment plus a list of attendees and a set of autographs secured from other club representatives on the night.

Nice pieces. So who was WC Kiln?
William Clarke Kiln, the son of a Fareham businessman, was born in 1886 and excelled at a number of sports.  After a spell in Australia, he became managing director of the family business, The Portsmouth Brickworks Limited, based in Burrfields Road, Copnor. 

Fareham, eh? I wonder if Kiln Road there is any connection?
Good question. Quite possibly is the answer, but we’re concerned about football here. It appears Kiln responded to the club in its hour of need in 1912 and became a significant investor in the reconstituted Portsmouth Football Company Limited, securing a seat on the board.  He served until his death on January 25, 1952, a period of 40 years unsurpassed by any other director in the club’s history. He became vice-chairman in 1934 and chairman in 1937, before stepping down in 1940 which coincided with his retirement from business the previous year. The photo (below) is of the Board in 1948. Kiln is bottom row, second from the right.

FA BanquetA bit on an unsung hero then? He truly saw it all.
For sure. William Kiln is probably less remembered now than he rightly deserves. He encapsulates the key moments of the club’s rise from the Southern League to the pinnacle of English football with an FA Cup win in 1939 and two successive league titles.  Off the field, Fratton Park was developed into a 50,000-capacity stadium with new South (1925) and North (1934) stands, along with other improvements in spectator comfort, all no doubt benefitting from his building knowledge and expertise. There is no doubt this self-made and shrewd businessman played more than a full part in the club’s rich history and this can now be recognised. 

Thanks to Richard Wilson from the Pompey History Society for his help in compiling this article

This article first appeared in Pompey programme February 6 2021


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