From early beginnings to the end of the 1980s
The Early Days
The Women’s Football Association was formed in 1969, but the FA did not recognise women’s football nor allow them to play on Association grounds until 1970. The first women's match in the area was held at Chelwood Horse Show in 1971. It was this match and subsequent charity matches that led to the formation of the Women’s Western League. The exact year that the league was formed is uncertain as records have been lost, but the first documented League Cup final took place on April 14 1974. Bath City running out 1-0 winners against Warminster.
Warminster LFC were founder members along with Bath and several clubs from the Bristol area. In the 1973/74 season the league consisted of ten teams:
Swindon St Joseph's
The following season saw 5 teams leave, Compton Wanderers, Farmborough, Melksham, Stroud and Swindon but Brislington, Devizes and Chippenham joined, leaving just eight teams. In 1976 Welsh clubs joined the league for the first time and it was divided into two divisions:
Division One Division Two
Warminster Bristol Bluebirds
thereby necessitating a lot more travelling, the shape of things to come! Ever since then clubs from Wales have played an important part in the league's history. That season Warminster finished as Division One champions with Chippenham winning Division Two.
Bath City Ladies 1976
By 1980, due to various teams disbanding, the Western League had reverted to one division of 9 teams - Warminster again finishing champions ahead of Twerton, St. Catherines, Llanedeyrn, Frome, Exeter, Noel Trigg, Barry and Top Rank. By 1983, Warminster were unbeaten in the Western League during which time they had won eight league titles, until they folded, after one season in the Home Counties League in which they were Second Division champions.
St Catherine's 4-1 Frome
In the first half Frome produced their best football to date and should have scored in the first minute but Sally Rundle's shot was saved.
An own goal put Frome behind, but Sally Rundle soon put them back on level terms again.
A lethargic Frome started the second half and series of mistakes left St Catherine's winners with three clear goals
Match report 1980, at St Mathias College, Fishponds, Bristol.
The departure of Warminster, Twerton and Plymouth and the demise of Top Rank saw the league reduced to just seven clubs in 1982/83 (Cardiff, Newport and Barry from Wales, Cope Chat from Gloucestershire, Frome Town, St Catherines from the Bristol area and Exeter Ladies).
Western League Table 1982/83
---------------- P W D L F A Pts
Cardiff .......12 11 0 1 48 4 22
Exeter .......12 10 1 1 86 8 21
Newport .......12 6 1 5 33 29 13
Frome....... 12 4 1 7 24 24 9
St Catherine's 12 4 1 7 21 43 9
Cope Chat..... 12 3 0 9 30 61 6
Barry ............12 2 0 10 4 77 4
Pat Sowden Trophy winners: Cardiff. League Cup winners: Exeter
In 1986 Taunton LFC had their first period in league football whilst Keynsham became the form team for the next few years changing their name from St Catherines and building a strong squad including several ex-Warminster players. The Western League became stronger still when in season 1988/89 Plymouth rejoined together with Truro from Cornwall and Tongwynlais from South Wales. The league that season consisted of Barry, Cardiff, Crewkerne, Frome, Exeter, Pilgrims, Taunton, Tongwynlais, Truro.