The Club has origins dating back to 1923 when they were known as “Cutter Stars”, playing friendlies with teams in the Ivybridge district. However, Portals Athletic was formed in 1926 under the chairmanship of Mr Marsden, a Mill Manager, entering the Eastern Section of the United Churches League, which was the origin of the Plymouth Combination League. The team’s first success was in 1931-32 when they were runners-up in the league to South West Tar Distilleries. In the season 1934-35 the team went one better and won the league.
Other successes included the Plymouth and District Knock-Out Cup finalists in 1937-38 and League Knock-Out Cup winners and League runners-up in 1938-39.
There is very little information regarding Portals Athletic during the war years but it would seem that the club endeavoured to carry on, permitting anyone from Ivybridge to be part of the team. The Minutes Book from 1946 documented that some of the football kit had been loaned to the Home Guard and it was requested that the Secretary approach them regarding the return. The Football Secretary had also made provisional arrangements for Portals Athletic AFC to join the Plymouth Combination Football League. Shortly afterwards they entered Division 1 East.
In preparation for the new season it was realised that the old goal posts could not be found and the gentleman from the Home Guard knew nothing about the loan of sports jerseys! However, during a meeting in August 1946 it was agreed to purchase new goalposts, and at the same time, two new footballs.
In the 1955-56 season Portals’ Athletic AFC became league winners. In late April 1956, a big crowd “defied the inclement weather to witness a game worthy of the occasion” with Portals defeating Lee Mill United 3-2 to become League Champions of Division 1 East. It was fitting that Portal’s captain scored the winner.
In the 1957-58 season Portals Athletic AFC put up easily their best performance since the formation of the Club. In addition to winning the League Trophy for their division of the Plymouth Combination League they also won the League Challenge Bowl and lost only one of the thirty-six matches which they played.
Success continued and Portals went on to become League winners again in 1959-60 and 1960-61. In 1961-62 after joining the Premier League they became runners-up, before winning the League in the 1962-63 season as well as becoming Premier Cup champions.
In 1963 Portals Youth Eleven Football Team scored 99 goals with only 7 goals scored against them.
Confidence was also running high in the Portals senior team playing their second season in the Premier League. They topped the league table and additionally won the Premier Cup. They would have won the Devon Senior Cup if not for Plymouth Argyle A team beating them.
In the 1964-65 season Portals Athletic had entered Division 1 of the Plymouth and District League and promptly won it as well as becoming winners of the Senior Charity Cup and the coveted Devon Senior Cup. This secured promotion to the Premier League for the following season. The Devon Senior Cup was played against Kingsteignton Athletic at the Newton Abbot Recreation Ground. Inclement weather reduced the attendance to about 1,000 spectators.
Within six minutes Portals were ahead. The score stayed at 1-0 at half-time. The second half witnessed 3 more goals. Winning this cup made Portals champions of all Devon!
The Sunday Independent reported 25 years later in their “Team of Yesterday” feature, an article about Portals Athletic and their wonder season of 1964/65.
Proud Portals: Few clubs in Devon soccer could match the remarkable progress of Portals Athletic, following their arrival in Senior Football in the Sixties. Relying almost exclusively on local players, the Ivybridge-based club finished runners-up in the Plymouth Combination League in their first season and took the title 12 months later. When their application to play in the Plymouth and District League’s Premier Division was turned down at the start of the 1964-65 campaign, Portals cocked a snook at officialdom by winning the P and D One Championship; the Devon Senior Cup and the Senior Charity Cup. But their triple success led to the break-up of the side as South Western League clubs moved in to sign their best players, and the club eventually went out of existence. With the exception of one player, who couldn’t be traced, all the players attended a 25-year reunion organised by Walter House and 80-year-old Frank Davis at Wiggins Teape, Stowford, last summer.
In the following seasons, Portals Athletic still operated in the Plymouth and District League Premier Division but were not quite so strong as the glory days of 1965.