In 1899, there was a fayre was being held near to Villa Park in an area known at the time as the ‘Black Patch’, where a gypsy community welcomed travelling attractions and Charlie Chaplin was supposedly born in a caravan.
Anyway, one visitor apparently challenging all comers, was William Dove, a London-born professional sprinter of national fame.
Along came four Aston Villa players to the fayre strutting their Victorian stuff through the side shows and attractions.The Villa players were challenged to race by Dove which they agreed and a money wager was set.
Anyway the race against William Dove was run and the Aston Villa players lost. The Villa players didn’t have any money, so, a compromise was reached. One of the Villa players had been given the job of getting the first team’s kit washed. To placate Dove, they gave him the complete claret-and-blue kit and then reported it stolen to the Aston Villa directors.
The London sprinter returned to the capital with the claret and blue kit of the then league champions.
William’s son, Charlie Dove, was an apprentice riveter who played right-half for his works team, Thames Ironworks. The then amateur team had played in a number of different colours, including dark blue, inspired by the firm’s chairman, who had been at Oxford. When William Dove, who also helped coach the team showed up one day with a complete set of claret-and-blue Aston Villa kits, they adopted it. When Thames Ironworks were disbanded and relaunched almost immediately as West Ham United they kept the Claret and Blue strip.