Why Are Watford Called The Hornets? (Explained)

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Have you ever wondered why Watford are called the Hornets?

The reason is pretty straightforward, but wow Watford have changed their kit, ground, badge and nickname like no other team over its history!

As you might have guessed the reason for the team’s nickname is related to its kit.

So let’s take a closer look at Hertfordshire’s finest…

Why Are Watford Called The Hornets?

In 1959 Watford changed their colours from blue shirts to gold and black shirts, similar to the colours of a hornet. Shortly afterwards Watford took a vote on a new nickname for the club as the old one of the Blues was no longer relevant. Supporters voted on the Hornets, which the club to this day are known as.

Two men wearing retro football inspired t shirts with text in between them

The Brewers

Although Watford were founded in 1881, they didn’t adopt their current nickname until almost 80 years later, in the 1959/60 season.

The first recorded nickname for the club was the Brewers, but even that was not assumed until the 1920s, and it was linked to the club moving to its Vicarage Road stadium in 1922.

Vicarage Road was owned by Benskins Brewery, who agreed to lease it to the club at a peppercorn rent.

Benskins was very much a Watford institution at that time, having effectively been founded in 1693, by John Pope a local miller and baker.

It was passed down family lines until 1867 when it was sold at auction to London hotelier Joseph Benskin and Watford draper William Bradley for £34,000.

Three years later Bradley left the partnership, and Benskin continued alone.

At the time Benskins was a small local brewery, but over the next century it went on to acquire every other Watford brewery.

So by 1922 such was the presence of Benskins in the local area, and the fact it was Watford’s landlord, the club became known as the Brewers.

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The Blues

The nickname however wasn’t that popular amongst fans, and towards the end of the 1920s, they were given another nickname by fans, The Blues.

I know what you might be thinking, the Blues? But Watford play in yellow/gold and black…

It hasn’t always been that way.

In fact, in their early years, Watford changed colour A LOT. As a snapshot of this:

  • 1888 – Blue: The first mention of the club’s colours has them wearing blue.
  • 1888 to 1898 – Olive, scarlet, orange and yellow and amber and scarlet: Over the next decade press cuttings have Watford playing in a range of colours.
  • 1898 to 1909 – Yellow, red and green: Watford then switched to yellow, red and green stripes and then hoops.
  • 1909 to 1914 – White shirts, black shorts: The club then switched to white shirt and black shorts.
  • 1914 to 1927 – Black and white striped shirts, black shorts: In 1920 Watford joined the new Third Division of the Football League, by which time they were wearing black and white striped shirts.
  • 1927 to 1959 – Blue shirts, white shorts: For over 30 years Watford settles on blue shirts, which lead to them being known as the Blues.

By 1959 the club was in somewhat of a malaise and finally, after 12 seasons, it had managed to get out of the Third Division of the Football League.

There was only one problem, they had been relegated to the Fourth Division.

The Hornets

Whether it was by sheer coincidence or some other reason, a kit change in 1959 had a positive effect on the team.

The blue shirts and white shorts were ditched for gold shirts and black shorts.

In the club’s first season in the new colours, Watford won their first-ever promotion, bouncing back from Division Four into Division Three.

They performed well in Division Three on their first season back, finishing 4th.

By now the club’s nickname was officially the Hornets, chosen by supporters in a vote after the club adopted its new colours.

Nine years later, in 1968, the hornet was added to the club badge.

In 1976 there was another change to the club’s colours, a little more subtle this time.

The gold was swapped out for yellow, and in 1979 red shorts and socks replaced black shorts and socks.

Since then the club’s kit has been predominately yellow and black, with red occasionally featuring as well.

The club’s nickname has remained unchanged though, they are well and truly the Hornets.

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Why Is There A Moose on the Watford Badge?

One question that is often raised is why do Watford have a moose on their badge if they are called the hornets?

That is a very fair question.

In 1977 the hornet on the club’s crest buzzed off (sorry), and was replaced by a hart.

A hart is actually a male red deer, and it represents the hart part of Hertfordshire, where Watford are based.

The spelling has somehow got altered in the mists of time, but a hart also appears in Hertfordshire’s crest of arms.

So it is not a moose, it is a hart!

Final Thoughts

INFOGRAPHIC Explaining Why Are Watford Called the Hornets
Click infographic to enlarge.

Watford’s nickname of the Hornets comes from the gold and black kit they adopted in 1959, which gave them a hornet-esque appearance.

Prior to that the club had played in blue shirts and were rather unimaginatively known as the Blues!

The new nickname was voted in by supporters following the colour change.

For many years a hornet was also featured on the club’s badge until its place was taken by a hart, which is a male red deer, not a moose!

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