The Club was founded in 1904 under the name of Sneinton FC and for much of the 20th century played its football in the Nottinghamshire Football Alliance. Sneinton won the league in 1905/06 and picked up three titles in succession between 1907/08 and 1909/10.
The League thrived over the course of the century with its stronger clubs resisting Notts FA attempts to move them onto stronger regional leagues and a second tier was added in 1927/28 with a third tier being created in 1958/59.
The League was also strong enough in the early part of the century to enter clubs into the Qualifying Rounds of the FA Cup and Sneinton competed for twenty successive seasons between 1907/08 and 1930/31 albeit never progressing beyond the First Qualifying Round. It would be 73 years before they entered the Cup again.
Indeed, the Club had to wait some time for further success, winning the Second Division title (third tier) in 1984/85 and the First Division title (second tier) in 1992/93.
The Club had led something of a nomadic existence, playing at various grounds, and only settled at its current location of Stoke Lane, Gedling, in the early 1990s. This move coincided with the ambition from within the Club to progress beyond the confines of County football and, following a third-place finish in the Senior Division (top tier) in 1994/95, the club joined the Central Midlands Football League (CML).
The first season in the CML was reasonable, but at the start of the 1996/97 campaign the Club was left with just three players and no manager. In a desperate quandary, chairman Bill Stokeld turned to former players Tommy Brookbanks and Neil Cooper who agreed to take over the managerial reigns at Sneinton, and there began a period of outstanding success.
Brookbanks led the club brilliantly for 14 years from 1996 through to 2010 with the club gaining four promotions under his stewardship. He took just two years to gain promotion from the Premier Division to the Supreme Division of the CML, and three years later only ground grading issues prevented elevation into the Northern Counties East League (NCEL).
Chairman Mick Garton of local company MSR Newsgroup took over the hot seat at Stoke Lane in 2002 and with his financial input (well over £200,000 has been spent during his tenure) the ground was brought up to Step 4 standard to ensure ground grading would never again deprive the team of the fruits of its labours.
Also in 2002 the club changed its name to Carlton Town and in its first season under its new name it duly won the CML title and gained promotion to the First Division of the NCEL.
The Millers spent three years in this division before winning the league in 2005/06 and gaining promotion to the NCEL Premier Division. However, by this stage the club was without club President and legend Bill Stokeld, who passed away watching The Millers on 23 October 2004. Bill had been involved with the Club for over 50 years as a player, Secretary, Chairman and President and without his financial assistance and sheer effort, the Club simply wouldn't exist today. It is fitting that his name lives on through the name of the stadium itself.
Having taken three years to rise one level within the NCEL it took only 12 months to gain yet another promotion and join the Northern Premier League (NPL) at Step 4 of the pyramid. The club had begun the 2006/07 season with no ground, as a new link road was being built through the middle of the old ground and the new site, adjacent to the old one, wasn’t ready in time. Nonetheless, despite starting the season with a run of away games, the team enjoyed an excellent campaign and travelled to Garforth on the last day of the season in a winner-takes-all game for the final promotion spot.
Dean Gent was Carlton’s hero, scoring a 94th minute winner to secure a 2-1 win in front of 560 to secure Brookbanks’ fourth promotion in eleven years into the NPL First Division South, where The Millers have remained ever since, only switching to the East division following the reorganisation in 2018 and into the South/East Division in 2019.
Carlton’s first season at this level saw them finish a creditable tenth, and in 2008/09 they finished fourth and made the Play-offs, where future England international Jamie Vardy was amongst the scorers as Stocksbridge Park Steels won 5-2 in South Yorkshire.
Another top half finish followed in 2009/10 before Brookbanks decided to move on to Premier Division Hucknall Town. He took with him most of the players and the Academy set-up so when new manager Les McJannet arrived, he had to recruit an entire squad of players. None of the starting eleven in the first match of the 2010/11 season had been at the club the previous season.
With most Carlton fans expecting a relegation battle McJannet’s side made a fantastic start to the campaign, losing just one of the opening 15 games and finishing in eighth place. The club also made it to the final of the Notts Senior Cup for the first time before being well beaten by Conference North Eastwood Town.
If Carlton fans thought that was impressive, the next three seasons brought even more success. 2011/12 saw The Millers finish second in the table, their highest pyramid finish to date, score 101 league goals and only go out of the Play-offs after a penalty shoot-out defeat against Leek Town.
The league form dipped in 2012/13 but McJannet brought silverware to the Club in the form of a first ever Notts Senior Cup success, beating his former club Sutton Town 5-2 in the final, even though centre-half Grant Brindley had to play in goal due to an injury crisis. The Club also made it through to the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round for the first time in its history before going out to Bradford (Park Avenue).
The Millers made a great start to 2013/14, winning their opening five matches without conceding a goal. However, McJannet struggled to put out a settled side and results suffered, with Carlton eventually finishing tenth in the table. Once again, the team save its best performances for the cup competitions, with another Third Qualifying Round appearance in the FA Cup and a best-ever semi-final showing in the League Cup in a run which saw Carlton beat three Premier Division sides including a memorable quarter-final win at home to FC United of Manchester. The Millers also retained the Notts Senior Cup in some style, beating Rainworth MW 6-2 in the final.
If the first half of the decade had been characterised by success after success, the following five years was seemingly one long struggle against relegation in front of ever-decreasing crowds with just the one tremendous highlight in the middle.
In 2014/15 The Millers opened with three defeats and never really recovered, spending far too much of the season flirting uncomfortably with relegation, eventually finishing in eighteenth position, and failing to win any of their last 13 matches. Early exits were made in all cup competitions and at the end of the campaign McJannet decided to call it a day.
He was replaced by his assistant Wayne Scott who had led the Under 21s to an impressive second place in their division in McJannet’s final year. Scott’s first two seasons in charge were almost identical, with Carlton starting poorly and hovering around the relegation zone for the first six months of the season before hitting their stride in February or March, putting together excellent winning runs, and pulling well clear of the drop in points terms at least.
Those seasons saw eighteenth and nineteenth placed finishes in the league but Scott’s second season at the helm ended in spectacular style with the manager leading the Club to its third win in the Notts Senior Cup, beating local rivals Basford United 4-1 at Notts County’s Meadow Lane.
2017/18 saw an excellent start, with 10 points from the first five games and 20 points reached by mid-November. However, a horrendous run of postponements allied to a habit of conceding late goals saw The Millers slip down the table, albeit with games in hand. The postponements plainly had an effect with Carlton having to play their final 12 matches in the last 24 days of the season, and without a win in the last 10 they once again finished nineteenth.
2018/19 saw Carlton play in the newly-reorganised NPL First Division East which included some mammoth away journeys including a 344-mile round trip to Morpeth but contained just twenty teams, down from the previous twenty-two. Carlton struggled once again, particularly at home where they won just twice all season. Just five points were collected from the final sixteen games which led to another nineteenth place finish that should have meant relegation, but the Millers were granted a reprieve after AFC Mansfield were relegated instead for ground-grading issues.
At the end of the campaign Carlton parted company with Scott, and Brookbanks returned as manager, jointly with his ex-Coalville sidekick Mark Harvey. The NPL abandoned the East-West split of the First Division after just one season due to imbalance in the travelling distances and returned effectively to a North-South split, albeit with the two divisional names being slightly different.
Brookbanks and Harvey recruited ex-Millers Tom Maddison and Martin Ball and they also brought back Daniel Fletcher and Danny Elliott to Stoke Lane. The change was instant, with the team playing a more entertaining pass and move style and the two managers inspiring some excellent displays out of a squad that was otherwise more or less the same that had been at the Club the previous year.
A season ticket promotion saw the club treble the number of season ticket holders and although they have one of the smallest supporter bases at Step 4, the club was well supported home and away all campaign.
Carlton hit the ground running with four straight wins. They spent a month at the top of the table in the Autumn and they had beaten their points total for the previous campaign by the end of October!
The Millers slipped a little over the winter, in part due to struggling on their own poor playing surface, but a tremendous away record, some fine defensive performances and the twin threat of Aaron Opoku and Tyler Blake up front saw The Millers fifth in the table and looking set for the play offs when the season was brought to its abrupt end due to Covid-19.
With the management duo having kept the majority of the squad together but other teams now knowing what The Millers are capable of, the challenge for Carlton will be replicating that form over the entire 2020/21 campaign. But the supporters know they could be in for a real treat this season.