Notts County are the oldest professional league club in the world having been formed in 1862.
County pre-dated The Football Association and initially played a game of its own devising, rather than association football. At the time of its formation, Notts County, like most sports teams, were considered to be a "gentlemen-only" club. Notts County are considered to be one of the pioneers of the modern game and are the oldest of the world's professional association football clubs (there are older professional clubs in other codes of football, and Sheffield F.C., an amateur club founded in 1857, are the oldest club now playing association football).
The club initially played at Park Hollow in the grounds of the old Nottingham Castle. In December 1864, the decision was made to play games against outside opposition, and it was decided that the club needed to find a bigger venue. After playing at several grounds, including the Castle Ground, the Magpies settled at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground in 1883. However, when Trent Bridge was in use for cricket, County played matches at the Castle Ground or Nottingham Forest's Town Ground. In November 1872, the Notts County full-back Ernest Greenhalgh played for England against Scotland in the first-ever international match, thereby becoming the club's first international player.
In 1888, Notts County, along with eleven other football clubs, became a founding member of The Football League. They finished their first league season in 11th place, but avoided the dubious honour of the wooden spoon, which went to Midlands rivals Stoke. However, Notts County did achieve their highest ever league finish of third in 1890–91, an achievement they repeated ten seasons later.
On 25 March 1891, Notts County reached the FA Cup final for the first time. The Magpies were defeated 3–1 by Blackburn Rovers at The Oval, despite having beaten the same side 7–1 in the league only a week earlier.
Notts County made up for this on 31 March 1894, when they won the FA Cup at Goodison Park, defeating Bolton Wanderers 4–1 in a game in which Jimmy Logan scored the second hat-trick in FA Cup final history. This achievement is also memorable for Notts County becoming the first club outside the top division to win the FA Cup: Notts County finished 3rd in Division Two that season. In 1910 they moved to Meadow Lane.