Formed as Christ Church Football Club in 1874, it adopted its current name in 1877 and was a founder member of the Football League in 1888. Bolton have spent more seasons, 73, than any other club in the top flight without winning the title.They finished third in the First Division in 1891–92, 1920–21 and 1924–25. Bolton won the FA Cup three times in the 1920s, and again in 1958. The club spent a season in the Fourth Division in 1987–88, before regaining top-flight status in 1995 and qualifying for the UEFA Cup twice; reaching the last 32 in 2005–06 and the last 16 in 2007–08.
The club played at Burnden Park for 102 years from 1895. On 9 March 1946, thirty-three Bolton fans lost their lives in a human crush, the Burnden Park disaster. In 1997, Bolton moved to the Reebok Stadium. The stadium was renamed the Macron Stadium in 2014 and University of Bolton Stadium in 2018.
Beginning in 2015, Bolton had been in severe financial difficulties, and went into administration in May 2019. Facing possible EFL expulsion and probable extinction, the club was acquired by new owners on 28 August 2019