OLD REIGATIAN RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
1927 - 2011
Founded in the 1927/28 Season by the Old Boys of Reigate Grammar School, who had recently been introduced to the "Game for hooligans - played by gentlemen" when their School, along with Guildford RGS and Caterham G.S., as well as many others, replaced soccer in favour of rugby in the School's curriculum. This was an ingenious attempt to meet the requirements of an Education request from the Government of the time for an increase in the number of boys taking part in team sports. At one stroke the playing field which had provided only 22 players with an introduction to the "beautiful game" were utilised to give 30 boys the opportunity to legally fight with each other. The "Think Tanks" of the 1920's had come up with another winner! In addition an alternative to "going down the mines" was available to young Welshmen, who now took to the role of schoolteachers and sought to introduce running and handling skills to the foreigners on the other side of Offas Dyke.
The Club initially used a field adjoining the then School playing field in St Albans Road and now occupied by the houses composing Pilgrims Place off Brokes Road. The changing accommodation was in the Reigate Baths in Castlefield Road. A year later a ground was secured on the site which at present is used by Reigate Hill Golf Club as a practice ground and not at the top of Shepherds Hill as has been reported in previous searches into our early days. First the Feathers Hotel in Merstham and then the Jolliffe Arms provided the pre-match changing facilities and the post match teas and entertainment! I also understand that on occasions an A XV used the Reigate RFC ground (then somewhere off The Clears) in the lee of Colley Hill. These rather primitive arrangements continued until the 1939 - 1945 war brought a temporary end to the club's progress.
At the end of the war, the club was immediately reformed by a nucleus of pre-war players amongst whom Norman Holt and Geoffrey Knight were pre-eminent. They became Hon. Sec and Hon. Chairman respectively and with great support from the then Headmaster of the School (Mr A.E.Clarke) embarked on the search for a permanent home. At first we again used the School ground at St Albans Road and then the field beyond Reigate Priory Tennis Club until it was acquired by Surrey CC and put at the disposal of the School. Thanks again to the then headmaster (Mr.A.E.Clarke) we were allowed to continue using these two pitches, as our Saturday afternoon games did not clash with the requirements of the School.
Once again the Reigate Swimming Baths provided the changing & washing accommodation, with after match teas provided by wives and girl friends in one of the wartime Nissan Huts (still standing) to the rear of the Town Hall, in Castlefield Road. The White Hart in Church Street provided the after match entertainment thanks to the co-operation of the then landlord, Mr J.G.(Pat) Mundy, who had played his rugby for Old Cranleighans and allowed us to use his Lounge Bar as a club room. The search for a permanent home was finally successful, when through the generosity of Mr & Mrs (later Lord & Lady) Rank we were able to purchase the small plot off Park Lane on which we built our first and to date, our only real home.
The writer remembers with relish the "away" games against Worthing, Brighton, Lewes, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Horsham, Dorking and Guildford. It was invariably well past 10.00pm before the last car load arrived back at the White Hart. The "Old Boy" circuit was far more difficult to penetrate and a 1950 fixture card reveals that only Reedonians, Haileyburians, Mid-Whitgiftians, Dartfordians, Croydonians and Shootershillians thought us to be worthy opponents. In that year our record was P 27, W 17, D 3, L 6, with victories over both the Blackheath and the Harlequin 2nd teams. By the middle 70's we were running seven teams and in the 1986/87 season, after beating Exeter and Saracens in earlier rounds we became the only junior Club to ever reach the last 16 of the premier RFU Cup competition (then known as The John Player Cup). Players and spectators alike will long remember our game against the famous Gloucester Club at their equally famous Kingsholm ground. I think that any bookmakers today, would offer extremely generous odds against any junior club repeating this feat. By this time our fixture card provided us with 30 really good quality games over a full season. The great advantage that came with these fixtures, was that in most cases all our sides played the same Club, on the same day!
In the following season, the Rugby Football Union gave us the opportunity of either accepting their new directives as to League Rugby or withdrawing from any form of competitive rugby altogether. We chose (not without some misgivings) to join the new League system and during the next 13 seasons the Old Reigatian Club played for 8 years in London 2 and for 5 years in London 3. A reformed League structure in the first season of the new Millennium, caught us in a downward spiral and with the "Home & Away" concept now accepted by a majority, a new League was created (London 4) as a result of the reshuffle. Old Reigatian RFC were placed into the senior County side (Surrey 1) and it took us 4 years to break out of this very competitive County League, but then only one to leave London 4, and join London 3.
We ended our first year in London 3 on a high, finishing in third place. It is a well balanced League, with only bottom placed Weybridge Vandals narrowly failing to win less than half their games. Playing to well below our best form we lost the return games against both Effingham & Leatherhead and Chobham, which left us with London Irish Amateurs to beat for the opportunity to face Purley John Fisher for the vacancy in London 2. The Irish were well deserved winners of this final match. Happily Guernsey beat Camberley, in their final game, to stay out of the relegation zone. So we all got another trip to this lovely Channel Island.
We are still in London 3, though through more restructuring by the RFU, it is now called London 2
At this stage in the development of our Club we are proud to have at last produced teams at every age group from Under 5/6 to Under 18 in the Mini and Junior section, to this we can add under 19 & under 21 teams, under the direction of the Senior Club.
We start our 84th season, with four senior sides and with the impetus that our new Clbhouse will endenger an almost certain 5th side in 2012/13. The Club will thus have 20 teams playing in the Green & Blue colours by the commencement of our 85th year in 2012.
In my preface I drew attention to the need for the players to be involved in all aspects of the club's development. Naturally the main thrust is for another team, but we do need for as many as possible to get involved in the running of the Club not just the playing..