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Harpenden Rugby Club

Harpenden Rugby Club

HRFC - a potted history

The Club was born in 1919 when a group of young men, old friends and school friends were having coffee together in 'Bunty's Tea Room' in the High Street on the corner of Vaughan Road, now alas no longer existing as a tea room - it is now occupied by 'Cancer Research UK'. For the most part they had all played rugby at school and decided they would try and form a side to continue playing together.



After some difficulty they found a ground they could use in Rothampstead Park, a large open area owned by the Lord of the Manor, contacted some opponents and managed to arrange a few games during the 1919/20 season, playing as Harpenden Old Public Schoolboys. The following season, on 2nd March 1921, they were officially constituted as the Harpenden Rugby Football Club and began to establish themselves. Unfortunately their use of the pitch in Rothampstead Park was abruptly terminated by the then Lady of the Manor who apparently classified rugby players as 'rough loiterers'; a new pitch was then found in Townsend Lane.


At the same time the changing accommodation, a barn behind 'The Cock' Public House in the High Street (now 'The Old Cock Inn') was transferred to another barn behind the rival pub on the opposite side of the road, 'The Cross Keys'. That Pub has remained a meeting point for Club Members over the years.



It was, under Reg Johnson (the Landlord at that time), instrumental in establishing The National Original Cross Keys Pub Sevens which over 40 years has grown from a small ad hoc tournament catering for a few local players who wanted to play on a Sunday to the annual HRFC Pub Sevens.


By 1926 the Club was able to establish a more permanent home in a field behind the water tower in Overstone Road, with a wooden hut as both pavilion and changing room. Additional land was subsequently acquired, affording another pitch, and a spectators' stand was built at that time. The Club was flourishing, having 65 playing members. Nearly all of them found their way into the services during the last war when the Club had to cease playing. In 1946 play began again at Overstone Road thanks to the forethought of the founders who had, at the outset, formed a limited company, which assisted in restarting the game after the cessation of hostilities. Rugby prospered in the town.


In 1948 the Dalkeith Club was formed to provide small social amenities including a licensed bar; and to accommodate it in 1951 a further hut was built. In 1955 the hut was doubled in size. By then the Club was regularly fielding 6 XVs. Having only 2 pitches and limited changing and bar facilities, and no room to expand, the need for completely new accommodation became obvious. The search for a new ground began in 1957, but not until 1964 was the Club finally able to negotiate the sale of its old ground and establish itself at its current venue in Deacons Field Redbourn Lane.



It was one of the first clubs in the area to sell its ground for development and build a new, at that time, state of the art clubhouse. The new Clubhouse opened in the 1964/5 season with 3 pitches, a brand new 5,000 sq ft Clubhouse and a grandstand; a far cry from two muddy pitches and two huts at Overstone Road. Two more pitches, a training area and a car park were added over the next few years. After much heart searching two squash courts were completed in 1968 with a third added in 1974 and additional accommodation added in 1979. The provision of squash courts allowed the Harpenden Squash Club, previously without a home in the town, to have a base. In the 1980s floodlights were provided for the training pitch.


The Club is a well-established community sporting and social facility in the town and now runs 4 senior sides, a Colts side and has a thriving mini and junior section catering for all age groups from 7 years to Colts.


A considerable force in County rugby over the years, the club suffered a few bleak seasons in the 90s when it descended to Herts League 1 but achieve glory on the 3rd May 1997 at Twickenham, winning the NPI Junior Cup.


The intervening period has seen the Club consolidate its position in the London leagues. Promotion to London North 1 in 2009 was quickly followed by relegation and the club played in London 2 North West until promoted again to London 1N at the end of the 2018-19 season.


The mini & junior sections continue to flourish with the Under 17s winning the National u17 Cup in 2008.


Representative honours have followed. Matt Cross played for England Students. Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Jack Singleton and George Ford for England and Rob Dumpleton has been a recent fixture in the Herts County side.



In the abbreviated form of the game, the Club has been the County leader carrying off the Hertfordshire County 7's title in three recent seasons - the winning squad representing Hertfordshire in the National County 7's each time. The youth policy has every sign of continuing to ensure success with talented young players coming through into the senior sides; the Colts have regularly contested the County Cup and have emulated the senior side by winning the Colts 7's in the past two seasons.