When Wimbledon realized its 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial as they like to call it in SW20, was coming up fast they thought "What shall we do to mark the occasion”? Well they are a rugby club so it didn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to come up with the idea "We’ll play rugby and have a party or two or three”.
So they kicked off proceedings with a huge New Year’s Eve bash and haven’t really stopped with gaining triumphs since! The Club has seen success at all levels with two youth players gaining international caps: Dylan Morris (England U18 Clubs & Schools side) and Alex Kane (Ireland Wolfhoud Sevens side) and the U18s winning Surrey Division 1. The Ladies finished fourth in the Championship South West 2 league, the highest position the club has ever achieved. On top of this, the 1st XV, who had been coached all season by internationals Nick Easter and Tim Payne, finished top of the league to gain promotion to National Division 3. When it came to the end of the season they had a lot to celebrate!
On 9th May, hundreds of players and supporters spent the day celebrating rugby, the club’s longevity and its current success. The day kicked off with several mini rugby games against visitors from Old Ruts and Richmond. The children were kept entertained for the rest of the day by a huge inflatable assault course, a children’s farm and a bucking rugby ball. The stars of the mini section were also presented with their end of season awards by Nick Easter.
Two youth teams took to the main pitches to give a great display of rugby before the ever growing, and successful, Wimbledon ladies team, who incidentally celebrate their 25th anniversary this season, took to the field. Not one but two Wimbledon ladies teams graced Barham Road one side being made up of the current ladies side, dubbed "the Wannabees” took on a team of past stars of the side who were, perhaps harshly dubbed "the Hasbeens”. The age gap between the youngest and oldest player was 32 years! Both teams were quite visibly having a great time even if more than a few were puffing hard by the end of the match.
Next up was a run out for the current and famous Wimbledon Vets side, aka the Strollers, against a Wimbledon All-Stars side. Some of the "boys” out there had not pulled their boots on for some time but that didn’t stop them giving it their all. A cracking game ensued which was enjoyed immensely by the spectators.
In the blazing sunshine, everyone was enjoying the variety of food and drinks stalls that were on offer. By 3 p.m, the Club gave the Mayor of Merton a warm welcome as she ceremoniously received International shirts from the two youth internationals and presented the match ball to the Wimbledon 1st XV captain so he could kick of the final game of the day against a Surrey President’s XV. Like the other games this was played in good spirit and the sizable crowd was treated to a fantastic display of rugby.
So, congratulations to Wimbledon a fantastic day to mark a fantastic history.
As a founding member of the Rugby Football Union, the year 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Wimbledon Rugby Football Club. The first recorded game was played on 26 December 1865 against Richmond Rugby Club and was reported in the Surrey Comet. At that time, the team were called the "Wimbledon Hornets".
In 1871, our then captain, Leonard James Maton, was called upon to represent Wimbledon at a meeting of 19 rugby clubs (including Blackheath, Richmond, The Law Club, Guy's Hospital, Harlequins and King's College Hospital) which were formed in England at the time. The purpose of the meeting was to form the Rugby Football Society and it was held on 26 January at the Pall Mall Restaurant, Cockspur Street (now the site of the Canadian Embassy and a branch of Barclays Bank!).
Leonard Maton (an Old Rugbeian) was elected to the Rugby Football Society's Executive Committee and, single-handedly, wrote the first Laws of rugby at his address on Homefield Road, Wimbledon Village. In 1874, he went onto become the third President of what was by then known as the Rugby Football Union. By this time, we had changed our name to Wimbledon Rugby Football Club.
Another of our captains, H.J. Graham, became Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the RFU in 1877. It was to him that the first letter was sent from a rugby club in India that was folding due to lack of membership. They were offering £60 to the RFU which would pay for a trophy of "Indian workmanship" to be made. The trophy would be played for annually between "the last few remaining members of the [RFU]" so that this Indian rugby club could be remembered in rugby history...and so the Calcutta Cup was born. The originals of these letters are held in the RFU Museum at Twickenham but we do hold copies.
We played on Wimbledon Common until the First World War, using the Rose and Crown in Wimbledon Village as our changing rooms and clubhouse. We then went into suspended animation when the First World War started and re-formed in 1927. It was at this time that we changed our colours from broad blue and white to the colours we all know and love, maroon and blue.
More recently, the club moved to its current home at Beverley Meads, just off Copse Hill, in 1987 coinciding with the setting up on amateur league rugby in Britain.
The Ladies club was born in the 1990/1991 season by John and Tina Ambler and in the 1997/1998 season, club stalwart Jim Green was tasked with setting up a minis (and later youth) section.
With the 1st XV being placed, somewhat arbitrarily, in Surrey 2 in the first year of the leagues, Wimbledon began its rise through them and start next season National League 3 London & South East.