Club History

OLD MID-WHITGIFTIAN RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB

THE FIRST 50 YEARS

FROM 1926 TO 1940
In September 1925 Whitgift Middle School changed over from soccer to rugby, mainly through the influence of one of the masters, Mr. B. Lockey, with the support of the Headmaster, Mr. H. S. Clayton, to whose many progressive ideas both the school and the Old Boys must be forever indebted.

The Old Mid-Whitgiftian Rugby Football Club was formed the following season, 1926/1927, under the Captaincy of H. B. Parker, who was, according to the only records available, Captain of the School the previous season when the change was made.

The Club started as a nomadic tribe for most of the season, but was allowed to use the School pitch at Addiscombe for a few matches during the Christmas Holidays.

Eventually in 1928 a ‘home’ was found at Hamsey Green, where we leased a pitch on Grantonians Sports Ground. This was reached generally by bus from Croydon, there being very few cars in those days. The search for a ground of our own was still pursued and one at Chelsham was seriously considered, regarding which the the following appears in The Old Mid-Whitgiftian, July 1931:—

‘It cannot be denied that the distance between Croydon and Chelsham is considerable, but it appears that any ground nearer to Croydon is impossible on account of the greater cost of land near the centre of the town. On the other hand, Chelsham is well served with buses (both “General” and “Green Line”) while arrangements might be made for transport between ground and Warlingham Station. A light railway is about to be commenced in the vicinity, but details of the route are not yet available.

‘The ground is rectangular in shape and the dimensions are such that two Rugby pitches could be accommodated end to end. The width unfortunately is too small to allow a satisfactory cricket pitch to be laid in the centre, although the ground could well be used for practice.’

We wonder what happened to the light railway! Anyway this project appeared to die a natural death, closely followed by the demise in March 1932 of a site at Addiscombe when ‘an accurate survey now shows that the field is now large enough’.

And so rugby continued at Hamsey Green where two teams had to be content with two zinc baths and where the water came in through the window by bucket (hot) and by hosepipe (cold). The mud was quite the worst the Club has ever had to content with and the Club house was unlicensed. We also hired pitches at West Wickham and Beddington to accommodate the thrid side which had, by 1929, come into being.

After tea and buns the Club sides and their opponents adjourned by public transport to ‘The Green Dragon’ in High Street, Croydon, where an O.M.W., one Harry Hawkins, was ‘mine host’. It was not unknown for the teams to have to sit on the steps of the premises, or otherwise hang around until the opening hour of 6 p.m.—and in that hostelry we usually remained until 10 p.m., which in those enlightened days was closing time!

In retrospect, it is amusing to think that where we used to wait for the bus at Hamsey Green, nursing our thirsts after the game, eventually opened the ‘Good Companions’ – what a trade they would have done if we had not moved on to Sanderstead!

Under these conditions the Club thrived, the fixtures were steadily improved and, but for the war, six teams would have been fielded in 1939/40. The early Captains and Administrators of the Club obviously had a great deal to do with the building up of the Club’s strength, standard and spirit and special mention must be made of H. B. Parker, W. L. Pollard and E. A. W. Bonny as captains and H. G. Gadsden and K. C. Gilpin as secretaries.

It was with the arrival of John Ball however, that the greatest strides were made. He was an outstanding Captain and player and built up far the strongest 1st XV the Club had had. The highlight of this period was the defeat of the Old Whitgiftians in 1937/38 at our first meeting. John Ball was killed in action in the Western Desert and his death was a severe loss to the Club.

Shortly before the war the Old Boys’ Association, with generous assistance from the Court of Governors, acquired the ground at Sanderstead with room for two Rugby pitches and a cricket square, but its preparation was not completed before the outbreak of war. It was formally opened in the spring of 1940 and a group of Old Boys, determined to keep the Club alive during the war years, managed to raise a fifteen regularly between 1939 and 1945. Of course, guest players were most welcome and, as we were the only Club running in the district, they were not hard to come by. The team played as the ‘Mitres’ and was very successful.

FROM 1940 TO 1970

In 1940 those who were keeping things going had the idea of a seven-a-side tournament and this became a permanent feature of our calendar for 25 years! It was a very popular event and when after the War we acquired additional ground for a further two pitches, we regularly attracted 32 teams to the event. The tournament regrettably became a victim of the popularity of County competitions, which could only be staged on the Saturday on which ours was traditionally held, and our own unwillingness to stage it on a Sunday. By the time Sunday competitions had become part and parcel of the game we were too late to resurrect our own; such is the fate of the pioneer! Incidentally, for 20 years from 1945 to 1965, the cup which was held by the winners of the event was the Ball-Budgen Trophy, presented by the fathers of John Ball and Phillip Budgen, both killed in the Desert. The Old Boys won the trophy the first time it was played for and never won it again!

Mention was made above of our additional ground. This was acquired again with the assistance of the Governors, as a memorial to those Old Boys who were killed in the the War and our ambition was such that we confidently expected to field eight sides and utilise to the full the four pitches which were now ours. National Service and the great expansion in university and other further education soon dispelled those ideas and to enable the ground to be fully utilised we were delighted to be able to welcome Bec Old Boys as tenants. When they acquired their own ground at New Addington, we found the Old Croydonians only too happy to take over the tenancy until they too found their own ground at New Addington. We always had most cordial relations with our tenants and our association with them both during that period was, we are sure, to our mutual advantage. That of course was before the advent of the Old Boys Hockey Club who now utilise the two pitches which we hired out.

The additional ground of course required additional changing accommodation and clubhouse amenities and, with the help of two second-hand ‘pre-fab’s and much voluntary labour on Sunday mornings, the extension was made. Some of it was rather primitive perhaps, but the heat which was produced by a sawdust-burning heater in the ‘Players Bar’ was at times unbearable.

Perhaps at this point mention should be made of a few more personalities and outstanding in the post-war era was Ray Jupp. He had been Team Secretary before the war and Captain of the Club in 1939/40 and 1940/41 and on his return to the Croydon area after the war was elected Chairman. Under his undoubted administrative ability, the Club rapidly got back onto its feet and although the erection of the extension to the clubhouse was in the hands of the Old Boys’ Association, he was a member of the Council of the Association. As such, he had a great deal to do with its planning and ensuring its adequacy for the Rugby Club, who were of course bound to be the main beneficiaries. Ray’s death came as a sad blow to the Club and he would have been so proud to see his son, Bruce, skipper the Club for four seasons during the seventies.

Other names which now started to come to the fore were A. C. Swaffield, A. D. Sexton and T. W. McLaren, all successful captains and administrators and it was due to them and their contemporaries of the immediate post-war years and the early 1950’s the Club recovered and even surpassed its pre-war strength.

Other names which now started to come to the fore were A. C. Swaffield, A. D. Sexton and T. W. McLaren, all successful captains and administrators and it was due to them and their contemporaries of the immediate post-war years and the early 1950’s the Club recovered and even surpassed its pre-war strength.

FROM 1970 TO 1976

That brings us to 1971. Since then it had proved impossible to recruit sufficient Old Mid-Whitgiftians to fill four Rugby XVs and four Hockey XIs and so, to enable the Clubs to continue to prosper, it was necessary to open our membership to friends and relations who found in our Association a spirit which they were only too happy to share. Despite natural misgivings on the part of some members, our Associate membership has provided us with a blood-transfusion which has invigorated the whole corporate Old Mid-Whitgiftian body and the enthusiasm with which they work for the Club has dispelled any of the early apprehensions.

Our first 50 years are now history, but we hope that they have provided the present generation of Rugby players with a springboard to greater success. After all, for two successive seasons we have been semi-finalists in the Surrey Cup with the R.U. Knock-out competition but two matches away!

This excerpt of the history of the Club was written for the Golden Jubilee Dinner in 1976. Two further chapters are to follow, detailing the years of Surrey Cup success and the introduction of the leagues during the 80s and 90s; and from 2000 to 2019, the year of our name change to Trinity RFC.

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