History

Pre War Askean Rugby began in 1925-26 when the school stopped playing Association Football and started playing rugby. The first recorded game the Club played was 18th December 1926 against the School. The idea of forming a Rugby Club was muted at the EGM of the Association in 1927 and after a faltering start played it’s first full season in 1929 at the Kent RFU ground in West Wickham, changing in a local pub. By the following season membership was up to 45 and two teams ran throughout the season and in 1931 the ground at Kidbrooke was acquired with changing facilities in an RAF depot near by. In 1932 the club acquired three army huts, one for the home team changing room, one the visitors, the third was the bar. There was no running hot water with only zinc baths filled by hand with two to a bath. The club carried on like this until the onset of war. With the Old Colfeans a lot of the members joined the TA as part of 139th Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery. These members where called up as war was declared and the Rugby Club came to a halt. Although a young enthusiast John Morgan organised 20 games in the 40-41 season. More and more boys were called up straight from school and rugby came to halt until 1945.

Golden Age On 9th February 1946 the first post war Askean side took the field against an Old Haberdashers side. Kidbrooke had been damaged during the War and lay derelict until it was taken over Kent War Agricultural Committee and it was used for growing potatoes. The Club played their games at the School, Standard Bank, Standard Telephones and Unilever grounds. It was 1949 before the Club was able return to Kidbrooke. By 1950 Askeans had two pitches and changed in a local school and were taken to the ground by coach. By this time the Club was beginning to prosper running four sides, and that year Askeans received our first county cap when Dick Hills played for Kent. For our Jubilee in 1955 we ran a Seven a Side tournament that became a regular part of the calendar with teams like the Harlequins sending down a side. The Club was growing bigger and bigger, by this time running 6 sides. The highlight of those years was getting to the final of the Middlesex Sevens. Askeans scoring first against the Harlequins, but ultimately losing. The Telegraph reported “They could do no more despite impressive support from the stand and gallantly went down 14-3.”

The 60’s were the Golden Age of Old Askean Rugby with 6 or 7 sides turning out. The standard of the 1st XV fixtures was the second strongest list in Kent. Askeans travelled to the West Country, Midlands and Wales to get stronger sides to play us and persuade bigger London Clubs to play us. This even included a Tour of Wales where Askeans were on the same billing as the Barbarians. Askeans have had many great players providing the Captain of Kent for five out of seven successive years, Des Kirby, Graham Smith and John Heggadon. Alan Hunt gained the school’s first international cap. Plus Chas Wickens, Larry Skillman, Macdowell, Bert Baker, Steve Lee all played for the County. Going Open The 1970s saw the start of the decline of Askeans as an Old Boys Club. A lot of players who brought it success in the 60s hung up their boots. The school and education was changing. More boys went straight of to University and did not return to this part of London. The strong fixture list that Askeans were so proud of became a burden. The playing rota shrank down to three or four sides. There were long and fierce arguments about what should be done. Ultimately the club needed the numbers to pay the bills and maintain the ground and so in 1973 ASKEANS WENT OPEN. This was revolutionary at the time and Askeans were the first major Old Boys Club to take this step. Youth sides were started and an association with St Josephs and St Mary’s, two local Catholic Grammar Schools was embarked upon. They were good Rugby schools and the Askeans Under 18s side had 12 county schoolboy players that became the basis of the 1st XV for the side that got into the National Leagues.

The following year one of our first successes was with these young players. We got to the finals of the Middlesex Sevens. Nick Lockyer our Chairman was one of the star players. During Alan Hunt’s era as Chairman in the 1980’s things really began to change through his contacts in New Zealand some really exciting players started to arrive, we had two future All Blacks playing for Askeans at one time, the Cooper brothers as well as John Gallagher and some outstanding forwards. Askeans were promoted into National Division Three. In those days that meant being in the top 36 clubs in the country. Stuart McKeeny the ex Irish International and British Lion arrived as coach. Tony Bond the England centre arrived to captain the side. Askeans became a formidable side winning the Kent Cup and holding our own in the League. However the first season in the National league started badly, it was a different world and we lost our first six games until suddenly, away to Leeds, we suddenly realised how good we were and ripped them apart. Askeans stabilised and were travelling by train to places as far a field as Vale of Lune and Exeter. Loyal supporters followed the side everywhere. Players would get to Euston by 9.00 am and arriving back at midnight. We were admired for what we achieved if not by the Rugby Union, especially when Jeff Probyn joined us, (He was in the World Cup Final programme as an Askean) then by other clubs, as we were the only Ex Old Boys Club to be in the top 30 sides in the country dark days then the Rugby went professional. This was Askeans downfall as we did not generate large enough crowds, i.e. revenue, to compete with the town sides we were mainly playing against. With players now wanting money it made it difficult to compete on a level playing field. Disastrously, politics took hold as dinosaurs behind the scenes who’d never wanted the Club to go open created a situation where by being directors of the Old Askean Sports Ground Ltd they controlled what happened to the ground. To cut a long story short against the wishes of the members of the Old Askean Association, they sold the ground to Charlton Park. This culminated in a period of homelessness where Askeans dropped out of the London leagues and into Kent 1.

The Rebirth Askeans has certainly experienced some tough times in recent years however, after a short stay at Old Shootershillians, we were able to find a more permanent home at the Rectory Field, home of Blackheath. This, our 75th season, season 04/05, has just seen Askeans post a ‘winning season’. Having been second in the league up until Christmas we finally recorded a league record of played 18, won 10, lost 8 and also embarked on notable cup runs in both the RFU Vase and Kent Vase. Numbers at training are up, 35 players and members toured over Easter to Ghent, Belgium and the club is already welcoming both new recruits and players returning from other clubs for next season. The focus on our youth continues to pay dividends with a number of U21’s braking into the first team last year. Also Terry Reid represented Askeans at County level, as has Will Feddon . We also have an Australian youth international playing (all be it in tennis!) Askeans prides itself on being an open and inclusive club welcoming all into a highly sociable and invigorated environment. The club has great facilities, good resources, a fantastic spirit and justifiable optimism that Askeans will again begin to live up to its illustrious name.

Further Information on the club can be found in the Lewisham Archives. Many Thanks to Graham Terry for his research for this piece and constant support for all things Askeans

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