It has been established that rugby football was introduced to Dover in approximately 1873 and was referred to in the Dover College Magazine and The Dovorian, when a scratch town side played the college. 'Private rules' were played and each side comprised of 12 players.
The First team who played Dover College
The Dover Express editor of 1948, Mr Bavington-Jones, recalled rugby being played on a ground at Beaconsfield Road and sometimes at the Ropeway Meadow. He also stated that a meeting was held in the Dover Cricket Club pavilion in the old Beaconsfield Road ground on 22 October 1837 to start a club. A practice game was held at the ground on 12 November in the same year.
It is probable that at this time sufficient Old Dovorians were living in the town to run a club and to have their activities reported in The Dovorian. A game, Dover College versus Dover, was reported in 1877. The college won by one goal and one try to three tries, apparently scoring was different in those days, in fact Rugby Union rules were only then beginning to find their way around the country. Other matches against Dover Town were listed in 1878 and 1881. A later Dovorian reported the break-up of the original Dover RFC in 1887, this was probably because old Dovorian ceased organising the club. However, others must have taken over and continued because the Dover Express of 1899 reported a match between Dover Rugby and the HQ Company the West Riding Regiment. It was played at the Athletic (Crabble?) ground. In the same year a Kent Rugby Cup was in existence and it was reported that on the 17 March the West Riding Regiment beat Thanet Wanderers eleven points to seven for that cup.
The Thanet Wanderers fixture list of 1898-99 showed matches against Dover College and Dover Town and the Dovorian of November 1898 reported that the college beat the town by 1 goal to 0. In 1925 Dover College once again provided the soil from which the present Dover RFC grew and the bursar of the day, a Mr T Guthrie Morgan, via notices in the Dover Express found enough support to consider forming a club. Before the end of that season practice matches were held and an organisation set up to launch the club in the season 1926-7.
In the first season nineteen fixtures were obtained of which fifteen were played, five won, seven lost and three drawn, with 67 points for and 128 against. Familiar names like Tonbridge and Thanet appeared in addition to less familiar one like Worcester College, Oxford and club Athletique, Paris. In 1929 the club moved to a pitch at the Danes and in that year a second side was established and Canterbury was added to he fixture list. An unbroken run of seasons followed until 1939 when in common with millions of other people, rugby players swapped kits for uniforms and went to war for six years.
In July 1946 at a meeting in Dover Town Hall the club was reformed by returning players and after having played some casual games in the season 1945-46 full activities commenced in the season 1946-47. From 1949 the club prospered under the Presidency of K E Hawksfield and, largely due to his actions and support, the present pitch and pavilion became the Club Headquarters. It was during this period that the club probably enjoyed its best playing season when in 1949-50 with Barney Lock at stand off the 1st fifteen achieved almost a 90% win record.
During the middle fifties the playing strength, and therefore the success, of the club fell away but by the end of the fifties the 3rd fifteen was reformed and in 1962 a 4th fifteen established. At that time it was realised just how important it was to encourage the playing of club rugby by schoolboys and a colts section was introduced, initially to provide games during school holidays, but this quickly developed to a full season for several fifteens.
By 1975 numbers of players were such that a 5th fifteen took the field on a regular basis and continued well into the 1990's. The end of the 1975-76 season marked the 50th anniversary of the club. A Golden Jubilee Dinner to mark the occasion was held in Dover Town Hall, which was attended by many from the old days.
Along with Canterbury and Thanet Wanderers, Dover had always hosted touring sides over Easter Weekends. This changed in 1978 when the club went to South Wales for their own first tour. Three games were played in the Swansea area, all were lost but the seal was set for the future. Since then the club has toured in England, France, Germany, Holland, Denmark and Ireland.
The Mini's section was inaugurated by the present club President - Maurice Sayers - at that time to accommodate his son John, who presently forms part of the club front row of the 1st fifteen. The section has grown to accommodate boys and girls of all ages from 8 years to Colts.
The Crabble Pavilion Association, a conglomerate made up of Dover RFC, Dover CC and Dover DC, was set in place in 1980 with the purpose of rebuilding the ageing pavilion at Crabble Athletic ground, to accommodate the two clubs in a more modern and suitable building; at a combined cost of £130,00. The club took possession in 1982. Some now think of the season of 1985-86 as the start of the inevitable slide into professionalism. Competition replaced enjoyment as the ethos of the game of rugby with the start of Radio Kent Merit Tables. 1987 was a black year for Dover with the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' disaster on 6 March. A fund raising game was arranged between Dover and HMS Illustrious (an affiliate of the Cinque Ports) which produced almost £5,000.
Some assert that another disaster occurred in 1987-88 when the Courage League started and the race towards professionalism in the game hotted up.To keep up with the rest of the rugby world, in which 'marketing' had become the latest buzzword, the club seriously addressed itself to the sordid business of gathering its own coven of sponsors.With the help of a grant from Dover DC and the Sports Council the present floodlights were put in place in 1995, and the following season England's Captain, Will Carling, put his foot in it good and proper, with his mention of '57 old farts'. Dover RFC had its own '4 old farts' who were duly honoured as treasured supporters when Dover gained promotion into Kent League 1 at the end of 1994-95 season.
The season 1997-98 saw the Dover Ladies Fifteen take the field on a regular basis, and they are currently top of their Merit Table.Twenty three years ago, for the club's Golden Jubilee Celebrations, your historian closed his account with the following words: "The players of the past are too numerous to mention, but they will join with me in urging the present members and players not to rely too much on the laurels and honours of the past, but to work and play hard for their own, for then with all certainty the club can: Grow old with me, the best is yet to be." Is this as true now as it was then?
Today the club plays in london SE1 at 1st Fifteen level and provides facilities for over 250 players at all levels to play each week, these comprise:
Seniors: 1st Fifteen; A Fifteen; Extra Fifteen; Sharks Fifteen
Juniors: Colts; Under 17's; Under 16's; Under 15's; Under 14's; Under 13's
Minis: Under 6 - 12's players.