In 1927, members of Dunstable Grammar School formed a rugby section, based at Fensomes field in Leagrave. Unfortunately, following the initial commitments, the number of regular players dwindled forcing the closure of the club after only three seasons.
In 1948, a small group, B.J. Reason, J. Baker, G Sandiford, J. Hamilton, F. P. Rowe and F. M. Barncroft, made a new start, securing a new ground at French's Avenue. They later moved to Skimpot Lane in Luton, home of the now defunct Caesar's Palace.
In 1954 a great step forward was made when a ground in Bullpond Lane was leased. The opening was marked with a match against an East Midlands invitation XV. In 1957, club members erected the original pavilion using ex-war department huts from Whipsnade Zoo. This became a focal point and enhanced the club's reputation as the only one in the area with its own facilities and easy access.
In the sixties, with support from the Dunstable Schools Authorities, it was possible to use the schools facilities for some of the season. With the demise of rugby in schools, and other changes to the school sports programme, these facilities became less readily available. To make up for this, there was much appealing to the council for extra facilities, but to no avail.
It was eventually decided to purchase a new ground at Bidwell Hill in Houghton Regis, the club's present site. A new and dynamic committee was formed with the task of raising the funds required to provide Dunstablians with a new home, purpose built facilities and state of the art pitch floodlighting. The bulk of the funding was raised through the sale of the Bull Pond Lane site for a housing development.
In September 1985, the Club celebrated the opening of the new clubhouse, which was at the time, the best in the county. The Club hosted an International XV which included six past England Captains to mark the opening, and also hosted matches against an invitation county side and a touring side from Akron USA.
The club was officially opened by Hon. Life President John Reason and Alan A. Grimsdell, whose wise words at the ceremony were “bricks and mortar does not make a successful club only results do!” The club standard at that time of change of grounds was rather poor and when the leagues started in 1988 we lost no time in dropping a league. Many stalwarts of the club had other ideas and slowly but surely the standard started to improve by encouraging former youth members to return to the club. From the mid-1990s the success was evident, with the club advancing up the leagues.
The 1997/98 season saw the club’s Golden Jubilee and the fairy tale script could not have been taken from the "Boy's Own" manual, seeing the best ever playing season for the club. Having never been taken seriously by other stronger local clubs, the Dunstable squad led by captain Damian Daize played some excellent rugby to reach the final of the Bedfordshire Cup where they were narrowly beaten by the top team around - Bedford Athletic. Unperturbed, the young Dunstablians marched on to become league champions, losing only one league game during the campaign. As a finale, the Club won the Stockwood Park Sevens for the second time.
The anniversary celebrations saw the Club host a prestigious boxing evening for 300 guests, a sportsmen’s dinner with Jack Charlton for over 350 guests and the Grand Dinner and Dance for over 400 past and present playing members, which included founder members and united old players from South Africa, Canada, Portugal and many other parts of Europe. The Club's official guests included local MP Sir David Madel and the Mayor, Councillor Mrs Sylvia Powdrill.
Following another successful season in 1998/99 another milestone was reached when the committee agreed to employ a professional coach. Coach Colin Jackson brought a ruthless professionalism to the club which culminated with the winning of the Intermediate Cup at Twickenham in the 1999/2000 season. A vast army of supporters, accompanied by the local media, made their way in a fleet of coaches to HQ to see Damian Daize and his men defeat Hull Ionians in wet conditions and lift the cup. Securing both the County and East Midlands Cups and league promotion marked this as the golden year for Dunstablians.
It is a testament to the youth policy which Dunstablians have pursued for the past thirty years that the majority of the team in the Twickenham Cup Final had worked their way up through the mini and junior section of the club. This focus on developing young players has proved extremely beneficial and, as a result, the club was recognised for a good few years as the most successful in the East Midlands, with three appearances in the premier knock out competition final within our area and numerous other trophies.
Today that policy still exists and the Club can boast some exciting talent rising through its ranks. There have been some truly memorable sides in the youth sections over the past few years, including the Under 16 squad who remained unbeaten for three successive seasons, beating teams such as Bedford and London Welsh as well as the French School’s champions. More recently, young players such as Josh Skelcey and Reece Marshal have gone on to play academy rugby for premiership sides and, in Reece’s case, represent England at youth level.
Not only is the club securing its future, by providing this facility it is giving local children the opportunity to play sport, make new friends, meet people from all walks of life and learn the traditional values based on the philosophy of rugby which has been down over the years. Dunstablians have youth teams for all children from seven to seventeen.
The successful cup side of 1999/2000 were never to play together again. Colin Jackson moved on to Bedford and some of the home-grown talent also moved on to higher levels of rugby. Nevertheless, boosted by a strong youth section and some exciting overseas talent, the success continued. In 2001/2 we played at the highest level ever in the clubs history in Midlands One, attaining a fourth-place finish in the first season and remaining there or there about for the next few years. 2006/2007 also saw them return to Twickenham for a second Intermediate Cup Final, although this time they were beaten by Cornish outfit Mount’s Bay.
All good things must end and, as is the cyclical nature of club rugby, Dunstablians’ fortunes eventually began to wane. With so many successful clubs in the area, it became harder to retain home talent or attract players from other clubs or countries. The 2010/2011 season saw the club’s slide culminate with relegation to East Midlands 2 (South).
Things could have progressed from bad to worse but, after a shaky start to the 2011/2012 season, Dunstablians began to turn things around. Going back to the core principals, the club focussed on bringing young, promising talent to the fore and, combined with some gnarled veterans and dedicated coaching from ex-players, Dunstablians finished the season in a strong league position and reclaimed the County Cup to boot. Some hard work behind the scenes also saw the securing of several grants, including money from the RFU and, on the back of the Olympics, Sport England. The ground at Bidwell Park now has three floodlit pitches and there are more exciting improvements to come.
Today, the club boasts three senior sides, a burgeoning ladies team and a vibrant youth section. With very much a family environment, the club insists on holding onto the traditional rugby values and promoting sport for enjoyment and reward through success, not payment.
The clubhouse and grounds provide an excellent venue for functions with parking for over 100 cars. The Club is open to social members who simply want to be part of a club and use the exceptional facilities. Telephone 44 (0)1582 866555 for more details.
DRUFC is also the home to the Dunstablians Rugby Club Male Voice Choir who meet weekly. They perform many concerts each year, mainly for charity. They have won several music competition awards.