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HISTORY

The earliest record of a rugby match being played in Leek was on October 15th, 1870, when a man called John Shallcross formed two teams to play under the Rugby Rules on the Westwood Recreation Ground. There is no further record of rugby being played until 1873, when a group of men began learning the Rugby rules in hope that they could oppose some rival clubs before the end of the season. The first fifteen played a practice match against the rest of the club at the ground at Bridge End, but the hope of finding a rival team was not fulfilled. On 12th February, 1875, Leek’s first recorded rugby match against a rival side from Langley, near Macclesfield, was played on a field behind the White Lion Pub. Leek won the match. The following Saturday, Leek played at Langley, and Leek won again. Season 1874-75 was described as ‘a most successful one’ as the two matches played both ended in victories. On Boxing Day, 1876, Leek played Crewe, the former being several men short. This appears to have been the last rugby match played by the Leek Club, when it obviously declined due to the growing influence of football.
In 1923, a group of men reformed Leek Rugby Club. The founding members were prominent figures in Leek’s then thriving textile industry. Major Falkner Nicholson, eldest son of Sir Arthur and Lady Marianne Nicholson, was invited to be the first Club President. Major Nicholson served his presidency for just over twelve months and was succeeded by Mr F. G. Johnson, who held that position for nine years. This newly founded Club owned no premises and home matches were played on ground at the ‘Big Birchall Estate’. During the 1920’s, the Club rented changing rooms at the Blue Ball Inn on Mill Street, a decade later moving to the Drill Hall in Alma Street for social meetings, holding training sessions on the Royal Artillery Field next to the White Lion Hotel on Macclesfield Road.
At the start of the Second World War, the Club went into shutdown as many players enlisted in the armed forces. In 1947 it was decided to reform the Club, largely composed of ex-servicemen. The Club’s first rented premises after the end of the Second World War were above Traffords, the family butchers in the Market Square.
By 1958, the club was renting rooms at premises in Church Street (demolished in 1972 to make way for a new car park). The 1970’s saw the acquisition of a clubhouse in Strangman Street, Leek.
Just before the turn of the century, Leek Rugby Club was able to obtain land at Cheddleton, which included a former cricket ground called ‘The Oval’, now known as Esterchem Park, where a new clubhouse was officially opened on 9thApril, 2000.

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