A Brief History of PRFC
The words ‘Quis Nos Separabit’ (who shall divide us?) embrace the attitude, aspirations and characteristics of our club and its members.
Pulborough Rugby Football Club was formed in 1968 by a small group of enthusiasts who didn’t want to travel to Horsham or Worthing to play rugby. At the forefront of this development were three locally respected members of the community, whose sons played rugby: John Ford- President for 18years, Alan Mason- Chairman, and Henry Fane- Vice-Chairman.
For many years the Club played at the Pulborough Recreation Ground and became fondly known for the unique slope of its pitch, which nevertheless provided very good drainage. That field of play will remain forever entrenched in the memories of many club members and it was with not a small degree of sadness that we eventually departed when we at last found our own ground. For many years the Club lacked premises and we were accommodated by The Swan pub, from which we obtained our logo, followed by The Five Bells and The Red Lion until we were invited by John Sidebottom to use the large function room at his pub, The Black Horse in Amberley, The extra journey was compensated for by the fact that John only charged us the wholesale price of the beer and at last we could make a small profit at the bar, which we ran ourselves. Finally we moved back nearer to Pulborough and occupied The Rising Sun at Nutbourne in the late 1970s.
In 1981 building work commenced on the Pulborough Sports & Social Club, which, under the guidance of our Chairman John Stapleton, we were instrumental in setting up in partnership with the Football, Cricket and Stoolball Clubs. This jointly run clubhouse was situated alongside the Recreation Ground and became our home until the end of the 2005/06 season. The shared clubhouse served us well but it had always been our desire to become the masters of our own house. For this to happen it was necessary to raise sufficient funds and find an appropriately sized plot of land. The limited availability of a suitable location and the strict criteria applied to planning combined to delay such an ambition for some 25 years, but the culmination of the energies, efforts and ambition of many club members and certain key officers and members of the Club throughout this period resulted in the successful acquisition of the site at Freelands from the Parham Estate in June 2005 and the completion of the new clubhouse, ready for the 2006/07 season.
Throughout our existence, we have experienced the fortunes and challenges common to all small, voluntary and amateur organisations. Since the establishment of the League system in 1987 we slowly climbed from the Sussex third Division into the First, only to find ourselves relegated twice to the Second before finally becoming Sussex 1 Champions in 2011/12 and promotion to London SE3. We returned to Sussex 1 for a season, were champions again then spent two seasons in London SE3, becoming Champions in 2016/17 and gaining promotion to London SE2, our highest ever league level, for our 50th Anniversary season in 2017/18.
There have been other notable triumphs, not least the several occasions that we have won the Sussex Plate Knock Out Competition, but the most memorable win was in 2003 when we won the Sussex Intermediate Shield in a tightly contested match against Crowborough after extra time, with both sets of supporters of course shouting for ‘Borough’!
The success of the club has always depended on those who give their time in the interests of the membership and out of love for our great sport. This is as true on the field of play as it is in the clubhouse where much time and effort is invested. In 1984, Jim North and the late Clive Coulson established the Minis. This proved to be a remarkable success story at a time when mini-rugby was in its infancy both in Sussex and nationally. From a membership of 18 at its inception there were as many as 90 players five years later, rising steadily to the current figure of over 200 boys and girls. In 1987 Pulborough’s Minis won all they contested in every age group, including the Mini Rugby Festival at Worthing RFC. Our prowess has always been well known and respected throughout the County and further afield.
In 1993, in celebration of PRFC’s 25th Anniversary, our guest of honour, the President of the RFU, Ian Beer stated:
“North America, Scandinavia, France and Czechoslovakia are all recovering from the onslaught of your senior team and the RFU wonders where your impact will be felt next!”
The answer followed in the years to come: Dublin, Dallas, Austin, New Orleans, Atlanta, Glasgow, Ulster, Slovenia, Austria, Malmo, Copenhagen, California, Seattle, Vancouver, Holland and Bordeaux, including official fixtures against three national teams: Sweden in 1993, Slovenia and Austria, both in 1995. All of these tours have been driven by the incomparable Andrew Moffat, who claims to be from Scotland but sounds awfully English.
The club tour is of course one of the great events in the rugby calendar. It is the perfect finish to the season. It cements friendships and encompasses sport, song, entertainment, camaraderie, new places, people, traditions and some extraordinary scenes and occurrences. Truly remarkable events have occurred during each of our varied excursions, but of course, ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’.
No history of our Club is complete without reference to the long and distinguished list of our Vic-Presidents and Honorary Vice-Presidents. Longer than most clubs in Sussex it is the envy of the County and a reflection of the efforts and ethos of the club’s founding officers and especially our President for 28 years, Jim North and Chairman for 19 years and current President, Alex Steele.
Our new clubhouse has encapsulated our inimitable culture and traditions, it displays our distinctive memorabilia and is a place where we can generate our own noise and reciprocate the hospitality of those clubs that entertained us in their premises for so long. Of those we hold a special affection for our friends at Seaford RFC and Heathfield & Waldron RFC, who still maintain the old traditions associated with the game. Those old traditions are vital ingredients in our heritage, history and existence. Camaraderie on and off the pitch encourages friendship, esprit de corps, unity and cohesion. It cements the bond of affection we share for Pulborough Rugby Club and it is what sets us apart from many other clubs and entitles members of PRFC to state: Quis Nos Separabit!