RECORDS SHOW THAT RUGBY WAS FIRST PLAYED IN TROWBRIDGE DURING THE LATE 1800'S UNDER THE NAME OF TROWBRIDGE VICTORIA. IN THOSE DAYS THE CLUB PLAYED BOTH RUGGER AND ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL DEPENDING ON THE NUMBER OF PLAYERS AVAILABLE EACH WEEK.
It was in 1881 that a team from Trowbridge played Rugby against the Bath club and acquitted itself admirably against the senior club of the area. Due to the growth of soccer in the area Rugger matches became few and far between in the remainder of the century and it was to be a further 40 years before Rugby was played again in the town.
Trowbridge Rugby club was founded at a General Meeting held in the George Hotel on the 18th December 1931.
Trowbridge Rugby Club was formed, like any other sports club, as a result of efforts by people living in the town who were interested in playing the game. A public meeting was held on 18th December 1931 under the chairmanship of Mr. Bob Emerson, at the George Hotel, and the committee was appointed 'to formulate a scheme for the organisation of the Club'. One of the members of that Committee was Ken Merrett, who was to be an officer of the Club until the mid 1960s, and became the Club's first Life Vice- President.
The enthusiasts were unable to wait. On January 9th a team travelled to Swindon, and beat Swindon 6 points to 3. Swindon were formidable opponents even in those days, and this was indeed a good start. The Trowbridge team was: Goodbrook; Hamm, Shinie, Sainsbury, John; Emerson, Hoey; Slater, Tompkins, Needham, Inkin, Nott, Bown, Hussey and Merrett. The Hussey who played was Guy Hussey, later to become Club President, and the Merrett, of course, was Ken Merrett.
||The second public meeting was held on 29th January 1932, with Mr. Sidney Smith, the Chairman of Trowbridge Urban District Council in the chair. It was agreed that the club should be formed, and John Sainsbury was elected Secretary, Ken Merrett match Secretary, and Mr J.E. Porter, who was the club’s Auditor until 1965, was Treasurer. The subscription was to be 5 shillings (25p)and match fees 1 shilling (5p) per game.
It was reported that 8 fixtures had been arranged, and that there were between 35 and 40 players. In the event, 34 players turned out in the nine games which were eventually played. The meeting was told that it was hoped that two teams might be fielded in 1932-33, but in the event 14 years were to pass before this was achieved.
The first ‘official’ game was against Oldfield Old Boys at Bath on 30th January 1932, the home side winning 18-3. The first home game was against Devizes, the following Saturday, and drawn 0-0. That first season the club played on a field rented from the Council where Clarendon Avenue now stands. Even in those days there was a shortage of playing fields, and when the letting of this field came before the Council, one councillor observed that people had to go almost to North Bradley or West Ashton in order to play organised games. The rent of the ground was 10/- (50p) per match.
That first season, all the other matches played at Clarendon were won, Marlborough being defeated 7-0, Avon Sports 6-3; and Frome 3-0. The heaviest defeat was 24-3 by Bath St. Marks and the return game with Avon Sports was lost 5-3. The climax came in the last match of the season when the team travelled to Chippenham and won a cliff-hanging victory by 9 points to 8.
To win 5 out of the 9 matches played in the first season was a creditable performance, and much credit was due to the captain, Bob Emerson, who was to render yeomen service to the club, both as player and administrator until he went to live in Swindon in 1948, and the vice-captain John Sainsbury.
||Socially the club had a very successful time. A supper was held at which everyone appears to have enjoyed themselves, but, financially, the season was rather less successful, as at the end of the season, an application had to be made to the Bath Combination for a grant to cover the deficit.
There was also the ground problem to be faced - not for the last time. There was no changing accommodation at Clarendon, and the players changed in a stable at the rear of the Roundstone Hotel (now the Post Office). However, Mr. Amor Pike came to the rescue, and offered the Club a lease on a field at the Hilperton Tennis Club, and arrangements were made to use the pavilion at the Hilperton Tennis Club for changing. The field is the one between ‘Durlston’ and the first house in the village, and for many years the thatched pavilion could be seen, growing more and more dilapidated in the corner.
For the first 2 seasons the team played in all black shirts and shorts. It was not until 1934-35 that the current club colours were introduced.
The 1938-39 season was to be the last for 6 years although no one realised this in September 1938. It was the time of Munich, the clouds were gathering, but everyone hoped that war had been avoided.
The club was still struggling financially, the accounts for the 1938-39 season showing an overdraft at the end of the season of £2 11s 4d. The match fees were still 1s 6d per game but it was decided to increase the match fee to away games to 2s (10p) and to charge players having tea 1/- (5p). Despite the international situation, fixtures were arranged for 1939-40, but war was declared on 3rd September 1939, and a Committee meeting was held on September 25th when the following minute was passed:
Future of the Club. In view of the outbreak of war, it was unanimously resolved that the activities of the club be suspended for the duration of the war. The various items of dressing room equipment and the rugby posts are to be placed in store with Mr Hussey until required again. The funds of the club, approximately two pounds, are to remain deposited with Lloyd’s Bank, Ltd, Trowbridge.
The minutes were then signed by George Needham, Guy Hussey and Bob Emerson.
On 13th May 1946 a General Meeting was held at the Market Tavern under the Chairmanship of Bill Mullens, and on the proposal of Jim Brindley, seconded by John Sainsbury, it was resolved that the club be revived forthwith. Some familiar faces were again seen in office; Bob Emerson resumed as General Secretary, Ken Merrett Fixture Secretary, a post he held for the next twenty years; Bill Mullens became Treasurer and Roger Hammond, brother of John became Match Secretary.
The problems of reviving the club were immense. Only 4 players, Jim Brindley, Bob Emerson, A. Thomas and Guy Hussey remained from the 1938-39 side. Two members would never play again. John Hammond had been killed in a flying accident near Gloucester, and young John Emery was also killed in action. Jim Brindley took up the task of captaincy, and at no time was the enthusiasm and ability of the officers more sorely needed than in this first post war season.
A set of jerseys had survived the war, and an approach to Amor Pike revealed that the Hilperton Road ground and pavilion would again be made available. Roger Hammond secured a set of posts, but there was still a problem over shorts and socks, and also travel as both clothing and petrol were rationed. Many clubs just did not re-start after the war and it was entirely due to the calibre of those concerned that the Trowbridge club survived at this time.
It was this moment in time that the name of F.W. King appears in the club history. ‘Stan’ King was appointed to the staff of the Boys’ High School just after the outbreak of the war, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that he was a rugby fanatic. He became Club Chairman on his release from the R.A.F., and at the same time introduced rugby to the schools, and infused the boys with his own enthusiasm for the game. He was aided by Rev. Noel Calvin, the minister at the Congregational, now the United Reform, Church, an Irish triallist. At long last there was a source of recruitment from a school. Some boys of real ability were discovered, and, almost immediately, the school team was unbeaten during the Autumn Term 1946. This was to provide the town club with a source of players for the future.
In the early 1950’s the club leased a new ground on the site of the old barracks in Bradley Road. However the search was still on for a permanent home.
It was not until 1963 that the club moved to its current head-quarters in Green Lane where it has remained ever since.
Since 1963 the club has gone from strength to strength. What first started out as three senior teams of approximately 50 players has now developed to a mini’s group consisting of boys and girls of ages 4 to 12 years and youth group for ages 13 to 18 years. The club has introduced ladies rugby for two age groups 14 and 17 years. In total the club now has in excess of 200 registered players of all ages.
However this success has brought its own problems. The club is now in a similar position to which it found itself 50 years ago. The current two pitches are inadequate to support all of the activities taking place at the club. Once again the Pike family in Hilperton has offered some land on the edge of the village and the rugby club has taken an option to purchase the field. The club has made a planning application to build houses on its current ground at Green lane which, if successful, should finance the purchase of the new ground and construction of a new state of the art clubhouse and changing facilities.
The rugby club has high aspirations for the future and is looking to continue building on the success of the last 75 years, and that of the England team, which has encouraged large numbers of youngsters to take up the game in the town.
The future looks bright for Trowbridge Rugby Club and the club is looking forward to its centenary celebrations.
New players and members are always welcome to the club. Anyone wishing to make contact can do so by filling out the enquiry form or phone the club on 01225 761389. Training for seniors takes place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7.30pm, minis and juniors Sunday mornings at 10.00am and ladies Sunday afternoon at 1.30pm