Welwyn RFC was originally born as Welwyn (East), and formed in 1931.
The first rugby club in Welwyn Garden City (WGC) was Mid Herts., formed in the mid 1920's and comprised mainly of players from the more affluent West side of town. They had a pitch at Handside Lane but no clubhouse, only a small changing hut with a crude bath.
During the depression years in the 30's, numbers of Welsh from the valleys and Scots from the border woolen mills arrived in town to work in the local hosiery factory or in factories such as Murphy Radio and they formed a rugby club which played on various pitches on the east side of town. The first President was a retired Irish army officer, Major C D Ross. In 1938 the club moved to share pitches with Mid Herts. at Handside Lane.
During the war both clubs closed down and afterwards only Welwyn (East) restarted now known as Welwyn RFC. There was still no clubhouse at Handside Lane and all entertaining was carried out at whichever local pub would tolerate them, mainly the Bull! However, in 1952 a hut was purchased from a local chicken hatchery for £300 and dismantled, moved across town and re-erected by a team of players during the summer.
This was the real beginning of Welwyn RFC as we know it today. A further wooden building was presented by ICI in 1959 and again fitted out by players and committee. The club continued to grow until the present premises were built In 1973. For the first time, changing and social facilities were under the same roof. The current building cost £30,000 compared with £300 for the first hut. The clubhouse was extended in 1996 with the aid of a National Lottery grant.
In the first 30 years of the club's life there were several changes in the source of players. For the first 10 years the Welsh and Scots were predominant, then the Irish came along, mainly due to ICI, who were to provide the main source for the next 20 years. Over the period 1931-1960, out of 20 captains, 17 were Welsh, Scots or Irish and between 1950-1970 out of 15, 10 were from ICI.
In Hertfordshire the Herts Presidents Cup (County Cup) was introduced in 1971. Welwyn have reached the last 8 on several occasions but the best performance was in 1988 when they narrowly lost the semi-final to Cheshunt in injury time. In the Herts Merit Table, introduced in 1980, Welwyn were runners up in this competition in 1997. When league rugby started in 1987 Welwyn were placed in Herts 1. In 1989 Welwyn were promoted into London NW3 as Champions of Herts I having beaten Barnet in a title decider. Welwyn maintained their place in London NW3 over the years finishing in fourth position in season 1995-96 and winning it the following season and gaining promotion to London N2. Welwyn had three good seasons at this level, finishing in fourth position in our first season. During season 1999-2000 the RFU announced a major reshuffle of the lower leagues so as to introduce home and away fixtures at all levels. Despite finishing 9th out of 17, Welwyn found themselves placed back in London NW3. Unfortunately this coincided with the moving on or retirement of a number of key players and the club were unable to halt relegation to London NW4 in season 2000-2001.
With the appointment of a new coach and captain the club retrenched the following season and gained promotion back to London NW3 in season 2002-2003, at the same time reaching the quarter finals of the National Vase knockout competition. Over the next few seasons Welwyn were always pushing for promotion, but couldn't quite make the final leap until season 2005-2006 when after a promotion play-off match at Handside Lane against Harlow, the club won convincingly in front of a large crowd to take their place in London N2. The standard of play in London N2 is very competitive and there are a number of excellent teams looking to move up and through the leagues. Welwyn will do well to maintain this level, though as a club of its size and organisation, it maintains an ongoing ambition to play at the highest level possible.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that some clubs pay players to either join or remain where they are even at this level. As a truly amateur club Welwyn will not travel this route and will endeavour to grow their own players or attract other players for what it is rather than what it pays.
Welwyn's lower sides have always been regarded as very good. The 2nd XV won the Hertford RFC Floodlit Cup on 3 successive occasions (92-93, 93-94 and 94-95). The Colts won the Herts. Colts Cup In 1996. Welwyn won the Herts. Sevens in 1971 and 1978 and the plate in 1989, 92, 94 and 97.
On the subject of International honours, John Wackett of Welwyn RFC and Rosslyn Park played Hooker for England against Ireland and Wales in 1959. In more recent years, Steve Bates who played scrum-half for Welwyn in the late 70's went on to play for Wasps and was on the replacements' bench for England for several seasons before finally winning his cap against Romania in 1989 in Bucharest. Joe Worsley MBE is the most recent Welwyn RFC player to go on to greater things, playing full time for London Wasps in the professional era, he has at time of writing had 72 full England caps as well as being a part of the 2003 World Cup winning side and at last has been selected to tour with the British and Irish Lions winning his place in the 2009 squad.
The Mini/Junior section of the Club was created in 1973 and now has in excess of 400 players with age groups from U7 to Colts, plus very strong girls U15 and U18 teams, the U15 girls winning the National Cup in 2009 and the U18 Girls winning the National Sevens in 2011. It is run by a committed team of men and women who have the welfare of the youngsters in their charge as top priority. All the teams have qualified coaches and assistants and play regularly to a very high standard with matches on a Sunday morning and fixtures throughout the region.
Running five senior sides, Welwyn is always pleased to welcome new players of all standards. The club remains very strong administratively and financial with a first class clubhouse with gym, keen coaches in Andy Riley and Jovan Masalunga and an excellent Captain in Peter Elliott. Come and join us and help Welwyn RFC to maintain its position at the forefront of Hertfordshire rugby.
Compiled by John Gray, Peter Edgerley and John Sargeant