On 18 October, 1863, the committee of Darlington Cricket Club held a special meeting to discuss the problem of members who drifted away during the winter months. It was the club's president, Mr Speciall, who suggested a possible solution. He proposed that 'A Club be formed to play Football according to the Rugby Code, to supersede cricket during the winter.'
The proposal was agreed unanimously, and Darlington Rugby Club was born - although for some years it was to be known as Darlington Football and Athletic Club. The word 'Rugby' was not incorporated into its title until the 1880s, when Association Football started to become popular.
Bob Jackson, a lomg time club member and past president, has written an early history of the club which is available to purchase from the clubhouse.
The North East's original Rugby Club - for such it was - was first captained by Tom Watson, a great sportsman whose family owned a saddlery business in town. By 1865 it had 80 members, who organised matches amongst themselves, but by the late 1860s, mainly on Tom Watson's initiative, regular fixtures were arranged against Durham School, Leeds and Rochdale, among others. In 1872 Darlington played a Northumberland side on the cricket ground at Newcastle, and when the first inter-county match was organised in the following year, between Durham and Yorkshire, the whole of the Durham side was made up of Darlington men.
Following a period of doldrums in the early 20th century, caused not least by the First World War, Darlington RFC gained new strength in the 1920s and 1930s, when it produced several first rate County players. One of them was the late G. Tarn Bainbridge, who became President of the RFU in 1975.
Between the wars, Darlington RFC' ground was at Hunden's Lane (next door to the infectious diseases hospital!) It moved to a new site at Lingfield Lane in 1952, and from there to its present magnificent premises at Blackwell Meadows in 1994.