Upper Warlingham Rugby Football Club was founded on 4th September 1922 at Warlingham Village Hall, notices were placed in London and local newspapers that it was the intention to form a rugby club and at a General Meeting at 8.00pm on the 20th of September 1922, Upper Warlingham RFC was duly formed.
The prime movers of this were old members of Leytonstone RFC (now Wanstead) who moved to the district. They persuaded Warlingham Village Sports Club to let them have a pitch. It was still being scythed when the 1st trial game against Westminster Banks Crocks was arranged. They only had 4 players a few days before the game, it was being scythed when the posts were put up and the played in the Leytonstone colours of blue and white as they were the only shirts available. With 15 minutes to go, some 16 players had turned up, they were quickly sorted out and promptly took over 50 points off the above mentioned Crocks!
The White Lion pub in Warlingham became the committee venue, The Village Hall became the changing room, H.D.G. Leveson Gower, owner of the Titsey Estate became President; with Dr Russell Thomas appointed Captain and Bernard Thorpe Vice Captain. The 1st season was played mainly against A XVs with the exception of Dorking and surprisingly Coventry. This game was arranged by Bernard Thorpe for a Wednesday and WRFC narrowly lost by 3-10, it must have been a good game as WRFC were offered Saturday fixtures, as well as playing them the following year. That year we played several 1st Class Clubs’ A XVs including Rosslyn Park (we won 20-0) and Harlequins. That 1st season we played 26 won 17 games and lost 9. The name changed to Warlingham RFC after it was pointed out that there was no such place as Upper Warlingham, it merely being the railway station name!
In February 1923 the 1st Dance was held at the Village Hall and I quote "All the refreshments were provided by our generous Vice Presidents and their ladies and their domestic staff waited at table" How times have changed!
In 1927 when our lease was due for renewal, a proposal was made that the rugby club to become part of the Warlingham Sports and Social Club. This was felt to be completely unacceptable and we started to look for pastures new and, if possible, purchase the land for an official ground. None were available and we rented a field on Mr Compton's Farm at Hamsey Green. During the summer a clubhouse was constructed thanks to donations from VPs but mainly from an Arthur Adam who at the time made a large anonymous donation to see it finished. In that 1st season at our new ground we started to run 3 sides and it was noted in the AGM minutes that "A.J.Adam cheerfully undertook to clear up after the cows every Saturday morning!
By 1930 we were given notice to quit by the new owners of Compton's Farm. Within 18 days, at an EGM a company was approved and formed to raise funds.
Following prolonged negotiations, we became, along with the RFU who eventually offered a loan, the owners of our current ground. Arthur Adam again helped out by providing the deposit at very short notice. Many members rallied round and became holders of debenture stock, so enabling Warlingham Ground Ltd to raise the funds to purchase and pay for our ground. Nothing ever changes and today it still is the determination and generosity of our older members who provided the majority of the funding of our magnificent facility.
By the start of the war, we were running 4 sides and looked forward to running a 5th. However the Royal Tank Corps took over the clubhouse in September 1939 and although we played some 25 games during the time of the war, mainly against Army teams. It would be nearly 8 years before we got our ground back and resumed playing properly. During and immediately after the war, the ground had been taken over by the Surrey Agricultural Committee and all but the first team pitch outside the Clubhouse had been ploughed up. In
1945 the Clubhouse had been let rent free to a boys club. We asked for it all back and it was agreed that it would be restored to its former situation, but unfortunately The Agricultural Committee then ploughed up all the ground including the previously untouched 1st team pitch prior to the handback, consequently no games at all where played in 1947-48 season!
Sadly Arthur Adam died at his Sandbanks, Dorset, home in 1946. He had been made President in 1932 and had done so much financially for the Club. He never saw play resume after the hostilities. Unfortunately he is the only one of our past Presidents that we have no pictorial record of & if anyone reading this has a photograph of him we would be very grateful to receive it to add to the Club archive.
In the 1950s a competition was held to design a club crest, it was won by Mary Evans, wife of Dennis Evans (President 1968-71), it is still used to this day on our ties, programmes, shirts and our new clubhouse.
Surrey Castle at Guildford, Red rose of England and the light blue and white bars of Leytonstone!
The Clubhouse burnt down in 1953; all that was left were the changing facilities. At this time we were running 4 sides and we continued playing using the old changing rooms and offering teas and hospitality at the Leather Bottle Pub in Warlingham village. Ten months later the new clubhouse opened; it had been built by in rapid time by using working parties and the enthusiasm of key members of the WRFC committee and although changing was on the other side of the ground, cars could get at least go up the drive to deposit our lovely tea ladies at the new bar and tearoom.
In 1958 the changing rooms were added to the new building. And in 1965 we purchased further land to give us the ground we have now. In 1967 the new bar was built, just in time to welcome the age of the breathalyser.
Showing the clubhouse bottom right, the additional land to the left with the Elms & Warlingham School being built at the top
By 1964 we were running eight sides on a Saturday and on the 27th January
1964 the team circular announced that all 8 teams had won their matches scoring 241 points for and 14 against. The 1st XV went 36 games without defeat. In 1967/8 we also ran a Wednesday team and an occasional Sunday team which was completely against an RFU directive! Such was our strength that while there were several clubs that matched us down to 5 teams, in the main we could not get strong enough fixtures for our lower sides and that is why we had to change our ‘A’ team to Extra 1st and our ‘B’ team to Extra A. The Ex1st XV had 1st XVs of 15 Clubs in their fixture list, with the AXV played 4 1st teams. We also played our longest Saturday fixtures away to Paignton in Devon, although recent league matches against Jersey have superseded it.
Our very first tour was in 1938 to Eastbourne, we played 3 clubs, Lewes 1st XV L 0-20, Old Azurians L 6-13, and Brighton Cruising Club W 20-0, (I was not aware that cruising played such a long part in Brighton's history!) We toured next in 1951 to Wimbourne, and this tradition has been continued to this day with tours to among others of Pontefract, Leeds, Falmouth, Paris, Amsterdam Budapest and Prague with another tour to Amsterdam and the Argentine in the planning stage for the next two years.
We have had many County Caps, too many to mention, that have played for us and 2 full England Caps, both Tony Horton and Terry Brooke had joined other clubs (Blackheath & Richmond) to get their caps, but returned to us shortly after. In 1974 we even had a current All Black guest for us, Ian Hirst who played in the famous Barbarian/All Black game played for Warlingham the next week against Old Reigatians, not surprisingly we won 16-0. Our mini rugby and junior teams have regularly produced England schoolboys and A and U23 internationals. In many instances they joined 1st Class teams and in later years the professional ranks, in every case they went with our blessing. It is sad to lose a good team player to any other club but we always hope that they will return to give some of their experience to the younger players, as indeed, both Tony and Terry did.
The history of the Club was brought up to date in 1972 in time for our golden anniversary. That year we arranged many special matches including games against Surrey, Public School Wanderers and to celebrate that very first game in 1923, a full Coventry XV which included 5 full internationals.
It was a marvellous day with Ashford, who should have played against our 1st XV that day (Clubs nearly always played the same weekend every year), kindly agreeing to play our Ex1st XV and both Coventry AND Ashford had travelled to Hamsey Green by coach. So extensive were the celebrations that an Ashford player was found asleep on the coach in the centre of Coventry at 1.30am next morning!
It was in the 1970s we made our most important step forward and started Mini and Junior rugby at the Club. This was to provide the players of the future as well as most of the Committee members. Parents who had never played rugby before joined the Club, not to play but to perform all those jobs that make WRFC tick today. Not only do the majority of the teams come through Minis & Juniors, but so do the majority of our committees!
The advent of Leagues meant we had to lose many of our regular fixtures.
Sides that had been dominant in previous years have slipped down, some have amalgamated with other clubs, and many of the Old Boys teams have failed as their schools shut or stopped playing rugby. But we have managed to maintain our position as being a Community Club that plays every standard of rugby, entertain our guests and welcome anyone who loves sport, but rugby in particular. In 2005 we opened the new clubhouse. What more can be said? It incorporates all the character of the old with all the hope we have for the future.