The Club was founded in 1934 by the Bailey Brothers, from the Chequers at Horley and ran only one side for several seasons. The original ground was in the area of “The Clears” in Reigate. It is known that the wooden changing rooms were rather primitive in those days (who said things haven’t changed much) and all the players washed afterwards in a zinc bath. After this, the players generally adjourned to the Railway Hotel for beer and sandwiches.
As the 1939/45 war came closer many Reigate players came from the Army and formed the basis of a very useful side. It is known that Reigate also had a good reputation in “sevens” and won a number of local sevens tournaments. The surrey sevens was in fact held at the Clears on a number of occasions.
The activities of the Club came to a fairly abrupt halt with the outbreak of the war. One ironic twist is that the ground on which the club had been playing was sold to one – Robin Prescott – later to become secretary to the R.F.U.
The club was re-formed after the war, mainly using a pitch in Reigate Priory. The first post war President was Mr. C.T. Pothecary, a well know business man in Reigate and a member of the London Stock Exchange. His son, john, played regularly for the club at second row forward.
The most active member in the resurgence of the Club after the war was undoubtedly Mr. E.F.Potter – Teddy to his friends. Teddy, also an excellent footballer and golfer, was contacted by a Mr. Heber Davis, Town Clerk of Reigate at that time. Mr. Davis suggested that Reigate needed a good Rugby Club and proposed that Teddy should be the one to do something about it.
Teddy agreed and called first on Frank Potter (no relation), who was by then Art Master at Whitgift School. Frank also agreed to help and introduced Teddy to Gerwyn Williams, an ex Welsh International and then sports master at Whitgift school. The result of this introduction was that Whitgift School, perhaps sometimes unknowingly, gate quite a lot of help to the club, and this bond between the two extended well into the 1950’s. It was quite common for staff and pupils from Whitgift to make up the numbers if the club were short.
During the 1950’s the club used various local hostelries as their H.Q. The Whyte Hart, The Market, The Desert Rat, The Castle and The Bell were all popular at different times.
With Teddy Potter becoming secretary, the club managed to obtain a government grant, the terms of which were that more than one sport should be played. The club therefore played cricket during the summer months, mainly on a pitch at the Priory, and achieved quite a reasonable standard.
In the early 1950’s, Dudley Potter (Teddy’s son), worked hard for the club, and was Captain in the 1951/52 season. It was at this time that both Dudley and a youthful Bay Jenkins had Surrey trials and Dudley went on to play for the full Surrey side.
Other Captains I should mention during that period are David Dixon, an ex Cambridge University Centre, and Gordon Simmons, a fine player and supporter of the club for many years, and now a prominent Reigate businessman.
In 1955 Bay Jenkins took over as club Captain and remained skipper until the 1959/60 season.
The steady growth of the club continued throughout the 1950’s and during this period many extremely good players turned out for us. Some examples are:-
- Bill Edge - An English master from Whitgift School; a hard tackling and fast centre.
- Dr Ian Mackie - A Scottish International lock who still lives locally and whose two sons have both played for us.
- Ian Campbell - A Scottish trialist at fly-half
- Ken Spence - Another fine Scottish player and an Oxford blue
- Roy Kennedy - First class back row player for some years
Despite having plenty of fine players, however, the club still did not have a permanent home of their own and by the early sixties the need for the club to acquire their own ground and club house became more and more apparent.
In 1961 the committee took the decision to look for a suitable site and Teddy Potter gave instructions to local Estate Agents to look for a site of between 8 and 10 acres. A suitable site was duly found in Colley Lane but the next question was how the club could raise the money.
In 1962, Teddy Potter (by then President of the club following the death of C.T Pothercary) and Ken Newell, the club secretary, met with a local businessman named George Hodgkins in the Old Wheel restaurant in Reigate. The result of this meeting was that George Hodgkins agreed to advance the money needed to purchase the land, about £4000.
Ken Newell, later to become Chief Executive of the Borough of Crawley, was also energetic in his fund-raising and managed to nearly double this £4000 with grants, donations etc.
The finance having been obtained, the committee went ahead with the purchase and then set about building the club house. All the work was done by members, and all of those who did so must have been justifiably proud of their efforts. Whatever some of us may now feel about the club house, and the need for wholesale repairs or even replacement, there is no doubt that it has provided many happy hours over the years to a great many people, not least the writer.
Immediately after acquiring a permanent home the club also acquired a number of stalwart players who have given considerable support over the years. I mention particularly:-
- Bill Nash - A tough ex army back row player whose tackling became legendary
- Mike Tobitt - A solid second row man, now club President
- Clive Walford - Perhaps the most charismatic character the club has known.
- Tom Jones - A prop forward who seemed to go on forever
Also at this time the club were lucky to have some marvelous club Captains. Names like Mike Spellman, Geoff Manning and Geoff Evans, still cause older members to dream of the good old days.
By the late 1960’s the club was running three sides regularly and frequently managed to field four. A lot of credit for this must go to Pete Rowland, the team secretary at the time, and probably the best the club has ever had. Pete is now living in Australia and his dry humour is sadly missed.
From 1969 to 1971 Bill Nash was club Captain. After a disappointing first year, Bill came storming back to produce a record number of 1st XV wins. Bill was followed as skipper by Gordon Owen, a mercurial Welshman, arguably the best scrum half Reigate have had.
n 1975 Terry Simmons took over as skipper and during his two year term continued to build a good team, eventually breaking the record of Bill Nash for the most number of wins.
Throughout the 1970’s Cyril Mager was President of the club and there is no doubting the enormous debt of gratitude which the club owes to Cyril and to his lovely wife, Peggy for all the efforts they have expended over the years.
I was present at the committee meeting in 1969 when it was decided to ask Cyril if he would like to become more involved with the club. I can assure everyone the committee has never made a better decision.
Two skippers were prominent in the 1970’s. Clive Walford for 3 years and Chris Mager (Minor) for 2 years.
In the mid 1970’s I took over as Club Chairman and was joined soon after by Bay Jenkins as President and Secretary and Nick Parsons as Treasurer. I believe we did manage to get together a strong team on the committee which was essential because financially the club had gone through a very bad spell.
From 1982 to 1984 Ian Matthews was club skipper, a role to which he applied himself with his customary vigour. On the administration side Ian was grateful to be able to rely heavily on such stalwarts as Tony Gregory and Nick Roberts.
In 1980 Terry Boardman became Captain and Mike Tobitt took over as President from the long serving Bay Jenkins. I wish them both well.
So how can I conclude this brief history of the club, firstly, I feel a word about the game of rugby football itself would be appropriate. It is my view, shared by many friends over the years, that rugby is the most complete team game of all. A sport that requires skill, strength, courage and just occasionally even an element of luck. A game where the talent of the individual can still blend perfectly with the disciplines of the whole team. Above all, rugby is a game that develops character. How many rather nervous boys have we seen over the years come forward to play rugby for Reigate and leave in a few years now confident and self-assured young men.
And if rugby is the most complete team game of all, where better to play it than our lovely ground at Colley Hill, nestling amongst the foothills of the beautiful Surrey Downs. And when we do play rugby in this lovely setting, let us spare just a thought, for all those members of days gone by who worked so hard to make it all possible.
And what of the future; will Reigate Rugby Club survive to celebrate its 100th birthday. I sincerely believe so and I only hope I will still be around to help in the celebrations