Formed in 1927, Old Reigatian RFC is one of the most spectacular sporting grounds in Surrey.
With a wealth of history, see below, and comprising of 30 acres of land the club offers the local community six playing pitches (two floodlit) and one training pitch as well as outstanding club facilities and plenty of parking. All within a five minute walk from Reigate Town Centre.
Playing members can sign up from the moment they start Reception and many stay with us as social members once their playing days are over. We have two regular senior sides (with the 1st XV playing in the London Two South West League), a Vets team and an U21 team. We also have Minis, Juniors and Girls sections totalling more than 600 children, plus a Touch Rugby section, Walking Rugby and the newly formed Senior Women’s rugby section. We really do offer rugby to everyone, whatever your age or ability.
Whilst we compete very successfully in all areas of the club, are main goal is for our members to have fun and we also have a thriving social side to the club.
We are not all about the rugby!
The current clubhouse was finally opened in 2012 and since then we have hosted weddings, parties, fundraisers, sports days, office events etc. There is never a dull moment as we have also featured on the TV!
Members and the local community are always welcome to come and enjoy a drink in the bar, especially on match days when the atmosphere is fantastic. If you are thinking about hiring out the club have a look on our events page to find out more information. We would love to see you down there!
Old Reigatian RFC
At roughly the start of 1926 Reigate Grammar School made the switch to rugby from football. 18 months later, in May 1927, Old Reigatian RFC was founded.
The club rented grounds in St Alban’s Road and used the local swimming baths, in Castleford Road, as their changing rooms. After one year, they moved to Home Farm, Merstham. Here they rented a pitch on top of a hill a mile from the changing facilities (The Feathers pub). Sharing the pitch with a herd of cows, a shovel was an essential part of the home teams’ groundsman’s equipment.
It wasn’t long until the Club was on the move again , this time to The Jolliffe Arms (A23 bottom of Shepherd’s Hill). Where the 30 players shared one ordinary domestic bath and two galvanised baths. Due to the distance to the pitch, it is rumoured that, any car owner could be sure of his place in the 1st XV.
The Club’s first game was played against the old Crawley Club and resulted in a 50-0 defeat. The return match 14 days later saw a 9 – 6 victory. In the days between these two games, the Club recorded its first win, beating the Grammar School, 17 – 3. The same season saw the 1st XV lose to Dorking by a massive 56-0. On the upside, there was a win over Dorking “A” by 63 – 4 with the return fixture scratched by Dorking. The following season Dorking RFC sponsored ORRFC’s application for affiliation to the RFU. This was the start of a long, competitive relationship with the Club’s neighbours.
Dorking RFC is the only team to have been on the Club’s fixture lists from the start. The boisterous annual Boxing Day match was an annual highlight since pre-war days. In the early 2000s league restructuring saw the annual Boxing Day fixture replaced by an Under-21 Christmas Eve match. Today, the local rivals compete each year for the Ben Regan Cup.
Club success demanded commitment from members! There are a few are worthy of special mention.
One, Norman Holt, was integral to the Club’s development. Norman was Club Secretary for 45 years and instrumental in gaining RFU affiliation. By the time the Club celebrated it’s 50th anniversary in 1977,the plan was for him to take over as Club Chairman. Sadly, that also proved to be the year the Club lost this most loyal of servants. Until his untimely passing Norman was untiring in his efforts on behalf of the Club. Especially when it came to securing the future of the Club at a home of its own in Reigate. These efforts were frustrated throughout the interwar years. It was only post war that the current land in Park Lane was acquired. It is due to Norman’s enterprise and dedication that the Club now benefits from their own grounds.
In the aftermath of World War 2, the Club reformed. It suffered many service and civilian losses amongst members. The Club’s Memorial Fireplace was created for the dining hall of the Old Clubhouse. Today it has pride of place in the Clubhouse Holt Room.
The move to Park Lane coincided with the resumption of rugby and ORRFC started playing again in 1946 -47 season. Arthur Rank (later to become Lord Rank) gave permission to use his land and once again the Public Baths became the changing rooms. Post-match tea was held in the old NALGO canteen housed in Nissan huts behind the Town Hall. Players would have a dull couple of hours before opening time at The White Hart on Church Street. But rugby was back, and the Club were in a position to field two teams for the season. Things would get better and membership grew in the ensuing years.
By 1951 the half-acre site had been leased from Arthur Rank (later bought for the nominal sum of £50). Using members’ labour the construction of the Pavilion clubhouse in Park Lane began. Changing rooms with a plunge bath and showers, as well as a new bar were installed. The Club now had its permanent home!
Geoffrey Knight, another founder member, was Club Chairman for the 21 years immediately after the war. He had played a major part in the acquisition and building of the Pavilion. By the time of the 50th anniversary in 1977, he was still Secretary of the Pavilion Finance Fund.
The official opening of the Pavilion by the President of Surrey RFU, H.R. Frisby, took place on 18th September 1954. R.E. Prescott, Hon. Secretary of the RFU, brought down a team of distinguished players, including R.V. Stirling, Captain of England.
The land itself was developed significantly over the following years. In 1955, 7½ acres of land adjoining the Pavilion were purchased and two full pitches laid out. By 1960, the Club had its own Tea Room, again built by members. And in 1970 a further 5½ acres alongside the first two pitches were acquired. The Club could now boast freehold of a first class Pavilion clubhouse and four pitches, all within a few minutes’ walk of the centre of Reigate.
By the time of the 50th anniversary in 1977, a further and final extension was built by the members. The Pavilion clubhouse now included the original Norman Holt room and extra changing rooms.
Financially, life post-war for the Club, as for the Country, was tough. Fundraising was a vital part of club life. During the fifties and sixties, more than £15,000 came through Club events.
Instigated by the late Eric Smith in 1965, The 150 Club is one of our most important fundraisers and has raised around £250,000! Today, fundraising remains an important element of the working of the Club.
Old Reigatian was originally a closed club, open only to old boys of Reigate Grammar School. After WW2 the introduction of associate membership allowed non-old boys to join. However, they would be without voting rights and unable to serve as officers of the club.
The Club history has forged a strong relationship with Reigate Grammar School. Today relationships also exist with other local schools, most notably Dunottar. These schools provide a stream of players for the Mini, Junior and Girls sections.
In the 1950s under J.S. Clarke and then A.C. Osbourne, the Club enjoyed considerable playing success. In 1951 only one 1st XV match was lost, that being a defeat by Dorking in the Boxing Day game. During the sixties and seventies the Club expanded and by 1980 was running six sides. These included ‘The Nondescripts’, so named because polite language cannot describe them!
In the sixties and seventies, the Club made two appearances in the Surrey Cup final. The undoubted high point in the Club’s playing history came in the 1986/87 season. The historic run in the John Player Cup (Rugby’s FA Cup) saw Old Reigatian reached the 5th round. We defeated the mighty Exeter and Saracens before losing to Gloucester at Kingsholm. A match that not only made the national press but also national television.
Other memories include three visits to the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham in 1977, 1978 and 1985. This was a time when the event was widely regarded in rugby circles as the finale to the season. Here, junior clubs had a chance to mix it with the biggest clubs of the time. In 1977, ORs faced Leicester in the first round, only losing 16 – 12 in a remarkably close fought match. A year later and they faced the mighty Hawick from Scotland, losing in the first round. In 1985, ORs again faced Scottish opposition in Heriot’s FP, losing out to a squad that contained four full Scottish internationals.
In 1990 the RFU introduced the nationwide league system and the Club was placed in London Two South. Here they played for eight years before spending five years in London Three South.
In 1996 the Club voted overwhelmingly to end its closed status. In doing so they allowed all rugby players and social members to be full members of the Club. A change which had to happen if the Club was to keep up with the growth of Reigate as a town. The Club was also attracting children from reception age up to their minis and juniors section. This section continues to bring in high income to the Club via membership and bar/food sale. More importantly it is a pipeline of players for the senior teams of the future.
This important Club section started in the early 1970s under Brian Rushworth. It provided an opportunity for youngsters to play a sport not available in many of the local schools. By 1996 the minis section had grown to more than 250 boys and girls and the Club had an occasional Junior (Under 14 and over) squad. There are now more than 500 Mini and Junior players, as well as a flourishing Girls section.
In the first season of the new Millennium the national league structure was reformed. It caught ORRFC in a downward spiral, and the club was placed in Surrey One. It took four years to break out of this highly competitive County League. A year later we moved from London Four to London Three, where the Club have remained ever since. Although today, following yet another RFU reshuffle this league is known as London Two South West.
The early years of the 21st Century were hard as the Club struggled for new players. Following England’s victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup The Mini and Junior section was growing. However, it was not until 2006 that it started to see real growth in the number of senior players.
The Club now has two regular senior sides and a Vets side. The creation of a county-wide competition, known as the ‘John Douglas Cup’, gave us a strong Under 21 squad.
The Club finally achieved its long held aim of running teams from Under 6 to Vets (The Badgers). Plus the introduction the Girls Section in 2013, Touch Rugby in 2018 and Women’s Rugby in 2021 means we continue to grow.
By far the biggest, and most important, development for the Club in recent years has been the building of the new Clubhouse. Conceived in the early 1990s, planning permission was finally granted in the early 21st Century. Club President, Sir Peter Harrison, was the driving force behind the project. His financial help, sheer determination and ambition was crucial to it’s success. Opened in 2012, this magnificent facility had to close twice due to arson attacks. It finally Reopened in 2015.
With the Clubhouse and the recent development of 12-acre field, ORRFC is a club to be proud of. Six pitches (two floodlit), a training pitch, first-class changing facilities, gym, physio room, bar and catering for 160 people. All these facilities are available to members as well as the wider community.