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Historical Rugby Milestones 1890s

Carl Mullen signs rugby ball for small boy

1890s A short Historical Back drop of Britain

  • Death duties are introduced 1894
  • Guglielmo Marconi is awarded a patent for radio communication 1897
  • Women's suffrage campaign gains momentum 1897
  • Second Boer War begins in South Africa 1899

1890 - Wales beat England for the first time.

The 'British' Barbarians was founded on April 9th Leuchters Restaurant, at the Alexandra hotel, Bradford. WP Carpmael conceived his brilliant idea late one evening in Bradford, at a time when practically every club ceased playing in early March. There were no tours and players just "packed up" until the following season, but his scheme for collecting a touring side from all sources; to tackle a few leading clubs in the land, instantly received support from the best.

Carpmael's great idea that the Barbarian Club should be absolutely cosmopolitan with the aim of spreading good-fellowship amongst all rugby football players has been rigidly adhered to by those who have followed him in the management of the club. Membership is by invitation and the only qualifications considered when issuing an invitation are; that the player's football is of a good enough standard and secondly that he should behave himself on and off the field. There is no discrimination whatsoever by race, colour or creed.

They beat Hartlepool Rovers 9-4 on 27th December in their first fixture.

One uncapped player is to appear in every match. It used to be a tradition that any tour to Britain was to be finished with a game against the BaaBaas. These matches were to be fascinating displays of brilliant running rugby with loads of tries. Other fixtures include one against the English Champions at the end of the season and one against Leicester on Boxing Day.

England becomes a member of the IRFB.

1891 - Points scoring applied to international championships.

South Africa's first international fixture. They lose 4-0 against the touring British Isles team in Port Elizabeth. This was also the first time a British team had toured South Africa. Under the captaincy of Scottish international W. E. Maclagen, they won all 20 matches on the tour, conceding only one point. They remain the only British Isles side to win every game on a tour.

The tourists carried with them a a golden cup given to the British Isles squad by Sir Donald Currie, owner of Union-Castle Lines, the shipping company that transported them to the southern tip of Africa. Sir Donald told them to present the trophy to the team in South Africa that gave them the best game and after a spirited display, Griqualand West became the first ever holders of the Currie Cup.

It is often disputed who first won the 'Currie Cup' as it's now know:

  • The first provincial competition took place in 1889 and was won by Western Province before the cup even arrived in South Africa. They have their name on the cup for that year.
  • Griqualand West were presented with the cup in 1891 after their game against the tourists (there was no provincial tournament that year due to the tour). They have their name on the cup also.
  • Western Province won the first provincial tournament that was played for the cup itself in 1892 and their name was added to the cup again.

To this day the trophy remains the holy grail of South African rugby. They then donated the trophy to the rugby board, and it became the prize for the Currie Cup competition.

1892 - The New Zealand Rugby Football Union was formed.

Charges of professionalism were made against clubs in Bradford and Leeds, Yorkshire after they compensated players for missing work. This was despite the fact that the RFU was allowing other players to be paid, such as the 1888 England team that toured Australia, or the account of Harry Hamill of his payments to represent New South Wales (NSW) against England in 1904.

Wins over Wales, Ireland and Scotland made England undisputed champions in a season where they did not conceed a point.

back J.T. Toothill, J.Pyke, W. Yiend, W.E. Bromet, G.C. Hubbard, F. Evershed; middle: T. Kent, C. Emmott, F.H.R. Alderson (capt.), E. Bullough, R.E. Lockwood, A. Allport; front: W. Nichol, W.B. Thomson, A. Brigs.



The Rugby Match
The Rugby Match - Wollen, William Barns

The Rugby Match depicts the 1893/94 Country Championship between Lancashire & Yorkshire, the match was played at Bradford. The score was Yorkshire 1 Goal, 2 Tries (11 points) to 1 Try (3 points).

The painting was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1896. William Barnes Wollen's work was a familiar sight at the Royal Institute from 1879 as well as the Royal Academy. He was awarded a Silver Medal in Paris in 1899 at the Exposition Universelle.

Its history since then and who it was comissioned for remains unknown but it turned up for sale in a Newcastle art gallery in 1957. The painting was inspected by Mr Robinson and three members of the Yorkshire Rugby Union committee, Mr Alan Dawson, the president, Mr Frank Malir and Mr. Eddie Simpson. They decided to purchase the painting and offer it to the Yorkshire Rugby Union.

The painting was formerly displayed at the Otley Club in Yorkshire from 1957, but is now held at the Rugby Football Union headquarters in Twickenham.

With the help of the daughter of Mr Tom Broadley, the Yorkshire Captain of 1895-96, it has been possible to identify a number of the players and committee members.

1 J.C.Goold   2 J.Jolley
3 G.Nowell   4 H.Bradshaw
5 G.Woodward   6 I.Valentine
7 S.Wilson   8 R.Wilson
9 H.Speed   1o A.Barrett
11 A.Rigg   12 T.Broadley
13 R.Wood   14 F.Firth
15 S.Lees   16 A.Barraclough
17 H.Varley   18 Mr Rowland Hill
19 W.Hall   20 R.E.Lockwood
21 W.McCutcheon   22 F.W.Cooper
23 J.Toothill   24 Mr. M.Newsome
25 T.H.Dobson   26 Mr. Barron Killner
27 Mr. W.M. Cail   28 Mr. F.A.Grover
29 Mr. J.H.Payne   30 Mr.A.N.Hornby
31 Mr.A.M.Crooke   32 Mr.R.Walker
33 Mr.J.A.Miller      

The "Great Schism"

A commitment of the union was a strict adherence to the principles of amateurism.

However, in the industrial North of England many working class men were now playing the game, especially mill workers and minors. The loss of earnings that such a worker experienced whilst playing rugby on a Saturday was considerable and so became a major inhibitor. The clubs began to make 'broken time' payments as compensation for the loss of income.

By 1893 reports of some players in the North of England receiving payments for playing were reaching the Rugby Union on a regular basis. One early incident of note was the professional of David and Evan James on March 29th, 1893. The brothers were both Welsh internationals and played for Broughton Rovers. Both were suspended from the union but the club went unpunished due to no evidence of its complicity.

Following a complaint from the Cumberland County Union that another club had lured one of their players away with monetary incentives. The Union established a committee of enquiry consisting of F.I. Currey, W. Cail and A.M. Crook which attempted to obtain evidence. The rugby union was warned that if the club involved was punished, all the chief clubs in Lancashire and Yorkshire, from which a large proportion of international players were drawn, would secede from the Union.

The matter came to a head at a general meeting of the rugby union on September 20th, 1893 at the Westminster Palace Hotel. At that meeting a proposal was made by J.A.Millar, of Yorkshire County and seconded by M. Newsome, also of Yorkshire (both members of the RU committee) that "players be allowed compensation for bona fide loss of time". This was opposed by G. Rowland Hill, Honorary secretary of the union since 81-82, supported by R.S. Whalley of Lancashire, a vice president, moved the following amendment: "that this meeting, believing that the above principle is contrary to the true interest of the game and its spirit, declines to sanction the same". This amendment was carried by 282 to 136 votes despite the Northerners traveling down to the meeting en mass in two special trains. H.E. Steed of Lennox F.C. had polled all the clubs in the union and had proxies for 120 clubs against professionalism.

The matter did not however end there and there was another general meeting held immediately afterwards where careful revisions were carefully prepared to crush and attempts to start professionalism in any form. By-law #1 for example was changed to declare that "the name of the society shall be called the 'Rugby Football Union' and only clubs comprised entirely of amateurs shall be eligible for membership, and its headquarters shall be London where all general meetings shall be held."

Issue of "broken time" payments reaches boiling point at the RFU's AGM. Hornby - a true amateur - argues for broken time payments because "the so-called amateur sides ask for large guarantees, publish no balance sheets and distribute expenses far larger than would be paid to a professional player".
Yorkshire complain that, although there are more rugby clubs in the North of England than in the South, more Southerners than Northerners populate the RFU Committee. Also, Committee meetings are held in London at times that are not suitable for northern folk to attend.

More revisions were to be planned and implemented in 1895. Read the full story

1893 - The referee was given the whole responsibility for running a game.

Wales first won the triple crown by beating England, Scotland and Ireland.

Glamorgan Wanderers (Wales) and Redegar (Wales) founded.

March 4th 1893 - England vs. Scotland at Headingley

England vs. Scotland at Headingley

Score: England (0) 0 - 8 (4) Scotland

England Scotland
Drops none Drops Boswell, Campbell
WG Mitchell
AE Stoddart (c)
JW Dyson
FP Jones
CM Wells
H Duckett
F Evershed
F Soane
JJ Robinson
JT Toothill
WE Bromet
W Yiend
H Bradshaw
T Broadley
LJ Percival
HJ Stevenson
GT Campbell
G MacGregor
W Neilson
JW Simpson
W Wotherspoon
HTO Leggatt
TL Hendry
JD Boswell (c)
RS Davidson
WB Cownie
JE Orr
WR Gibson
TM Scott
RG MacMillan

Referee WH Wilkins (Wales)

Bedford RFC go through season of 28 matches unbeaten.

1894 - Try worth 3 points and a conversion 2 points rather than the other way round.

SC 1880 Frankfurt became the first German team to travel to England, where they played Blackheath RFC. The Germans were beaten 29-0. From then on their kit was to be red and black in honour of Blackheath’s.

Bedford RFC played and beat Syade Francais.

1895 - By the end of July 1895, Huddersfield, Batley, Dewsbury, Bradford, Manningham, Leeds, Halifax, Brighouse Rangers, Hull, Liversedge, Hunslet and Wakefield had announced their resignation from the Yorkshire Union. They were now rugby outcasts.

On Tuesday, August 20, at a meeting at the Mitre Hotel, Leeds, the 12 clubs agreed they should form a Northern Union, but at the same time made it clear they wished to retain their links with the Yorkshire Union. It was decided that a five-man panel would meet a sub-committee of the Yorkshire Union to place before them a scheme for the settlement of the dispute.' The Union, however, immediately rejected the proposal.

The clubs decided to break all links with the union and to form the Northern Rugby Football Union NRFU (on amateur lines, but with the acceptance of the principle of payment for broken time). It was also agreed to hold a joint meeting of Yorkshire and Lancashire clubs at the George Hotel, Huddersfield on Thursday, August 29, when the formation of the NRFU could be officially announced.

george hotel   george hotel
George Hotel, Huddersfield 1895
Modern picture

The Huddersfield Examiner the following day stated: "On Thursday night, a meeting of the representatives of the Senior Clubs of Lancashire and Yorkshire was held at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, to consider the question of the formation of a northern Football Union. The meeting was held in private and lasted close on three hours. At the conclusion, representatives of the press were informed the following men had been present at the meeting: Mr H H Waller (Brighouse), Mr J Platt (Oldham), Mr J Nicholl (Halifax), Mr H Sewell (Leeds), Mr F Lister (Bradford), Mr C A Brewer (Hull), Mr J Clifford (Huddersfield), Mr J L Whittaker (Hunslet), Mr J H Fallas (Wakefield), Mr F Wright (Widnes), Mr E Gresty (Broughton Rangers), Mr J Goodall (Batley), Mr F Dennett (St Helens), Mr J Quirk (Leigh), Mr J Warren (Warrington), Mr G Taylor (Tyldesley), Mr E Wardle (Wigan), Mr A Fattorini (Manningham), Mr W Brierley (Rochdale Hornets), Mr J H Hampshire (Liversedge) and Mr C Holdsworth (Dewsbury). Mr Waller was elected to the chair and Mr Platt was elected secretary. The first resolution adopted was: "The clubs here represented decide to form a Northern Rugby Football Union, and pledge themselves to push forward without delay its establishment on the principle of payment for bona fide broken time only." So 22 of the leading clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire met and formed the Northern Rugby Union (later to become known as Rugby League in 1922).

The 22 clubs had been formed some time previously e.g.: Batley 1880, Bradford 1863, Brighouse Rangers 1878, Broughton Rangers 1877, Dewsbury 1875, Halifax 1873, Huddersfield 1864, Hull 1865, Hunslet 1883, Leeds 1890, Leigh 1877, Liversedge 1877, Manningham 1876, Oldham 1876, Rochdale Hornets 1871, St Helens 1874, Tyldesley 1879, Wakefield Trinity 1873, Warrington 1875, Widnes 1875, Wigan 1879. Dewsbury withdrew a few days after the meeting and were replaced by Runcorn (1876). Stockport was also included at the meeting at the George after calling in by phone.

Clubs by Shire:

In Yorkshire:-

  • Batley,
  • Bradford,
  • Brighouse Rangers,
  • Halifax,
  • Huddersfield,
  • Hull,
  • Hunslet,
  • Leeds,
  • Liversidge,
  • Manningham,
  • Wakefield Trinity

In Lancashire:-

  • Broughton Rangers,
  • Leigh,
  • Oldham,
  • Rochdale Hornets,
  • St Helens,
  • Tyldesley,
  • Warrington,
  • Wigan,
  • Widnes

The Cheshire clubs, Runcorn and Stockport, joined the break-away clubs in time to start the inaugural season.

On September 19. 1895 at a general meeting of the RFU, further by-law changes were made to guard against professionalism which had been growing fast in the leagues of North England.

It was a very bitter severance of rugby into two rival camps and acrimony continued for something like a hundred years.

At first, and until 1995 in fact, a major distinguishing feature of the two codes was that rugby league was a professional sport, and rugby union strictly amateur. This though has tended to obscure the fact that, despite their common origins, the two games have evolved into two quite different sports. Since the split in 1895, both codes have made their own distinct rules, and a game of rugby league is almost immediately distinguishable from a game of union. Read the full story

eng 1895
England 1895

Zimbabwe RFU founded (known as Rhodesia RFU until 1980).

1897 - South Wales Police RFC founded.

Scotland and Ireland refuse to play Wales due to the Gould affair.

Numbering of jerseys adopted.


March 11th - Scotland defeated England 5-0 at Blackheath in the last game between the sides of the 19th century. A try from halfback John Gillespie and a conversion from William Thomson were enough to disappoint the 25,000 spectators amassed at the Rectory Field.

June 24th in Sydney, the first British test side to play a combined Australian team in their first test. Australia consisted of nine players from New South Wales and six players from Queensland.

Although many fine players were not available to travel, the Rev. Mullineux of Cambridge university, put together a side with representation from the four home nations for the first time including seven internationals i.e. Gwyn Nicholls (Wales), Alex Timms (Scotland), Blucher Doran (England), Alf Butcher (Scotland), Frank Stout (England), Tom McGown (Ireland) and George Gibson (England).

Four tests were played on the tour:
June 24th Australia won 13 - 3.
July 22nd in Brisbane Britain won 11 - 0.
August 5th in Sydney Britain won 11 - 10.
August 12th in Sydney Britain won 13 - 0.

The first Irish team to tour overseas. They tour Canada playing 11 games. They win 10 and lose one but do not play any Tests.

Argentinian Rugby Union founded.



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