Rugby club played first ever game at The Saffrons

A BOOK about the history of Eastbourne Rugby Football Club is being written this year its 120th anniversary.

John Feakins, club archivist and patron, will write the book which will be published in December.

Eastbourne Rugby Club played its first ever game against Brighton at The Saffrons in 1892.

The idea for a rugby football club had come from the Rev C.E. Roberts, an Oxford graduate, who was an assistant master at Eastbourne College.

Two years on from the club’s founding, Eastbourne RFC used the New Inn, now Bibendum, as its headquarters and changing rooms.

However in 1911 the formation of a new rugby club was announced and Victor, the 9th Duke of Devonshire, became the club’s honourary president.

It was called the Devonshire Park (Eastbourne) Rugby Football Club and played their matches at Devonshire Park. The club continued until 1914 when the outbreak of hostilities all but ended sporting activities.

It wasn’t until 1928 that the club was reformed and matches returned to The Saffrons.

In 1934, the Saturday XV played in Hampden Park for the first time.

Another four years down the line, and a stand was built for spectators on Martin’s Field as Eastbourne hosted a Sussex trial.

But wartime interrupted again, and organised sport suffered as the rugby pitch was turned into a potato field.

After World War Two, the club had to play games on a well-used patch of land behind Roseberry Avenue.

A further new stand was then erected in the mid-fifties, followed by a clubhouse built by the members themselves.

Several grants from local government, the Department of Education and other sporting bodies boosted the money pot for a new clubhouse in Hampden Park, and this was formally opened in April 1970 by club president Frank Busby.

Professionalism in the 1990s saw Eastbourne enter the London leagues where they have stayed since.

But from next year that will change after a nightmare season means they will play in Sussex One next season. The team’s only win during the current campaign was wiped from the record books after Crawley withdrew from the league.

r The club is hosting exhibitions later this month at The Clubhouse in Park Avenue, Hampden Park, with displays of historical newspapers articles, memorababilia and photos on show. The first of these takes place on Friday, April 27, (7pm-9.30pm), followed by two more on Saturday, April 28, and Sunday, April 29. Weekend exhibitions run 2pm-5pm, entrance £1.