Territorial Army officers and men of the Sussex Yeomanry formed a rugby club, which was affiliated to the Rugby Football Union in 1933. Records of their results have been lost in the mist of time but, post war in 1945 the players reformed and continued to turn out on Saturdays, the home matches being played at East Brighton Park. There is a picture lurking in a corner of the clubhouse of the Sussex Yeomanry RFC circa 1947-50 of the late John Shelton, former President of Hove RFC, and other founder members.
So we arrive in 1952; it had become obvious that the Yeomanry could no longer continue without an influx of new players. The members approached Alderman Arthur Brocke, who was then Mayor of Hove, and Councillor Jack Woolley. They secured a pitch in Hove Park, in spite of some opposition from nearby residents, and the old timber Scout Hut, which was refurbished and extended to provide showers, kitchen and a bar. The club was up and running. A club that was perhaps known more for its exploits off the field than on it was born.
By 1961 the Club had expanded its playing membership, fielding four sides and as a result of this, the Committee secured two new pitches on the former allotments on what is now the Neville Playing Fields. Lacerations to the knees and other body parts was common place and the A & E department at the former Hove General Hospital was always kept busy stitching up the wounded.
In those early years Hove gained a reputation as a good social club; girlfriends and wives providing the after-match meals, players entertaining the opposition and consuming quantities of Watneys Red Barrel, a brew fortunately long forgotten. We had a somewhat uneasy relationship with our neighbours living in Goldstone Crescent, variously members being accused of indecent exposure, (a well known member of the property profession), intoxication (most of the playing members and the opposition) and noise (the raucous sound of Eskimo Nell and O'Reilly's Daughter echoing across the park). Presiding over this period of free expression was that bastion of Hove RFC, Charles Phillip Lungley known to all as 'CP'.
A knowledgeable former Member of Blackheath RFC, CP ruled the Selection Committee with a rod of iron. Usually there was an 'old crusty' on the touchline seconded by CP to watch the lower sides for hidden talent. This was deemed necessary, as the more ambitious captains would often field their better players under a pseudonym. The now defunct Brighton & Hove Herald, which printed the names (and their initials) of the players of each team fielded, on one occasion, included an unknown Hove player in the B team who had the curious initials, A.R.S.Hole. The Selection Committee sat in the club every Sunday morning during the season at 10.30am. CP, his fellow selectors and the Captains discussed the previous day's activities and agreed the team selection after which players `were admitted at around midday to see if they had been promoted or dropped in the team sheets displayed. Sunday morning was another good excuse and CP sat in his chair drinking gin and a dash of tonic dispensing words of wisdom equally to those on an upward path and those awarded the pig's ear.
By 1971 Hove had acquired permission to level the pitch in Hove Park. The home advantage of the slope was lost but we had at last acquired a first team pitch that conformed to RFU regulations. The pitch was officially opened on the 26th March 1972 against the Army Airborne Services based in Aldershot. Minutes of the June AGM recorded a 'handsome victory'. Plans for a new clubhouse followed in September 1974; it was opened on 19th March 1976 and has, until recently, been home for the Club. The Chairman of the General Committee Jack Woolley, who held that post for ten years, and the late Jack Johnston, an affable Scot who was by that time Chairman of Selectors, spent many hours to bring about these improvements to the facilities in the Park and to take Hove into the higher echelons of the county structure. However Eskimo Nell and O'Reilly's daughter remained a part of the Hove culture.
It was in January 1974 that Richard Lewis our past President, blessed with two strapping sons started the Mini Rugby Section and the rest of course is history. Our most famous product of the 'Minis' is Alex 'Beetle' King now of England, and Wasps, not to mention Adam Bidwell, Cambridge Blue, Saracens and London Welsh, Altan Osdamir, England Under 21, Harlequins and Bristol, Ben Hampson , England under 21, Saracens and London Irish, and most recently Jordan Turner-Hall and Noah Cato - England U20's. The casualty of this new Sunday morning activity was the selection Committee; seven and eight year olds noisily charging around the clubhouse, was viewed with distaste by CP, but he would have been proud of achievements that the Mini and Youth Sections have chalked up over the subsequent years.
The introduction of League Rugby brought about a fundamental change to all junior clubs and Hove was no exception. New training regimes, coaching and competitive spirit replaced Eskimo Nell and the Club started its league campaign in Sussex League 1. The club has since then bounced between Divisions Sussex 1 and London South East 4. However, during this period the embryo of a new beginning began to form following a rejection by the members of a proposal to amalgamate with Brighton FC (Rugby) who, following the construction of the Brighton bypass, was cash rich and moving to a new facility at Waterhall. New locations discussed included Benfield Valley to the south of the Sainsbury Superstore and the Neville Road playing Fields. Hove Borough Council did not favour either.
1992 enter Richard Beecham, parent, referee, architect, Chairman of Mini Rugby and then subsequently of the main Club who took on the mantel of relocating the Club to a better environment. Previously we had set our sights on expanding in the Neville Avenue Playing Fields where we already had two pitches. Our aspirations were deflected from the Neville by one of our Ward Councillors who suggested that the Recreation Ground could be made available to us. We were stunned. What an opportunity. However that particular Councillor subsequently completed an immaculate Volte-face in the face of opposition from local residents in an election year and it was not until Brighton and Hove Councils merged that the 'Rec' became a reality.
Richard designed the new building and negotiated with the combined Council officers resulting in the prospect of a new Clubhouse surrounded by four pitches and a training ground. Our thanks are also due to Sport England for Lottery funding and to The Council for sports and Arts as well as to those members of the club who have made a contribution in one form or another.
The Senior Club now fields five men's teams and a Ladies XV - soon to be 2 WRFC teams. In the junior section of the Club the youth teams are regular County Champions and our Colts are amongst the best in the County. The future is bright; we have come a long way. There is much to aim for.
Hove Rugby Football Club has a short history and a great future. Be a part of it.