Ellingham and Ringwood Rugby Football Club
A brief history of the club
Ellingham and Ringwood Rugby Football Club was formed when four friends Michael Geary, Roger Pitcher, Brian Kendall, and John Rose met in the Smiths Arms public house during October 1966. From these discussions the inaugural meeting of the club took place in the skittle alley of the Star Inn when the following officers were elected:
• President Mr Guy Bradley
• Chairman Mr Brian Kendall
• Secretary Mr Roger Pitcher
• Treasurer Mr John Rose
• Team Secretary Mr Terry Clarke
• Captain Mr Michael Geary.
The first game took place against a Bournemouth Wanderers XV at their Vicarage Ground in Kinson on 31 December 1966, with a set of shirts donated by Wimborne RFC. For the first few months all games were played away from home whilst arrangements were made to hire a local sports ground that would be suitable for a rugby pitch, and after discussions taking place, the Ellingham Sports club was formed. This led to an agreement with Ellingham Cricket Club to use the cricket outfield at Picket Post, but this proved short lived, as although considerable effort was made to remove stones and flints from the pitch, the problem continued to cause concern for the safety of the players and had to be abandoned. We therefore had to revert to hiring pitches as before and the club eventually reached agreement with St Ives Council to hire their unused football pitch and later Ringwood Town Council to use Carvers Sports Ground. During this time, thanks to Ellingham Cricket Club, we were using the Pavilion at Picket Post for our post-match refreshments.
During this period the club continued to grow. We were running three senior men’s sides and a Colts side was formed in 1969. Whilst the hired pitches were satisfactory in the short term, it was not a long-term solution and the club approached the Forestry Commission with a view to seeking permission to reclaim land, lay a pitch at Picket Post and enter a long-term lease. In July 1974 this was achieved and with the help of a loan from the Rugby Football Union and the National Playing Fields Association, together with the club’s internal fundraising efforts, the pitch at Picket Post was established with the first game being played early in the 1975/76 season.
In 1988, two club senior players Tony Farmer and Bob Burrett started running informal mini rugby sessions on Sunday mornings at Carvers Sports Ground and this eventually led to our Mini & Junior section being officially formed in 1995. The mid 1990’s also saw the inclusion of ‘Ringwood’ into the club’s title along with the current club badge after the various permissions were granted. Ringwood was included with the view to having a more visible presence in and around the Ringwood area and thus attracting more players.
1999 saw the formation of our Women’s team, which continues today and has become successful winning promotion on several occasions.
The development of our current ground and club house
Due to the club’s success, it became apparent that Picket Post was no longer large enough to accommodate the number of teams the club was running, even with hiring the sports field at Poulner Junior School for Sunday morning training. By this time we were running three men’s teams, a women’s team and age groups from Under 6’s through to Under 18’s in the Mini & Junior section including girls at Under 15’s and Under 18’s.
Under the chairmanship of Steve Benson, a small subcommittee was setup to explore possible alternative playing areas and an approach was made to Ringwood Junior School with the aim of developing their playing field, which was no longer being used and after many meetings in 2003 an agreement was reached, and a suitable business plan was drawn up. The plan provided for two rugby pitches, a clubhouse with bar and kitchen, an artificial cricket wicket and a grass three hundred metre athletics track.
As you might expect from a project of this size and nature, several setbacks were encountered along the way, but in 2007 agreement was finally reached with all the relevant stakeholders including Hampshire County Council, New Forest District Council, Ringwood Town Council, the Rugby Football Union, Sport England and of course Ringwood Junior School. The plan provided for the school to use the facilities during the day and by the club in the evening and at weekends. Initially a Sports Development Officer was appointed on a three-year contract with the aim of promoting the use of the excellent facilities within the local community. With all the funds and permissions in place construction of the Club House began in May 2008 with completion in November of that year. The club was officially opened on 9 March 2009, by Mr Richard Hill MBE a member of England’s 2003 successful World Cup winning Team.
1987/88 saw the introduction of a structured League system of Rugby in England. Up until this time all fixtures were on a friendly basis apart from County Cup competitions. Initially the club declined entry, but it became increasingly difficult to arrange enough suitable fixtures and our players also wanted meaningful competition on Saturday afternoons, so in the mid-nineties the club entered Hampshire Division 3. The early days of league rugby were difficult for the club and for a few seasons we struggled to improve, but when the club acquired the services of Mr Steve Anderson in the late nineties as team manager and coach, improvement in results were gradually forthcoming. The club eventually gaining promotion first to Hampshire Division 2 in 2002/03 and then Hampshire Division1 in 2005/06. In 2008 continued improvement saw the club win promotion to London South-West Division 4, winning all but two of our matches that year. We also won the Hampshire Bowl Final. In 2011 there was a league structure change and due to our league position, we were placed in London South-West Division 3. Eventually, due to retirements and players moving away from the area, we were unable to sustain this level of rugby and in 2015 we were relegated back to Hampshire Division 1. A couple of seasons later a Hampshire Premier league was introduced where we remained over the COVID lay-off until the new RFU leagues were introduced for the 2022/23 season. Under the new structure Ellingham & Ringwood were placed in Counties 2 Hampshire. We won the league and have been promoted to Counties 1 Hampshire for the 2023/24 season which is the equivalent level to the old London SW 3.
At the time of entering the league structure our 2nd XV and 3rd XV opted to play in the South-West Division, due to the longer travelling that is necessary in the Hampshire Leagues, and they currently play in Dorset & Wiltshire. Our 2nd XV gained promotion to Dorset and Wiltshire Division 1 in 2015, but the higher league proved too strong for us, and we were relegated after just one season. Our 2nd XV won Counties 3 Dorset & Wilts South in the 2022/23 season and is now promoted to Counties 2 Dorset & Wilts South while our 3rd XV is promoted to Counties 3 Dorset & Wilts South.
Our women’s team enjoyed a lengthy period of success, in 2002 they reached the final of the National Junior Vase Cup and more recently were promoted two years in a row and, they currently play in the Women’s National Challenge South West Division 1.
Over the years our mini and junior section has won major honours throughout the age groups and continue to thrive, with many former junior players now playing for our men’s and women’s sides. In recent years our 15’s girl’s sides have won several London & South-East trophies, the Rugby Football Union St George Trophy and were runners up in RFU South Division Cup. Large numbers of our players have been selected for both county and regional sides: four of our former girl’s players (Poppy Cleall, Bryony Cleall, Lisa Cockburn, and Donna Rose) gaining national honours, being selected to play for Scotland and Wales in the Women’s Six Nations and Rugby World Cups. In addition, our former girl’s player Alicia Maude is currently representing both England and Great Britain in their 7’s squads.
The club is a Community Amateur Sports Club. We were awarded the Rugby Football Union’s “Seal of Approval” in May 2007 and continue to hold this prestigious status.
Over the years the club has been involved in many local community activities including:
• Providing crowd control support over many years for the Christmas Eve festivities in the Ringwood Town Centre
• Car Parking duties at the Matcham’s Good Friday Hampshire Grand National Rally,
• Running the Bar at the Queens Diamond Jubilee Celebration held on Bickerly Green.
• Hosting our twin town of Pont Audemer and playing their rugby club home and away.
Our annual Rugby and Real Ale Festival held on Good Friday has proved to be extremely popular and after the Ringwood Carnival is the second largest annual event held in Ringwood.
In addition, we’ve raised money for national charities including Breast Cancer, Help4Heroes and the rugby charity Injured Players Association – and have supported a Syrian refugee family to live in the area through our Rugby4Refugees initiative.
We’ve also won the following awards:
• Winner of the Rugby Expo Junior Club of the year 2011
• Winner of the Sport Hampshire and IOW Club of the Year 2012
• Winner of the Hampshire Sports Council Club of the Year 2012.
We pride ourselves in extending a warm welcome to all on match days. The club is open to members and non–members alike and you will be sure of a very warm welcome, so do come along to Parsonage Barn Lane on a Saturday or Sunday and lend support to our teams. It will be much appreciated by our players and does make a difference.
Thank you for taking the time to read this brief history of our club.