The Twickenham Museum
Exhibitions : Sporting History

Rugby
A sport developed from a game long played at Rugby School

Billy Williams

Twickenham is world-famous for its Rugby Ground, but the game was played in the Twickenham area long before this was built.. Twickenham RFC have claimed 1867 as their foundation date, although there are no written records to substantiate it. The first mention of a side from Twickenham playing was on 26 Oct 1867 when Wellesley House, Twickenham played Richmond II. Wellesley House Academy for men closed and was taken over by the Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage in 1874 (now The Fortescue Estate housing development). Twickenham (Rugby) Football Club is first mentioned in 1873 but may have sprung from the earlier Wellesley House, Twickenham side.

In 1906 the all-round sportsman and property entrepreneur William Williams was charged by the Rugby Football Union with finding a home ground for the England game. His choice was so dubious that it was immediately dubbed ‘Billy Williams' Cabbage Patch.’ Despite huge difficulties two covered stands were eventually built east and west of the pitch, and the ground was opened on Saturday 9 October 1909 to fewer than 2000 spectators who turned out to see the New Ground’s tenants, Harlequins, beat Richmond 14-10. The first International match to be played at Twickenham took place on January 15 1910, when England beat Wales for the first time since 1898.

England versus Wales in 1910

The first Varsity match was played in December 1921, by which time the popularity of Twickenham had soared. Extra accommodation was found in a North Stand built in 1925 by the legendary football stadium architect Archibald Leitch. By 1931, the famous ‘Twickenham Look’ had come about. This comprised a huge slab of concrete forming the South Terrace, Leitch’s North Stand and two great double-decker East and West Stands that spoiled the view from Richmond Hill

In 1981 a South Stand was built, followed in the 1990s by new North, East and West stands. The ‘concrete horseshoe’ was completed in 1995. In 2005 the South Stand was demolished and a new South Stand built.

There are of course other clubs in the area including Harlequins, once established in Fairfax Road Teddington. In 1971 the club acquired the Adrian Stoop Memorial Ground in an exchange with the Council. The Fairfax Road ground was given over to housing, a new school and a school rugby pitch.

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