Shirt stands test of time as rugby club celebrates 90th anniversary

Alan Bradford with the 90-year Chichester shirt / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Alan Bradford with the 90-year Chichester shirt / Picture by Kate Shemilt

As Chichester RFC celebrate their 90th anniversary, former president Alan Bradford is proud to have looked after one important exhibition piece from their past.

He has been taking care of a shirt thought to be one of those worn by the original set of players after the club’s 1926 formation. And he is hoping it will soon take pride of place in the refurbished and extended clubhouse.

He said: “It’s been in the club’s possession all this time and it used to be framed and up in the president’s lounge. When that was extended it was taken down and I said I’d look after it.

“Now with the new clubhouse almost complete I hope we can get it framed again and put it up somewhere prominent.”

The shirt shows the original club crest and the initials CCRFC, as the club were originally known as Chichester City Rugby Football Club. It was all-white, showing that the blue hoops the club have long been known for were not part of the original colours.

Alan added: “It’s quite small, surprisingly so. I don’t know why that is, maybe it was a junior player’s shirt.

It’s in pretty good condition given its age, but I don’t think I’ll put it through the washing machine!

Alan Bradford

“It’s in pretty good condition given its age, but I don’t think I’ll put it through the washing machine!”

Chichester RFC are based at Oaklands Park, one of the most picturesque locations for rugby in the south-east, with fine views of the city and cathedral.

The recently modernised clubhouse overlooks the first XV pitch, which is recognised as one of the finest pitches in Sussex. But how have the rugby club reached the point they’re at today? Here’s a brief timeline of their 90 years.

1926 - Chichester City Rugby Football Club was founded.

Based on enthusiasm from supporters of the Chichester School Rugby team at Langley House, West Street, the school chaplin, the Rev R G T Gillman, called a meeting to discuss the formation of a senior rugby team in Chichester.

The Dolphin & Anchor was used as the clubhouse and bar. Under the chairmanship of Lt-Col Coates the club flourished. The team included Jack Clemens, Russell Hillsden, Tiny Humphries, Cecil Herniman and Jack Treger. First season opponents included Portsmouth Casuals, Fareham & US Portsmouth. Home games were played at Lavant, Chichester Police Station, College Lane and Somerstown.

1928 - Club reorganised as Chichester & Bognor Rugby Football Club to encourage expansion.

1934 - The club amalgamates with the West Sussex County Officers Club and is renamed as Chichester Rugby Club.

1946 - Home ground established at Oaklands Park.

1947 - Post-war rugby starts to accelerate with an excellent playing record of 15 wins from 18 games.

1949 - A second XV is formed, winning 19 of their 29 games played.

1963 - A prefabricated clubhouse opens in Oaklands Park.

1970 - A new clubhouse costing £13,000, designed by Peter Harrison, is opened by Sir Chris Chataway. The old clubhouse moves across the park to the archery club - it is still in use today.

1975 - The club’s mini rugby section is founded by Ken Hopkins.

1976 - The clubhouse is extended, at a cost of £16,000, to accommodate the growing player base.

1977 - A golden jubilee dinner is held at the Dolphin & Anchor.

1987 - Now it’s a 60th anniversary dinner at the same venue.

1987 - Leagues start and Chichester are placed in Sussex division onw.

1990 - Chi are promoted to London south east three after winning Sussex one.

1994 - Women’s rugby starts at Chichester.

2001 - The club are relegated to Sussex one.

2002 - They win Sussex and reach the final of the Sussex Cup, losing to Worthing. By this time youth and mini rugby continues to be a major success at all age levels. The club are promoted to London south east four.

A 75th anniversary May Ball is staged in a marquee at Oaklands Park.

2003 - The Sussex Cup final sees Chichester lose to Haywards Heath but the Blues win London SE4 and are promoted to SE3. They are also awarded the RFU Seal of Approval.

2004 - A new balcony at the clubhouse is opened by the Mayor of Chichester, while the number of mini and junior players exceeds 250.

2007 - Numbers in the mini and junior section exceeds 300 and the club’s 80th Anniversary and 30th anniversary of the youth section is celebrated at Oaklands Park.

2008 - CRFC win the Sussex Cup for the first time, beating Hove at Pulborough, and win London SW3.

2013 - Chichester are promoted to National League three in the London south-east division, the highest level in the club’s history. They also receive the Whole Club Seal of Approval from the RFU.

2014 - The legacy development begins to ensure rugby is provided the next 90 years. The first XV finish in mid-table in their first season at National League. The second XV win the Sussex Bowl, beating Hove 25-0 in the final.

2015 - The second XV retain the Sussex Bowl, beating Brighton 34-24. The club narrowly fail to get in the Guinness Book of World Records with their ‘Longest Pass’ attempt falling just short.

2016 - A 90th anniversary match is played against Portsmouth at Oaklands Park.