Thu 13 Jul 2017 11:04

It is probable that rugby was being played in Stoke on Trent in 1875, for in 'A History of Denstone College', rugby fixtures with Stoke on Trent and North Staffords are listed for that year. Two clubs, Stoke on Trent Public School Boys’ RUFC and North Staffordshire RUFC continued their separate existence from the 1870s until 1920s and photographs of some of these teams can be seen on the walls of the clubhouse. They were joined in 1924 by a new club called the Dominoes.

By 1930 the OPS and the North Staffords had merged to form Stoke on Trent RUFC and were playing at Bassett's Field, off Trentham Road, Blurton. Immediately after the war, Stoke began to share the field at Chaplin Road, Dresden with Longton Cricket Club but continued to change at Longton Baths. The rugby club took the opportunity to buy the ground from the Duke of Sutherland's Estate and built a clubhouse and changing rooms, thus ending the weekly trek to Longton Baths. In 1951 the cricket club moved to a new ground in Blurton.

The Club greatly expanded its playing membership after the war, with recruits from the Dominoes Club, which was not re-formed and with new converts to the game. To cater for the growing interest in rugby in North Staffordshire, officials of the Stoke Club were instrumental in forming new clubs such as Newcastle and Trentham. Meanwhile the facilities at Chaplin Road were proving inadequate for there was only room for one pitch plus the use of a farmer's field in Cocknage Road. Thus when the opportunity arose to sell Chaplin Road ground for building this was eagerly seized and a virgin site of eleven acres was purchased in Hartwell Lane, Barlaston in 1965. After two years of ad hoc arrangements, the club was able to move onto the Hartwell Ground and the clubhouse was officially opened in 1967.

Enjoying the new surroundings the playing side developed to a stage that the club were playing in Division 4 North of the national leagues in the 1980’s just before the era of professionalism. The club did not successfully survive the introduction of payments for players and has found itself playing in the first and second divisions of Midlands league rugby up to the present day.

In the late 1980’s coaching and games were arranged for groups of Under 13 to Under 17 year old players. The numbers steadily grew and the junior section was formally set up in 1992 with a committee to organise all the activities associated with running these age group sides. In 1995 the section increased in size with the influx of a large number of players which enabled the club to run age groups from Under 8 to Under 19. Since then the section has gone from strength to strength to the stage were it is now one of the strongest in the county with over 250 registered players. In season 2009/10, the club has launched its Youth Academy focusing on the 16 to 20 age group and providing coaching and development to bridge the gap to the Senior ranks.

The last 40 years has also seen the development of the clubhouse. The building has been extended and improved with a fully equipped gymnasium being added with the help of lottery money and a loan from the Rugby Football Foundation. All three pitches have been levelled and drained, with floodlights erected on one pitch and training lights have also been installed along side pitch three. The first team pitch also benefits from a 120 seat stand.

Our rugby-loving predecessors in the OPS, the North Staffords and the Dominoes, enduring at times some rather primitive conditions laid the foundations of rugby as a popular sport in North Staffordshire. The present club is striving to build on these foundations and will continue to provide excellent facilities and rugby for both players and spectators alike.

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