How rugby took a stronghold in Hartlepool

Arthur Hill who helped to shape rugby in Hartlepool.
Arthur Hill who helped to shape rugby in Hartlepool.

Rugby afficionados can dig deep into the sport’s Hartlepool past by visiting a gem of a venue.

The Central Library’s reference section has helped many a researcher down the years.

An early shot of Rovers on the "Old Friarage Field" in Moor Terrace.

An early shot of Rovers on the "Old Friarage Field" in Moor Terrace.

Its records include the original plans of landmark buildings, from schools to churches and pubs to swimming baths, to births, marriages and deaths. It also includes a wealth of information on the town’s rugby history.

Rugby’s strong Hartlepool roots were recorded for posterity after the World Cup was held in England in 2015. Clubs got together with Hartlepool’s libraries and the town’s museum service to “record the rich local history of Rugby Union Football in the town and district.”

Here is a taster.

The first rugby club in Hartlepool was formed in 1875 when Hartlepool’s Football Club was created at the end of the cricket season, at a meeting in the Cleveland Hotel on the corner of Brig Open and Northgate and the building is still standing today.

Library officer Sandra McKay told us: “Records though are very sparse but there is mention of Hartlepool playing West Hartlepool in 1876 but these times seem days of happy inconsequence when it comes to recording matches, scores.”

At least the sport was under way and it was not long before names such as Arthur Hill, Ovi Stephenson and W Taylor were making their mark for Durham County while playing for Hartlepool Rovers.

The club today called Rovers was formed in 1879, which meant the town already had two sides– Hartlepool being the other.

Arthur Hill realised the difficulties of both clubs trying to make progress and suggested an amalgamation in 1883, library documents show.

A document – now in the Hartlepool Museum archives – was sent to all members and it saw the rise of the Friarage club from that date.

It was a time when Arthur Hill became one of the first rising stars of town rugby. He played at county level from 1879 to 1890, and later became president and secretary of Rovers. He held the same positions with Durham County which he represented from 1900 to 1903.

He died aged 80 in 1936.

As for Rovers, they were soon winning trophies including the Durham County Senior Cup between 1905 and 1909.

The library’s reference section has 500 years of recorded history. It has every official record on Hartlepool’s population since official records began in 1837, and every town Census since they were first logged in 1841.

The library is open between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Friday, and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays.

Contact (01429) 272905.