The long and rich history of Featherstone Rovers Rugby League Football Club

Friday, 22 June 2012

A New History of Featherstone Rugby by Ian Clayton & Ian Daley

Printed in 1994, some ten years after the original “100 Years of Featherstone Rugby” appeared, this revised volume featured much better production values than the first. Although a lot of the text remained the same, most of the photographs were new, and the intervening ten years of rugby are also dealt with, albeit rather briefly. The statistical section at the back of the book is updated and reorganised, with some, though far from all, of the errors of the 1984 book rectified.

    The front cover is a team photo of Rovers 1910 Junior Yorkshire Cup winning team from the days before Rovers were admitted to join the RFL. It is this period of the club’s history which is the major focus of the book. Clayton begins his narrative with the formation of the Rugby Football Union in 1871, and this new code of football arrived in the nascent mining village of Featherstone in 1884 when the Featherstone & Purston United Cricket Club decided to have a go at rugby. The first proper rugby club was formed in 1889 and had its base at the New Inn, and they called themselves Featherstone Trinity. Soon another side emerged called Featherstone Red Star. Trinity became Featherstone RUFC and then in 1898 the club members took a vote about switching over the Northern Union. This vote was carried by 44 to 20 and that summer Rugby League as it was later to become was born in Featherstone. Their first ever game under Northern Union rules ended with a 10-8 win over Wakefield.

Clayton’s book goes on to plot how that early club Featherstone NUFC packed up in 1902 allowing Featherstone Rovers to be formed by George Johnson, based at the Railway Hotel. Rovers weren’t the last side to be set up in the village, as they had to see off competition from Purston White Horse (based at The Junction Hotel) and another team called Featherstone (set up by the landlord of the Featherstone Hotel) before being firmly established as the town’s rugby league team.

    Having covered the early days of the club in some detail, the rest of the club’s history is skipped over quickly, in the words of the author himself,  “in the belief that the later years are for future historians to look at”. Given that sixteen years have passed and a lot more rugby has been played since the publication of this book, perhaps the time has come for the definitive history of Featherstone Rovers to be written.

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