The first reference to rugby being played in Sidmouth appeared in Lethaby’s Journal on 1st January 1864. The article stated: “A Football Club has already been formed in Sidmouth… there being already thirty or forty members… The rules are those of the London Clubs”. This reference to the London Clubs defines the game as rugby rather than association football.
However, this and several other attempts to form a consistent club over the next 20 years failed although there are references to matches being played between teams raised within the town.
The club eventually became firmly established in 1884 thanks to the driving force of Bingley Pullin who was the first captain. The first home matches were played on the Coburg Field where the bowling greens and tennis courts are now situated.
The club grew in stature and within a few years had moved the short distance to the Blackmore Field where its headquarters remain to this day. By 1890 it became well enough established to join the Devon Rugby Football Union.
Playing standards rose rapidly and the club enjoyed a unique golden era in the late 1890s. Rugby ceased for the duration of WWI and the club reorganised in 1918.
In 1923 Blackmore Field was purchased by local MP Sir Clive Morrison-Bell. He set up a trust to ensure the field was to be used for sport and recreation with the Rugby Club having priority use.
By this time the club was strongly supported and was very much a focal point in the life of the town. A stand had been erected in the 1892-93 season, but it was not until 1933-34 that changing rooms were built. Prior to that the teams changed and washed in a local pub. The changing rooms were extended in 1936.
Play was interrupted again by the Second World War. There were not enough players to play regular fixtures again until 1946 but a few years later, under the captaincy of Godfrey Whittington, the club enjoyed another golden era.
In 1961 the first clubhouse and bar were opened by the President, Tommy Sanders, and in 1969 the clubhouse was extended. After a slump in the 50s, playing fortunes were turned around in the 70s. The 80s and 90s were mixed with some victories, but also saw some of the better players moving to Exeter and relegation.
Since the 2000s, the club has gone from strength to strength under the leadership of paid coaches Mark Tomlinson, Richard Grainger, Andy Matchett and now Phil Dollman.
Determined to ensure a regular supply of players for the future, Sidmouth became the first club in Devon – and one of the first in the country – to start a junior section in 1971 with weekly training for boys between 8 and 14. Under a succession of leaders the junior section has grown and developed into an organisation of which the club is justifiably proud. More recently following on from being pioneers in junior rugby, Sidmouth has been a big part in establishing and developing junior girls rugby with a strong girls section, growing rapidly by the day.
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