Club History

Bedford Rugby Team 1887-88Bedford RUFC was founded in 1886 after an amalgamation between Bedford Rovers (1876) and Bedford Swifts (1882). Both parent clubs had close connections with Bedford and Bedford Modern Schools and both had fixtures with the leading teams of the period.

The Bedford colours of dark and light blue are believed to be a reflection of the schoolmasters association with Oxbridge and the full badge colours are based on the strip of Swifts (black) and Rovers (cerise).

Under the captaincy of Alfred Parrott, a Bedford Modern School master, the new club made an auspicious start, losing only once in its first season (to Leicester) and again only once in its second (to a composite London XV). The early successes, however, paled before the achievements of 1893-94, when the club's reputation persuaded opponents of the stature of Stade Francais, from Paris, and the Barbarians to make the journey over. These two distinguished teams suffered the fate of all other visitors to the club's ground in that marvellous season, defeated by scores of 22-0 and 7-3 respectively in front of huge crowds. Indeed, the Club would complete its normal programme unbeaten, only to lose when somewhat understrength, in an extra match arranged as an Easter Monday attraction at Coventry (0-12). The season's final record was 29 played, 27 won, one drawn and one lost, with 521 points and only 49 against. Records created that season stood for many years and winger H.M Morris still holds the highest try-scoring tally with 38 scores in a season.

While the success on the playing field had been good there was often a problem of where to play at home. There were two main sites where pitches could be made available. One was known as 'The House of Industry' ground in Goldington Road. This was the field in front of the House of Industry -now known as the North Wing Hospital. This is approximately where Bedford play now. The other site was known as Midland Road Ground, an area near the Queen's Park railway bridge.

The first matches in 1886-87 were in Goldington Road - where the Bedford Swifts had played - but during the next few seasons several pitches near the railway station were used. It was recorded in local papers at the time that at least one game was played in the field where Queens Works now stands. The railway and industry required this land and Bedford Rugby returned to the Goldington Road area before an agreement in 1895 was reached with Bedford Cricket Club who actually held the lease. The pitch was laid out in virtually the same spot as it is now.

The club's record prior to 1905 was good enough to bring the all Blacks to the town for the first time. The match itself was a great attraction with the town's schools and factories closing for the half day to enable people to attend. The result - 0-41 to New Zealand - was similar to the fate that most club sides suffered in their successful tour. Only Wales beat them.

In the seasons immediately preceding World War I the fixture list grew stronger, and the club lost only one game in 1913-14. The facilities had also improved. With a better playing arena, the first stand had been erected in 1905 and in 1910 a new pavilion was built. At that time it was considered one of the best rugby club pavilions in the country. The fact that it is still standing (now known as the 'Scrumhall' bar) is proof of the quality of workmanship and materials.

The First World War threatened the club's existence when the ground was taken over by the Military Authorities for use as an Army Camp.

Things did improve very quickly and by the late twenties and early thirties Bedford once again were at the top. Even today some older supporters consider this the club's best ever period - practically every member of the team in 1938-39 was very close to international honours. Further improvements had been made at the ground, the biggest being the stand opened in 1933 which is still in use today.

The club recovered again after the Second World War and continued to play all the leading clubs and had a great spell in the mid sixties. There were three Bedford players regularly in the England team with David Perry and Budge Rogers captaining their county. In 1969-70 season Bedford won the Sunday Telegraph English-Welsh Rugby Table. Probably, the Blues finest hour was in 1975 when Bedford, captained by Budge Rogers beat Rosslyn Park in the final of the Knock Out Cup (now Tetley Bitter Cup) at Twickenham 28-12. There was a gate of nearly 18,000 which at the time was a record attendance.

Action from the 1975 Cup FinalBudge Rodgers playing in a match at Bedford School on 1983

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately this achievement did not continue with the club having little success resulting in many players with great potential leaving he club. There were bright moments such as John Orwin captaining the England touring party to Australia and Fiji in 1988.

When the leagues were introduced in 1987-88 Bedford were in Division 2, promoted to Division 1 in 1989 but relegated immediately to finish in Division 3 for a period.

Scott MurrayAt the start of the 1996-97 season when 'The Blues' were in Division 2 the club turned professional. Frank Warren (the boxing promoter) and Sports Network putting in a big investment to secure quality players, many of whom were internationally famous, while others were young but promising. The best example is probably Scott Murray who has since been a regular in the Scottish side.

At the second attempt Bedford easily won the Allied Dunbar Division 2 Championship in 1998 and were promoted to Division 1 and were runners up in the Cheltenham & Gloucester Cup.
Financial problems with the club's owners resulted in the club losing many players but there was a nucleus that remained loyal. The Club Coach and Director of Rugby also left.

In April 1999 Sports Network sold the club to Jefferson Lloyd International but this was a financial disaster resulting in Bedford losing further staff. The club was about to be sold and moved from the town, which would have meant the end of first class rugby in Bedford.

 


Premiership Two Champions 1997-98Following intervention by the RFU in October 1999 a consortium of Bedford businessmen headed by David Ledsom (SDC), Geoff Irvine (Irvine-Whitlock) and David Gunner with assistance from Bedford Borough Council and other professional people, the transfer of the club to Bedford Blues Ltd. was organised.

Several thousand supporters and businesses in the town bought shares and the club is now viable.

The club is now sponsored by Charles Wells Brewery and many other local companies.

Bedford have been playing on virtually the same pitch for over 100 years and 32 players have gained International honours while they were actually playing for the club at the time of being honoured.