Mon 27 May 2019 13:01

A brief history of Park House FC

Park House Football Club was founded in 1883. It was described as football club, there being no desire then or now to acknowledge that there is any other true game of football except rugby. But why Park House? The club came into being as a result of the keenness of the Rev G Mallows Youngman, curate of St Alfege church in Greenwich. The Reverend opened a gymnasium at Park House, 1 Upper Park Street, Greenwich, hence the name of the club. He became founder president, retaining his interest and remaining in office for 40 years. The minutes of the AGM in August 1890 confirmed that the ground should be that position of Blackheath which stands at the top of Lewisham Hill. Affiliation to the RFU took place at this time.

By 1892 the fixture list included St Mary's Hospital, Saracens and Jesus College, Oxford. The highlight of the season though was the match against France on their first visit to England in 1893. That's right, Park House were the first team to play a French national side. In the book 'The Oval World' by Tony Collins (published 2015) there is a reference on page 104 to that game! Park House ran out victorious winners by two tries and two goals to one try. Thanks to Christopher Jeal (first playing in 1959) for that book reference!

During the remaining years of the century the club improved their fixture list and won the Kent Cup for three consecutive seasons between 1897 and 1899. The third of these successes was played on April 8th 1899 in front of 200 spectators including the famous Dr W G Grace. The result that day was Park House 14 Duke of Wellington's Regiment 0. In December 1898 Racing Club of France were the hosts to Park House, looking to avenge the defeat of the national team five years previous. Fortunately for Park House, they ran out comfortable 17 - 6 winners.

At the start of the season 1902-3, the tenancy was agreed for a new ground at Bromley Road, Catford. In the following years the club saw visits to the West Country to play teams like Cinderford and Stroud as well as further visits to France. Before long though the club moved again to new premises in Court Farm, Mottingham, courtesy of the London Playing Fields Society. During the 1914-1918 war all fixtures were cancelled at least 14 members of the club lost their lives while many more were injured. On the 12th June 1919 the club was resurrected and play continued at the beginning of the new season. In 1920 when the then Secretary resigned, it was proposed that Tom Sharratt should take over the post. He accepted the job and remained in the position for 35 years. This was then followed by a further 8 years as President of the club - a truly remarkable record of service. In September 1924 two pitches were found near West Wickham and the club became sub-tenants of Kent County RFU. In 1929 the club reached the Kent cup final, losing to RN Depot Chatham. At the same time, problems began to emerge at West Wickham and the search was again on for a new ground. Just in time for the 1930-31 season pitches were offered at Baston Farm, Barnet Wood Rd and in 1934 a new pavilion was formally opened by the then president Sir Henry McAuliffe. Park House used this new location to attract recruits from the old boys of St Joseph's Academy and in the following years the club provided players for Kent Rugby and also organised a 7 a side tournament in 1937. In 1940 the club was again closed because of the war and upon opening again in 1946 it was known that 8 former players had been killed in hostilities. By the early 50s a close association had been made with the R.N College at Greenwich and even more unusually the US Marines. The experience of seeing a full team of Marines playing a cross between a rugby and American Football had to be seen to be believed. On the Saturday of 24th march 1962 disaster struck when the pavilion was completely destroyed by fire. Just prior to this a new agreement had been made to lease the land on the south side of Barnet wood Rd for 10 years and a temporary structure was quickly erected. A more permanent clubhouse was started in the spring of 1971 and was finally opened on 7th October 1973. In 1978, at the initiative of Paddy Solan, the club's landlords were prevailed open to sell the free-hold for 13 acres of playing field. To mark the acquisition, suitable celebrations took place on 23rd Sept 1979 and the Rt. Hon. Harold Macmillan kindly agreed to attend to formally accept the Title Deeds.

Park House has always had a keen interest in mini and junior teams, in 1978 we hosted the S.E. junior Sevens for the Hellerman Deutsch Trophy and in 1993 the Kent Mini Festival. In 1990, the club again reached the Kent Cup final but lost 12-0 to Gravesend. The match was replayed in 1994 for the Kent Plate, but again it was the opposition who prevailed. We are one of the oldest rugby clubs in Kent and we have been proud to retain our individuality, solely as a rugby club. Park House has always been a club with a cosmopolitan membership that reflects the whole community, all united in their love of the game.

Courtesy of Bernard Holley