A BRIEF HISTORY OF AVON RFC
Avon rugby club was formed in 1925 by members of the Avon Rowing Club who wanted to do some other exercise in the winter months to keep fit and first played at Odd Down, changing at the ‘Burnt House’ public house. The second XV followed within six years, first playing in 1931.
The club moved to Bathampton in 1936 and changed at the ‘George Inn’ next to the canal. After the Second World War, Avon RFC reformed and played at the ‘Horseshoe Ground’ at Lambridge. In 1947 the club was on the move again, this time to the Monument Field at Combe Down. A 3rd XV (Extras XV) was formed in December 1955 and a second pitch was established in 1956. That same year the Colts XV was formed, winning the Bath Junior Sevens in1957.
The club was forced to leave the Monument field in September 1971 and played for 2 seasons at the council pitches at Norwood, Claverton Down, until the corporation moved its playing pitches to Lansdown in 1973 and Avon were obliged to do the same.
One of the highlights in the club`s history came in the 1974/75 season when the Jubilee (50 years) was celebrated. Many of the former captains of the club were in attendance at the Jubilee dinner when well over 100 members had an enjoyable evening.
It had always been the ambition of the club to own a ground of its own and after negotiations to buy the present ground broke down in 1972, several alternatives were looked into but with little success. By chance, the same ground came on the market in 1978 and, after some considerable effort by the committee, ‘Hicks Field’ was purchased in March 1979, being named after one of the Club`s stalwarts who was instrumental in its purchase.
Changing rooms were erected and fitted out, only being completed on the very day of the first match on Hicks Field, on 26th October 1981. The opponents on that day were Old Sulians, which was appropriate because Avon were their opponents on the very first game they ever played.
Since that day, the ground has been steadily improved. Three pitches are now in use and a new larger clubhouse was completed with extended changing rooms, a Ref’s room and new showers. The clubhouse was officially opened with a special celebrity day, 15 international players including Rory Underwood, Ieuan Evans, Martin Bayfield, Mike Teague, Jerry Guscott, plus many other British Lions for an exhibition game against Avon XV.
Since that time to secure the future of the Club, we have now developed a thriving Minis and Juniors section in addition to a Ladies and under 16 girls section, all of whom are going from strength to strength in terms of numbers of players and encouraging results.
More recently in the late 90`s, Avon rugby club has experienced a purple patch becoming the most successful club in the Bath area. 1998 saw the Club 1st XV launch this success by winning the Somerset division 2 title, reaching the semi-finals of the Somerset Cup and becoming the Rugby World national team of the month in Feb 1998. Then in 1999, these achievements were surpassed when the 1st XV became Somerset division 1 champions and reached the semi finals of the national Tetley Bitter vase.
Not to be outdone, the Ladies section matched these exploits by also winning their leagues, gaining promotion in successive years (98 & 99), whilst the Minis and Juniors have recorded numerous wins in various festivals and cup competitions.
During the 2000 Millennium, Avon proudly celebrated their 75th Anniversary with a series of events throughout the year, culminating in a Grand Jubilee Ball at the magnificent Assembly Rooms in Bath.
Since then during the 2000s, Avon continued to progress across the spectrum. The Men’s 1st team became established members of the Somerset Premier league and in 2007 won the Bath Combination Vase, whilst in 2008 they finished as runners up in the Somerset County Vase. In addition, the 2nd team have joined the league structure, challenging for honours in Somerset 3 North.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the Club’s development has been within the Junior section, where in 2007 the Under 17s won both the Somerset Cup and the Bristol Combination Cup. Not to be outdone in 2008, the Under 15s also won the Somerset Cup beating Bath in the final. These achievements augured well for the future with several Avon youngsters also going on to represent the County and some progressing to National age group teams.
Avon entered a golden period in its history from 2007 to 2012, winning the Bath Combination Vase on Bath Rugby’s Recreation Ground on 4 separate occasions over 5 years and challenging for the top honours in the Somerset Premier league. This culminated in 2012 as Avon became Champions, losing only 1 match all season and thus gaining promotion to the Western Counties league, the highest ever league status in Avon’s proud history.
All in all, whilst the Club’s history is impressive, the future holds even more potential for further improvements on and off the field as Avon look forward in a positive and promising vein.