IN THE BEGINNING - 1870
Southend Rugby Club has a long and proud history dating back to 1870 a year before the Rugby Football Union itself.
In that year Admiral Charles Barstow Theobald gave a set of 'By-laws and rules' to lads playing football at the local Milton Hall sports ground. So the club was formed.
It was called 'Southend Foot Ball Club' and one feels an affinity with those Victorian lads when reading their rules and noting similarities with today's laws such as Rule 4: A player entering a 'squash' on the wrong side is off side.
First newspaper reports began to appear in 1878 and early opponents were another Essex side Ilford Wanderers. One reports notes "the pack did not get low enough down, thus wasting weight and allowing the visitors to screw and carry the ball with them". Who says the game has moved on? A young player of the period Jimmy Cotgrove reported that, "we trained with Paper Chases", no wonder the scrummaging technique was not up to much.
BEFORE & AFTER THE GREAT WAR
Southend's fixtures in the years leading up to the great war included among others Wasps, Blackheath, Saracens and Harlequins, to whom they lost on their first visit to Twickenham in 1913 by 25 points to 6.
The club reformed in 1919 under the captaincy of Billy Williams a local schoolmaster and entered a period of considerable growth and success.
Between the wars many Southend players achieved representative honours with Eastern Counties. The club played at Priory Park and reports say some games were watched by upwards of one thousand spectators.
Minutes from club records show a recurring theme was the concern to entertain visitors properly. It appears this was done with considerable success despite the fact the club did not have its own clubhouse until 1957 eighty-seven years after its formation.
The clubhouse was an old works' site office from the Mobil Oil Refinery and was purchased for £85. It was brought to Southend and situated in the grounds of the town's professional soccer club. It served admirably for 42 years during which time the Club's annual dinner and Easter Festival, the latter organised with Old Westcliffians RFC, became legendary in rugby circles of the day.
British Lion and England international Fran Cotton referred fondly to the festival in his autobiography and in the centenary year of 1970 Terry O'Connor the rugby correspondent for the Daily Mail wrote "Speak to any rugby man who has visited Southend Club and it is certain he will recall the magnificent hospitality and fantastic dinners".
Some 15 presidents of the home unions have been dinner guests plus two New Zealand presidents and a host of international players from the British Isles and abroad. Those who attended both festival and dinners over the years will remember them as truly remarkable social occasions.
As the reputation of the club grew so did the playing membership and the late sixties saw eight mens XV's and two colts sides taking the field on a Saturday. Southend produced many talented players amonst whom were the 1961 sevens team who defeated Harlequins, Loughborough College and Leicester in the Oxford sevens before losing to Wasps in a final played out in front of a of ten thousand crowd.
A CHANGE OF LOCATION
During the1978/79 season the club moved to it's current ground at Warners Park and a brand new purpose built clubhouse. A grandstand, physio room, gym and shop have been added since. The move saw Southend enter one of its most successful playing eras. The following decade saw the Eastern Counties cup won on three occasions and the Essex Cup lifted four times. In addition Blackheath (10-14) and Rob Andrew's Nottingham (12-25) were both run close in the John Player cup. 1980 saw the club play one of its most famous games in the televised cup match at home to Gloucester.
The visitors sported an awesome reputation and six current or future internationals in their pack. Leading in the last quarter Southend just went down 6-12 but confirmed their position as one of the strongest sides in Eastern Counties at the time.
The formation of leagues saw Southend placed in National League Four South. Memories of great wins against sides such as Redruth and Lydney remain from this period but from the mid nineties playing strength diminished and results suffered. Whilst team spirit remained strong relegation and league restructuring saw the club tumble to London North East Three as the new millennium dawned.
However the dawn broke brightly. The appointment of former fly-half Kevin Harman as Coach and James Shearing as Captain backed by a playing focused committee saw the fortunes of the club once again on the up.
Much hard work, a new ambition, discipline and approach has spring boarded successive promotions back into London Division One. That same season Southend went on to win London One and in the season 2003-04 saw the club back in the National Leagues again. Playing in the National 3 South the First XV came a very creditable 6th and won the inaugural Essex Senior Cup.
Since then, Southend maintained National League status (until the 2017/18 season) and for a longtime, under the guidance of the Head Coach Chris Green, were the highest ranked club in Essex. I wonder whether Admiral Theobald knew what he was starting all those decades ago - the members of Southend Rugby Football Club past and present owe him a debt of gratitude and raise a pint in his honour, as we look back with pride and forward with excitement to the rugby challenges ahead.
RISE OF THE SAXON
The exciting new identity for Southend Rugby Clubs' Frist XV!
On 19th June 2014, the Rugby Football Union Governance Committee gave formal approval for the use of the name 'Southend Saxons' for the SRFC 1st team squad.
At the time, many other clubs at Southend's National League 2 level had similar-styled brand names, such as Taunton Titans, Cornish All Blacks, Henley Hawks and Worthing Raiders.
The name chosen tied in closely with the locally-discovered Saxon King, whose burial site was located in 2003 in Prittlewell, just a mile from this Club and has become a site of national archaeological and historical importance.
It is not known, at this stage, whether this Saxon King played his rugby in the front row, but if his name was Sigeberht the Good, more likely it was somewhere out it in the backs...
This great new brand will not have any effect on the Club's main name which will remain as Southend RFC (1870) Limited.
A RECENT HISTORY
In 2016, early into the 2016/17 campaign, following relegation from National 2, the ever present Chris Green stepped down from his role as Director of Rugby and within months was announced is the incoming Direcotr of Rugby for local rivals Rochford Huindred RFC. The 2016/17 season was full of highs and lows, incliuded a 10point deducation, 3 DoRs, 3 Head Coaches and eventually a 'great escape' miracle to avoid relegation.
The summer pre-ceeding the 2017/18 season saw no less that 16 first team players leave and join other local teams (predominently Rochford Hundred RFC), the full time appointment of Martin Jones to the helm as DoR was announced and the 17/18 season got underway. The 2017/18 season was a season to forget however, with the Saxons losing their National League status for the first time in over a decade.