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History

Halifax RUFC was founded in 1919, after the 1st World War, when the British Expeditionary Force returned home victorious from France.

Following a meeting of forty men in a field behind Asquith’s Engineers at High Road Well, the modern Halifax RUFC was initiated and named West End OB, after that district of Halifax. After playing two games, both away, at Morley and Huddersfield, the infant club found a decent field at Broomfield, Savile Park and re-named itself Savile OB, again to reflect their new locality. There the players changed in a dyer’s wagon loaned by Ward’s Dyers under a tarpaulin cover and washed in buckets of water after the matches.

In 1920, because of poor facilities and lack of support at Broomfield, the club moved again to Spring Hall, re-naming itself Halifax OB this time to embrace and unite all the rugby men in the borough.

After two seasons at Spring Hall, following keen interest by Sir William Bulmer, a successful local manufacturer owning Smith Bulmer’s Mill, Holmfield, the emerging club made its fourth move to Friendly Fields, Ovenden in 1922 where a young Jimmie Glendinning, a founding father of the club showed great interest.

In 1923, following a 72% success story at Friendly a better field was secured at Ovenden Cross, behind the present public house of that name, which became the fifth HQ of the club further up the valley. Here, the club dropped the ‘Old Boys’ tag, and re-named itself for the fourth and final time, Halifax RUFC, its present title, to open up the game to all and to encourage rugby ability from wherever it came.

Due to the inspired leadership of Sir William, the dedicated hard work of J.J. Glendinning and their tireless committee, plus excellent coaching by two former Halifax Northern Union professionals, Joe Riley and Archie Rigg, great success attended the new club. During the time at Ovenden Cross, Councillor Wilfrid J. Drake of Drakes Ltd, Ovenden joined Sir William in his crusade to re-launch Rugby Union in Halifax, following its demise after the Schism of 1895, and his generosity brought the sixth and, up to now, final move to Ovenden Park in 1925, where Halifax RUFC has remained for the eighty seasons since. By a happy coincidence, the new Millennium year of 2000-01 celebrated the club’s 75th birthday at Ovenden Park.

Another very young man, Bram Bardsley, who lived near Ovenden Park, showed interest at this time, to become a founding father also.

Halifax RUFC, wandering six years in the wilderness and moving HQ six times, had at last reached the promised land of Ovenden Park!

These early years, ‘The Palmy Days’, brought a decade of huge success. Halifax RUFC starting from scratch with no field, to become a top club in the north in so short a time, able to hold its own throughout the British Isles. The success of that time, averaging 81% over nine seasons, is phenomenal, and has never been reached again. No less than thirteen club records dating back to the twenties still stand.

On 21st September 1950, Sir William Wavell Wakefield attended Ovenden Park to name it ‘The Standeven Memorial Park’ in memory of the Standeven family, who have done so much for the club, but the new title never took on and the ground remains Ovenden Park to all its members.

Halifax RUFC holds the record for the most wins in the Yorkshire Challenge Cup, having carried off the ancient trophy thirteen times including three times in succession in 1926-7-8. International honours for England have been gained by Philip Horrocks-Taylor (nine caps - 1958/64), Harry Wilkinson (four caps - 1029/30) and Lt.Col. K.T. ‘Bull’ Faithfully (three caps - 1926/26), whilst Michael Campbell Lammerton (twenty three caps - 1961/66), gained great fame with Scotland touring Australia, New Zealand and South Africa with the British Lions whilst also receiving the supreme honour of Captain. Horrocks and Wilkie were also tourists to Australia and New Zealand.

More recently, prop Richard Szabo has added historical interest, becoming our first Hungarian International gaining two caps in 2004/2005.

Seventy Halifax players have gained County Honours with Yorkshire. Halifax’s best two seasons ever were pre-war, in 1923/24 and 1929/30 when the club lost only two games each season, achieving 91% and 93% success respectively, drawing with Istonians and defeating Lansdowne and Coventry!

The best post-war seasons until very recently, were in 1951/52, 1954/55 and 1960/61, the side only losing six matches each season. The 25 seasons between 1950 and 1975 showed a consistent record of success, averaging 70% per season.

1999/2000, however, due to the dynamic advent of P V Smith as Chairman, and David Brooks, a former player as sponsor, has led to six excellent seasons, all but reaching the success of the twenties.

Halifax added a further chapter to its history when they played as Yorkshire Cup Winners, in the first National KO cup-tie ever to be played, defeating Gosforth at Ovenden Park in September 1972 and going on to the last eight at Moseley. Now, due to Halifax’s recent league level, entry is automatic, and Halifax have competed extremely well, reaching Round 4 twice in the last three seasons.

Floodlights were installed and opened with a president’s XV v International XV fixture in September 1986, which season also saw the inaugural Halifax Sevens Tournament, which for four years attracted the very best sides from all over the British Isles - Swansea, Richmond, Jedforest, London Irish, Instonians and Headingley.

With the arrival of League Rugby in 1987/88, Halifax gained promotion from North 2 to North 1 at the first attempt, before being relegated twice, back to North 2 in 1990/91 and to North East 1 in 1997/98. Then in three successive seasons, Halifax were crowned Champions of North East 1 in 1999/2000 and Champions of North 2 East in 2000/2001, and of North 1 in 2001/2002 reaching National League status.

In addition to winning North 1, and to crown a magnificent season, Halifax won through to the Final of the Powergen Intermediate Cup at Twickenham where they triumphed over Gosport and Fareham (43-19). This was a great achievement, considering that 512 clubs from throughout England entered the competition. Halifax had to win nine rounds to win the trophy, which included a memorable 20-19 win over the famous Richmond Club in the Quarter Final. This great League and Cup double took Halifax back to its rightful 1950’s and 1960’s post war status referred to earlier.

Halifax finished fourth in their first National League season. In 2003/2004 they finished runners up on points difference to champions Waterloo, which qualified them to contest the Level 4 Play Off against their counterparts from League 3 South, Launceston, to decide the third promotion place into National League 2. Despite having ground advantage, Halifax lost 16-18 in a tense game. Five days later however, part compensation for this loss was achieved when Halifax beat Otley (23-21) in the Final of the Yorkshire Challenge Cup, to record their twelfth win of the Competition and their first for 33 years.

In 2004/2005 Halifax were again Champions - this time of National League 3 North. Their 92.42% success rate was only 0.23% behind Harry Wilkinson’s 1929 record of 92.65%! Halifax, led by five-seasons Captain Carl Mortimer and seven-seasons Coach Kevin McCallion performed superbly to secure promotion to National League 2 and are now in the top forty clubs in England - their highest placing in their League history. In their last competitive game of the season, Halifax also retained the Yorkshire Challenge Cup when they defeated Cleckheaton 19-11 in the Final.

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