The first rugby club in Welwyn Garden City (WGC) was Mid Herts, formed in the mid 1920s and comprised mainly of players from the more affluent West side of town. They had a pitch at Handside Lane but no clubhouse, only a small changing hut with a crude bath.
During the depression years in the 30's, numbers of Welsh from the valleys and Scots from the border woolen mills arrived in town to work in the local hosiery factory or in factories such as Murphy Radio and they formed a rugby club which played on various pitches on the east side of town. The first President was a retired Irish army officer, Major C D Ross. In 1938 the club moved to share pitches with Mid Herts at Handside Lane.
During the war both clubs closed down and afterwards only Welwyn (East) restarted now known as Welwyn RFC. There was still no clubhouse at Handside Lane and all entertaining was carried out at whichever local pub would tolerate them, mainly the Bull! However, in 1952 a hut was purchased from a local chicken hatchery for £300 and dismantled, moved across town and re-erected by a team of players during the summer.
This was the real beginning of Welwyn RFC as we know it today. A further wooden building was presented by ICI in 1959 and again fitted out by players and committee. The club continued to grow until the present premises were built In 1973. For the first time, changing and social facilities were under the same roof. The current building cost £30,000 compared with £300 for the first hut. The clubhouse was extended in 1996 with the aid of a National Lottery grant.
In the first 30 years of the club's life there were several changes in the source of players. For the first 10 years the Welsh and Scots were predominant, then the Irish came along, mainly due to ICI, who were to provide the main source for the next 20 years. Over the period 1931-1960, out of 20 captains, 17 were Welsh, Scots or Irish and between 1950-1970 out of 15, 10 were from ICI.
In Hertfordshire the Herts Presidents Cup (County Cup) was introduced in 1971. Welwyn have reached the last 8 on several occasions but the best performance was in 1988 when they lost narrowly to Cheshunt in injury time In the semifinal.
In the Herts Merit Table, introduced in 1980, Welwyn were runners up in 1997. The leagues started in 1987 and Welwyn were placed in Herts 1. In 1989 Welwyn were promoted into London NW3 as Champions of Herts I having beaten Barnet in a title decider.
Season 1995-96 saw the Club playing in London League 3 NW, where we finished in fourth position at the end of the season. 1996-97 saw the Club win London 3 NW, defeating Barnet in the last match of the season, when whichever club had won gained promotion and fortunately this was Welwyn after a close game. Promotion to London 2 North meant more travelling, eg to Diss, Great Yarmouth and Ipswich. At that time there were 17 teams playing each other in this league. Welwyn had three good seasons at this level, finishing in fourth position in our first season. After this period the RFU decided that all leagues should have a maximum of 12 teams playing home and away fixtures, so London 2 North had to be reorganised. Despite finishing in 9th position out of 17 teams at the end of the season Welwyn was placed back in London 3 North West. At this time certain key players retired from playing and a period of bad results began for the Club, resulting in relegation to London 4 North West in 2001.
However, the club recovered from this setback, gaining promotion to London NW 3 in April 2003 and also reaching the quarter final of the National Vase Competition in the same season with a young team playing very good rugby. In season 2004-2005 Welwyn finished in fourth position and the club regained its place in London 2 North by winning promotion at the end of the 2006-7 season, which has been retained in 2007-8.
Welwyn's lower sides have always been regarded as very good. The 2nd XV won the Hertford RFC Floodlit Cup on 3 successive occasions (92-93, 93-94 and 94-95). The Colts won the Herts Colts Cup In 1996. Welwyn won the Herts Sevens in 1971 and 1978 and the plate in 1989, 92, 94 and 97.
On the subject of International honours. John Wackett of Welwyn RFC and Rosslyn Park played Hooker for England against Ireland and Wales in 1959. In more recent years, Steve Bates who played scrum-half for Welwyn in the late 70's went on to play for Wasps and was on the replacements' bench for England for several seasons before finally winning his cap against Romania in 1989 in Bucharest. Joe Worsley MBE is the most recent Welwyn RFC player to go on to greater things, playing full time for London Wasps in the professional era, he has at time of writing had 20 full England caps as well as being a part of the 2003 World Cup winning side.
Welwyn celebrated its 75th Anniversary during the 2006-2007 season. The club remains very strong, running five senior sides and with age group rugby from U7 to Colts, plus three girls and one women's team. Key sponsors include Fullers London Pride, JCA of Letchhworth and The Pavillion Indian Restaurant (see club website for sponsorship opportunities).
Welwyn is always pleased to welcome new players of all standards. The club has changing rooms and showers plus a clubhouse with gym located in a residential area. Following successful grant applications the club will have improved changing facilities for the girls and womens teams and additional flood lights for training in the near future. Come and join us on Tuesday or Thursday evenings (adults) or Wednesday evenings (juniors) and help Welwyn RFC to maintain its position at the forefront of Hertfordshire rugby.
In recent years we have had Steve Bates and Joe Worsley gain England caps and several players have gone on to Premiership clubs, back in the 1960’s we had J.A.S. Wackett playing for his England cap.
Welwyn R.F.C. is one of the friendliest and most hospitable Clubs in the County and we welcome new members to our thriving mini and junior sections.