1881: Eccles First Cup Win

From the Archives:

As our 1XV and Colts teams prepare for their county finals this month, club Historian Sheila Thomas has taken the opportunity to explore the archives for other cup successes in Eccles RFC’s illustrious past.

One of the oldest such events was way back on 4th January 1881 in a cup competition for the junior clubs of the district, organised by Swinton Lions Football Club at their ‘Stoneacre’ ground, opposite the White Lion pub, which was used by Swinton players to change and the origin of their famous nickname “Lions”, one of the oldest in British Sport.

By the mid 1880s Swinton were recognised as a national force and the strongest team in Lancashire, who did much to encourage local junior clubs from where they sourced their players.

Swinton “Lions” 1881

Twelve clubs entered the competition – Barton, Boothstown, Brackley, Clarendon, Clifton, Eccles, Eccles Congregational, Moorside Rangers, Patricroft, Pendlebury Rovers, Swinton Rangers and Walkden. The event created great interest with 1,300 spectators passing through the turnstiles and reports noting that the weather was “exceptionally favourable”. Play began at 9.30am and was over by 4.15pm. In the first round Eccles were drawn against Patricroft and won by scoring 1 goal, 1 touchdown, 1 try and 1 touch in goal. In the 2nd round Eccles were the victors against Congregational, the third round they defeated Swinton Rangers by 2 tries scored by T Gorton. Eccles faced Clifton in the final, refereed by Walter Longshaw (seen in the photo) and went on to be overall winners of the competition. The Eccles Journal reported that “the contest throughout must be pronounced a decided success” – especially for Eccles!

Eccles Rugby Football Club first recorded as a member of the RFU in 1887, and following a short lapse the club was re-established in 1897 and has remained in existence since.

To give the club’s stop-start beginnings context, we must consider that at this turbulent time of changing allegiances, Rugby was largely a working class game in Lancashire. Cotton weaving and coal mining provided the principal employment for the local population and for many rugby players who toiled in the collieries and mills, the time to play and train was limited by their need to earn a wage. As a result, many northern clubs wished to compensate their players for loss of income due to rugby commitments or injuries. The RFU strongly opposed the ‘broken time’ payments and insisted its members prove their amateurism or face expulsion from the Union. Widespread suspensions and sanctions followed and in August 1895, emergency meetings in Manchester and Huddersfield resulted in an agreement between the prominent Lancashire and Yorkshire clubs to break away to form a Northern Union – the foundation for Rugby League. And so, it came to pass in the early years of our club’s history, Eccles would record fixtures with Salford, Swinton, Broughton Rangers, Leigh, Widnes and Rochdale Hornets before committing to non-professional principals.

Before WW1 Eccles played at a number of different venues including a ground to the rear of the Rock House Hotel, Peel Green Road, near the Barton Swing Bridge on the banks of the Ship Canal.


Eccles RFC is proud of its heritage in providing young people of the district the opportunity to enjoy rugby. We’re also equally proud of our successful Junior and Colts programme, which continues to produce talented, home grown players to this day.  Good luck to our teams in their upcoming Finals:

Sunday 14th April – Lancashire U18 Trophy Final, Eccles Senior Colts v Makos Senior Colts, at Widnes RUFC, KO 2pm.

Sunday 5th May – Colts Senior Plate Final, Eccles Senior Colts v Ormskirk Senior Colts, at Heaton Moor RUFC, KO 1130am.

Sunday 5th May, Lancashire Plate Final, Eccles 1XV v Aspull 1XV, at Rochdale RUFC, KO 2pm.

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