Thomas Cook's Rugby Club

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Thos. Cook & Son's RFC
Founded 1910 -1966 (1910 -1966)
Location Ravensbourne, Kent, England
Ground(s) Ravensbourne Kent
Club Jersey

Thomas Cook’s amateur Rugby Football Club was founded in 1910 as part of a wider sports club established by the company in 1897, with the ground at Ravensbourne in Kent.
The first club president was Frank Cook (eldest grandson of the company founder),[1] who had played his rugby at Mill Hill School.
It ceased playing during both World Wars, and like many ‘house’ rugby clubs it no longer exists. At its most popular the club ran two XV’s until it closed in 1966. During its lifetime the club played against well over 100 different clubs in London and the South East.
It also established a regular Easter tour to the Netherlands in 1958 playing RC Hilversum[2] which helped to promote Dutch rugby during the 1960s. The original tour fixture was filmed for Dutch cinemas and television,[3] in front of crowd of over 2,600 at the AGOVV Apeldoorn stadium in Apeldoorn.


Thomas Cooks Sports Club[edit]

Established in 1897, initially known as the ‘Ludgate Circus Athletic Club’, (after the company’s first London Head Office) when the existing football and swimming clubs amalgamated. The new club had four sections – football, swimming, cricket and tennis – and the playing facilities scattered across London. Despite having no ground, it proved popular and by 1902 the club was simply known as the ‘Ludgate Circus Club’. The company purchased land at Ravensbourne Kent and laid out a sports ground and erected a Pavilion. By 1905 it had become one of the finest private athletic grounds near London.[4] By the summer of 1911 the sports club had over 600 members.

The rugby section was established in 1910 as the Ludgate Circus XV. After the First World War a new pavilion was built in 1922 opened by Thomas Cook's eldest grandson, the club's president Frank Henry Cook (1862-1931). The rugby club changed its name to Thos. Cook & Son's RFC in 1926 after the company moved to its new London Head Office in Berkeley Street Mayfair. During this time the annual summer Sports Day was held at Ravensbourne which became a popular date in the company's social calendar.

After the company moved its Head Office to Peterborough in 1977 and it was renamed Thomas Cook Sports and Social Club. The playing fields and pavilion were taken over by the Goan Association [5] and used as a sports facility until tragically the old Mock-Tudor clubhouse opened by the founder’s grandson seventy-six years earlier, was burnt down in 1998 due to vandalism. It was sold to Lewisham Council – now called Summerhouse Playing Fields as part of the wider Beckenham Place Park open space.

Rugby Club[edit]

First Club President
Frank Cook – Grandson of founder Thomas Cook

Club Colours
Royal blue jersey, white collar, broad yellow (gold) hoop with chocolate brown keylines, navy blue shorts

Post war Club Presidents
Stanley Adams, Chairman (1953–59)
Sir John Elliot (railway manager), Chairman (1959–67)

Affiliations
Rugby Union, Kent County Rugby Football Union,
Kent Society of Rugby Football Union Referees

Club Ground (Est. 1905)
Ravensbourne Avenue, Beckenham, Kent

Easter tours to the Netherlands[edit]

The club was amongst the first English clubs to tour the Netherlands with a match against RC Hilversum [6] in 1958. It was such a 'novelty' that it was filmed for Dutch cinemas and television to promoting the game through the Netherlands, it was a great success. The first RC Hilversum overseas tour was to Ravensbourne in 1959, containing some Dutch Internationals. Annual tour matches were played alternatively until 1965.

References[edit]

Publications[edit]

  • A limited centenary edition Kicked into Touch was produced in 2010. (Now out of print). Since then a more extensive revised edition adding new material has been published. It includes details of the company and club history, its players, including many anecdotes together with (previously unpublished) images and full appendices.
  • Thomas Cook’s Rugby Club’ its life and times 1910 – 1966,by John Dann, Fastprint Peterborough, published in 2013 ISBN 978-178035-656-3

External links[edit]

  • Thomas Cook's Archives, The Thomas Cook Business Park, Coningsby Road, Peterborough, PE3 8SB, Archivist: Paul Smith [1]