Clifton Rugby Football Club History
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Back Row (L-R): E.Leonard, E.W.Ball, W.I.Pocock, J.Nichols, W.Strachan, G.Dunn, H.W.R.Gribble, H.L.Evans, A.D.Greene, J.D.Miller. Sitting: H.W.Peck, G.M.Butterworth (Captain), W.S.Paul, E.D.Evans.

Above Clifton XV of 1880-81 with future Scotland player Harry Loft Evans.

On February 5th 1881 a Gloucestershire rugby XV lost to Oxford University. The Gloucestershire side comprised 8 Clifton RFC players - J.H.Berry (Royal Agricultural College), J.D.Miller (Clifton), E.D.Evans (Clifton), H.L.Evans (Clifton), H.W.R.Gribble (Clifton), H.M.Hirst (Clifton), W.Snushall (Gloucester), E.Leonard (Clifton), W.Strachan (Clifton), A.D.Greene (Clifton), W.Brown (Gloucester), P.B.Cooke (Gloucester), G.J.Dewey (Gloucester), J.F.Brown (Gloucester), R.D.Ritchie (Gloucester).

James Alfred Bevan selected as Wales first captain. Born in Australia and educated at Hereford Cathedral School. He joined Clifton in 1874 and left in 1877 to go to Cambridge University where he gained 2 blues. He became captain of the first Wales XV but after a disastorous match was never selected again. He went on to become an Anglican Clergyman.


Career Record: P1, W0, D0, L1, Tries 0, Cons 0, Pen 0, DropG 0

19th Feb 1881 v England (Blackheath) L 7G,6T,1DG-0





For more on James Alfred Bevan click here

Ex Clifton RFC player John Ernest Bush selected for Ireland in 1881 but had to decline because of military duties.

For more on John Ernest Bush click here

1881-82 The club played their first match under floodlights, away to Weston in front of a crowd of 4000 (the population of Weston at the time was only 7000). The pitch was illuminated by four electric lights attached to the top of four high poles with the current provided by a 12 hp steam engine. The game ended prematurely when one of the lights failed. It was reported that often a player chased the shadow of his opponent rather than the man himself. The first ever game under floodlights was Broughton Park v Swinton on the 22nd October 1878

Back Row (L-R): W.I.Pocock, G.Dester, H.L.Evans, W.R.Booker, J.Nichols, G.Dunn, J.P.Bush, E.D.Evans, E.Leonard, H.W.Peck, W.Strachan, J.C.Gilmore. Sitting: E.W.Ball, A.D.Greene (Captain), J.D.Miller.

Above Clifton XV of 1881-82 with future Scotland player Harry Loft Evans, for more click here. For more on Edward Leonard click here . Captain was Alan Douglas Greene, for more click here. For more on Edward William Ball, click here


Back Row (L-R): R.I.Pocock, H.F.Devis, F.E.Bradshaw, E.H.May. H.C.Baker, H.I.Pocock, E.R.Ward, F.R.Fry, S.Waterfield. Seated: F.C.Adams, H.C.M.Hirst, E.Leonard, J.D.Miller. On Ground: E.Moore, W.Weathered.

Above Clifton XV of 1883-84

1884-85 - 8 players selected for Gloucestershire v Cambridge University.

Back Row (L-R): A.Spencer, J.C.Gilmore, H.C.M.Hirst, H.C.Baker, H.I.Pocock, H.Budget, A.M.Fry, R.I.Pocock. Middle Row: T.Myles, E.D.Evans, E.Leonard (Captain), J.Smith, H.Williams, F.Devis. Front Row: T.Adams, F.R.Fry.

Above Clifton XV of 1884-85. All the players in this photo played rugby for Gloucestershire with the exception of J.Smith, H.Williams and F.Devis. H.C.Baker went on to captain Clifton and Gloucestershire and played once for England.

1885 - Harry Loft Evans selected for Scotland while playing for Edinburgh University. He started with Clifton. Born 14th December 1859. Died 9th April 1925.


Career Record: P2, W2, D0, L0, Tries 0, Cons 0, Pen 0, DropG 0

21st February 1885 v Ireland (Belfast) Abandoned W 1T-0

7th March 1885 v Ireland (Raeburn Place, Edinburgh) W 1G,2T-0




For more on Harry Loft Evans click here


Back Row (L-R): Herbert Innes Pocock, Henry Brogden Budgett, Thomas Adams, Reginald Octavius Everill, Edward Albert Leonard, William Lutiner, H.J.Huxtable, J.C.Gilmore, H.Thurston. Front Row: Harry Francois Devis, Francis Rhodalph Fry, J.Cory, Henry Cecil Montague Hirst, E.J.May, A.Spencer.

Above Clifton XV 1885-86. For more on Clifton captain, Henry Cecil Montague Hirst, click here. For more on H.I.Pocock click here.

1885 - Moved to new ground at Leach's Field, Westbury-on-Trym. For more details click here

In October 1886, a points system was introduced which followed the Cheltenham College system. 3 for a goal and 1 for a try. But if a try was converted, 3 points were awarded for the conversion (goal) which replaced the 1 point awarded for the try i.e. the team scored 1 point for a try and 3 for a converted try (goal).

1887 - Hiatt Cowles Baker selected for England. Born 30th June 1863. Died 19th September 1934 in Almondsbury near Bristol. He joined Clifton in 1883 and was captain from 1886-1889


Career Record: P1, W0, D1, L0, Tries 0, Cons 0, Pen 0, DropG 0

8th Jan 1887 v Wales (Stradley Park, Llanelli) Draw 0-0




Hiatt Cowles Baker’s one England appearance was played in appalling conditions. It was a bitterly cold afternoon during which snow and hail added to the difficulties of play. A severe frost had rendered the main Stradley Park unplayable, and eventually the match was staged on the adjoining cricket ground, where 8,000 spectators huddled together around the makeshift touchlines. The ground was too hard for any heroics particularly for a forward. Rowland Hill of the RFU refereed as the Scottish official became snow-bound on route to Llanelli. The England side on this day featured 8 new caps.

For more on Hiatt Cowles Baker click here


Back Row (L-R): ?, ?, ?, Reginald Octavius Everill, ?, Edward Albert Leonard, ?, ?, ?. Middle Row: ?, Henry Brogden Budgett, Hiatt Cowles Baker (Captain), Maurice Mills Baker. Front Row: ?, ?.

Above Clifton XV of 1887-88 with Clifton, Gloucestershire Captain and England International Hiatt Cowles Baker. His brother Maurice is seated extreme right.

On our ground at Henleaze a Bristol United side lost to Cardiff Harlequins. Bristol United went on to become Bristol Football Club later in the year. The word rugby wasn't used in the club name until recently. This robbed Clifton of many of its supporters and some of its players.

Fair catch or mark introduced in 1888.

In 1888 England didn't play a single game but gave 15 players cap. 2 of those Percy Robertshaw and Harry Eagles never played in a full international for England but received their cap. Worse was to follow in 6 years time when the Northern Rugby Union was formed and England lost most of their team and clubs.


Gloucestershire played the Maori's, otherwise known as the New Zealand Natives on February 2nd 1889. 8,000 people watched the match at The Spa in Gloucester. Clifton captain Hiatt Cowles Baker was the Gloucestershire captain. Also playing was Clifton's Edward Leonard. The New Zealand Natives won (4-1) by a goal (E.McCausland) and a 2 tries (P.Keogh 2) to a try scored by Gloucestershire's R.Grist. click here for detail of the match

On March 23rd 1889 we played Bristol, at home, for the first time and lost by 4 points (1 goal and 1 try) to 0. It was Bristol's first season. At the time all Bristol clubs except Clifton played on The Downs. The only privately owned rugby ground belonged to Clifton College. Bristol themselves soon moved to Gloucestershire CCC ground at Ashley Down. For report of match click here