Ted Chappelhow in 2004)
Autumn of 1882 a group of a dozen or so rugby enthusiasts gathered in Great
Dockray and there the Penrith Football Club was founded. The first playing
area was the Foundry Field and though excursions to other bases took place over
the years, the Club settled there again following the Second World War. By 1954
our first ever Club-house had been built, largely through self-help and the
expertise and generosity of the father of our then hooker, Robert (Bobby) Reay,
who owned a local building business.
The Club went from strength to strength and it became obvious that further
development would be necessary. However, since the ground belonged to the local
Council it became apparent that if we wished to develop in the way we wanted
then the solution was to buy our own ground. A Development Committee was
set up under the inspired leadership of Treasurer Joe Jameson with Jim Nicholson
as Secretary. Twenty-eight acres of land, including a two-acre concrete Car Park
(formerly a tank park during the War) came up for sale by Auction. On Tuesday
12th September 1961 the Club paid the princely sum of £7,500 for the whole 28
acres and the future of the Club was assured.
An area sufficient to lay out three pitches was levelled, drained and re-seeded
over the next three years and following many fund-raising functions plans were
drawn up for a Club-house at what was to be our new home. With the help of
a Low Interest Loan from the R.F.U. and a similar grant from a Brewery, the
Club-house and ground was officially opened on 29th April 1967 when,
incidentally, the writer of this article was Club Secretary! Penrith were
the envy of Clubs in the North-West and many who, though they were not on our
Fixture List, would call in to enjoy our Saturday night dances.
As we all know, good times don't last forever and when our flat-roofed sectional
building began to age on reaching its promised life-span of 25 years, we had to
look at fund-raising for a new Club-house. By this time we were running three
Senior sides, a Colts side and a healthy Mini-Rugby section. We had four Squash
Courts and the local Tennis Club had moved to Winters Park and laid four hard
courts. We also became the home of Beacon Archers, Penrith Amateur Rugby League
Club and the Eden Runners. Obviously we were beginning to serve the local
community not only as a Rugby Club but also as a base for other Sporting
It was about this time that the National Lottery came on the scene and a team
was assembled to draw up an application for a Lottery Grant.
Keith Davis (Secretary), Chris Ryder (Solicitor) and Richard Dryell (Architect)
were the key players. It took almost two years to prepare the application
documents and move through the various stages toward grant approval. However it
was all worthwhile and we were eventually awarded £410,000 towards the cost of
our new development. The Club itself had to raise the rest of the £660,000 total
cost through the sale of land not suitable for sporting purposes behind our
grandstand. Such was the quality of our bid that our Secretary was
invited to the House of Commons to appear before the all party National Heritage
Select Committee who were then taking evidence on the impact of lottery grants
to various sections of the community.
Peter Brook, President of the
Rugby Football Union, opened our splendid new clubhouse and
we were ready to move into the 21st Century.
Since then, we have
experience considerable change in the way the Club is managed and utilised.
With our new complex came all the responsibilities of upkeep and general
maintenance. New staff had to be employed and core income streams had to
be generated and nurtured.
In April 2000, our senior XV won the
Cumbria Cup for only the second time in the Club's history. However, less
than a year later the entire country suffered from the ravages of Foot and
Mouth, and none more so than in the Eden Valley of Cumbria. Our strong
farming connections (and indeed RFU guidelines) forced us to cancel all our
matches from the end of February with the end result that the RFU contrived a
formula that relegated us from level six to level seven by a margin of less than
one point! In 2003 our senior XV played magnificent rugby to progress
through the rounds of the Powergen Intermediate Cup playing away from home on
most occasions. The semi-finals saw us drawn away once again to the
favourites Hertford only to lose by one point in the dying seconds of the game.
Despite this disappointment the team soldiered on and secured promotion back to
level six from where we have every intention of making further progress.