Winters Park, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 8RG
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(Written by Ted Chappelhow in 2004)

In the 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 pursuits.

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.

In 1997 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.


Ted Chappelhow

Past President

(1931 - 2004)