Rugby returns to the Rectory Field as Askeans move in

Askeans in action at the Rectory Field

Full-time rugby has returned to the historic Rectory Field, five years after Blackheath FC upped sticks and moved to Eltham.

Askeans, who play in the Kent 2 league, the tenth tier of English rugby union, have signed a long-term deal with Blackheath Sports Club to move into the ground on Charlton Road, and are already making themselves at home.

Blackheath moved its first-team matches out of the Rectory Field at the end of the 2015-16 season, saying it needed to make the move to ensure its financial stability as it battled for promotion to the Championship, rugby union’s second tier.

The much-loved old ground staged international matches in its heyday, and was also a venue for Kent county cricket until 1972.

Now Askesans’ move brings regular rugby back to the ground – and the club is keen for the community to get involved. DAVID SHUTE takes up the story….

We are delighted that we have now found a permanent home at the Rectory Field in Blackheath. But it’s so much more than somewhere for us to play – we enjoy great facilities – for a start there’s 2 fully licensed long bars (I knew you’d be pleased).

We also enjoy excellent changing rooms, a seriously big stand for spectators, several function areas, a great social side and even a pool table (for anyone who the ref sends for an early bath).

In addition to all that, the ground is steeped in a long and rich history starting way back in the 1880s.

It was originally developed for cricket, football and lawn tennis and was, for many years, home of Blackheath rugby club. Five years ago Blackheath moved to a new home in Well Hall, Eltham.

For several years the Rectory Field only hosted odd games – a great shame for such a prestigious and first class ground that was once used for international sporting events. England played matches here before Twickenham was developed.

Back in the day the All Blacks, Springboks, Australian and Maori touring sides all graced the Rectory Field pitch. It was also the Kent County home ground.

But the rich history is not just rugby, the ground has hosted senior cricket and county games and is now the home in the summer months for Blackheath Cricket Club.

Other facilities include tennis courts and a new commercial gym.

Most importantly – rugby is back at the Rectory Field.

We have already settled in and we look forward to calling it our home for many years to come.

We’ve also been made very welcome and so will you be – if you’re interested in joining – players of all standards and supporters (of any standard) can call Ian (Director of Rugby) on 07957 280530.

Askeans’ next home match is against Dartford Valley on Saturday 6 November at 2pm: there is no charge for admission.

For more information, visit the Askeans website.


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Blackheath Rugby to move first-team matches from Rectory Field to Well Hall, Eltham

The Rectory Field has been Blackheath FC's home since 1883
The Rectory Field has been Blackheath FC’s home since 1883

Blackheath Rugby is to move its first-team matches away from the Rectory Field on Charlton Road, and will start next season at its Well Hall ground in Eltham.

The world’s oldest rugby club, which started playing at the Rectory Field in 1883, says it needs to move to Eltham to ensure its financial stability.

Blackheath are currently second in National League One, English rugby’s third tier, and are battling for promotion to the Championship. Club bosses say if the side is to progress, it needs a ground that can be developed in the future.

But they say women’s, youth and social sides will continue to play at the Rectory Field, the club’s “spiritual home”.

The new ground on Kidbrooke Lane, known as Club@Well Hall, boasts an all-weather playing surface and newly-laid pitch.

Chairman Russell Ticehurst told members at the club’s financial annual general meeting: “There is a lot of history associated with Rectory Field and it will remain an important part of our portfolio,” he said.

“Some of the first England test matches were hosted there, you can dig out YouTube footage of the All Blacks and Springboks there in the inter-war years, and county cricket was regularly staged until around 1970.

“But therein lies the problem! Rectory Field is a shared facility with cricket, tennis and squash and the pressure of running semi-professional rugby, which continues to become increasingly competitive year-on-year, in a shared environment is too great.”

“Club@Well Hall gives us so much potential to improve the match day experience for everyone. A lot of work will go in to make sure we have the infrastructure facilities for spectators and sponsors alike, and with its close proximity to the A2 and Eltham railway and bus stations, as well as on-site parking, it has excellent transport links for people coming from all over London and Kent.”

Ticehurst said he appreciated the emotional ties many felt to the Rectory Field: “As a player myself at Blackheath the 1990s, and now in my third year as Chairman, I fully appreciate the heartache of moving our primary activity away from Rectory Field, but it will remain our spiritual home with social, youth and women’s rugby all played there.

“However, if Blackheath is to remain a leading name not just this country, but in world rugby, we need to ensure our financial stability with a venue we can develop, and Club@Well Hall gives us the potential for a bright and exciting future.”

Club members have been invited to discuss the plan at an open evening at Well Hall on 28 January.

The move means means there are seven home fixtures left to play at the Rectory Field, including matches against Rosslyn Park this Saturday and Ampthill on 30 January (3pm kick-offs, £15 entry). The match against Richmond on 5 March is a clash in the oldest club rugby fixture in the world.

Blackheath FC was founded in 1858 by old boys of the long-gone Blackheath Proprietary School and became the first open rugby club without restricted membership. To this day, fans shout for “Club!” rather than “Blackheath!”, as early matches were against the school’s side. In its first years, matches took place on the heath itself, with players changing in the Princess of Wales pub.

It was a founder member of the Football Association, before walking out within weeks over plans to outlaw “hacking”. It helped set up the Rugby Football Union eight years later.