Devonport Albion RFC: A Short History
My book, Devonport Albion RFC: A Short History, previously available from this page,
is currently being revised, but note that I'm a (very) slow worker.
1876 - Devonport Park
Whichever source you may examine on the club's history they all state the same beginnings, that
Devonport Albion was first formed in 1876 by a group of dockyard apprentices; that
their first matches were played in Devonport Park.
1887 - Bladderley Lane, Beacon Park
The growing Albion had absorbed Keyham RFC in 1886 and now in 1887, due to their
expansion and needing a regular ground, they stopped playing in the park and relocated
to the outer edges of Devonport - to a proper ground at Bladderley Lane, Beacon Park.
1893 - Home Park
In 1893 Devonport Albion
left Bladderley Lane and moved to the newly-laid Home Park football ground (which in those days was a part of Devonport). Negotiations
for the site rental were signed in the January, and the team's first match at Home Park took place
on 1st April 1893 . Albion won the match, which was against Aberavon (Port Talbot team, Wales). 4,000 spectators
were said to be in the grandstand with another 1,000 lining the ropes.
Two days later the team played against Penarth, also at Home Park. The image below
shows part of the programme from that year, with the team listed as ...
HOCKEN W. Back
CASH F. Three-quarter back
BILDINGS A. Three-quarter back
SOWDEN W. Three-quarter back
DOWNS W. Three-quarter back
BADDELEY B. Half back
HORWEL A. Half back
BRYANT T. (capt) Forward
CORAM T. Forward
SOBEY G. Forward
SHEPHERD R. Forward
CHISWELL F. Forward
MAY A. Forward
LAVERTY G. Forward
ALLINGTON G. Forward
By now, not only were Albion a great team locally, they
were also gaining a strong national reputation; it wasn't long before they began
to play against international teams.
Devonport Albion shared the new facilities with Home Park Association Football Club.
Home Park was such an improvement over Bladderley Lane, with extensive seating
and better facilities, that Albion were comfortable right from the start in welcoming
top rugby teams from around the UK. Indeed, the team progressed so well they were said to have 'stolen the thunder' of the Football
Club, who had 'played second fiddle' to Albion ever since the new ground had opened
. For example, according to Paul Beken, a Home Park match against Llanelli
on Boxing Day 1893 attracted more than 10,000 spectators .
However, during this first year at Home Park, Albion began to regret the amount of rent they were paying
for their use of the ground, £350 for the season. They requested easier rental terms
for the following season, 1894-95, but it was refused. Thus Albion returned to the Bladderley ground.
1894 - Bladderley Lane Again
The exact date Albion returned to Bladderley is not known, but the club was certainly there by
29th September 1894 when they played against Bristol - as documented on the official
match programme .
After Albion had left Home Park, some Plymouth businessmen formed a brand-new Rugby
team that played there; this was Plymouth RFC, formed in October 1894 as a
rival to Devonport Albion RFC.
The new Plymouth RFC played its first match at Home Park on 21st November 1894
versus Devonport's RN Engineering College. In due course Plymouth RFC
and Albion RFC were to amalgamate, see 1919 below....
1894 - 1919
(Note: This section covering a 25-year period of changes, with images, is being revised
1919/1920 - Birth of Plymouth Albion
Both Plymouth RFC and Devonport Albion RFC struggled to reform after The Great War was
over. Plymouth acquired a new ground at Beacon Park, so reformed there instead of
returning to Home Park. Devonport decided to amalgamate with Plymouth instead of
rebuilding their own team, in any case their pre-war ground, Rectory Field, was to be sold to the Admiralty , so
they couldn't return there. Thus in 1919/20 the combined Plymouth
RFC and Devonport
RFC became parents of the new Plymouth Albion
The amalgamated teams not only shared half each of their names, club colours also
were shared; the new colours beng the green and white of Plymouth and the red and
white of Devonport. Plymouth Albion RFC played thereafter at Beacon Park for the
next 84 years, until 2003. There was no stand at the site in those early days and, according
to Moseley , each time there was a home game the club hired 300 chairs from the
Blind Institution. The club eventually bought the Beacon Park ground Freehold, from
its owner the Reverend Doctor Trelawney-Ross . Once they owned the property various
updates were made, in due course that is, such as floodlights added in the 1960s.
Plymouth Albion went from strength to strength. The ‘new’ club boomed and, in the
1920s, among the many visiting teams they entertained were the All Blacks from New
Zealand and the Warratahs from New South Wales. At one point the club had five members on its team who also played
for the England International team. Plymouth Albion had become
one of the leading clubs in the United Kingdom.
1950s and 1960s
In the years following the end of WWII the Club held an excellent record. Although
not available in this short history I'm led to understand that Albion's administrators
hold the results and statistics for the club's entire history.
1980s/1990s - Champions followed by Relegation
This was a period of mixed fortunes for the club. The following quote from Plymouth Albion's history page
describes the situation ....
In the 1988-89 season, with a 100% record in Courage League Three, Albion
were crowned champions. After three seasons in Division Two, Albion suffered relegation
in two successive years, ending up in Jewson League Two (South). In the 1998-99
season, Albion only avoided relegation from National League rugby by winning away
against Weston-Super-Mare in the last match of the season. This was Albion’s only
away win of the entire season! Unquote.
Not once during the 1990s decade did Albion win more than half their league matches
in any given season. These were tough days for the club.
1999/2000 - Graham Dawe Appointed
When the millennium arrived the club needed a big boost; the previous decade was
possibly the worst in its entire history, and the team needed something special
to motivate and push them to greater results.
The boost came in the form of England International Graham Dawe (Bath and England)
when he was appointed Chairman of Rugby at Albion. He wasted no time. That season
the club lost only seven of their 26 games, and Albion supplied eight players for
the Devon team which reached the County Championship final at Twickenham
Within one season the team reached fourth in Jewsons League Two (South). Albion
players were on their way up again. Dawe was their saviour
2000/2001 - Promotion to National League Division Two
This was the clubs’ 125th anniversary season and was a spectacular year in its history.
In the 2000-2001 season the club set a new National League record for the number
of consecutive wins and played an entire league season unbeaten. As a result Albion
was promoted to National League Division Two. The success was attributed to the
tireless drive of Graham Dawe.
2001/2002 - Promotion to National League Division One
Following immediately on the tail of the previous season's success, Albion was
promoted again in the 2001 – 2002 season - the team was now in National League Division
The players were flying high, but the club itself was not so successful financially,
thus, in 2001 'Plymouth Albion Rugby Football Club Limited' was formed , following
which the finances of the club should have become more secure, but that wasn't the case. Expenditure
on their new ground, see 2003, used up valuable resources and when, in 2008-2009
there was a global economic downturn, Albion did not escape, see 2009. The millennium
decade was tough financially for the club.
2003 - Return to Devonport, Brickfields
In the summer of 2003 the club returned home to Devonport, the place where it originated.
Their last game at Beacon Park was played on 26th April 2003. The relocation was
to the Brickfields Recreation Ground, located via Damerel Close or Madden Road.
When Albion moved to Brickfields it was on a 25-year lease of the grounds, but management
held hopes of subsequently acquiring a 125 year lease.
The first game held at Brickfields was on 13 September 2003, versus Otley, with
Keni Fisilau, Danny Thomas and Nat Saumi starting the match.
For a while the club thought about renaming their new grounds and supporters were
asked for suggestions, but it was decided to stick with the historic name of Brickfields.
Temporary stands were brought in at the beginning, and the old cricket pavilion
used as a changing room, but Brickfields was to be altered considerably during the first
decade of Albion ownership. The facilities are now, at time of writing, excellent,
with new stands, two pitches, a pavilion, a marquee, a car park, ability to cater
for an event with 300 guests, floodlights, and more ...
Graham Dawe set about working within the local community, and beyond, including schoolchildren, residents of Devonport
and of the wider city, and more recently working in partnership with the University of Plymouth on the
‘Enterprise through Sport’ initiative. Other teams of the Brickfield club include
The Devonport Warriors (Albion's development team) and the successful Ladies XV playing in Women's National
2005 - Plans for a New (west) Grandstand
In 2005 plans were announced for a £4 million sports centre on the Brickfields site;
whilst intended as a health & fitness facility for the community, the design would
allow it to double as a grandstand for the rugby club. The sports
centre was to be constructed immediately alongside Albion's pitch, and the grandstand,
with seating for almost 1500, would be built into the side of the new sports centre, facing
the pitch from the west.
For the 2005/2006 season the club finished fifth in National Division One.
June 2002 prior to Albion relocating to Brickfields. The building at centre is the old pavilion.
The same view at October 2003, Albion had been at Brickfields a few months - temporary stands.
July 2006. The same view three years on, with a new permanent stand, built into the side of the sports centre.
The trees at centre of image have not changed while all around has
July 2006. The other side of the sports centre - viewed from the entrance in Madden Road.
2006 - Plans for a New East Stand
In April 2006, on receipt of an insurance certificate from the insurance company,
Plymouth Albion eagerly opened the new sports-centre grandstand. The match that evening was between the Royal Navy (their centenary game)
and the Barbarians. Albion had three players in the Barbarians squad - captain Danny Thomas, Brett
Luxton and Nat Saumi. About 1,500 tickets were sold in advance of the game.
The new grandstand took Albion's capacity at Brickfields to over 7,000.
Although the grandstand was opened and put to use in April, the 'official' opening
took place later in the year.
In June 2006 the club announced a five-year sponsorship deal for another new stand,
the proposed East Stand. The construction company Redrow, that were redeveloping
a large swathe of Devonport at the time, offered a substantial financial contribution,
sufficient to cover 70% of the cost of the East Stand. The facility would include
a covered terraced area with a full range of bars and other supporter facilities;
to be named the Redrow Homes East Stand, after the construction company.
At this time Albion's goals were to develop Brickfields into a stadium of Premiership
standards. The two new stands and increased capacity would demonstrate to all
that Albion had aspirations on reaching the Premiership. They were aiming
for the top drawer. In the eyes of the clubs seniors the development of the grounds and facilities
was another stage in their planned phased development. The chairman Bob Evans was recorded
as saying "If we finish top of the pile, we have to have a stadium that is Premiership standard".
However, Graham Dawe admitted that the planned facility would bring with it pressures
for the team to achieve success on the playing field.
2007 - Floodlights Installed
Planning permission was granted in June 2007 to install a floodlighting system to
the pitch, consisting of 4 x 33.5 metre floodlighting columns, each with 26 x 1500
In July 2007, following a community vote, Devonport residents named the sports centre
grandstand (the west stand) after Eric Johns, a veteran community campaigner. Eric,
an octogenarian who lived in Stoke, was born in Devonport and had campaigned on
various Plymouth issues throughout his life.
2008 - Brickfields Five Years On
By 2008 Brickfields was one of the biggest rugby-union-only grounds in National
Division One .
Following continued improvements Albion’s official capacity was now 8,400, which
included over 3,000 seats. There were permanent stands on the west and east
sides of the ground; a 2,000-plus uncovered seating stand behind the posts at the
north end of the stadium; premiership-standard floodlights; and an electronic scoreboard.
The physical presence of the club five years on was of a high standard.
However, the club was disappointed with its 2008-09
National Division One campaign - Albion finished just one place and five points above the
2009/2010 - Financial Crisis
Plymouth Albion faced a financial crisis in the 2009-2010 season which threated
the club's existence. Attempts were made to increase ticket receipts with pleas
to all supporters to help by introducing new supporters.
By April 2010 Albion needed to raise at least £100,000,  required almost immediately
in order to stay afloat. Pleas for help went out once again. An appeal was made
for 30 supporters or local businessmen to pledge £5,000 each to keep the club going
over the summer. Shareholders and sponsors of the club all received a letter, from
club chairman Dr Graham Stirling, outlining the club's worrying financial position.
The letter revealed that Albion faced a financial shortfall after losing 'a major
source of financial support' and a fall in gate revenue. The club had been struggling
financially for a couple of years after investing heavily in Brickfields, and now
faced administration - the situation was that serious.. The letter continued...
" "The reason for the request for urgent help is that unless we can raise at least
£100,000 of working capital (and ideally we are looking for £150,000 to allow for
some contingency) we are faced with some form of insolvent arrangement."
The club survived the 2010/2011 season. In April, a bonus point win away at Birmingham
& Solihull secured their Championship status for another season.
2011/2012 - Current
Following a request to Albion for a closing statement
on their current position, David Fuge kindly replied  with the message... "With the
season now seven weeks old we find ourselves 9th in the league having played 8, won
3, lost 5. Of these fixtures, four have been against the top four sides, Bristol,
Cornish Pirates, Doncaster, & London Welsh. We have had a few injuries this season
allied to two of our established players away with Canada at the World Cup. Hopefully
now that players are back and that the injury list is reducing we will be in a stronger
position to climb the table, there's certainly enough talent in the squad for us to
push on and finish in the top half of the table. The objective is the Premiership,
and that will not alter."
Current players at 2011/2012 
|| Bridgwater (loan) Manchester, Barking (loan) London Welsh,
|| England Counties, Middlesex, Devon
| COPELAND Robin
|| St Mary's College
|| Ireland Colleges', Ireland Amateurs
|| Old Belvedere, Leinster A.
||ll-Ireland Clubs' XV
||Green Island (NZ), Waterloo, North Otago (NZ)
| EVANS Gareth
|| Newton Abbot, Redruth, Slough, Royal Navy
|| Royal Navy, Devon
|| Mataura (NZ), Toa-Ko-Maatu (Tonga)
|| Tonga, Tonga Sevens, Devon
|| Northampton Academy, Launceston Juniors
|| England Under-16s A, Devon
|HALLETT Kieran (Capt)
|| Ireland Under-21s and under-19s
||Launceston, Bath, Liskeard-Looe
||Nottingham, Albion, Exeter
||England Counties, England Students, Devon
||UBC Old Boy Ravens (Canada),Northern Suberbs (Australia)
||Canada full, under-21s and under-19s
|JEFFERY Alex (Warriors)
||Mounts Bay (loan), Bude
||Newbury, Bridgwater, Bath Academy
||England Counties, Devon
||University of Plymouth
| MANTON Mark
|| Launceston, Truro, Albion
| MATAVESI Sam
||Shannnon, Bedwas, Caerphilly, Pontypridd, Connacht, Munster.
|| Blaydon, Newcastle, Bath
|| Somerset, Northumberland, South of England Under-18s
| MITCHELL Cameron
|| Scotland Under-21, N Midlands
| MORTON David
|| Inverell Highlanders, Bridgwater, Taunton, Chard
|| Scotland Under-20, 19s and 18s
| O'GALLAGHER Jamie
||Plymstock Albion Oaks Juniors
| O'MEARA Gavin
||London Welsh, Barking (loan), Rosslyn Park (loan) Leinster
|| Ireland U21
| PORTER George
|| Birmingham-Solihull, Lydney
|| England Under-18s
| RICE Martin
||Wasps (loan), Launceston
| ROKOBULI Pita (Warriors)
| SAUMI Nat
|| Utility back/Coach
| SKELDING Tom
||Launceston (loan), Exeter, Moseley
|| England Students
| SPRANGLE Wayne
|| England Counties, Somerset
|| Beziers (France), Oakville (Canada)
|| Barnstaple (loan), Newton Abbot (loan), Launceston Juniors
|| Utility back
|| Pontypool, Caerphilly, Newport Gwent, Yokogawa
| VENABLES Max
|| Devon U20s
|| Wales Under-16s, Devon
Update December 2011 - Dawe is Shocked by his Sacking
On 21 November 2011 Graham Dawe was sacked from Plymouth Albion. During his time
with the club Dawe won two promotions, took the club to a cup final, and won a National
League record; he also contributed to the wider development of the team in the community.
He was known for being dedicated and was highly respected by supporters and colleagues
According to newspapers  Dawe was “shocked and frustrated” and needed “to take
some time to reflect, but he “wished the team well.” Dawes replacement is Peter
Drewett who until March 2009 was with Exeter Chiefs.
Accessed September 2011.
2. History of Argyle website
Accessed September 2011
Devonport Albion's official match program against Bristol on 29th September 1894 was sold at auction in August 2009 (for £132 - they're highly collectable),
by Dreweatt Neate, auctioneers of Clifton; the programme states
that the match was played at Albion's Bladderley ground.
An official Rectory Souvenir programme for 1950, that I bought from Ebay, scanned, and
added to this page.
9. Plymouth Albion's history page.
Accessed August 2011.
22 Nov 2011. Accessed November 2011
11 The Herald
newspaper 11 September, 2008. Located at www.thisisplymouth.co.uk
- Accessed September 2011.
12. The Herald
newspaper 12 April 2010. Located at www.thisisplymouth.co.uk.
Accessed September 2011.
Personal correspondence during October 2011 between Liz Cook and David
Fuge, Commercial Manager of Plymouth Albion RFC.
Transcribed from information published on the Plymouth Albion
website. Accessed August 2011.
(Liz Cook. September 2011 - Updated December 2011 and July 2012)