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. [1]

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 [2]. 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 ...

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
MAY A. Forward
LAVERTY 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 [2]. For example, according to Paul Beken, a Home Park match against Llanelli on Boxing Day 1893 attracted more than 10,000 spectators [8].

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 [3].

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 [4], so they couldn't return there. Thus in 1919/20 the combined Plymouth RFC and Devonport Albion RFC became parents of the new Plymouth Albion RFC

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 [1], 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 [1]. 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 ....

Quote. 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[10]

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.[10]

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 One.

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 [9], 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 League.

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.

Photo: June 2002 prior to Albion relocating to Brickfields. The building at centre is the old pavilion.

Photo: The same view at October 2003, Albion had been at Brickfields a few months - temporary stands.

Photo: 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

Photo: 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 watt luminaires.

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 [11].

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 relegation zone.

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, [12] 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 [13] 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 [14]

BRYCE Chey Hooker
CARPENTER Aaron Number eight/hooker Coventry Canada
COLLIER Dan Lock Bridgwater (loan) Manchester, Barking (loan) London Welsh, England Counties, Middlesex, Devon
COPELAND Robin Lock St Mary's College Ireland Colleges', Ireland Amateurs
CUSHION Ruairi Scrum-half Old Belvedere, Leinster A. ll-Ireland Clubs' XV
DAVIES Alex Fly-half Green Island (NZ), Waterloo, North Otago (NZ) Lancashire
EVANS Gareth Hooker/Back-row Newton Abbot, Redruth, Slough, Royal Navy Royal Navy, Devon
FISILAU Kenni Centre Mataura (NZ), Toa-Ko-Maatu (Tonga) Tonga, Tonga Sevens, Devon
FREESTONE Rupert Hooker Northampton Academy, Launceston Juniors England Under-16s A, Devon
HALLETT Kieran (Capt) Fly-half Ulster, Bedford Ireland Under-21s and under-19s
HOCKING Sam No 8. Launceston, Bath, Liskeard-Looe Cornwall
HOPKINS Ryan Prop Nottingham, Albion, Exeter England Counties, England Students, Devon
HOTSON Tyler Lock UBC Old Boy Ravens (Canada),Northern Suberbs (Australia) Canada full, under-21s and under-19s
JEFFERY Alex (Warriors) Scrum Half
JOHNS Steve Centre Mounts Bay (loan), Bude Devon
KESSELL Tom Scrum-half Newbury, Bridgwater, Bath Academy England Counties, Devon
LEE Mark Full-back Lydney (loan) Devon
LLOYD Owain Flanker University of Plymouth
MANTON Mark Prop Launceston, Truro, Albion
MATAVESI Sam Flanker Camborne
McLOUGHLIN Fionn Centre Shannnon, Bedwas, Caerphilly, Pontypridd, Connacht, Munster. Ireland U19s
MERCER Ben Wing/Centre Blaydon, Newcastle, Bath Somerset, Northumberland, South of England Under-18s
MITCHELL Cameron Centre Birmingham-Solihull, Stourbridge Scotland Under-21, N Midlands
MORTON David Prop Inverell Highlanders, Bridgwater, Taunton, Chard Scotland Under-20, 19s and 18s
O'GALLAGHER Jamie Centre Plymstock Albion Oaks Juniors
O'MEARA Gavin Hooker London Welsh, Barking (loan), Rosslyn Park (loan) Leinster Ireland U21
PATEY Jordan Prop
PORTER George Prop Birmingham-Solihull, Lydney England Under-18s
RICE Martin Prop Wasps (loan), Launceston Cornwall
ROKOBULI Pita (Warriors) No 8.
SAUMI Nat Utility back/Coach Penzance, Redruth Fiji, Barbarians
SKELDING Tom Lock Launceston (loan), Exeter, Moseley England Students
SPRANGLE Wayne Flanker Launceston, Bath England Counties, Somerset
STEPHEN Sean-Michael flanker Beziers (France), Oakville (Canada) Canada
TRIPCONY Jamie Back-row/Lock Barnstaple (loan), Newton Abbot (loan), Launceston Juniors Devon
TU'IPULOTU Sione Utility back Pontypool, Caerphilly, Newport Gwent, Yokogawa Tonga
VENABLES Max Full-back Saltash Devon U20s
WATTS-JONES Rory Back-row Cowbridge 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 alike.

According to newspapers [10] 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.


1. PlymouthData website Accessed September 2011.
2. History of Argyle website Accessed September 2011
3. 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.
4. 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.
10. 10. www.thisisdevon 22 Nov 2011. Accessed November 2011
11 The Herald newspaper 11 September, 2008. Located at - Accessed September 2011.
12. The Herald newspaper 12 April 2010. Located at Accessed September 2011.
13. Personal correspondence during October 2011 between Liz Cook and David Fuge, Commercial Manager of Plymouth Albion RFC.
14. Transcribed from information published on the Plymouth Albion website. Accessed August 2011.

(Liz Cook. September 2011 - Updated December 2011 and July 2012)