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1900 - 1914 - Durham County - The Halcyon Era

The period from 1900 – 1914 was a remarkable period for Rugby in the area for during that time the Durham County XV, underpinned with a strong Hartlepool Club’s Player element, reigned as County Champion of England on 5 occasions, shared the Championship once and runners up on 5 occasions.

There is though, a background story to the era, for in the wake of the disastrous break of 1895 when not only the well-known North Country clubs, many of which are still prominent in the Rugby League today, departed from the RFU, but many other clubs also left the RFU Northern County Unions to join the new Northern Rugby Union.  Lancashire was reduced to 13 Clubs in 1897 whilst Yorkshire had just 11 clubs in the Yorkshire Cup by 1901 (at its zenith, the Yorkshire Cup could attract 132 entries), and had just 20 clubs in membership in 1907. The exodus was similar in places such as West Cumberland and Westmoreland.

Internally, Durham had its own decline to attend to as soccer became popular and Rugby support dwindled away. Several clubs disappeared, South Shields went to the new Northern Union, Tudhoe, Old Boys, Sherburn House, Tyne Dock and West Hartlepool folded, Even Sunderland RFC at one stage contemplated turning to Soccer. Locally, West Hartlepool Amateur F.C. won the F.A. Amateur Cup in 1905 beating Clapton FC at Shepherds Bush by 3 - 2,  to reinvigorate the call from a professional Soccer club in town, they were to get their wish when West RFC folded a few seasons later.

Equally remarkable was that in the period 1900/1909, no less than 8 local players appeared for England, in Frank Boylen, Tom Hogarth, John Jewitt, and Bernard Oughtred, all from Rovers, of which Bernard Oughtred also captained the England XV. From West Hartlepool, Bob Bradley, Jimmy Duthie and Jack Taylor all played for England, Taylor too, captained the National XV whilst Dr Leonard West from West, played for and Captained the Scotland XV. Another to play in this era was Bob Poole from Old Boys & Rovers, who had played for England in 1896.

Although the winning run faltered from 1910, the County could also call on the services of England & Rovers players, Dr. Fred.E. Chapman and A.Jimmy Dingle who were part of the 1914 Runners up XV and Scotland players Eric Young and Dr Robert Stevenson during the 1910/11 series of matches.

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