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1943 - 2012 - Hartlepool Athletic - History Notes

After the outbreak of war, sport was at a standstill in the Hartlepool area.

John Hand, together with Wilf Bulley, who were both employed by “William Gray’s” shipbuilders decided to form a Rugby team, naming it “Allied Shipbuilders XV”.

However, this was barely off the ground when Wilf Bulley was called to H.M. forces.

Several games were played, and such was the enthusiasm that it was decided to form a Rugby Team from which came Hartlepool Athletic.

A meeting in the bus shelter on the corner of Brougham Street (now Durham Street) and Middlegate in the summer of 1943 resulted in the formation of Hartlepool Athletic RFC, with teams made up of servicemen home on leave and local youngsters. The club's first headquarters were the Barracks in Baltic Street. The first Committee formed, and comprised John Hand, Fred. Calvert, S. Hogarth, J. Keasey, J. Hogarth, Tom Marine, Fred Jacques being President.  The first game was against a Royal Air force XV at Thornaby in mid-September 1943.

The club's first full season of fixtures was 1945-46 when they became a member of the Rugby Football Union and Durham County Rugby Football Union. Playing at Grayfields, they won all 28 games that season.

The club used several public houses as headquarters until the mid-50s when members built their own clubhouse on Hartlepool Trading Estate (now Oakesway Estate). Unfortunately, all wooden structure, affectionately known as the "Ponderosa" burnt down in the early 1960s, and members once again built new premises adjacent to the original site.

Athletic, like all clubs, played "friendly" games as well as cup competitions run by Durham County RFU and Hartlepool & District RFU who organised the Pyman Cup competition which Athletic won in 1953.

In 1987 the Rugby Football Union introduced leagues for the first time, with Athletic playing in Durham/Northumberland Leagues. The club fluctuated between divisions three and four, winning promotion as champions of division four in 2003/03 and 2006/07.

A dearth of players meant Athletic struggled to fulfil fixture commitments in season 2010/11, and coupled with increasing financial difficulties, the club regrettably made the decision to wind-up, and resigned from the RFU and DCRFU in September 2011. A sad end to a club which had provided the opportunity for many hundreds of Hartlepool's young men to participate in the greatest of all team sports.

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