History of Rugby at Brunel

Published: Monday 21 September 2015
Rugby at BRC in the 1960s. Photo donated by Terry Marston.

With the Rugby World Cup starting at the weekend and Brunel University London having hosted the Webb-Ellis Trophy and the French Squad in preparation for their game against Italy, we thought it might be interesting to look back at the University’s contributions to the sport.

Borough Road College, a predecessor college of Brunel University London, began to play rugby when they moved from their Central London location at Southwark (now part of Southbank University) to the greener pastures of Isleworth in 1889. The new rugby team were nicknamed ‘The Bees’ after their college magazine the B’s Hum and helped by their rugby kit of brown and white hooped jerseys.



Photo of 1899-1900 BRC Rugby Team


As well as the new location with playing fields, a new principal in P.A. Barnett also encouraged the growth of sport at the college. Principal Barnett made games compulsory and encouraged physical activity on the belief that ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ [a sound mind in a sound body]. Physical activity was used to stimulate the moral and character training of students.

The archives hold the college’s official rugby photos from 1899, as well as various trophies and rugby caps which honoured their achievements in the sport.


Photo of the 1914-1915 Rugby Cap held in the Archives


Over the years, Brunel University and its predecessor colleges have had a number of international rugby players. As well as from the Home Nations of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, there have been students who played International Rugby for Argentina, Japan and Sweden. We have also had four British and Irish Lions – Steve Fenwick, Rhys Gabe, Elgan Rees, and, most recently, Richard Hill who was given an honorary master’s degree by the university in 2002.

We wish all the teams competing in the World Cup the best of luck and hope that the university’s contributions to rugby and sport in general continue into the future!


Sources: London’s Oldest Rugby Clubs byDick Tyson (2008); A History of Borough Road College by G. F. Bartle (1976); Sport at Borough Road (19/20th centuries) by Colm Hickey [accessed via http://www.bfss.org.uk/archive/sport-at-borough-road-1920th-centuries/, 17/09/2015].

Page last updated: Monday 21 September 2015