Preston Grasshoppers are one of the oldest and well-known clubs in English rugby union and have been one of the foremost clubs in the north of England. The club was formed on September 28th 1869 at the Bull Hotel in Preston and the resolution stated ‘That a club should be formed to play football with the Rugby Rules of the game but without hacking. That the club shall be called the Preston Grasshoppers’.
Prior to the club’s formation, a trial fixture was played at Lancaster on February 27th 1869, against Lancaster Royal Grammar School which resulted in a victory for the new team, leading to their eventual formation later that year. The name Grasshoppers was suggested by members of the club who had attended Cheltenham College. The College had an annual match between the ‘Fireflies’ and the ‘Grasshoppers’ which is believed to still be played to the present time. The club’s early matches were played at Winkley Meadow but in 1871 a move to West Cliff, the home of Preston Cricket Club, was made for which an annual rent of £4 was paid. Early fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester attracted four-figure attendances.
Due to the growing popularity of Association Football in the area, the club ceased playing in December 1885 until March 1901 when the club reformed with a fixture against Heaton Moor. Up to the 1930 season the club played at Ribbleside and later Farrington Park. Between 1932-34 the club had no ground and led a nomadic existence with fixtures being played on borrowed pitches. In 1934 10.6 acres of agricultural land was acquired at Lea for £1400 with a further £600 for levelling a pitch and the first fixture was played there on September 28th 1935 with a game against Furness. Preston Grasshoppers moved to their present ground at Lightfoot Green in 1973 with a grandstand being built in 1988 and in 1996-7 a record attendance of 3000 was created when the ‘Hoppers played the First Division side Northampton in the fifth round of the Pilkington Cup.
League rugby came in the late 1980s and Preston were placed in Jewson Division Two (North) and at the end of the 1999-2000 season they were promoted from into Jewson One, which was level three in the league system. In their first season they finished eighth in a league of fourteen but three years later they were relegated following a run if sixteen consecutive defeats. The Lancashire Cup was won for the first time with a win over West Park St.Helens. Season 2003-04 saw the club relegated into the former North One division but they bounced back at the first time of asking back into the National Leagues at level four where they remained until the 2016-17 season when they were relegated along with Scunthorpe and Harrogate. They again won promotion at the first attempt, with Hull finishing second, but with Hull becoming champions in 2018-19 the two clubs are able to meet each other again.
Jewson National Two North champions 1998-99
Northern Premier League champions 2004-05, 2017-18
Lancashire Cup winners 2003 – 2006 – 2012
Hull RUFC first played against Preston Grasshoppers on December 11th 2004 at our old Haworth Park ground in a game long remembered by members of both club, who witnessed a titanic struggle of a game which the ‘Hoppers won by 34-32, with Hull missing a last minute long-range penalty which would have won them the game. The full list of all sixteen games played between the two clubs are as follows;
2004-05: North One – Hull 32 – PGH 34, PGH 18 – Hull 13
2009-10: Nat Two North – PGH 24 – Hull 0, Hull 24 – PGH 19
2010-11: “ “ “ – PGH 18 – Hull 18, Hull 38 – PGH 21
2011-12: Nat Two North – Hull 30 – PGH 21, PGH 29 – Hull 36
2012-13: “ “ “ – PGH 55 – Hull 12, Hull 31 – PGH 36
2013-14: “ “ “ – Hull 22 – PGH 30, PGH 43 – Hull 13
2017-18: Northern Prem – Hull 10 – PGH 10, PGH 24 – Hull 18
Of the 16 games played ‘Hoppers have won nine, Hull have won five and two have been drawn.
It will be a great pleasure to lock horns with Preston Grasshoppers RFC once again and also to visit their very well equipped ground.
NB: These notes, apart from Hull’s involvement with the ‘Hoppers, were taken from the excellent club history to be found on the ‘Hoppers website and for more details of this historic club I can recommend the reading of them.