Barnsley played host to 3 rugby teams in the 1880's, Barnsley, Parish Church and Regent St Congregational. Dodworth also had a club which was based at the Thornley Arms. The Beckett Hospital Cup, better known in football circles was originally a rugby competition which continued to be part of the Barnsley sporting scene until the mid 1890s as a rugby competition.
The clubs that were still playing in 1895 and 1896, in the Barnsley and District League, were, according to the lists of results, playing rugby union. It seems likely that it was violence on and off the pitch that caused the demise of both Barnsley and Dodworth according to contemporary accounts. By 1891 the remnants of these clubs had combined to play as one side which played at Honeywell and later a field off Park Grove. The game faded from 1895 until the formation of Barnsley RUFC in 1902 by a solicitor, G Donald Gray.
The Barnsley Club was founded in 1902 and again arranged to play at the ground at Honeywell using the stables and coach buildings of a large house in the vicinity known as Belle Vue as changing rooms. The club quickly found a headquarters at the Kings Head Hotel on Market Hill, Barnsley.
The first game was in January 1903 and referee'd by the man who became known as "the father of Barnsley rugger", Rev Richard Huggard. Many grounds were used including ones at the bottom of Eldon St North and Mount Vernon. Before the outbreak of the Great War the club enjoyed success reaching the semi-finals of the Yorkshire Challenge Cup. In 1914 the vast majority of the playing members joined the forces and many were killed or injured to such an extent that their playing careers were over.
Following the end of the Great War, Rev. Huggard, who lost 2 sons in the conflict, called a meeting to re-start the club and fixtures re-commenced in the 1919/20 season at a field near the Pindar Oakes pit; this didn’t last long as the land was required for an extension to the cemetery!
After a brief period back at Honeywell, Barnsley RUFC found a more permanent home at Wombwell Lane, Stairfoot, which was originally a professional cycle track, from 1924. (The team of 1924 is pictured above with their team photo being taken at St Peters Church, where Rev Huggard was the vicar).
There were two prime movers in the acquisition of the ground, the president, Frank Wood of Wood Brothers Glassworks and Steven Walker (left) who played for the club and represented Yorkshire against New Zealand in 1924.
Tragically, Steven was killed playing in the first practice match of the 1926/7 season and as one of many men in his family who played for Barnsley this hit the club hard.
The same season saw Barnsley again reach the semi-final of the Yorkshire shield, captained by E. H Umbers who played for Yorkshire in 1919 and was to become president of the club for over 20 years. Umbers also served the Barnsley Cricket Club at Shaw Lane with distinction.
The club managed to survive the Second World War and an Emergency War committee was formed to maintain the running of the club in the war years.
Changing rooms and a pavilion were added to the ground in the late 40s and the ground was said to be one of the best in the county.
Barnsley can boast one international player, David Rollitt, originally from Wombwell who played for the club in the mid sixties before moving to university at Bristol. David served the game well and his story appears below.
They finally won the Yorkshire Shield in 1985, beating Hemsworth in the final.
The last game was played at Wombwell Lane in December 1996 before the club moved to its new home at Shaw Lane.
The Barnsley Amateur Rugby League Club was formed at a meeting held on 31st January 1977. The first fixture was a Doncaster Cup tie held on Sunday 6th March away at Sheffield University. Barnsley won 36 - 16. Barnsley played a number of other friendlies before joining the West Yorkshire Sunday League. There have been many clubs formed including notably Dodworth ARLFC. in the late 2000's a side under the banner of Barnsley ARLFC played summer rugby at Shaw Lane for a couple of years.