Every club likes to think it's a little different to the others or has something special about it's style of play, traditions or origins. Westcombe Park thinks it is unique in all these aspects. We believe we must be the only Rugby Club founded by someone who never could and never would play the game.
In 1904, a Sunday afternoon bible class at Blackheath was attended, amongst others, by Dudley E Roughton. What set Dudley apart from his peers was the fact that he was disabled and had to use a crutch to walk. Dudley also had a peculiar passion - peculiar for someone with his handicap - he was a rugby football fanatic!
In the summer of 1904 he conceived a plan to form his own team.
His enthusiasm was obviously infectious because he managed to rope in brothers, friends and relations - the origin of another Combe tradition!
The club was named after the locale of its founder - but for that gesture of unselfishness 'Combe' might have been 'Roughton's'. Not a bad idea, but a bit difficult for vocal encouragement(!).
The Church aided the formation of the Club in the shape of the Rev W T Money, who played until the age of 52 - presumably he was able to bring something more to the field of play than simple expertise and enthusiasm! Having mentioned in passing that Dudley's brothers turned out for the club, Mr Roughton senior was prevailed upon to play at very short notice and turned out in his everyday clothes - the Combe Saturday morning men in the Gentlemen's XV would sympathise and the writer can recall occasions when the players carrying the marks of outside decorating or a collection of oily spanners have appeared breathless in the changing room. Our Predecessors came to the ground in their kit or changed behind the bushes and were unlikely to get a wash before they returned home.
The vagaries of the current hot water system often brings thoughts of those early days uncomfortably close to mind.
The club's early results were encouraging and sometimes two or more sides turned out. Even the style of dress of those days is emulated today in the lower sides - where semi-detached shirt arms, ventilated shorts and multi-coloured hose are 'de rigeur' with those whose last season it is - and has been since time immemorial.
Before the Great War the club shifted its headquarters several times and eventually lighted upon Harrow Field Farm, Lee. By this time the changing room (shed) was in existence and it was felt better facilities were called for. A more "upmarket" shed was provided.
As stated in the opening paragraph, Combe has traditions, some unique, some rare; amongst the latter is the awarding of Honours Caps, which commenced in the early 1910s. To outsiders these slightly ridiculous schoolboy type head covers mean little, but to those who have received them they are amongst, if not the most, treasured possession.
Combe Rugby was rudely interrupted by the Kaiser and his European Tour (1914-1918). 23 of the club's 84 members did not return. Amongst them was C H Sewell - posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
The club reconvened in 1919 and with the help of Sidcup RFC was able to commence play using their ground.
By 1925-6 Combe was running six sides and was fully involved in the Kent Cup.
1930 saw the germination of the idea to acquire our own ground and enquiries began. The club had by now transferred to Shooters Hill and was using stables - converted by the club members themselves - into a clubhouse complete with baths and electricity.
The principle of self help is maintained today where members with skills (or none) offer their services to the club.
Combe consolidated its position with the provision of home comforts in the shape of a bar and a piano.
By 1936 Combe had prospered both in play and financially; the search for a permanent home continued this time under pressure, as the Shooters Hill ground was required for rehousing. A club member negotiated with Orpington Council for the lease of two pitches (later increased to four) and a plot of adjoining land was purchased to enable the erection of a pavilion. At this time the pavilion and one or two other properties were the only users of what became Craven Road.
The club achieved success from their new location and seemed set fair to continue their progress. However, across the channel Herr Hitler was embarking on his World Tour preparations, which were not meeting with unanimous approval. This resulted in another closure of the club together with the loss (temporarily) of the clubhouse for national defence.
Hostilities over, the club struggled to reform and two teams ran out during the 1945/6 season. Combe was at this time able to repay Sidcup for their hospitality earlier.
Players more local to Orpington now joined the club.
Membership and number of playing sides increased.
By the mid-sixties the original club house was showing distinct signs of old age - not only having accommodated many hundreds of players but also having survived the attention of licentious soldiery for six years.
In the sixties it was customary to build (or buy) only what you could afford and Combe in accordance with the moral values then in vogue, replaced its club house with the a wooden structure. At the time, the baths, changing rooms with remountable partitions and warm air heating formed the Ideal ClubHouse of 1968.
Unfortunately, like many club members, these facilities have seen better days and as is apparent to all who see them, are in urgent need of replacement (not the older club members - most of whom are irreplaceable - even if one had the temerity to try!). Throughout the club's various stages we have always had the good fortune to receive support, encouragement and practical help from rival teams, neighbours, local authorities and latterly, sponsors.
The club has peaked and troughed like any other organisation whose existence is dependent upon the enthusiasm of its membership.
We comprise those who play well, those who play quite well and those who don't play at all well, but without whom there would be no game.
Our tradition continues on Sunday mornings with mini and junior rugby - where small boys and girls can get muddy, be noisy and enjoy themselves without being shouted at by their mums (the fathers and coaches don't always subscribe to that view). The encouragement of any team sport is to be commended not only for its character building qualities but for the friendships it engenders.
Westcombe Park is not a forefront exponent of the game. We can, however, boast international representatives at several levels. We welcome players of all nationalities who are sport minded, socially intermingling people.
Combe members contribute according to their lights and they all strive to advance the game and encourage its players, in fact the club's air is to continue in the spirit of its founder, Dudley E Roughton, who made it possible for others to do what he could not do himself.
Relocation to the present site at Goddington Dene, Orpington took place in 1990 when the club became the major section within the Orpington Sports Club. In 1994, Westcombe Park took over the running and responsibility for the sports club and offered playing facilities, issuing contractual terms, to other sports (cricket, football, tennis and table tennis) as Associated Clubs under the control of Westcombe Park and Orpington Sports Club; a rugby club managed by rugby folk! The club became a limited company, registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965 in 1995.
The Club can now boast 5 pitches, a grandstand, a fully equipped gymnasium, 3 football pitches, 2 cricket squares and 6 tennis courts - a testament to the 'founding fathers'.