During my time as County Secretary I frequently received requests for information regarding matches played by Northumberland in the past often linked to the appearance or otherwise of individual players. It was possible to answer queries on occasion but, sad to say, we had no coherent record of match results or the players who participated in those games  Thanks to the efforts of Bill Swann of the Wallsend club in delving into newspaper archives over 30 years ago we did have some information about the period 1880 - 1970.

On taking on responsibility for the county archives and memorabilia I resolved to build on Bill's pioneering efforts and produce a comprehensive record. This is still a work in hand with the results section almost complete. Thanks to the internet we are able to make this information available to any one who has an interest in matches played by Northumberland Rugby Union since its creation in 1880.



The records are currently presented in two separate sets of documents, FIXTURES/RESULTS and TEAM SELECTIONS. In both cases I have divided the information into decades for ease of reference and to avoid the need to scroll through dozens of pages to reach later years. The first record is labelled 1880-1889 and starts with the 1880-1881 season and runs through to the end of the 1889-1890 period. Each of the two sections is prefaced with some notes as to the layout, source and accuracy of the information contained together with any relevant notes which may help the reader make sense of the contents.

Although it is not currently possible to give online access to our related collection of photographs, programmes and other memorabilia the contents of that collection are listed in the related MEMORABILIA section.


Unfortunately, primary sources do not exist for long periods of the 130+ years covered by this project (or if they do, we are not aware of them). Therefore, a variety of secondary sources have had to be used. Visitors to this site should thus take note of the caveats regarding the accuracy of sources at the foot of this introduction.

As noted above we are indebted to the work of the late Bill Swann who acted as our pioneer archivist. In the absence of any other source Bill spent months, if not years, delving into newspaper archives searching out mention of anything to do with county rugby including teams and results,  transcribing what he discovered by hand and later typing these up. (Through the kind efforts of John Ward, a Past President  of Northumberland RU, these typed sheets were bound into 9 volumes. A reference copy is available for inspection at Tyne and Wear County Archives, Blenheim Street, Newcastle). It is these records which provide much of the information for the period 1880-1970. Latterly, I am indebted to Chris. Ward of the Novos club who helped fill in some of the gaps in the sequence of results and teams with similar laborious research, albeit with more modern technology available for recording.

More sources are available for the period from 1960 onwards. These include county handbooks, annual reports, match programmes and annotated photographs

Stuart Bainbridge, NRU Archivist

Any queries may be addressed by e-mail to



Clearly the methods used to gather some of this information mean that there is always the possibility of transcription errors. The time gap between the early years of this archive and the present day means that cross referencing is near impossible because of the lack of alternative sources. I think that the section on scores has a high degree of reliability but there is reason to be more cautious in the area of teams selected. In that section I have tried always to indicate the source of the information recorded so that some idea of reliability can be inferred.

1. Bill Swann Records (noted as WS newspaper archive)- as noted above all of these were gleaned from old newspaper articles (mainly the Newcastle Journal I think). Doubts exist here as to whether the dates Bill recorded were the date of publication of the selected team or the date the relevant match was played. In most cases I think the former is correct so that the actual match referred to will have been played a few days later. Further, because of injury, illness or other factors it cannot be guaranteed that the team selected  actually turned out in full. The same cautionary note applies to records provided by Chris.Ward and some by myself  as they were compiled in much the  same manner.

2. My own records (noted as SWB record) - if dated pre- 1980 are subject to the same limitations noted above. Those post 1980 are much more reliable as, for much of this period,  I have been able to draw upon records I kept myself during spells as NRU team secretary and later County secretary.

3. Match programmes - old programmes sometimes make up our only source of information, particularly in more recent times as the coverage of local rugby in newspapers has diminished. We have an incomplete collection of match programmes dating from the 1950's to the present day. In many cases these have been annotated with team changes, scores and scorers and therefore provide a very reliable source of information. In the case of programmes which have not been annotated (these are indicated in the tables of information with an asterisk*) then the same provisos apply as to teams published in newspapers prior to matches.

4. NRU Handbooks and Annual reports - information from these sources can be relied upon to be very accurate as results and team selections formed part of the NRU reporting system.

5. Match Programme notes - for many years John Pargeter the rugby correspondent of the Newcastle Journal (later just 'The Journal') provided the notes for our match programmes. John had an extensive archive of rugby material to draw upon, much of it his own match reporting over several decades. His habit of recalling past matches and giving results and team selections has proved a useful source of information. Where 'programme notes' is quoted as a source it refers to these. They have a high level of reliability.

Thus. our records may not be 100% accurate but do provide a unique insight into county rugby in Northumberland over a period of over a century and a quarter. I hope they are of interest to those seeking a little insight into the history of rugby in England's northernmost county.