Rochford Hundred was the brainchild of John Roden and Ernie Mills and was first discussed in November 1961 when the two met at the White Hart in Hawkwell. John had played at Ilford Wanderers and Ernie was an Old Tottonian so both were keen to play on their own doorstep.
The inaugural meeting was held on the 4th January 1962 at the Bull Inn and was attended by a small group. The club now needed a ground and the assistance of County Councillor, later Alderman, Bill Wright was sought. He was appointed Chairman and very quickly secured the use of Rocheway School which had been closed due to its proximity to Southend airport.
This of course gave the club changing rooms and rugby pitches immediately. To get players an advert was placed in the Southend Pictorial and no less than 45 replies were received. Old Westcliffians had seen the advert and invited the new committee to a beer and cheese evening at the Gables. From this Rochford secured a fixture and an introduction to the London fixture Exchange. The first fixture was in fact against Billericay and not Old Westcliffians however.
The name of the club had been suggested by John Roden after he saw a poster by Rochford Hundred Licensed Victuallers Association in the White Hart. Rochford Hundred was after all the name of the district.
The club also managed to secure a clubhouse in the car park of the Horse & Groom thanks to Mrs Innell, the licensee, and quickly set to work to make it ready for use for season 1962/63, although it was in use from March 1962.
It is worth noting that the first games were played in March and April 1962 and that Bob Light was captain.
In Season 1962/63 the club fielded 2 senior teams and a Colts team which is remarkable for a first full season. It is recorded that over 70 fixtures were arranged for this first season. Tony Davies was the 1st XV captain in this season. The Colts team was made up of a number of players from Rayleigh Secondary Modern School (now Fitzwimarc) and Sweyne School. Indeed David Allen (then a 16 year old) remembers being at one of the formation meetings at the Bull when he was still at school.
The first few years were not particularly successful but things changed when the likes of Mike Treasure came onto the scene. He was captain in 1965/66 and 1966/67 and was our first full Essex cap. His team went unbeaten for 18 months and were one of the highest scoring teams in the country. He was fortunate in having players of the calibre of Peter Coster, who was a great centre. Regrettably, Peter died recently in America, where he had been living for many years.
With playing success there came a desire to move to our own ground and in 1968 Jim Sowter, who used to write a column in the local press, printed a story that the club wished to purchase a field in the Rochford district big enough for pitches and a clubhouse. He received a letter from the lady secretary of Southend Manor Football club stating that they had an option on 10 acres of land in Magnolia Road. They were unable to raise the money to proceed and suggested that we might like to take over the option. Jim arranged a meeting between her and Ernie Mills and Ernie liked what he saw and took up the option. The land cost £3,200 and the purchase was completed in March 1969. The Rugby Football Union provided a loan of £2,100 towards the purchase.
The lengthy process of obtaining finance, building the clubhouse and preparing the pitches could now be started.
In September 1970 a grant of £5,592 was offered by the Ministry of Housing and local Government and this was supplemented by grants and loans from the Essex Playing Fields Association and the National Playing Fields Association. In July, 1971 the Club gave the go-ahead to Muggleton’s to start building based on an estimated cost of £11,320 of which we had raised only £8,000.
The clubhouse was officially opened by Dickie Jeeps in April, 1974 when the 1st XV played against a strong Eastern Counties XV.
In 1971/72, when Malcolm Fleming was captain, there were two memorable games both in the Essex Senior Cup. The first game was against Old Bancroftians when Dickie Kent, who played scrum half for England, and Howard Waller, who was a renowned sevens player for Richmond, were in the Bancroft side. Rochford won 21-6 in a tremendous match and demonstrated that they had joined the top echelons of Essex rugby. The next round was against Barking Park Modern Old Boys at Rocheway and a pulsating match was finally won by Barking 14-12. To those who were present these were two of the finest matches played by Rochford.
The pitches in those early days at Magnolia Road were frankly dreadful but over the years there has been considerable work on them and they are now adequate for the task, if not perfect. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the clubhouse was expanded substantially with new changing rooms a gym and a new clubroom and kitchen. Floodlights were also installed.
Our youth section has gone from strength to strength and provides players for our 1st XV and other club teams. In fact our current 1st XV is almost entirely made up of former youth players.
We have a ladies and girls section which is unusual among Essex Clubs.
The Club is currently playing in London 1 (North) and we can look back on 50 years of activity with considerable satisfaction.