ILKLEY Rugby Club was founded in 1899, although there are records of a rugby club in Ilkley much earlier than that.

The earliest references to rugby in Ilkley go back to the early 1870s and in the Ilkley Gazette of March 25, 1875, there is a description of the game we now know as rugby union football.

There is an even earlier reference to rugby in Ilkley in the Gazette of August 21, 1873, and the article headed “Ilkley Football Club” states: “Gentlemen interested in the above or wishing to join are kindly requested to attend a meeting at the New Inn on Monday next at 8pm to make arrangements for the coming season.”

To confirm the existence of rugby in Ilkley in the 1870s the Yorkshire County records show that G Baldwin from the Ilkley Club played for Yorkshire against Durham on December 6, 1873.

However, to complicate pinpointing the true centenary date of the club, a 50th anniversary celebration game was held on September 10, 1930, with Ilkley playing Yorkshire and a dinner was held at the Listers Arms.

Finally, to further confuse dating the foundation of the club, not content with the 50th anniversary celebrations in 1930, we again celebrated 50 years of rugby in 1949 when a 68-page brochure was published to commemorate the club’s golden jubilee. It is strange that the 1949 celebrations make no reference to those some 19 years earlier.

It seems, however, that it was not until late 1899 that there was a move to establish a permanent club in the town on October 7 of that year.

From November 18, 1899, rugby union football has been played every season in Ilkley with the exception of the war years.

At the turn of the century, the club continued to play in the Yorkshire Division 1 league until gaining promotion to the North 2 East League in 2008. However, as a completely amateur club life was difficult at the higher level and after two tough years the club was relegated back to Yorkshire Division 1 at the end of the 2009/10 season.

At the close of the 2013/14 season the club won the Yorkshire Shield, as well as being promoted once again to the North 1 East League. We look forward to a successful season.

In 2006 efforts began to raise sufficient money to replace the old grandstand and clubhouse. It took four years of tremendous effort to get the cash together, but in September 2010 a contract was signed to build a new clubhouse and changing rooms at an estimated cost of £1.6 million. The new facilities opened in August 2011.

The rich history of Ilkley Rugby Club is something that impresses head of rugby at Ilkley, Rhys Morgan, he said: “The club has a very proud and rich history and there are a lot of people who have been there for an awful long time and who see it as their club.

“We get a great sense of that throughout the club. I’ve been there since a junior and I played my first couple of seasons there and then went off and played rugby elsewhere.

“I also returned to Ilkley, like a of of others did, and I have been back here for around 11 years now. I feel it is my home now and it’s just a brilliant club to be a part of.

“It’s got such a community and family feel about it, and you can feel the love for the club around the place.”

Morgan added: “Yes, the club has a great history, but we want to continue to build that and create even more history.

“We have a solid platform to build on and hopefully we can do that by continuing to bring through our colts, and hopefully we can gain promotion once again this season.

“That will create history in its own right.”