Launceston’s Sporting Heritage
In the nineteenth century the most popular sport was Cock-fighting which took place for the upper class at a cockpit at Badash. The working class made do with the Castle grounds or sometimes on Windmill. By 1834 this sport had largely died out. Boxing was another active sport partaken in the Borough with aforementioned Castle grounds and Windmill yet again the venue. Prize-fights for money, although illegal, often took place on Windmill or in the Priory Field at Newport and most times on a market day. Wrestling, too was known, with a proper ring built in a field at Park Gate, St. Stephens.
The more civilised sport of Cricket came with the formation of a local club in 1827 at Tregillis, in South Petherwin. Mr. William Crowhurst, who came from the Midlands to oversee the construction of Trebursye House for Mr. Eliot, was the instigator. He and his sons were good cricketers, as were also two gentlemen named Morgan, living at Treguddick, also in South Petherwin, and these being joined by many from Launceston (including Thomas and John Ching, Aaron Eyre, and William Thorne) a club was formed which met weekly at Tregillis, and which proved quite an attraction in the district. Later the town ground was located for many years at Pennygillam (now the area of St. Johns Road).
Cycling became very popular, with the first men to ride a bicycle (on Penny Farthings) in the town in 1870 being William Smale Cater with Dr. Wise and another local man, and by 1875 the Launceston Bicycle Club was formed.
1893 was the year that both lawn tennis and football saw themselves debut in Launceston, with the former being described by the local newspaper’s sports editor as ‘the namby-pamby game of lawn tennis’. 1893 wasn’t strictly the year that football was first played at Launceston for the sport had been picked up by the schools, but it was the year that Launceston Town Football Club was officially formed. Launceston can lay claim in helping the formation of Plymouth Argyle for in 1885 five Dunheved College ‘Old Boys’ who were then living in Plymouth decided to form their own club. H. Grose was elected captain, with W. Pethybridge as his deputy. The name Argyle was adopted due to the fact that the treasurer, C. Phillips, lived in Argyle Terrace and the colours were chosen because it was believed that green and black were the colours of the Argyle clan. For their first match Plymouth Argyle played a Dunheved College team in September 1885 and were beaten 2-0.
Launceston AFC (‘The Clarets’), at the turn of the 20th century, were very successful winning the Cornwall senior cup, and also a challenge cup open to all clubs in Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset thus being recognised as Champions of the West. At the same time they had nine players representing the county team. The Clarets were not the only team in the town, there were others now since disappeared. Teams such as ‘Launceston Taxis’, ‘Launceston Rover’, ‘Albion’, ‘Comrades (above)’, and ‘Newport Villa’ and then there was those famous North and South teams which were drawn from either side of St. Mary’s tower who faced each other annually for the coveted trophy (below left).
Launceston R. F. C.
Launceston RFC was founded in 1948 by Spencer Toy, Gordon Reeve, Eric Smith and Arthur Venning with the first team being made up of 12 players with rugby experience and three complete novices. They started playing at Hurdon but once that area was required for industrial use they eventually moved to Polson.