Rugby was the final theme for the Radleian Society Archives events in 2023, with Radley Then & Now: Rugger Will Be Played. On 1st November, fifteen people gathered online to hear about the history of rugby at the College. The talk was led by College Archivist, Clare Sargent, with the assistance of dons Niall Murphy and Nick Wood, the current Master in Charge of Rugby.

We heard about the contentious beginnings of the game which saw a number of schools such as Eton, Harrow, Radley and (of course) Rugby each playing association football with their own individual rules. After some jostling, Rugby won out, and it became possible for matches between the schools to begin.

At a Common Room Meeting in Summer Term 1914 there was a proposal that Rugby Football should replace Association. The discussion ended without conclusion, and discussion seemed to have ended. Shortly afterwards the most controversial notice ever to appear at Radley was posted by the new Warden, Edward Selwyn, outside School: ‘Rugger will be played next season.’ This autocratic move irrevocably damaged Selwyn’s new role as Warden.

The first Radley team was formed in 1914, but had its numbers swiftly depleted by the call to join up at the Western Front.

Radley had to wait until 1990 for its first unbeaten rugby season but, having gained a test for victory, this feat was repeated in 1995 under Richard Greed.

We were joined on the call by a number of keen ORs who were eager to ask questions about the current state of the game at Radley, and also to regale us with their own stories about past matches. As always, we hugely appreciate those who share stories and memories of their own at these events.

A recording of the event is available below, and also on our Radley Then & Now playlist on YouTube. You can view the presentation slides here.

Play video

The topic of conversation next time will be The Marionettes & Drama at Radley, and the event will take place in early 2024 … keep an eye on the RadSoc Hub for more details.

Do you have memories of marionette shows or drama performances during your time at Radley? Share them with us ahead of the next Radley Then & Now event by filling out this short form, or by emailing