Holbeck Rugby Club

Holbeck Rugby Club, also known as Holbeck Imps, was a semi-professional rugby league club based in Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England. The club were the original owners of Elland Road football stadium, now the home of Leeds United.


The exact date of Holbeck were formed is unknown but they joined the Northern Union in time for the Northern Union's second season of 1896–97. They played for eight seasons from 1896–97 to 1903–04. At the start of their period in the semi-professional ranks, Holbeck played at the Holbeck Recreation Ground on Elland Road.

The city of Leeds had an abundance of rugby football clubs and although members of the Yorkshire RFU[1] (which was in turn a Constituent Body of the RFU), it was decided to form a ‘more local’ association. It was for this reason that the Leeds & District organization was formalised when a meeting took place at the Green Dragon Hotel, Leeds on 27 September 1888. The foundation clubs were Bramley, Holbeck, Hunslet, Kirkstall, Leeds Parish Church, Leeds St John’s (later to become Leeds Rhinos), and Wortley.[2]

In the 1896–97 season the league was divided into the Yorkshire and Lancashire Senior Completions, Holbeck entered the former section. They finished 15th (and second bottom) with 18 points from 30 games. In 1897 when the lease was not renewed on the Holbeck Recreation Ground, Holbeck bought the Old Peacock Ground from Bentley's Brewery, for £1,100, with a stipulation that it remained a football ground for at least seven years[3] and that all the catering rights should be held, for that period, by the brewery. The site of the Old Peacock Ground, an open grass field, was at the foot of Beeston Hill on the Leeds to Elland Road. The land was known locally as the Old Peacock Ground due to the close proximity to the pub of the same name which it faced.

The club erected a new stand in the close season in readiness for the forthcoming 1898–99 season. The ground eventually became known simply as Elland Road.

Over the next four seasons Holbeck struggled finishing : 14th in 1897–98, 13th in 1898–99, 13th in 1899–00 and 14th again in 1900–01, in each case out of 16 clubs.

At the end of this season the top seven clubs in both the Lancashire Senior Competition and the Yorkshire Senior Competition (which included Hunslet) split and formed the "new" Rugby League. The remaining clubs, with several new additions continued in the Lancashire and Yorkshire Senior Competitions which became in effect two regional second divisions.

Only limited County League information is available for (1901–02). But Holbeck finished in 5th position but unfortunately for them there was no promotion and relegation. At the end of this season there were several more clubs withdrawing and the league was again re-organised into two divisions of 16 clubs.

In 1902–03 Holbeck again finished 5th out of the 16 clubs. For the 1902–03 season the Association football team, Leeds Woodville (playing in the Leeds League) ground-shared as tenants to Holbeck Rugby Club.

In 1903–04 in what was to be Holbeck’s last season, Wakefield Trinity were champions with 55 points from 32 games with St Helens and Holbeck in joint second place both on 39 points. A promotion play-off took place on a neutral ground on Saturday 14 May 1904 and St. Helens were promoted after beating Holbeck 7–0. As a result, the club decided that it would be financially unable to continue in the second division and folded.[3]

Successor clubs

At a meeting at the Griffin Hotel in Boar Lane in August 1904, a new Association football club, Leeds City Association Football Club, was formed and it was agreed that the Elland Road ground would be rented for the upcoming season. It has been suggested that Holbeck Rugby Club reformed as Leeds City but there does not appear to be any hard evidence to support this claim.[3]

Leeds City were expelled from the Football League in 1919 but Leeds United took their place five years later and have played at Elland Road ever since.

Club colours

Several articles suggest that Holbeck RFC played in blue and yellow (or gold), which are the sporting colours of Leeds.

Internationals to have played for Holbeck

  • Tom Pook (b 1869 d 21 February 1948) was a "small" (only 5’6" tall) forward who played rugby union for Newport and Wales before turning semi-professional with Holbeck, making his Holbeck debut on 3 September 1898.

Club records

Club scoring record

In a Season
Details Season Competition Notes Ref
Highest League Position31903–042nd Divout of 17 clubs
Lowest League Position151896–97Yorks Senout of 16 clubs
Most League Points491903–042nd Divout of possible 64 = 77%
Fewest League Points151900–01Yorks Senout of possible 60 = 25%
Most Points Scored (PF)2561903–042nd DivIn 32 games = 8/game
Most Points Conceded (PA)3101897–98Yorks SenIn 30 games = 5.7/game
Fewest Points Scored (PF)861896–97Yorks SenIn 30 games = 2.87/game
Fewest Points Conceded (PA)831902–032nd DivIn 34 games = 6.26/game
Best Points Difference1361903–042nd DivIn 32 games
Worst Points Difference−1531900–01Yorks SenIn 30 games

Club league record[4]

Season Competition Pos Team Name Pl W D L PW PA Diff Pts % No of teams in league Notes Ref
1896–97Yorks Sen15Holbeck30741986223−137180.316
1897–98Yorks Sen14Holbeck3011019171310−139220.3716
1898–99Yorks Sen13Holbeck3010416134220−86240.416
1899–00Yorks Sen13Holbeck308418138236−98180.316
Holbeck had 2 points deducted for a breach of the professional rules.
1900–01Yorks Sen14Holbeck307320110263−153150.2516
Holbeck had 2 points deducted.
1901–02Yorks Sen5Holbeck3014
Holbeck had 2 points deducted.
Only limited County League information is available for this season.
1902–032nd Div5Holbeck34205921383130450.6618
1903–042nd Div3Holbeck322417256120136490.7717-

Heading Abbreviations
Pl = Games Played: W = Win; D = Draw; L = Lose; PF = Points For; PA = Points Against; Diff = Points Difference (+ or -); Pts = League Points League points: for win = 2; for draw = 1; for loss = 0.

Several fixtures and results

The following are a selection of Holbeck's fixtures from the eight seasons in which they played semi-professional rugby league :-[5][6] [7] [8] [9]

Season Date Competition Opponent Venue H/A Result Score Att Notes Ref
1896–97Sat 28 November 1896YSCHullBoulevardALost0–3[8]
1896–97Tue 2 March 1897YSCHullHolbeck RecHDraw0–0 1 [8]
1896–97Sat 27 March 1897CC R2WarringtonWilderspoolALost0–24[9]
1897–98Sat 20 November 1897YSCHullOld PeacockHWon12–5 2 [8]
1897–98Tue 22 February 1898YSCHullBoulevardALost0–8[8]
1898–99Sat 1 October 1898YSCHullElland RoadHWon8–5[8]
1898–99Sat 7 January 1899YSCHullBoulevardALost0–35[8]
1899–00Sat 4 November 1899YSCHullElland RoadHWon8–6[8]
1899–00Thu 22 February 1900YSCHullBoulevardALost0–6[8]
1900–01Sat 17 November 1900YSCHullElland RoadHLost5–14[8]
1900–01Sat 23 February 1901YSCHullBoulevardALost7–14[8]
1903–04Fri 25 December 1903FriendlyHullBoulevardALost3–11[8]
1903–04Sat 26 September 1903D2St. HelensElland RoadHWon19–3[7]
1903–04Sat 23 January 1904D2St. HelensKnowsley RoadALost0–10[7]
1903–04Sat 14 May 1904D2 POSt. Helensneutral groundNLost0–7[7]

Competition Abbreviations
YSC = Yorkshire Senior Competition; D2 = 2nd Division
D2 PO = 2nd Division Promotion Play-Off
CC R2 = Challenge Cup, round 2

  • 1 – Holbeck Rec = Holbeck Recreation Ground.
  • 2 – Old Peacock = Old Peacock Ground before it became established.

Notable players

See also


  1. "Yorkshire RFU". Archived from the original on 7 December 2011.
  2. "Leeds and District Rugby League". Archived from the original on 28 September 2011.
  3. "Elland Road History".
  4. Winstanley – Jack, (and Ryding – Malcolm) (1975). John Player Rugby League Yearbook 1975–76. Queen Anne Press. pp. 182 onwards. ISBN 978-0-362-00223-2.
  5. "Cherry and White".
  6. "Widnes History".
  7. "Saints Heritage Society".
  8. "Fixtures & Results 2012". hullfc.com. 26 April 2012. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  9. "Warrington History". Archived from the original on 6 July 2010.
  10. Dalby, Ken (1955). The Headingley Story - 1890-1955 - Volume One - Rugby. The Leeds Cricket, Football & Athletic Co. Ltd ASIN: B0018JNGVM