From The Vaults

13 September 2021
Royal Indian Engineering College RFC, one of London’s Lost Rugby Clubs

The following article is an extract from London's Lost Rugby Clubs by Dick Tyson.

The Royal Indian Engineering College was a British school of civil engineering founded by Sir George Thomkins Chesney in 1870. It was formed to train engineers for the Indian Public Works Department. The College began with 100 students.

The academic year at Cooper's Hill was interspersed with a wide variety of sporting and social activities which ranged from rugby, cricket, tennis, swimming, rowing, rifle shooting, and boxing to concerts, parties, dances and balls (the sport and social activities were financed by a Recreation Fund supported by voluntary subscriptions from staff and students). All 'manly' sports, especially those demanding a high degree of physical exertion and team spirit, were actively encouraged - for they not only prepared students for the sometimes arduous physical conditions they would find in India, but, more importantly, they fostered the qualities of discipline, self- reliance and comradeship so essential in any 'esprit de corps'.

Rugby Football was essentially the College game, and two good XVs could usually take the field. The College played their home matches on the RIEC ground at Cooper's Hill (near Egham in Surrey) and the club colours were purple and gold (later, in 1879, the club colours were changed to a white jersey with a monogram badge worn with blue knickerbockers and stockings in purple and gold hoops).

In the early years of the RIEC a few Club Members (along with the Royal East Kent Regiment) became involved with several other clubs playing in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras - but the sport did not flourish in the Indian climate and these 'Inter Presidency' matches were soon discontinued. In 1877 the clubs were dissolved and the silver rupees that remained in their accounts were melted down and made into the 'Calcutta Cup' which has, of course, subsequently been awarded annually to the winner of the England/Scotland International.

Throughout the 1870s the RIEC was one of the top Metropolitan clubs and had developed a fixture card of outstanding quality. Indeed, in 1873 Marshall and Vassell reckoned that the club were on a par with Blackheath, Marlborough Nomads, Ravenscourt Park and Richmond - who were, at that time, the most successful clubs in London and the South.

The RIEC produced thirteen International players (eight for England, three for Scotland and two for Ireland). Indeed, the 1877-78 season saw no less than five Internationals playing in the RIEC 1st XV.

In the 1880s the club could still take on teams such as Harlequins and win, but by the 1890s the physique of their players had diminished due to the fact that the students were leaving the College at an earlier age. Although the RIEC were still able to beat most of the junior London and provincial clubs, they could no longer hold their own in more senior company. The club finally disbanded when the College relocated to India in 1906.

Over the course of the club's history the 1st XV maintained a consistently high standard with 272 wins and 68 draws out of a total of 503 matches played. Although the 'A' XV was not as successful, the team spirit suffered no dilution on that account.


London's Lost Rugby Clubs is a ring bound A4 landscape paperback of 50 pages. It was written to be the 'little brother' of London's Oldest Rugby Clubs (JJG Publishing, 2008).

London's Lost Rugby Clubs is available to buy from Dick Tyson for £17 including p&p. Copies of London's Oldest Rugby Clubs are also available to buy for £25 per copy.