From The Vaults

31 July 2023
A Street Through Time

The World Rugby Museum has within its collection an audio interview with Charles Street, the former Groundsman of Blackheath Football Club. It was recorded by the BBC in 1959 at the Rectory Field where Street worked until 1957. He had taken over the role from his father, George Street, who been at the club at the time of Charles' birth in 1886. In that time Charles had witnessed many of the finest rugby players of the late 19th and first half of the 20th Century.

When asked who the greatest player is he has seen, Street replies C N Lowe, describing his movement in glowing terms, 'he would approach a man, he would stop dead, side-step him and accelerate…any time he got the ball, you would say he was going to score.'

The England wing played for Blackheath and Cambridge University. He scored 18 tries in 25 appearances for England, setting a record that would stand for 65 years.

When asked which forwards he remembered, Street states that 'there is one and only…the great CH Pillman', who he describes as 'an absolute artist'.

Cherry Pillman was England's prototype openside flanker who made his England debut in 1910 and, in the process, helped England to their first championship win in eighteen seasons. He earned 18 caps before the First World War and was integral to England's first Grand Slam winning side in 1913 and again in 1914.

Street is then asked to recall an amusing memory and relays a Boxing Day match in which he was asked to take Christmas pudding and brandy onto the pitch at half time. England and Northampton flanker Freddie Blakiston then snatched the bottle of brandy from his hands and proceeded to down it, mistakenly believing it to be water, '…he could hardly breathe!' Street laughs.

Street then recalls watching the last international match to take place at the Rectory Field before the opening of Twickenham Stadium. England versus Australia in 1909, the first time the two sides had met and a try scoring debut for Northampton wing Edgar Mobbs.

Finally, the Blackheath groundsman surprises the BBC interviewer by claiming that his father had been the first person to 'set-out' the ground at Twickenham. It had long been understood that Twickenham's first groundsman was Charles Hale.