From The Vaults

04 January 2016
Remembering Twickenham's First Groundsman

My name is Michael Leslie Rycroft, I am the proud Great Grandson of Charles Hale, Twickenham's first groundsman, a position he held for 39 years. My mother was so proud of her rugby roots and her connection with Twickenham Rugby Ground. Upon the death of my mother in December 2014 I decided I needed to know a lot more about my family connection with Twickenham as most of my knowledge was hearsay and childhood memories.

I made contact with the World Rugby Museum curator, Michael Rowe and introduced myself. I inquired to see if he had any information regarding the Hale family. To my surprise he said he had and that he also had a family photo album and press cuttings regarding Charles Hale and his family.

Charles Hale, was a Suffolk man by birth. He was born in 1873 and eventually became a landscape gardner, he left his native county towards the end of the century and moved to Sunbury, Middlesex where he joined the Metropolitan Police Force for a while. This proved unsuitable to Charles so he resumed to his landscape gardening. Prior to his engagement at Twickenham, Charles was responsible for the laying out of the famous sunken lawn at York House, Twickenham.

The Cottage

As Twickenham's leading landscape gardener, Hale accepted the post of groundsman and moved into the Cottage in the shadow of the east stand with his wife Sarah. Together they had four sons and one daughter, all of whom lived in the cottage. Three of his four sons, Wilfred, Sidney and Ronald all assisted their father in the running of the rugby ground.

Portly "Charlie" had a genial round face and a large flowing moustache. He was portrayed in a Caricature by the famous cartoonist, Tom Webster, of himself preceded by an enormous moustache, carrying on a dish of lemons. Tom went as far as to say that Charles should be awarded a "cap" because nobody brings out a speedier lemon.

Charles worked until the age of 73 when ill health forced him to retire on the 30th June 1946. The Rugby Union kindly purchased a house in Chudleigh Road, Twickenham, for him and his wife to move into where they lived rent free.

Charles was well known and a popular figure in Twickenham. His hobby was playing billiards and Russian pool in the Twickenham Club and Institute and his prowess produced two very fine cups.

He passed away in St Johns Hospital, Twickenham on the 2nd April 1948 aged 75 following a long illness. He was married for 53 years and left his wife, four sons, a daughter, five grandsons, a grand daughter and a 7 month old great grandson, Michael, the author of this piece. Charles's funeral took place at Mortlake Crematorium on Wednesday 7th April 1948. Members of the RFU attended the service and floral tributes were also received from the RFU and Harlequins RFC.