Leeds Chirons existed from 1930 until 1988. Prior to 1930 the club was called Leeds Education Office Sports Club, and for two seasons after 1988 it became known as Oakwood following a merger with Kitson College rugby club. Chirons had been involved in an earlier merger when in 1956 Headingley Old Boys decided to cease activities and a number of their players and officials joined Chirons and consigned the Headingley Old Boys name to history.
One of the many facts that make Leeds Chirons unique is that it managed to exist, in its three guises, for sixty five of its sixty seven years playing on the same council owned pitch and using the same tiny changing rooms situated in the grounds of Roundhay School. In 1925 the Leeds Education Office Sports Club was given permission to use the old stables as changing rooms. The stables had been used previously by the owner of the Mansion, a building that, at the time, formed part of the school. The rest of the stable building was used for the storage of grounds maintenance equipment for the school playing fields. I imagine that the changing rooms probably remained much the same for the sixty plus years they were used, apart from some internal cosmetic improvements such as a coat of paint, a new bath and a few wooden partitions. Prior to the Second World War, most of the smaller rugby clubs in the Leeds area played on council owned pitches and changed in the back rooms or cellars of public houses.
It must be unusual for a club with such basic facilities to survive for the length of time it did. For most of its existence, the club had nowhere to entertain visiting teams other than in a tiny tea room and a succession of local pubs and clubs. This was a negative factor that the club was able to overcome quite successfully.
Leeds Education Office Sports Club was formed in 1923 by staff working at the Education Office in Calverley Street. During the 1923/24 season the club played games against the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams of some of the more established clubs in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
In 1930 the club changed its name to Leeds Chirons. A club for rugby playing teachers based at Roundhay School and playing on the Military Field, later known as Soldiers Field, came into existence. During the 1930s the club had two players selected for Yorkshire and ran two and on occasions three teams.
In the immediate post war years Chirons did not have the same success they had pre-war in recruiting rugby playing teachers, and for the first time since 1930, a number of non-teachers joined the club. Chirons had to recruit like most other clubs, through friends, work colleagues and by appeals and advertisements in the local newspapers. During the 1950s and 60s the club continued to progress always turning out two teams and usually winning more games than they lost. The start of the 1970s saw probably the most successful period in the club’s history.
The team in the early 1970s had a physical presence, skill and experience and it could be argued that for the first three years of the decade Chirons were one strongest junior clubs in Yorkshire.
In many respects the 1970s created a dilemma for a club like Chirons. They were successful but no longer recruiting players from the teaching profession. Any rugby playing teachers arriving in Leeds and looking for a club probably gravitated to clubs with much better facilities. As the decade progressed the club’s fortunes gradually declined. Chirons had, by the end of the 1970s, an aging first team and were finding it very difficult to recruit new players.
The club began the 1980s, as it ended the 1970s, with less than twenty players in membership. There was just one team and fixtures were mainly against the second and third teams of other junior clubs. The quality of opposition deteriorated as the 80s progressed and it appeared that everything had been tried in an attempt to revive the club’s fortunes. Chirons were on a downward spiral that it seemed could not be halted. Towards the end of the 1980s a good relationship developed with the rugby team at Kitson College, to the extent that both clubs used each other’s players. It was often the case that if Kitson College had a game, Chirons would not have a full team, and vice versa. Kitson College did not have a home ground and, apart from one game against an RAF Station when they hired a council rugby pitch and changing rooms, they played all their games away. Chirons had a pitch and changing rooms and so in 1988 it was decided, by the players, that Kitson College and Leeds Chirons should merge and the merged club would be called Oakwood.
Oakwood played on the old Chirons pitch on Soldiers Field and used the dressing rooms at Roundhay School. The fixture list was similar to the one that Chirons had managed to put together the previous season. Unfortunately, the initial optimism generated by the merger was short lived and the club struggled from the word go. The Oakwood club went out of existence at the end of the 1989/90 season.
The Chirons name had disappeared in 1988 and after the demise of Oakwood, rugby union was no longer played on the pitch that Leeds Education Office Sports Club and Leeds Chirons had used for over sixty years.
The complete story of Leeds Chirons is told in a book called ‘Leeds Who?’ available from www.ypdbooks.com There is also a free download available which includes photographs, fixtures, results and some match reports.