Wanstead Rugby Club was founded in 1892 as Leytonstone RFC making it the second oldest rugby club in Essex next to Southend. The club took the Heron as it symbol, those being the most historically associated to Wanstead after being brought to the area by Sir John Heron in the 16th Century to mark his name and thus figuring in the borough's arms. Soon after being established the club adopted the team colours of blue and white which are still in use today.
In the early 1900's Wanstead won the Eastern Counties Cup 3 years running, and right up to the 2nd world war had regular fixtures with the likes of Wasps and Saracens. In 1933 we had RF Davey playing for England twice only for him then to be told to move to a more fashionable club (!). He refused which gives a clue to the Wanstead culture even then.
During the 2nd world war we were the only rugby club in East London to carry on playing, acting as a magnet to all returning servicemen in the area. At that time we were playing at Nutter Lane where we stayed until 1963 and where numerous representative matches were played. Many Wanstead players represented Eastern Counties, including Geoff Elliott the British pole vault champion who was also twice Commonwealth Games champion who would probably have also played rugby for England except for his athletics. Wanstead High School were the main provider of talent at that time and that included several players who played for England Schools. Since then we have recruited from all over the East End of London which gives the Club a quite unique, distinctive blend most noticeable in the high number of members who are self employed, and the loyalty everyone shows to the Club. Once you've joined you don't go anywhere else.
In 1963 Wanstead moved to Lechmere Avenue in Woodford and this proved to be the start of a nomadic existence which lasted until 1973 when we moved to Roding Lane. It also proved to be the start of our financial insecurity and a very unsettling time, culminating in the old clubhouse burning down in October 1987. Only now are we getting somewhere close again to stability. What was also true, however, was the way Wanstead responded to all these challenges, very much based on the self help principle as shown with the rapid building of our new clubhouse.
Despite all this Wanstead were still a major force in Essex rugby and were regularly playing 5 sides each Saturday. That does not continues to this day, like a lot of other rugby clubs, but we are running 3 sides including our development squad in the 2nd XV, and clearly gives us a strong base on which to plan our next moves especially when we also include our very active Mini/ Youth section.
Wanstead started running colt sides in the 60's but it was not until the mid 80's that Youth and Mini rugby were fully introduced by Peter Denton and Peter Cristofoli. To this day the sides continue to grow from strength to strength with a rugby setup that caters for most age groups and draws extensively from young people in Redbridge and elsewhere. Since 1992 Wanstead have formed a strong relationship with Ecole Rugby Club Jacou, near Montpelier, France and visit Jacou in alternate years. This has been a marvellous experience for the Youth, staying with French families and enjoying the wonderful hospitality of this 'rugby-mad' region. Wanstead have also hosted Jacou who have also enjoyed their visit to London. The Youth sides have also toured the Netherlands - the Under-18's of 2002 won the Dutch Youth Open Tournament in Hilversum and Gloucester.
In the late 90's and early 00's Wanstead have managed a steady climb up the Leagues winning the Eastern Counties Division 2 twice the highlight of which was beating bitter rivals Ilford Wanderers by a record breaking 62-3 along the way. The recent revival has been largely in part due to building on the success of their junior teams. Nothing was more gratifying than seeing 10 of the erstwhile juniors playing for the 1st team, and how much that was commented on by opposing clubs.
In 2002/3 Wanstead beat Westcliffians ( a very historic fixture ) in the Essex Vase Final 15-14, and in 2004/5 were promoted to London North East 4 as Essex 1 champions. Relegation followed but Wanstead were again promoted to London North East 3 in 2009/10.
There are a lot of thanks due to our current resurgence, but most of all it is down to our basic strengths as a club; an identification with our roots, and how family is so all important. Allied to that is our welcome to those from outside so that currently we have people from South Africa, France and Tonga playing for us as well as the nucleus of home-grown players. We like to think of ourselves as a cosmopolitan club.